“THINKING ABOUT YOUR SINS”
1. Turn in your Bible to Acts 2.37. We’ll visit again this verse which deals with the thousands who were converted on the day of Pentecost. When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of this evening’s text: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
2. “The word translated were pricked, katenuvghsan, is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly denotes to pierce or penetrate with a needle, lancet, or sharp instrument; and then to pierce with grief, or acute pain of any kind. It implies also the idea of sudden as well as acute grief. In this case it means that they were suddenly and deeply affected with anguish and alarm because of what Peter had said.”
3. But what led to this effect? “They heard.” The New England Puritan, Thomas Hooker, wrote, “The word in the original carries a continual act; when they had heard. There was not an end, but the sting of the Word did still stick in their hearts. When they walked on the way that sounded in their ears, ‘I have crucified the Lord of life;’ and when they lay down that came into their minds, ‘I have shed the blood of the Lord;’ and when they arose, this was their first thought, ‘I have consented thereunto, and stained my hands therein,’ this stuck upon the spirits of them, and the sting of the truth would not go away, but after they had heard it, it remained still in their hearts.”
4. So, what does a correct understanding of this verse show us? It shows us that seriously meditating about your sins in light of what the Word of God says about them is a powerful way to become brokenhearted for your sins.
5. After “they heard” the truth about their sins they were left with a terrible feeling in the pit of their stomachs. The barbed arrows of conviction that God had shot at them couldn’t be pulled out. Peter’s sermon sent a bullet into their hearts and through their consciences. “When they heard this,” that is, when they took his words in, and meditated upon them, and pondered them, they couldn’t stand it any longer, they couldn’t bear it any longer.
6. So, what did they do? Those of you who were at camp may remember me mentioning Thomas Hooker’s opinion. He thought that Peter preached to those many thousands on the steps of the Temple mount, and then, after Peter had finished preaching, and the men thought about what he’d said, three thousand of the men turned back to him or came back to where he was, and said, “What shall we do?” It was after this, he suggests, that they were then guided to Christ.
7. I have already stressed to you, again and again, the importance of listening to the preaching. This evening I want you to see more clearly the importance of serious meditation. Seriously meditating about your sins that are exposed by God’s Word is a tremendously effective way to pierce your soul.
8. In Psalm 73, David admitted that there were times when he envied the foolish as he observed the prosperity of the wicked who lived in the city of destruction. At first glance the men of the world seemed to have it all, David thought. They were suave and debonair. They seemed to be so cool and sophisticated to this one who had been a simple shepherd boy.
9. For a while he wanted to be like them. For a time he thought they occupied a position of advantage and that their approach to life was better than his, more beneficial, more enjoyable, more fulfilling. But then he began to think about this envy of his. He went to the sanctuary of God and worshiped. Then he began to see the big picture.
10. He saw their proud hearts, their corrupt speech, their evil deeds. He began to understand their end, that they were set on slippery places. To put it another way, when he meditated on his sin of envy it pierced his soul and he was grieved and pricked at his foolishness.
11. This was also how Lot’s righteous soul was vexed, Second Peter 2.8: “For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” There were a great many people in Sodom whose souls were not vexed. Why not? They did not meditate on the wrongdoing like Lot did. They did not ponder the sinfulness of their sins like Lot did. They were not troubled by it all as Lot was. Others did not meditate as he did, and were left behind to die in the firestorm.
12. This word “vexed” is a fine word, and it implies two things: First, it speaks of suffering and extreme discomfort. When the Greek word that’s found here is used in the New Testament it refers, every time it’s used except in this verse I think, to physical pain. Secondly, it speaks of considering sins and being sorely troubled by them.
13. And this is precisely what happened to Lot. He observed all the evils, he weighed them, and he pondered them. He meditated on them. Then he racked his soul, and vexed himself with the consideration of their sins. “Torture” and “torment” is how Strong’s concordance defines the word “vex.”. His righteous soul was tortured by their sinning.
