1. This morning I want to bring to you a message adapted from Thomas Hooker, one of the greatest of the Puritans who came to the New England colonies.
2. Turn in your Bible to Acts 2.37, please, and when you find that passage stand for the reading of God's Word: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
3. It takes a great work of the Holy Spirit of God to prepare a sinner's heart for Christ. And whether this preparation occurs very quickly and without recognition or quite slowly, it is a mistake to minimize the greatness of the work of the Spirit's preparation of a sinner's heart for trusting Jesus Christ.
4. I want you to observe two things in our text: First, there is evidence of God's work to pull sinners from sin toward Christ. Secondly, we see the attitude and the spirit that God works in the hearts of those He draws. And this attitude and spirit is itself seen in two ways; partly in contrition, partly in humiliation.
5. So we will all arrive at a common understanding of the two main points, I'll devote considerable time to each. But first I want to sift out what this contrition and humiliation is, so none of you who are unsaved will deceive yourselves into thinking you had this contrition and humiliation when you supposedly got saved, when in fact you did not.
6. Please set aside any notions you may have gotten in Roman Catholic catechism about contrition, because the Catholic concept of contrition is not what I have in mind this morning. You have contrition, real contrition, when by your sight of sin, and by the vileness of your sin, and because of the punishment that is due you for your sin, because of your sin, you have become sensitive about sin, you are made to hate sin, and you no longer have your heart's old affection for sin. Unlike the Catholic concept of contrition, there's a separation of your heart from sin when contrition is genuine.
7. There will be three evidences if you have been made to see sin in this way: First, when your soul is sensitive about sin. Second, your soul is sorrowful for, and has come to detest, sin. Third, when your heart has separated from your sin.
8. Understand that these things will not be brought about by any power that is in you. You will not of yourself decide to hate sin. Rather, these attitudes come by the omnipotent power of God working in you. You see, you are so depraved that you will not see your sin unless the Lord forces you to see your sin. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 77.4, "Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak."
9. The Holy Spirit, then, holds the sin of a sinful wretch up in your face, so that your sin walks, and sleeps, and goes with you everywhere. Your poor soul tries to resist, and works to keep the Word from touching you. You attempt to dodge and escape the pricking arrows of the Almighty, which the Lord shoots into your soul, but to no avail.
10. "For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore," Psalm 38.2. It's as if the psalmist said, "I wanted to knock down God's convicting arrows, but they keep sticking in me. I wanted to shake the burden of guilt off, but God's hand keeps pushing down on me." So, eventually, when a sinner sees he can't shake off the arrows, he will then, to get relief, be more than happy to be separated from his corruptions. But this didn't happen in your case, did it? I didn't think so. It's because you're not converted. Pay close attention.
11. This general pattern of God dealing with sinners is found in our text, where you can plainly see three, could we call them, phases sinners go through on their way to Christ.
1B. Mind You, It Wasn't Just The Hearing Of Peter's Words. It Happened When He Bore Down On Them And Said, In Acts 2.36, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."
2B. It Was When Peter Pointed His Finger, When He Looked Into Their Eyes, When They Heard The Insistent Sound Of His Authoritative Voice Speaking Words They Knew To Be True, That They Then Acknowledged Their Sins. The Hearing Of Peter's Words Made Them See Their Sin. It Was Peter's Pointed Accusation Of Their Sins.
3B. He Came Pointedly And Particularly To Them And Said, "You are the ones who have crucified the Lord Christ." This Is What Touched Them And Made Them See Their Sins. God Help Preachers Who Won't Preach In This Fashion.
1B. "They heard." In That Great Pentecostal Revival Recorded In Acts 2 We See Events Happening In Compressed Time.
2B. But More Normally Such Hearing Would Include The Sinner's Day After Day Pondering And Consideration Of The Evils That He Has Committed, And The Wrongs He Is Guilty Of That Have Been Shown To Him.
3B. But In Our Text, As In Most Revivals On Record, What Happened Happens Quickly, Much More Quickly Than Is Normally The Case With Sinners.
