“THINKING MORE ABOUT YOUR SINS”
1. Southern California Christianity views evangelism as something that typically takes just a short period of time to explain the essential details of the Gospel before leading a sinner in prayer to accept Jesus. But where in God’s Word does it say anything about a sinner accepting Jesus? It’s quite the other way around, I assure you.
2. The sermon that I bring to you tonight is another in a series of messages based upon the certainty that this unscriptural shake-and-bake, pop ‘em into the microwave, approach to evangelism not only doesn’t work, but is patently dangerous, because it deludes unconverted people into thinking they are genuinely born again based upon some notion that a hasty prayer saves some soul from Hell. Nonsense. The Bible nowhere says that Jesus saves sinners from Hell. Jesus saves sinners from their sins.
3. And what ignorant presumption is required for a fellow who stands at the door and thinks that when he is finished reading a little tract that the Holy Spirit of God must, of necessity, rush in and regenerate the sinner being dealt with. If the Holy Spirit isn’t involved during the presentation of the Gospel, why should He be at the conclusion of the recitation of facts?
4. I’ve preached to you over the last several weeks about the need to think about your sins, about the need to see your sins, about the need to meditate on your sins. And this evening I want to visit the subject again. This is a sermon I want you to keep before your kids, parents. This is a sermon I want you talk to your children about this week at the supper table.
5. Please turn to Acts 2.37. When you’ve located that verse please stand for the reading of our 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?”
6. Someone might ask me, “Pastor, does a person have to meditate on his sins in order to come to Christ?” I would answer that it depends upon the person. Some few people who have never before heard the Gospel are so struck by the truth and so quickly slain by the Law that their hearts are too quickly prepared for Christ to need time to meditate, and so they are converted the first time or two they hear the Gospel preached. But this is rare.
7. “But pastor, those men on the day of Pentecost got saved the first time they heard the Gospel.” But remember two things: First, those men were Jews who had been taught the Law their entire lives. Thus, a 30 year old man would have been under the teaching of the Law no less than once a week for 30 years. And the Law is our school master to bring us to Christ. As well, Pentecost was the beginning of a Holy Ghost revival that spread the Christian faith around the world. So, there were unusual things happening on the day of Pentecost that are impossible to replicate today. Thus, I stand by my assertion that it’s the rare individual who gets converted the first or second time he hears the Gospel.
8. If you have heard the Gospel without being immediately converted, which is the experience of most sinners who have heard Gospel preaching, you’ll need to meditate upon your sins, because you’ve already shown yourself to be hard and cold to the truth. You resisted, did you not? You, then, could use some additional insight about meditating on your sins so your heart will be prepared to come to Christ.
9. My plan in this adaptation of a Thomas Hooker sermon is to cover three things: First, your motivations for meditating on your sins. Second, how to apply your meditation to your heart. Thirdly, how to make sure there is the kind of meditation that leads to real conversion.
1A. First, consider the MOTIVATIONS UPON WHICH meditation must be BASED
Four considerations provide strong reasons for meditating about your sins as preparation for conversion:
1B. First, try very hard to see God’s mercy, God’s goodness, and God’s patience toward you.
1C. In Romans 2.4 Paul asks, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
2C. This verse is so oftentimes misused by those who do not see how God’s goodness is used by the Spirit of God as Law to show a sinner his sinfulness.
3C. Here’s an example: In Judges 2.1-2, God reminded the Israelites of the uncounted blessings wherewith He had blessed them. He said, in essence, “I have done all of this for you . . . but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?”
4C. Their hearts were broken when they heard God’s words, as their own sinfulness and ingratitude was set beside God’s goodness, and God’s mercy, and God’s patience. “When the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.”
5C. What about you? In what ways has God blessed you that you take for granted? Do you love your parents without loving the One Who gave your parents to you? Do you love your children without loving the One Who gave your children to you?
6C. How appreciative are you for life and health and the multitude of God’s blessings that you enjoy each and every day without thought? Have you ever had a need that God did not meet? Was there ever a weakness that God did not provide strength and encouragement for? When you’ve been sick, Who cured you?