14. So, meditating on sins does subject the soul to vexation, to torture, to torment. Are you willing to endure this kind of thing to be converted? Those 3,000 on the day of Pentecost thought conversion was worth it. But you don’t think it’s worth it.
15. That’s because you don’t believe what God’s Word says about the sweetness of Christ and the joy of a clear conscience toward God. Your heart has never been broken for sin. Therefore, you have no comprehension of the glory and the blessedness of sins forgiven. How would you know? Yet you pretend to know enough to decide that conversion is not worth it. How very dangerous.
16. Some of you here tonight may wonder, “What’s really meant by meditating on sins?” Let me quote from Thomas Hooker again. He defined meditating in this way: “I answer, meditation is nothing else, but a settled exercise of the mind for the further inquiry of a truth, for the effecting of the heart therewith.”
17. So, meditating is focusing your mind on something and thinking about it, asking yourself questions about it, examining it in your mind, studying it in your thoughts, chewing that gum until all the flavor is gone, in the hope that your heart will eventually be affected it.
18. There are four parts to this meditation that I want you to learn:
1A. First, MEDITATION IS AN EXERCISE OF YOUR MIND
1B. And this will cause some of you trouble. I say this because you are not normally inclined to think but to do. You don’t dwell in your mind on ideas, on thoughts, but upon chores, upon tasks, upon jobs. Unless you have resigned yourself to Hell you’ll need to go to the trouble of meditating.
2B. Meditation, then, does not only approach a truth, and understand it, and agree with it, and be satisfied with that. No. Meditation looks on every side of the truth, and then feels the inside of the truth, as well.
3B. Since we’re dealing with the subject of meditation, which is like a cow chewing its cud over and over again, there’s a verse I want to bring to your attention yet again. Psalm 119.59, where David wrote, “I thought upon my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” Remember, this is the verse where David meant that he turned his ways upside down to examine them, like a jeweler examines a diamond he holds up to the light to examine with his magnifying glass.
4B. But rather than looking at a stone to see its beauty and value, as a jeweler does, you need to look at your sins to see their ugliness and hideousness. Do this and you will gain the wisdom that comes from knowing the sinfulness of your own sins.
2A. Next, MEDITATION IS A SETTLED EXERCISE OF YOUR MIND
1B. When I say that it’s a settled exercise of your mind, I mean that it’s not something you do for a while and then stop. Meditation dwells on something and stays fixed on the truth of sin’s sinfulness. You keep at it for a long time. And you come back to it again and again. Some people are converted rather quickly after hearing the Gospel, and are more easily convinced by the Holy Spirit of their sinfulness. But such is not the case with you, as is already proven by the fact that you have heard the truth a great deal and are yet unmoved. So, you will have to mediate to get your heart prepared.
2B. Just remember, when someone is deeply meditating about something he doesn’t pay much attention to anything else. If you can be distracted from the consideration of your sins then your heart isn’t yet truly convicted of sin. And I don’t mean rolling your eyes up into your head and saying “Ohm” over and over again. By meditating I mean seriously and deeply thinking about your sins, with your brain fully engaged.
3B. And you parents can help your easily distracted children to meditate. You should know whether your son or daughter is a thinker who ponders and considers things. If your child is not naturally prone to this you can help out by turning off the television set and by quieting the house down to a mild roar. This is just one way to help your child. Another way is to bring these issues up each day, in order to bring your child’s attention back to where it needs to be to seriously meditate on sins.
4B. Paul told Timothy, in Second Timothy 3.14, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” So, stay at it. When I say that meditation is a settled exercise of the mind I mean that you need to stay on the subject. You need to hold the feeling. You aren’t sad at night after the preaching and then happy the next morning. Stay with it. Stay on top of it. Your sin is ever before you.