4B. Do You Doubt This? Then Ask Long Time Christians And Church Members To Find Out How Long They Seriously Wrestled With Their Sins Before Their Conversion. For Most, Who Were Not Converted During A Time Of Revival, The Process Was Prolonged.
1B. Notice Here, First, That They Did Not Prick Themselves
Rather, the Spirit followed the truth that was delivered, and by His almighty hand He made the Word ring true in their souls. Though they would not pierce themselves, yet the Spirit pierced them.
2B. Notice Here, Second, That "They were pricked in their heart." Not in their hands or eyes, but in their heart.
3B. Third, We Notice The Separation From Sin With The Words, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
1C. "Whatever you want us to do, we'll do it. Whatever sins are forbidden, we won't do them anymore. Whatever steps you want us to take, we'll eagerly take them."
2C. Nothing was too hard or too much for them. They were obviously desperate for relief.
1. Let me digress a bit to draw your attention to something. Notice the phrase, "when they heard this." But who is referred to here? Who, precisely, are "they"?
2. We see in verse 36: "whom ye have crucified." I want you to think about these men Simon Peter was preaching to, whose hearts were so pierced for their sins.
3. Remember that it was said of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born," Matthew 26.24. If the Lord Jesus said that about the man who betrayed Him, what are we to think about those charged with murdering Him?
4. Would it not be worse for those who killed the Lord of glory? Can you imagine God doing good to such men? Yes, for you see, even they came to be pricked in their hearts, which is a good thing. So, then, from these words a truth becomes evident: It is possible for the most stubborn sinners on earth to get a broken heart.
5. Those who stoned the prophets sent by God, who killed them that were sent to them, who ridiculed and scorned every means of grace, who then refused Christ and would not hear Him; we see them here, under Peter's Spirit-anointed preaching, brought to their knees by God, where they are now resolved, by any means possible, to get Christ and to get mercy.
6. Turn to Titus 1.12-13: "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith."
7. You might think it would be a waste of time to mess with the Cretians, they're so desperately wicked. But Paul wrote, "Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." Because those Cretians are filthy beasts, rebuke them strongly so they come to be trophies of grace.
8. And because the Jews had sinned so grievously against the Lord Jesus Christ, it would have been just for God to send them and their sins down to Hell together. And no man would fault God for doing so.
9. But God did not do that, as we see indicated in advance in Isaiah 43.25: "I, even I, am he, that blotteth out all thy transgressions for my own name sake, and will not remember your sins."
10. As well, consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in First Corinthians 6.9-10, listing those wicked sins of the Gentiles: "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Yet many of them became saints of God. "And such were some of you," he writes in First Corinthians 6.11.
11. And in Isaiah 1.18 we see that a scarlet sinner may become a whitened saint. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Scarlet is such a deep dye that nothing can remove its color. Yet the Lord can whiten even the most crimson of sinner's hearts.
12. I'm not saying He will in your case, since most sinners do not, in fact, get saved. I am saying that it's possible. And I'm saying that the hardness of your heart is not too great an obstacle. Let me explain how it's possible.
13. The Lord is good beyond your comprehension and infinite in power. This being so, He is able to supply all that is lacking and remedy everything that's in need of correction. As a matter of fact, He is able to do more than you need done.
14. You see, when God made the heavens and the earth, He did not use so much of His strength that He was unable to do any more. No, no. He is still the omnipotent God, not only able to continue supplying that which you already have, but also able to abundantly provide whatever it is you are lacking, as David wrote in Psalm 103.3: "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities."
15. Notice that David did not write some iniquities, sins, but all, or else God would not be the all-sufficient God. If He didn't have a salve for every sore, a medicine for every malady; if our sins were more than God could pardon, or if our weaknesses were more able to overthrow us than His strength was to uphold us, then He would not be the All-Sufficient One.
16. The greater our sins and wickednesses the more will the strength and glory of God's power appear in pardoning them. And where sin abounds, there grace abounds much more in the pardoning of sin. Christ is all-sufficient in power to procure mercy for all your sins, and the Spirit of God is all-sufficiently able to apply the satisfaction of Jesus Christ to your soul.