7C. So you see, there is good reason for you to say, though you are not converted, “Lord who is like unto thee?” You are the beneficiary of God’s abundant mercies, of God’s great goodness, of God’s marvelous patience, and yet how do you reward Him? You sin against His goodness and His kindness and His patience continually.
8C. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but . . . my people doth not consider.”
9C. You should be ashamed of yourself. If any man blessed you as God has blessed you you would feel a debt of obligation toward him for the rest of your life. You would do anything to show your gratitude . . . if your benefactor had been a man. But you are an ingrate toward God.
10C. Want a motivation for meditating on your sins? Think about God’s goodness to you and your response to Him. Think about God’s kindness toward you and the way you ignore Him. Think about God’s patience toward you, and your attitude that shows that you think you deserve His blessings. It ought to break your heart.
2B. Motivation #2: If this won’t work on you, if you are too ungrateful to be shamed by your ingratitude toward God, then consider that God is also just. If mercy doesn’t move you, then keep in mind that you’ll have justice enough, and that without mercy. Don’t think you’ll be able to ignore God’s mercy, God’s kindness, and God’s patience and get away with it. Oh, no.
1C. God is a just God as well as a gracious God, meaning that He will have His vengeance toward you. If you stubbornly think to yourself, “God is merciful, so I can live like I want and be as careless as I feel like,” be careful. The Law that you have violated, the righteous statutes that you have broken, and the God Who has been provoked by you, will be avenged.
2C. Has anyone ever provoked the Lord and prospered? What about Nimrod, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Pharaoh, and Herod, and all the others who talk against God and whose hearts have ignored heaven? What has become of them? They are now in the lowest parts of Hell.
3C. God sent Pharaoh into the Red Sea, and his soul is now roaring in Hell. You can be sure that whoever resists Him will find Him a swift Judge. God’s Word says, “Our God is a consuming fire,” He elsewhere says, “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell,” Deuteronomy 32.22.
4C. God’s justice must be satisfied, for His nature demands it. His justice is wise, and cannot be deceived. His justice is powerful, and cannot be resisted. When you appear before God, what do you think will happen? Do you think you will be able to call for mercy to save you? Oh, no. Mercy will say, “No, Lord. Give him no mercy, for he has despised me.” Patience will say, “No, Lord. Give him no patience, for he has abused me.” Goodness will say, “No Lord. Give him no longer any goodness, for he has wronged me.” And when you stand before God, mercy and patience and goodness will cry out for justice, and it will be justice that you receive.
5C. So, perhaps, God’s justice will motivate you to meditate about your sins.
3B. Motivation #3 to meditate on your sins: Consider the nature of your sins, and the hatefulness of them.
1C. You have to understand that sin is not a trick of youth, or a matter of entertainment, but a violation of the Law of God. For that reason, it’s needful for you to examine every sin that you have committed in violation of God’s Law that comes to mind. Those small little sins that you think are unimportant? Look at them carefully and you will think otherwise.
2C. You see, every sin deserves death. “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6.23 declares. Not only the guy who murders someone, but also the proud man and the liar deserves death. And what if I showed you that your sins had a hand in the shedding of the blood of Christ?
3C. Think about this a bit and you’ll see the point clearly. If you ever hope to be saved then you must rely upon Jesus Christ to have born your sins on the cross and to have suffered and shed His blood for your sins. Am I right in this?
4C. But that means Jesus was put to death for your sins. That means the soldiers that took Him, the thorns that pierced Him, the spear that gored Him, the cross that took away His life . . . was caused by your sins. The truth is, the soldiers, and Pilate, and the scribes and Pharisees, could have done nothing to Jesus but because of your sins.