3A. Third, MEDITATION IS A SETTLED EXERCISE OF YOUR MIND FOR A DEFINITE PURPOSE
And there are two definite things you want to accomplish when you meditate in this way:
1B. First, you want to dig deeper into the nature of your sinfulness.
1C. How will being superficial and shallow help you? You’ve been that way your whole life and you’re still unconverted. Amen? Now it’s time to go deep and get serious in the hope that your heart will be prepared for conversion.
12C. After all, you need to understand the sinfulness of your sinfulness more thoroughly than you do right now. You need to inform yourself and educate yourself, so that your mind understands the truths related to your sins. If your mind is not informed in this way your heart will not be affected, and you will see no real reason to flee to Christ.
2B. Second, you want to affect your heart with what you learn about your sins.
1C. This is really what meditation is all about. You can’t be satisfied with what little you know about your sins if you’re serious about meditating about your sins. No.
2C. When you really meditate on your sins, when you really turn them over in your mind, you can’t help but explore, and investigate, and apply Scriptural truth to the subject.
3C. So, you can see how I can oftentimes know whether or not you have meditated on your own sins or not. “Tell me about that sin.” If you’ve meditated upon that sin you can talk about it for ten minutes without repeating yourself. But if you’ve not meditated you can only mumble one or two sentences before you start repeating yourself.
3B. Meditating is the method by which you will see and then say, “This is my sin. This is the cause of my problems. Here is where the misery lies. This is the plague that damns my soul to Hell.” By meditating you will search into every corner of the truth about the sins you are guilty of.
4A. Finally, MEDITATION WORKS TO SO AFFECT YOUR HEART THAT YOU WILL NOT ONLY KNOW ABOUT YOUR SINS, BUT THE TRUTH ABOUT YOUR SINS WILL REACH INTO YOUR SOUL.
When you’ve viewed all your sins, and when you’ve considered your sins, then meditating can bring things to your heart that won’t get there any other way. This is what brings sorrow for your sin. When you habitually consider your sins, when there is a settled exercise of your heart to meditate on your sins, when you explore and investigate the sinfulness of your deeds, then you are working with the Holy Spirit to bring the truth about your sins from your head to your heart. And there two causes which contribute to this happening:
1B. First, when you meditate your meditation makes all your sins and the truth about your sins more easily dealt with in your heart.
1C. And why is your heart so important in all of this? Why does your heart need to be affected by the wickedness of your sins? “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” Romans 10.10.
2C. Meditation will take the truth of your sin from your head to your heart and say, “You’re a fornicator, and you tried to cover it up. But you’re not going to get away with it. You’ve sinned against God. You’ve violated a home. You’ve dishonored two sets of parents. You’ve made a mockery of the Christian faith. You can’t cover it up. You can’t pretend it didn’t happen. You’d better not make provision for the flesh to do it again.” And the same will occur with each sin that you have personally committed.
3C. Meditation will take the truth of your particular sin from your head to your heart and say, “You’ve dishonored your father, despised his authority, mocked his religion, rejected His Savior, scorned his love, ignored his counsel, undermined his efforts, demeaned his intelligence, questioned his wisdom. You are truly wicked and you deserve God’s harshest punishment.”
4C. And these sins that you’ve committed against the knowledge of God, knowledge that God mercifully revealed to you, but which you have ungratefully received. And along the way you’ve acted against God’s many warnings, violating your now seared conscience, and trampling on many vows and promises that you once made, . . . and now remember.
5C. “I commit this sin,” you think, “but I will outgrow it. When I’m older I’ll stop.” “No,” says meditation, “You do this all the time. You won’t stop here, you’ll go to your grave with this sin, and it will bring you to Hell.”
6C. But then your soul says, “I’ll repent.” “No, you won’t,” says meditation, “Your heart is hardened in this sin. You have a heart that can’t repent. The Bible has no effect on you. The preacher could throw Hell fire in your face without effect, and yet you go home tonight unmoved.”