17. So, no matter how fearful and horrible your wickedness is, with the single exception of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unpardonable sin, there is more than enough power and mercy in the Lord to pardon you. And it's possible for you to find mercy. So, how is this truth to be applied to a sinner such as you? What does this mean to you? Two things:
18. First, you are to be rebuked if there exists in your heart desperate discouragement. Some of you, finding no power in yourself, and no encouragement in your Bible reading or in the preaching, have begun to question whether God can save you.
19. Maybe you've come to think it's impossible for you to receive mercy. You think there is no hope of pardon because up to this point you have sinned without restraint. And now, because you just can't see how it can happen that you will be converted, you've just about decided that you won't get converted.
20. Let me tell you something. You dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ with that kind of thinking. And you make it worse for yourself by thinking this way. Why is this dishonoring to the Lord Jesus Christ? You dishonor Him by forgetting that all the circumstances of life are at His disposal.
21. When the city was under a terrible siege and every man despaired of any deliverance or comfort, Elijah, the prophet of God, said, "Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." That's in Second Kings 7.1.
22. "Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof," Second Kings 7.2.
23. So goes the thinking of many sinners. "Even if God pours out mercy from heaven, can all my sins be pardoned? Can this damned soul of mine be saved?" And then you decide it can't. Don't you understand that if you seek after God's mercy, which He has given to many other sinners just as bad as you, but you distrust the Lord to save you, then it's only right that you don't end up getting saved.
24. Cain's sin was all the greater, because he said it could not be forgiven. So, it's a horrible sin to say "The Lord is not as merciful as the devil is malicious." Or to think, in effect, that "The world and a sinful heart is more able to damn me than God is able to save me."
25. If this kind of thinking is true then God is not God, then Christ cannot redeem, then the Spirit of God offers no comfort. It ends up making sin, or yourself, or the devil, more powerful than God and the Lord Jesus Christ. So, you need to stop this nonsense about God not being able to save you, about Jesus not being able to save someone like you. It's just not true.
26. Second, you are to be encouraged by this truth that God is capable of breaking the most stubborn sinner's heart. You see, this means that no matter who you are, no matter how hard your heart is, no matter your stubbornness, no matter your condition, there is mercy to pierce the most profane heart.
27. Who wouldn't want to be saved and recovered from sin, if you only thought it was really possible for you? Are you not guilty? Your hands are drenched in the blood of the Savior you have murdered. And maybe you are, like Simon Magus, one of those false believers who is in the gall of bitterness and still in the kingdom of darkness. You believed, but you believed in vain, and you are just as certainly lost as any wretched sinner.
28. You need to recognize that your soul's situation is desperate. There can be no doubt about that. But recognize also that there is a little twig in the midst of the ocean you are adrift in that you can grab hold of. Perhaps this will boost your spirits a bit: The Lord may show mercy to you, since men and woman just as proud, just as stubborn, and just as rebellious as you have had mercy.
29. So, though you have a heart that's hard and stubborn, look for mercy. God has not set the seal of condemnation on your sins. He's not yet sent you to Hell. Consider this: No matter what kind of sinner you are, you are still alive. You still have access to the means of grace, the preaching of God's Word. So, it's still possible to have all your sins pardoned.
30. Think to yourself, as brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a moment: "Lord? Those men who heard Simon Peter preach, they were pierced in their hearts, and they crucified the Lord Jesus. Their stubbornness was broken. God? Why can't you humble and pierce my stubborn and hard heart?"
31. It will be so if God says, "Amen, so be it." No disease of yours is past remedy that has been cured in others. So, let this truth humble your stubborn heart. Others as bad as you have been humbled and brought home. Why not you? I ask again, Why not you?
32. Let's stand as brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a hymn before my brief sermon.
1. It has been established that God is capable of breaking the most stubborn sinner's heart. But you may be thinking to yourself, "Can all these sins and evil deeds be removed? Is it really possible for these rebellions of my heart to be pardoned? Can the stubbornness of my heart be overcome? Surely, it cannot be."
2. I answer you that "It is possible." Only, you need to seek the Lord while He may be found, you need to strive to enter in, you need to press to enter the kingdom. And as you do, so you will not be puffed up with presumption, consider these three cautions in your seeking after Christ.
