“THE STARTING POINT”
1. This is the first of four messages I have been asked to deliver here at the Baptist Tabernacle. And I am focusing my remarks during these sermons to you people who are new, rather than to you people who have grown up here.
2. I think it is likely that what you Church kids have always done in the past you will continue to do in the future, which is resist, rebel, reject, and refuse God’s free offer of His Son, Jesus. You are the ones who, because your parents have raised you in nice Christian homes, feel like you have been robbed of opportunities to do wrong and commit sin like other kids.
3. Methinks you are simply waiting for a convenient time to jump ship and launch out into the world, which you have decided is a fun place to be, much like Jacob’s daughter Dinah thought it would be nice to run wild in the malls of Shechem. She found out too late what the world has to offer; only pain and misery and destruction and heartache.
4. But you people who have only been coming a little while know full well what it’s like out there. There is nothing romantic or idyllic about it. It’s hard and cold and cruel and lonely out there, where just about no one cares for anyone else. And if you get hurt or tossed aside, no one will call, no one will care, no one will have any concern.
5. So, as you are coming into the Church, just understand that the young person who bumps you as she quickly rushes out the door is the Church kid who doesn’t realize how much God has blessed her. It’s the Church kid who has no real appreciation for how God has providentially provided wonderful parents and a good Church to grow up in. He just wants to squeeze what he can out of his mom and dad, to suck them dry like a parasite, before he cuts loose the moorings and drifts away.
6. I speak to you who are new because the Church kids are almost gone emotionally anyway. They are only physically here. But you who have come into the Church house are still looking around, still evaluating, still making up your mind, still pondering, still considering.
7. And that’s good, because that’s precisely what my sermon is about tonight. Turn to Isaiah 1.18. When you find the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 1, please stand and we will read our text for this evening, verse 18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the L ORD : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
8. I want you to notice three things we have in this verse:
1A. First, WE HAVE AN INVITATION
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the L ORD ”
1B. When you pause to consider this statement, how profound it is, it should amaze you. The Creator of the universe, the Almighty God, the One Who cast the stars into the evening sky, is in this statement extending an invitation to His creatures, to you. This is not the prophet, Isaiah, speaking here. Oh, no. This is the L ORD , Himself, speaking.
2B. Notice what He said. “Come now.” This is both an invitation and a command. God wants you to come, and He wants you to come now. This is not a summons to appear physically. Neither is this what Calvinists would call an effectual call to salvation. What this is is an intellectual and spiritual challenge issued by the most high God to individual sinners.
3B. Come for what? Come now why? “And let us reason together.” There are so many opponents of Christianity who accuse us of brain washing, who accuse us of being stupid and naive, who accuse us of being unscientific and illogical. These are people who ignore history and pretend that many of the foundational giants of science and literature were not Christians. William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Johanne Kepler, Lord Kelvin, John Maxwell, Alexander Graham Bell, and many others. Were not these men intellectual giants? And don’t think that their intellectual curiosity was confined only to their scientific or literary pursuits.
4B. My friends, here we have an invitation from God, Himself, to as it were sit down and parley, to reason, to consider and ponder, to think! God is true. God’s Word is true. Therefore, He is not afraid of any honest inquiry. He has nothing to fear from a fair and reasoned analysis of the facts. It is man who fears the truth, not God. It is man who flees from confrontations with God, as Adam and Eve hid in the trees. God is ever interested in dealing with man so long as man’s dealings are credible and proper. But so often the sinner is closed-minded and opinionated, refusing even to consider God’s challenge to come and reason with Him.
5B. I used to be a satellite design engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company many years ago. And I will admit to having been a closed-minded bigot, who thought Christianity was for the weak-minded and ignorant. And then I had occasion to notice that one of the top Hughes scientists, a fellow who had more than 100 classified patents on laser weaponry research, taught a Bible study. I was flabbergasted. “What are you, a scientist, doing teaching a Bible study during lunch time?” To which he responded that there is no conflict between science, rightly understood, and the Bible.
6B. That was a turning point in my life, when I actually began to “reason together” in this fashion and subject my beliefs to the scrutiny of God’s Word. Eventually, after stumbling around in the darkness for awhile, I was converted. But you have the wonderful opportunity to respond to this divine invitation under the guidance and tutelage of a seasoned and godly pastor. What a great opportunity. Don’t pass it up.
2A. In Conclusion, WE HAVE SALVATION
“though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
1B. Let’s focus our attention for a moment on what God holds out in front of His readers as their objective. This provides the motivation for responding to God’s invitation to “Come now, let us reason together.” If you will yield to God’s challenge to reason together with Him you can be assured that what the future holds for you are sins that are become as white as snow and as wool.
2B. In other words, what God holds out to the sinner who He has invited is the promise of salvation, of spiritual cleansing, of forgiveness. This verse does not show the conversion of the sinner. This verse shows God’s challenge to the sinner before His conversion, and the promise of what the result will be when he gets converted. But the illustrations and descriptions of the actual conversion of a sinner are found elsewhere in God’s Word.
3B. What we have here, my friend, is a verse that shows what happens to sinners who will deal with God about the issues, what happens to sinners who will use their minds to deal rationally and reasonably with the truths of God’s Word to remedy their spiritual ills. What we have here is a verse that shows, beyond any shadow of doubt, that in order to become a Christian you have to think. And it’s only when you refuse to think, refuse to think clearly and refuse to think logically, that you will not become a Christian.