5C. Had it not been for your sins the soldiers could not have apprehended Him, the Pharisees could not have witnessed against Him, there could have been no judge to condemn Him. Your sins caused all this. Your wicked thoughts and wicked actions caused the Savior to cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
5C. So, you go home tonight understanding that, “It was my sins that had a part in the shedding of the blood of Christ.” And when you eat supper let this thought cast a shadow over your mind, “I had a hand in the crucifying of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And when you go to bed think to yourself, “I am one of those that have drenched their hands in the blood of the Lord Jesus.”
6C. That Savior Who is now at the right hand of God, Who has done so much for His servants, Who sweat drops of blood, . . . those sweat drops were for your sins. And you treat this matter like it’s a joke, some youthful prank? Unless your sins are forgiven they will make you howl in Hellfire some day. Think this to yourself: “I am one of those that by vain thoughts and profane actions have crucified the Lord of life.”
7C. Are you now somewhat more motivated to meditate upon your sins?
4B. Motivation #4: Consider the punishment for sin. Consider what sin will cost you.
1C. There is temporary pleasure in sin. But what about the endless torments those same sins bring on that cannot be conceived or prevented? When you consider your sins in light of your eternal destiny, in light of your unending torment, in light of the thirst and the flames, will your sins then seem worth the price you will eternally pay for them?
2C. A thousand years from now, will that lie seem worth it? Ten thousand years from now, will that tool you stole from your boss seem worth it? Fifty thousand years of flame and torment from now, will that lustful indulgence still feel as pleasurable and as satisfying? I don’t think so.
3C. Think of the cost of sin. No more mercy to cheer you. No more goodness to encourage you. No more wisdom to guide you. You will never be refreshed, never eased, never comforted. You will never be hugged by your mother, advised by your father, caressed by your spouse.
4C. Then you’ll remember your sins. Yes, there are all those sins. The big ones and the little ones. The open ones and the ones you thought no one saw. And they will haunt you. “My covetousness and pride was the cause of this,” you’ll say to yourself. “I can thank my sins for this,” you will think as you shriek and howl and writhe in pain.
5C. But why wait until you die to meditate upon your sins? Think of these things now and see if sin is any good. See, now, if there is any sweetness in them, any benefit from them. Follow the example of ancient Job, who said, “Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.”
6C. Cry out to God, “Oh that my sins were weighed, and my iniquities weighed in the balance together. I have despised mercy. I have provoked justice. The Lord of life I have crucified. And the torments of Hell I deserve.” Do this now if you do not do this already.
7C. But some of you could still say, “I do this, pastor. I meditate upon my sins constantly, but my heart is still unaffected.”
2A. Next, YOU MUST apply the results of YOUR meditation to your heart
Taking the meditations of your mind to your heart is done in two ways:
1B. First, make your heart feel what your mind understands
1C. Thomas Hooker suggests to the sinner who has, through meditation, come to see sin, come to recognize the nature of sin, and the punishment that sin deserves, to then force the truth upon your own heart by making sure you meditate without interruption until you actually feel the evil of sin in your heart.
2C. You will not want to do this, my unconverted friend. Your heart will want to recoil the way a person turns his head when he’s whiffed a strong dose of ammonia. But your heart needs to be affected by your sins. It’s not enough for a man to exercise himself in the meditation of sin, but a man must bring his soul in subjection under the power of that meditation.
3C. A man must not only chew his meat, but he must swallow it also, in order for it to nourish him. Meditation is when the heart swallows down these sins, when you labor to be affected with sin, and the nature of sin.
4C. Meditation in this case is like the besieging of a city. When a city is being properly seiged the attacking army does two things: First, the walls of the city are battered with rams and engines. Next, the city is isolated so no food or water can be brought in from outside. So the city, being battered on the outside, and isolated so no relief can come in, gives up hope and surrenders. So it is with meditation when the sinner is set on God’s side against his own heart.
5C. Do as wise soldiers do, cut off all provision. By serious meditation bring your heart to such a hatred of sin that it will never love it again. Besiege your heart with daily meditation, that you isolate your heart from any relief it may seem to have from sinning. Does pride rear its ugly head? Batter it and beat it down. Humble yourself. Think that this religion stuff is too extreme? Cut off the worldly influences that argue against the truth of God’s Word and that would damn your soul to Hell. Get away from those people.