1B. You Who Are Old Weather-Beaten Sinners Who Have Wallowed In Your Filthiness, When You Go To God For Grace, Consider It Is Not A Little Grace, Or A Small Work That Will Do The Deed. It's Not A Few Spoonfuls Or Buckets-Full, That Will Clean Your Filthy Rag.
2B. So, If You Have Had A Filthy, Nasty Heart, Completely Turned Over To Wickedness, And You've Given Yourself Permission To Do Every Imaginable Evil Deed, And You've Continued To Do These Deeds, Realize That What's Needed Is A Whole Reservoir Of Mercy To Purge Such A Miserable Wretch As You.
3B. When David Had Committed Those Two Sins Of Adultery And Murder And Continued The Evil By Concealing Them, He Was Forced To Beg For Much Mercy, And To Say, "Purge me, wash me, cleanse me," Psalm 51.2 and 7.
4B. So, Except During Times Of Revival, When Such Things As I'm Talking About Occur Rapidly, It's Going To Require A Great Deal Of Work Before A Stubborn Heart Like Yours Is Humbled, Before A Loud And Arrogant Mouth Like Yours Is Quieted By A Pierced Heart. Why? Because You Need A Great Deal Of Mercy, And Not Just A Little Bit.
1B. With So Much Difficulty And Hardness In You, You That Have Been Given Over To Your Base Lusts And Corruptions, Young Though You May Be, Understand That The Lord Will Humiliate You And Will Break You Before He'll Have Mercy On You.
2B. You've Defied God And Shaken Your Fist Toward Heaven With Your Profaneness. Know That The Lord Will Make You An Example Of Humiliation, Just As You Have Been To This Point A Spectacle Of Filthiness.
3B. Can't Man Who's Had Dislocated Bone Expect It To Hurt When It's Put Back Into Place Again? Of Course. Well, So It Is With A Man Whose Heart Is AS Full Of Filthiness As Yours Is. It'll Cost You A Lot Of Pain, And Difficulty, And Heartache, Before The Lord Will Bring That Wicked Soul Of Yours To A Right Set.
4B. Remember, King Manasseh Humbled Himself Mightily Before The LORD, Because He Had Been A Mighty, Proud, Rebellious Man. The LORD Made His Humiliation As Miraculous As His Sins Had Been Wicked.
1B. You Don't Cleanse A Foul Rag By Just Dropping It In A Basin Of Clean Water. It Won't Work. You Have To Soak It, And Then Wash It, And Then Rinse It. So, Don't Think You're Going To Get Your Soul Staining Sins Washed Away With A Couple Of Tears.
2B. Oh, No. To Be Prepared To Come To Christ You'll Need To Scrub Your Heart Over And Over Again. You'll Need To Awaken Your Conscience Again And Again.
3B. It's Not A Little Self-Examination, Or A Little Sorrow, That Will Do You Any Good. Not At All. The Lord Needs To Pull Down That Proud Heart Of Yours, And Perhaps Let You Go Begging For Mercy For The Rest Of Your Natural Life.
4B. Oh, Yes. It May Be That God Will Not Give You Mercy Until You Take Your Last Gasp.
1. "Pastor, I'm confused. You seem to make it hard to get saved, like there are all these hoops I have to jump through before I can get converted."
2. You've not listen to me carefully, if you think that. I've not once told anyone how to get saved today. I've preached this message to tell stubborn and hardhearted sinners that God can break even their hearts, and how they can go about pleading with God to break their hearts.
3. If any sinner will simply come to Jesus by faith he will be received, and forgiven, and cleansed, and given eternal life. But many sinners will not simply come to Jesus, though they are invited to do so.
4. Most of you here today who are lost are not tender sinners who have only for the first time heard God's Word preached. You've heard the Gospel many, many times. But you've resisted Christ's call. You've shown that you have a stubborn heart.
5. My message today, far from making salvation difficult, shows that even the stubborn and the hardened sinner can have his heart broken by God. My prayer is that He will break your heart, that He will prick your heart, and that you will someday ask, "What shall we do?"