YOUR SWORD FIRST
A French officer, whose ship had been captured by British Admiral Nelson, was brought on board the latter's flagship. He walked up to the great Admiral and offered him his hand. "No," said Nelson: "Your sword first, if you please."
There are people today who would take Christ's hand. They tell the world they have made a "decision for Christ." They want to identify with Him, at least enough to hopefully receive the benefits of heaven. But, Christ says to them: ''Repent ye" (Mark 1:15 & Luke 13:3). He is saying in essence "Your sword first; you must lay down your weapons of rebellion." You cannot become His friend until He is acknowledged as your Lord (see Romans 10:9; 1Corinthians 12:3; Colossians 2:6).
You see, repentance is just this — a surrender. And when you surrender you do not keep your weapons. The war is over! You throw yourself at the mercy of your former enemy. The one you opposed and fought has you at His mercy. It is up to Him whether to save you, or destroy you (James 4:12). Your will must bow to His or it is not a surrender. In other words, you must acknowledge Christ's Lordship in true conversion.
Of course, in evangelical repentance your surrender includes the idea of agreeing with a holy God that you are a hell-deserving sinner. True repentance does not argue with scripture, which declares that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "There is none righteous no, not one" (Rom. 3:10). "And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6).
True repentance is a gift given by God's grace as a direct result of His goodness (Rom. 2:4). In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we note that, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation," and that this salvation is "not to be repented of." Many there are who have supposedly trusted Christ and yet have turned right around and picked back up their sword. With such the war is not over! “True repentance is inward, not merely external or superficial.” (Sinclair Ferguson)
I believe one of the biggest reasons why present day churches are full of rebels and "nominal Christians" is because repentance is a very missing note in most pulpits. People are not being taught that they are found guilty of treason, by the verdict of God's holy law, against the Lord of glory, and the law pronounces a terrible curse for this (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). Our only escape is the mercy of God (Rom. 9:15-16).
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Have you laid down your sword?
"When you see a poor blind man here, you do not loathe him, nor hate him, but you pity him. Oh! But soul-blindness makes you abominable in the sight of God." (Thomas Brooks)
THE LACK OF SIMPLICITY
Recently I was reading an article by J. C. Ryle (1816-1900). It was called "Simplicity in Preaching". I have considered having the entire article reprinted in tract form, because it is one perhaps every preacher should read. It seems that in our day too many have gotten away from preaching the plain, simple gospel of Christ. Instead, preachers are endeavoring to change and reform society. Even if society could be reformed men would still be unregenerate, and there would still be problems. Changing society will only be done as Christ first changes individual hearts. Man was given dominion over the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea and all the earth originally. (See Gen 1:26-28; 9:1-2) Now after the fall, man, and the earth itself, is under the curse, so man’s dominion is limited. The earth can never be restored by man’s dominion, even by Christian man, but only by Christ, the last Adam, I Cor 15:45); or the second Man, (I Cor 15:47). Christ’s dominion is an everlasting dominion, and is over all, including man (Dan 4:34, 35). In other words man is only a steward under God. Christ will restore all things at His second coming. “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3: 20, 21).
The power of the plain, simple gospel of Jesus Christ is not thought to be enough in these wicked days. There have been new ways invented to fight the enemy. I will grant that we must speak out on issues in our day. Abortion, for instance, must be opposed by all God-fearing Christians, as well as so called “gay marriage”. The persecution of Christians here and throughout the world should be exposed and opposed. But lest we lose our perspective let us remember that the Apostle Paul said, "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation (behavior) in the world and more abundantly toward you "(II Cor. 1:12). We must always remember "we wrestle not against flesh and blood" (Eph. 6:12)—of course, some do not “wrestle” at all, but this is another problem.
Reading Ryle's article struck me with the reality that in our day there is a scarcity of preachers and writers who are simple, and yet profound. We are often criticized for quoting the old writers and yet what modern writers can compare with the Puritans such as Sibbes, Watson and Brooks? What writer has the depth of Matthew Henry, along with his simplicity? The relatively recent preachers Spurgeon and Ryle are other good examples of men with the gift of simplicity. We have many fine books available now, thank God, but men like A. W. Pink, Rolfe Barnard, A. W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, and now even Martyn Lloyd-Jones are gone from our midst. We have few that write in their style and manner today.
That is not to say that there are no good preachers or writers today, for indeed there are. But, the majority of the modern writers and preachers have a one-sided approach. On the intellectual side, much knowledge with no simplicity, so that the average man cannot grasp these great truths. Then on the other side are those who are so simple they have nothing to say! How there needs to be balance today in so many things! Brethren, pray that God will give us knowledge and the wisdom to use that knowledge properly. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
"For one thing, I ask all my readers to remember that to attain simplicity in preaching is of the utmost importance to every minister who wishes to be useful to souls. Unless you are simple in your sermons you will never be understood, and unless you are understood you cannot do good to those who hear you" (J. C. Ryle, The Upper Room; Banner of Truth, Edinburgh; 1977 edition, p. 36).
“If thou art not born again, all thy outward reformation is naught. Thou hast shut the door, but the thief is still in the house." (Thomas Boston)
“The Christian is just a person who makes it easy for others to believe in God.” (Robert Murray McCheyne)
“Say not that thou hast royal blood in thy veins; say not that thou art born of God if thou canst not prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.” (William Gurnall)
“We cannot attain to the practice of true holiness by any of our endeavors, while we continue in our natural state, and are not partakers of a new state, by union and fellowship with Christ through faith.” (Walter Marshall)
"None have engaged against the saints but have been ruined by the God of Saints." (Thomas Brooks)
(Both these articles were originally written in the early 1980’s, and revised for this issue of Word of Truth by the author, republished September 28, 2013)
Finally, I leave this thinking with you from America’s greatest evangelist ever.
God has laid himself under no obligation,
by any promise to keep any natural man
out of hell one moment.
God certainly has made no promises
either of eternal life,
or of any deliverance or preservation
from eternal death,
but what are contained in the covenant of grace,
the promises that are given in Christ,
in whom all the promises are yea and amen."
-from "SINNERS in the HANDS of an ANGRY GOD"
by Jonathan Edwards
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