The Unanswerable Question – Part II
Continued from Part I
Others destroy their souls with false religions, humanism, New Age philosophies, evolutionism, the cults, and all the inventions of men that exalt man and have no place for the saving work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They are all soul-killers. It is not enough that you are sincere. It is not enough to sneer at the bigotry and narrow-mindedness you think you see in Christians, flattering yourself that you are not like them, that you belong to no church, and that somehow it will be all right with you at the end. Let no man deceive you with vain words. Indecision is just as big a killer of the soul as false religion or no religion at all. We are all on the river Niagara and as the days pass we are all drifting down stream nearer and nearer the mighty falls. Can you hear the distant rumble of the cataracts? You are daily approaching the rapids and we all have to pass over those falls, and if you die without the great divine Rescuer, you will be lost for ever.
It takes nothing to ruin your soul, just yawn and think about something else while the preacher seeks to awaken you. Just look at the drawing your child is doodling on his pad. Finger your hymn book and look down. Admire the architecture of the building. Consider your business. Thats all you have to do, swim with the tide, float down the stream, go with the crowd, and soon the opportunity of saving your soul is gone for ever. The blame will be your own. We will have no excuses in the tremendous day when the books are open, will we? The King will say, Friend how have you come in here without a wedding garment? We shall be speechless as they carry us away to hell. The undying worm is the companion of those who gained the world but lost their souls. They will go to the place Jesus often spoke of where the fires are not quenched, and where there is darkness and despair and wretchedness for ever. The end of those things is death! If I see danger ahead I raise my voice. Men see a boat heading for the rocks and they light a beacon. Dont despise my warning. You are a never dying soul, but you are a lost soul. Things are not as they should be between you and God. Many others have lost their souls, but what comfort is that to you? You are losing yours!
3. TO LOSE YOUR SOUL IS THE GREATEST LOSS ANYONE CAN SUFFER.
When I was a child another schoolboy might find something valuable in the road, a coin, a pen, a piece of jewellery, and he would snatch it up and put it in his pocket before anyone else could get it, and he would chant these words: Finders, keepers: losers, weepers. It was a sort of mantra to cover his theft and to grant himself the right to keep the article. To lose something valuable is grievous – we may weep, but to lose your own soul …? That is the greatest of all losses.
The Lord Christ is placing before us a pair of scales, and on one side of the balances is laid the whole world. The lust of the flesh is there, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. All the power sources of the earths fossil riches, all its diamonds, and all its agricultural wealth, its vast cities and steaming tropical jungles, and all the sensual delights of the world are there. All the people and places of Hello and OK magazine are there. All that which beauty, and fame, and wealth, and earthly glory, and honour and physical strength can do to make men and women the most famous and envied people on the globe is all here, on this one side of the scales. Unimaginable splendour is here. The glories of the kingdoms of the world are here. Christ leaves nothing out. If you can describe it, then it is here. If you envy it, then it is here. If you covet it and pant for it, then it is here. Every single atom of it is here, not a pearl is missing from the world that lies there in the scales on this side of the balances.
Then on the other side Jesus puts one single soul. It is the soul of a child perhaps, or of a person with learning difficulties, or an old Chinese peasant woman who has spent her life sowing and harvesting rice on one hillside in central China. That one soul outweighs all the rest! It so outweighs the rest that it were as if we had placed an elephant on this side while on the other there was a little mouse. It so outweighs the other that up it all shoots! Up goes the whole world! Madam Bubble goes into orbit! Vanity Fair is flung far, far away. Paul says that after he has seen Jesus Christ then the world is crucified to him and he to the world. In other words you can offer him all the money and rewards and fame and glittering prizes of the world, and Paul would be as fascinated to look at those things as to gaze at the sight of a man being crucified. It is all to him of no consequence. It is all repugnant to him. Love not the world nor the things that are in the world! He has seen the Son of God. His soul is saved!
I think of a student who went out from here 35 years ago and has spent most of that time in Kenya. He has been separated from his parents and friends and all that world that was familiar to him and he has given his life to a church on the wrong side of Nairobi, where every evening the house is padlocked and a night watchman sits by a fire pot through the hours of darkness seven days a week outside the house to be on guard, and a dog prowls up and down. It has not been easy raising a daughter in those circumstances. There have been times when he has been pressed to the very limits, but he would earnestly say to you, Ive had the very best life. It has been challenging, exciting, richly rewarding, and fulfilling. I wouldnt alter a thing. I have no regrets and much cause to give thanks. I would not change my blessed estate for all the world calls good or great. Losers are not weepers. Losers are keepers. He lost the world, but hes saved his soul!