2B. Second, keep the pressure on over time
1C. Still thinking of your heart as a city under siege by the truth, it is important that the siege not let up until the city is defeated. If you lay siege to a city and then abandon the siege before victory is won, then the next time the city is besieged the resistance will be all the more stubborn, because those on the inside are convinced you’ll give up before they’re beaten.
2C. Meditation brings all your sins and miseries and vileness home to your heart. Hold your heart there then, and labor to keep your heart in the same temperament toward sin that was first brought on by your consideration of sin. Remember how guilty you felt? Get that way again. And stay that way. You see, it’s human nature to want to end the matter quickly, to have done with the siege before there has been a true subjugation to the truth. But that’s no good.
3C. Imagine your heart to be a gold smith’s vessel in which he melts the metal. If the heat is not hot enough and the vessel is not kept over the fire long enough the dross, the impurities, will not separate from the pure gold and float to the surface. Done too quickly and the refining is a failure. So, though it’s very hot, and very uncomfortable, and your heart wants to move from the fire it’s held over by meditation, all is lost if you are premature.
4C. All is for no benefit if your effort ends too quickly. That’s the reason why many a poor sinner who has been mightily convicted of sin, but who has too quickly brought it to an end, comes to find out in the end that his heart is as cold and as hard and as needful of purifying as it ever was.
5C. Not to take these examples too far, but sometimes your heart is like a wound that needs more than to be lanced before it will heal. It needs to be lanced, to be cut open by the sharp blade of Scriptural truth, to be sure. But for the proper remedy the wound needs to be kept open to heal from the bottom up, from the inside out. And so the continual application of meditation past the mind, all the way to the heart, is so very needful.
6C. Does it hurt? Yes, it is very painful. Is it necessary? For a permanent cure, it is necessary. But why is it necessary? Because we are dealing, remember, with a heart that is stubborn to the Gospel, resistant to the truth, hard against God. Otherwise you would have been converted quite quickly upon hearing the Gospel, would you not?
3A. Thirdly, THERE MUST BE THE KIND OF MEDITATION of sin that WILL seek out pardon for your siNS
This part is critical, so stay with me. Because there are so many twists and lies in a man, the Devil enjoys great success in keeping most men from thinking about their sins, because they are so caught up in playing games, they are diverted by hobbies, they are consumed by career, or other things. Anything except the consideration of their sins. When the Devil accomplishes this he wins a great victory and a sinner is kept in chains bound for Hell. But if God will make a man meditate on his sins, and if the heart of that sinner is resolved to ponder and consider his sins, if he will pour over his sins, then the Devil can achieve another victory by getting the sinner to see nothing else but his sins.
The key, you see, is to meditate until you see your sins, to apply the truth to your heart until you feel your sins, and until your heart recognizes the absolute necessity of a Savior for those sins. The goal, you see, is to compel you to seek Christ for salvation. And this is all God looks for, all the Lord requires and cares about, in His heart preparing work.
So, listen up you lost guys here tonight. Pay attention you unbelievers who shy away from meditation because you think that God or the preacher just wants to make you feel bad. You only need to see your sins so far as it will make you look to Christ. You see, it isn’t sorrow for sin, or humiliation, or faith itself, that can justify a sinner. These are just the means to bring a sinner to Christ. It’s through Christ that you will find relief and salvation from your sins, and nothing short of Christ.
To repeat, there are two extremes that the Devil would push to you toward: If you think much of yourself you will not go to Christ because you think you have no need of Him. But on the other hand, if you become so consumed by your sins that you give up all hope of being forgiven by Christ, again you will not go to Christ. Presumption says, “I have sufficiency in myself, and do not need to go to Christ.” While Despair says, “I am too wicked, and Jesus will not save me.”