7C. You’ve continued in sin, and you’re hardened in sin. You say in your soul, “I’ll go to God’s Word. That’s it. I’ll read lots of Bible verses, and then I’ll be okay.” “No,” says meditation, “You’ve despised the Word, and God will take His Word away from you, or take you away from His Word, or take away His blessing from both you and His Word.”
8C. Young people, think of this as something like a war. Meditation leads an army of arguments against your soul. If there was only one judgment against you it probably wouldn’t overcome you. Two curses may not prevail against your wicked heart, either. But meditation brings an entire army of arguments and judgments, and tells your soul, “God is against you wherever you are, and whatever you do.”
9C. “What do I do?” you will eventually come to say, if you meditate upon your sins. “So many sins, and so wicked, and so many judgments, so guilty. Lord, what shall I do? How can I be delivered from these sins?” This is how meditation brings sin home more powerfully to your heart. That’s first.
2B. Second, meditation attaches your sins to your conscience like Velcro when you hear the Word of God preached.
1C. Meditation can be so effective that you can’t hardly escape from the truth you’ve heard, or from the judgments of God pronounced against you.
2C. Would you like to know why you feel so bad when you hear God’s Word preached, and your heart is touched by the sermon, and you make up your mind to never commit that sin again, but you go right out and do it again? You don’t meditate on God’s Word or on your sins.
3C. Meditation is like holding in place the ointment that you put on a wound or an infection. It doesn’t have immediate effect, but it does have an eventual effect. Put some ointment on an infection and then wipe it off and what good does it do? But if you put it on and leave it on it does its work. This is what meditation does. Meditation holds the ointment of God’s Word on the infection, on the sins.
4C. You hear the Word of God, and your heart is touched for your sin, and your conscience begins to be awakened. But then the sermon is finished and your thoughts are silly again. Your conscience is not touched. No wonder. You won’t hold the Word of God to your soul like ointment needs to be applied to an infection.
5C. You hear sin, but you don’t hear it. You see sin, but don’t really grasp its terrible impact. This is why God’s Word does not overpower your corruptions. This is why the Bible seems to you to be so weak. But God’s Word is not weak, it’s powerful. You’re just not using it correctly.
6C. You think the ointment is supposed to work even though you won’t keep it on the wound. The Word of God is the ointment, and meditation is like the Band-Aid that you put over the ointment to hold it in place. Used properly, it works very well. Used improperly, it’s barely effective at all.
1. Let me close with this instruction on how to listen to a sermon. Remember the truth which touched you first in the sermon. Keep your mind on that truth, especially if it’s a sin and you are unconverted, and replace it only by a more powerful and convicting truth.
2. Be sure and listen to the whole sermon, but let nothing take your mind off that truth or that sin, and what I say about that truth or that sin, and what the Bible says about that truth or that sin.
3. If you will use meditation to Band-Aid the ointment of God’s Word to that infection, and your heart’s attitude toward that sin will improve over time and not worsen. It will bring things to a head that will result in crisis conversion. Meditate upon your sin long enough and God will awaken you and draw you to Christ.
4. “But my son doesn’t meditate, pastor.” How can he? He doesn’t pay attention to the sermon. After every sermon, ask your son what I preached about, what truths I dealt with, and how it applied to him. I don’t care how old your kid is, you can’t make him get converted, but you can make him pay attention. If he doesn’t pay attention, spank his rear end.
5. Once he listens to the sermon he may be able to meditate upon it. Mediation will be his decision. But the decision to pay attention is your decision, dad, mom. If your kid doesn’t have to pay attention in Church, and so much attention that he can recite to you afterwards the details of what I preached, then why not just leave him at home? What’s the point of bringing a kid to Church who doesn’t have to pay attention?
6. My sermons only work when the person pays attention. If he pays attention he may meditate. If he meditates he will likely get converted.
Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Hooker, The Soul’s Preparation For Christ, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., 1994), page 63.
Ibid., page 65.