I sat in the barbers shop on Thursday waiting to have my hair cut and there was a copy of the days Guardian, a paper I never see, but I read in it the obituary of a man as far away from my missionary friend as you can possibly imagine, a self-confessed playboy and womaniser Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe-Langenberg of Marbella in Spain. He was quoted as claiming, I have lived in castles, Venetian palaces and the worlds best hotels. I have looked into the eyes of the worlds most beautiful women. That was his boast, but none of his wealth could prevent cancer coming into his home and getting him, and at the last it wasnt a millionaires mansion he inhabited but a wooden coffin, just like all men. What good was all his money and his pretty women in that day? What had he to give in exchange for his life? Nothing! That day it was required from him. What had he gained by being the king of the world of playboys? He lost an eternal weight of glory. What had he got? He had gained the envy of pathetic people who think as once he had thought during his brief earthly sojourn: Lucky dog, theyd said, licking their lips. I tell you he thinks like that no more! He gained a few toys and sexual encounters but he lost the blessings of eternal life in heaven. In thy presence is fullness of joy. At thy right hand are pleasures for evermore – and he lost them all when he lost his soul! Jesus says if you do what he did youve made a bad bargain. You have exchanged the truth for a lie, and a few moments for eternity.
The most famous living author of the 1930s was William Somerset Maugham, Willie was a novelist, playwright, and short story writer. His novel Of Human Bondage is a classic. His play The Constant Wife has gone through thousands of stagings. He was a man who lived for his own tastes and comforts, and his sexual perversions. In 1965, at the age of ninety-one, he was still a fabulously rich man, although he hadnt written a word in years. He claimed he was still getting over three hundred fan letters a week.
What had life brought W. Somerset Maugham? The Times carried this excerpt by his nephew, Robin Maugham who went to visit him (April 9, 1978): I looked round the drawing room at the immensely valuable furniture and pictures and objects that Willie’s success had enabled him to acquire. I remembered that the villa itself, and the wonderful garden I could see through the windows – a fabulous setting on the edge of the Mediterranean – worth millions. Willie had 11 servants, including his cook, Annette, who was the envy of all the other millionaires on the Riviera. He dined off silver plates, was waited on by Marius, his butler, and Henri, his footman. But it no longer meant anything to him.
The following afternoon I found Willie reclining on a sofa, peering through his spectacles at a Bible which had very large print. He looked horribly wizened and his face was grim. I’ve been reading the Bible you gave me . . . And I’ve come across the quotation, What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? I must tell you, my dear Robin, that the text used to hang opposite my bed when I was a child . . . Of course, it’s all a lot of bunk. But the thought is quite interesting all the same.
Robin Maugham goes on to describe an empty, bitter old man who repeatedly fell into shrieking terrors, crying, Go away! I’m not ready . . I’m not dead yet . . . I’m not dead yet, I tell you. . . He was a man who had gained the whole world and lost his own soul. (R. Kent Hughes, Mark, Volume One, Crossway Books, Westchester IL, 1989, p.203).
You need pay me no attention if what Ive been saying to you is a lot of bunk. If Jesus Christ is to be discredited and you become a follower of Somerset Maugham then you need not have your time wasted by me and your concerns aroused again. But if Jesus Christ be the Son of God, and his words be true then should you not lay them to your heart? What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Listen to these words of J.C.Ryle: The whole world cannot make up to a man the loss of his soul. The possession of all the treasures that the world contains, wouldnt compensate for eternal ruin. They would not satisfy us, and make us happy while we had them. They could only be enjoyed for a few years, at best, and must then be left for evermore. Of all unprofitable and foolish bargains that man can make, the worst is that of giving up his souls salvation for the sake of this present world. It is a bargain of which thousands, like Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, have repented, but many, unhappily, like Esau, have repented too late. (J.C.Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, 1857, p.171).
4. ANYONE MAY HAVE HIS SOUL SAVED.
There is no need for anyone here to make the mistakes that many around us are making. There is no good news in what I have been telling you so far, but the message of Jesus Christ is a gospel which is offered to all the world of salvation for our souls. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Any one of you here, from the youngest to the very oldest, from the most wicked to the most righteous, from the most stupid to the most sophisticated, may know today the salvation of his or her soul.
Listen to J.C.Ryle again: I know that we are all sinners by nature, fallen, guilty, corrupt, covered with sin. I know that the God with whom we have to do is a most holy Being, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and One who cannot look upon that which is evil. I know also that the world in which our lot is cast, is a hard world for religion. It is a world full of cares and troubles, of unbelief and impurity, of opposition and hatred to God. It is a world in which religion is like an exotic – a world which has an atmosphere that makes religion wither away. Notwithstanding all this, hard as this world is, holy as God is, sinful as we are by nature, I say that any one and every one may be saved. Any man or woman may be saved from the guilt, the power, the consequences of sin, and be found at length at the right hand of God in everlasting glory (J..C.Ryle, Old Paths, op cit, p. 54).
How can these things be? How can your soul be saved? There are three grounds for my affirmation:
i] The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, has borne away the sin of the world. His death was no martyrs death like Stephens or Latimers. The Lord Jesus was sent into the world in order to save our souls. All their guilt and defilement was transferred to him as he hung upon the cross. The curse they deserve was taken by him. The demands of Gods holy law upon them threatening them with death were all satisfied by Christ. Our Lord hung on Golgotha as the Almighty Substitute, as the Representative, as the Surety for the sons of men! All our enormous debt to God was cleared once and for all by Jesus alone there! The way to heaven was opened up. A fountain was provided where sin and uncleanness is washed away. Reconciliation with a holy God was accomplished. Peace with God was obtained at Calvary for all who trust in Jesus Christ. The doors of the prison house of sin are opened. The fingers of Satan that grasp our souls are all unhooked and we are delivered – who cry to Jesus.