Therefore, let’s set a limit on the intensity and the duration of your meditation. When you see sin, and the punishment that’s deserved by your sin, so that your heart is truly persuaded that nothing but Christ can take away your sins and the punishments that they deserve, and you are resolved to seek Christ and Christ alone, then it’s time to come to Christ.
Use your meditation of your sins like a bridge to carry you to Christ, so you can have the salvation that He promises and that He gives to all brokenhearted sinners. But be careful to understand that the man who will not seek Christ, and who does not expect to find in Christ everything he needs, is a man whose heart is not broken for sin, but is still quite stubborn.
So, try to see your sins, meditate upon your sins, so that your heart is affected by your sins, so that three things will follow: First, that you may see the absolute necessity of Christ, that you may use all means to seek Him, and that you will never stop till you find Him. Let Christ be your goal in everything you do. Pray, but do not rest not in prayer, but in the Savior that is obtained by it. Hear, but do not rest in hearing preaching, but get for yourself what is revealed in hearing preaching. This is what meditation is all about.
So force your heart to so consider your sins that you will be forced to go to Christ, and so that you will use all means to find Him. Pray for Christ, hear for Christ, see a need of Christ, to pardon your sins, and then to set you on the right course to live the Christian life.
How can you make your meditation more effective? Two things will help you:
1B. First, make proper use of your conscience
1C. Everyone has a conscience. Your conscience may be terribly seared, profoundly callused, dull and insensitive, but you still have one. Use it to make your meditation more fruitful and powerful.
2C. You see, your conscience is very powerful. God is, of course, the general overseer of all the affairs of the world. But He has given each of us a conscience, with authority to execute judgments according to the sentence God has revealed. And this thing called conscience has a greater command over your heart than meditation has.
3C. Your understanding and reason are subordinates of your will. They are servants and subjects to your will. They only advise your will what is good, as a waiter may suggest to his diner what is good to eat. Yet the diner still takes what he wants and refuses what he chooses, no matter what suggestion his waiter makes.
4C. But your conscience has a greater command. Your conscience is said to accuse or excuse a man, Romans 2.15. Your conscience comes with a law and a command. John wrote, “If our hearts condemn us,” in First John 3.20. So, your conscience can make your heart to yield. Take advantage of that leverage.
5C. When your conscience begins to be afflicted for your sinning, then it can leverage your heart’s inclination to want to come to Christ. So, use your meditation to affect your conscience and call it into play to affect your heart.
2B. Second, but more importantly, make use of the Spirit of God
1C. In Romans 8.15 Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of bondage.” And He is said to produce fear. So, a second means whereby meditation is useful is by crying and calling for the Spirit of humiliation and contrition, that God by that blessed Spirit of His, which in Scripture is called the Spirit of bondage would work the conscience and then take the matter into His own hand. So, plead with God to send His Holy Spirit to convict your heart and prepare you for Christ.
2C. You see, although your corrupt heart can stop your conscience, can interfere with your conscience, there is the commanding power of God’s Spirit, the Spirit of humiliation. And when God, the Holy Spirit, comes your heart must yield and be governed.
3C. God has revealed His will in His Word, and sends His preachers to expose your sins and to strike fear into your hearts. And what resistance there is to getting prepared to get saved. Refuse the preaching, ignore the Word, harden the heart, callus the conscience.
4C. But then God’s Spirit comes and drives the truth home to the sinner in such a way that the apostle Paul refers to Him as the Spirit of bondage who produces fear.
1. It must be that there is a terribly wicked group of people in our Church, profoundly hardhearted and cold to the truth. I say this because you are so stubborn and resistant to the truth.
2. If you only yielded to God’s Word, to the preaching of the Gospel, to the warnings given to you, you would by now have fled to Christ.
3. But we must dig deeper and deeper to expose your sins, dredge up so much that you would rather forget and bury. And for what? So you will confess your sins rather than excusing them, so that you will abandon your sins rather than embrace them, so that you will flee to Jesus Christ rather than enjoy them.
4. God has been so very good to you, so very patient with you, extending His mercy so far to you. Please, do not turn your back on Him yet again.