3A. Our Text Begins With An Invitation. It Ends Showing Salvation. But In The Mean Time, WE HAVE A STARTING POINT
1B. This is not the starting point with God, mind you. It’s your starting point. God’s starting point for things related to the salvation of sinners is way back in eternity past. Jesus Christ, though He must pay the sinner’s penalty on the cross in space and time, was purposed by God the Father before time began to make His atoning sacrifice at a time appoint by the Father. That’s why he is described in Revelation 13.8 as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
2B. So, while God doesn’t have a starting point in dealing with things related to sinners and their salvation, there is a starting point for you, and it wasn’t when you decided to come to this Church. Maybe you’ve already started. Perhaps you have not yet started. But for you to start with God, to really start dealing with this matter of becoming a Christian, to really start dealing with this matter of responding to God’s challenge to come and reason with Him, you and God have to be agreed about something.
3B. What is the starting point that God invites you to? Where does He direct you to join Him in a discussion that can lead to your conversion, such a salvation that will leave your sins as white as snow and as clean as wool? The starting point is your sins. “Though your sins be as scarlet . . . though they be red like crimson. . . .” Here God makes a declaration about your sins. This declaration is not subject to negotiation. Neither will He entertain any movement from His declared position. If you want to intelligently deal with God in such a way that will lead to you eventually having your sins forgiven and cleansed, the starting point has to be God’s position regarding your sins.
4B. “though your sins be as scarlet” “though they be red like crimson” Before there is any hope of your sins being forgiven, before there is any hope of you coming to know Christ as your Savior, before there can be any possibility of God being your Father, you must come to agreement with Him about your sins. They are as scarlet and they are red like crimson. What does that mean?
1C. Romans 5.12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” It means that you’ve inherited your sinfulness from the first sinner, Adam. And rather than the effect of Adam’s sin diminishing from generation to generation, the effect of Adam’s sin has become more pronounced from generation to generation. Sin’s corrupting influence has shortened man’s life span, has degenerated his morals, has heightened his eagerness to engage in rebellion. Whereas in Jonah’s day even pagans feared the name of God, today men mock God’s name and openly blaspheme Him. And how does that leave you in God’s eyes? Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
2C. In addition to possessing your ancestor, Adam’s, inherited sinful nature, you’ve done quite well for yourself by committing your own sins and transgressions. Listen to the apostle Paul’s description of you. I read from Romans 3.10:
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 And the way of peace have they not known:
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
3C. Notice that last indictment. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but you do not fear God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but you do not fear God. Fear of God does not alter your course of life. Fear of God does not affect your thinking. You do not tremble before this One Who possesses the power of life and death. And why should you fear? Your sins. Your sins.
4C. Jesus said, in Matthew 10.28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” A criminal caught in the act of committing a terrible crime would fear discovery by the police, fear being apprehended, fear being convicted in a court of law, and fear punishment. In short, his crimes would cause him to be afraid of getting caught. But I have shown you that you are already guilty in the sight of God for terrible crimes against Him, yet is there any fear? “though your sins be as scarlet” “though they be red like crimson”
5C. Do not misunderstand me, this evening. Do not think, from anything I have said, that if you recognize your sinfulness that makes you a Christian. Oh, no. What I am saying is that only sinners, real sinners, admitted sinners, guilty sinners, have any chance of becoming Christians. Cain knew himself to be guilty of his brother’s murder, yet he did not become a Christian. Pharaoh admitted himself a sinner and the L ORD righteous, yet he found no forgiveness. Belshazzar had great fear of God for his sins when the handwriting on the wall was interpreted for him by Daniel, yet he still died in his sins. And Judas Iscariot was profoundly moved by his guiltiness for betraying innocent blood. But he was not moved by his guiltiness to Christ. Rather, he was moved by his guiltiness to suicide.
6C. What am I saying? I am telling you that only sinners get saved. I am telling you that only sinners who admit themselves sinners get saved. I am telling you that only sinners who are convinced of their own sinfulness get saved. But not even all of them. Romans 5.8 reads, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
1. Yes, God does extend an invitation to you. And it’s an invitation that is unlike the Lord Jesus Christ’s invitation to get saved. God’s invitation here is an invitation that’s extended to everyone, while the Lord Jesus Christ’s invitation is not extended to everyone.
2. God says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” He says that to sinners, with the starting point in the grand discussion being your sinfulness.
3. But Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11.28. Lots of people want to come to Jesus, but not at the price of laboring and being heavy laden by their sins.
4. The starting point for you, my friend, is not some decision that you would like to get saved, that you would like to become a Christian. No. The starting point is that you are a sinner, a lost sinner, a wicked sinner, a hopeless sinner, a helpless sinner, a needy sinner, a bloodstained sinner, a dead in trespasses and sins sinner, a rebellious sinner, an obnoxious sinner, a God-defying sinner, a Christ-rejecting sinner, a proud sinner, a self-satisfied sinner, an obstinate sinner, a smug sinner, a troubled sinner, a lonely sinner.
5. That is the starting point on your personal journey to Christ.