All this was done for sinners like you, whose souls are lost. The hands and feet were pierced, the mockery did not cease, the precious blood flowed so freely for sinners just like you. Not for the sinner outside this building, nor for the sinner next to you, but for you. I am saying to you today that I have a Saviour for you, that your souls may be saved. Here is Christ Jesus who can deliver you and become your Lord and teacher and shepherd, the great Saviour of your soul.
ii] Jesus Christ who died lives and is with us now. I cannot save your soul. No theological professor can do so. Not a single person in this congregation can help. No saint in this world or the world to come, no group of saints, no men dressed up in religious costumes, no pope laying hands on you and sprinkling you with water, and repeating all sorts of formulae can save your soul. No angel can do this. Only the living Christ himself.
You are thinking that I want you to have a religious experience, feel better and cry a few tears perhaps, and then all of us will gather around you and say, Well done! No! I dont want to give you heightened feelings about Christianity and announce to you, Youve been converted. You are rightly suspicious of all that. You are thinking of your family and friends and the future and how you can possibly live a different life facing temptations and meeting opposition. You are saying to yourself, Its hopeless. Ill fall away in a few months. It will be just an emotional spasm. Ill never keep going.
If it were just you then youd be absolutely right. You could no more keep on as a Christian than a lamb could survive in a den of lions. But it is not going to be just you. It never is just you. The Saviour who died to take away the corruption of your soul lives to keep you day by day. He is with us now. He never leaves us. We go nowhere without him. If we flew to the uttermost parts of the earth he would be there waiting for us. He is there as our sovereign Protector. He is there to keep us from falling. He is alongside us in temptation. Sometimes he will take the opportunity away from us. Sometimes he will make the sin itself repugnant to us. Sometimes he will give us new energy in the battle. Sometimes he will let us fall to humble us and then he will gives us the grace of repentance and a new determination to do better in the battle.
Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day never to die again. He cares for us very much. He never stops praying for us. He is full of sympathy and longsuffering, though we provoke him. This living Saviour will help you day by day, and every passing moment. I am not saying to you, Make a decision about Jesus today. I am saying this, that it will profit you nothing if you go on and do very well in the eyes of all your friends and neighbours but lose your soul. All you need to do is nothing whatsoever and you will be eternally lost. I am saying that the one person who can help you is here now in the power of an endless life, and he can save and keep your soul and present you faultless before God in the great day.
iii] Your soul may be saved because of the offers of the gospel of Jesus Christ which are now being made to you. Look unto me and be saved, he says, Come unto me and I will give you rest. He that believes in me shall not perish but have everlasting life. He that believes in me is not condemned. He that comes to me I will in no way cast him out. If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that does these things, says Christ, shall receive the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul.
Surely then your soul may be saved. Your soul, not the souls of others here but yours! If you are hearing me aright then you are understanding that anyone whose soul is lost cannot blame the gospel, that its offers were too narrow, and its terms too confining, and its requirements too demanding. Come to Jesus Christ and welcome – a child can understand that. No educational qualifications are needed for that. The Saviour is talking of a stirring within your very soul of longing for the healing and transforming power of the living Jesus to save us.There is a pardon for the greatest sinner here. There is healing for the sickest soul.There is salvation in his blessed name and in none other. Hear the beseeching of J.C.Ryle:
If you love life, I beseech you to lay hold on Christ at once, that your soul may be saved. Why not do it today? Why not this day join yourself to the Lord Jesus in an everlasting covenant which cannot be broken? Why not resolve, before tomorrow’s sun dawns, to turn from the service of sin, and turn to Christ? Why not go to Christ this very day, and cast your soul on him, with all its sins and all its unbelief, with all its doubts and all its fears ? Are you poor? Seek treasure in heaven and be rich. Are you old? Hasten, hasten to be ready for your end, and prepare to meet your God. Are you young? Begin well, and seek in Christ a never-failing friend, who will never forsake you. Are you in trouble, careful about this life? Seek him who alone can help you and bear your burdens: seek him who will never disappoint you. When others turn their backs upon you, then will Jesus Christ the Lord take you up. Are you a sinner, a great sinner, a sinner of the worst description? It shall all be remembered no more if you only come to Christ: his blood shall cleanse all sin away. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.
Go then, and cry to the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the value of your soul, and think of the one way of salvation. Call on the Lord in earnest prayer. Do as the penitent thief did: pour out your heart before him cry, Lord remember me, even me. Tell him you come to him, because you have heard that he receives sinners,’ and because you are a sinner and want to be saved. Tell him the whole story of your past life. Tell him, if you will, that you have been an unbeliever, a profligate, a Sabbath-breaker, a godless, reckless, ill-tempered man. He will not despise you. He will not cast you out. He will not turn his back upon you. He never breaks the bruised reed, or quenches the smoking flax. No man ever came to him and was cast out. Oh, come to Christ, and your soul shall live! (J.C.Ryle, Old Paths, op cit, pp. 60&61).
25th January 2003
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