The Heart of the Gospel

Sermon by David Robertson on February 28, 2010

1 John 2:1-2

The Lord’s Day Evening

February 28, 2010

1 John 2:1-2

“The Heart of the Gospel”

The Reverend Mr. David Robertson

Somebody asked me this morning, “Why don’t you refer to McCheyne more?” and
actually a lot of what I’m going to say connects in.
Robert McCheyne is one of these names that a lot of people have heard.
Maybe you’ve never heard of him.
He was a young Scottish minister in the nineteenth century who became
famous, I thought cynically, because he died young.
I used to compare him to Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
He sold a lot more albums after he died and McCheyne sold a lot more
books after he died. He died when
he was age twenty nine. He is
buried in my church, or just to the side of my church.
And in our church rebuilding project one of my deacons, a bit somewhat
sacrilegiously, I think, coming from a Catholic background — suggested we dig up
the bones and sell them as relics to Presbyterians churches in America.
We suggested that might not work.
But I’ve studied him and read his
letters and he’s been absolutely an inspiration to me.

So I thought what I would do, I’d begin by saying something about each of the
missionaries who came up in terms of the work they are doing because I think
it’s very, very important that we continue to remember it.
When Dale was speaking, I think the work that’s being done in Uganda,
like the work in Sweden and the work we had spoken of this morning, I think that
it’s so worth supporting. In Africa
there are so many people that are becoming Christians.
I fully expect that we will not re-evangelize
Western Europe without Africans.
I’m looking for African missionaries to be coming to
Europe and that’s already beginning to happen in a lot of ways.
But the big problem in Africa and a lot
of places is the “prosperity gospel” and the need for really good, valuable
teaching. And I think that what
Dale is doing and others are doing there is really tremendous and really, really
important.

There’s something that McCheyne said in one of his diaries talking about
outreach and visiting people. He said this, “Here ends my visiting in this
direction. May the Lord cause seed
to take root. Though I may never
know it or imagine it, may some parts be moved and some be turned and some be
edified that the Lord may be glorified.”
That’s surely what we are seeking in our mission work.
All the quotes I am taking, by the way, are from the book that was
mentioned this morning that I wrote on McCheyne.

Then I was thinking as well about James and the work that the NeighborhoodChristianCenter does.
And I thought of McCheyne, when he was a student in
Edinburgh, and he went to visit in the area.
And this is what he wrote in his diary —

“I accompanied Andrew Bonar on one of
his rounds through some of the most miserable habitation I ever beheld.
Such scenes I never before dreamed of.
Ah, why am I such a stranger to the poor of my native town?
I have passed their doors thousands of times, I have admired the huge
black piles of building with their lofty chimneys breaking the sun’s rays.
Why have I never ventured within?
How dwelleth the love of God in me?
What embedded masses of human beings are huddled together, unvisited by
friend or minister? Why should I
give days or hours any longer to the vain world when there’s such a world of
misery at my very door? Lord, put
Thine own strength in me, confirm every good resolution, forgive my past long
life of usefulness and folly.”

And then finally for Brian. I don’t
understand any of this Old Miss stuff, MississippiState
or whatever. I do have to say this.
An interesting phrase that McCheyne talked about working with young
people. Work this one out.
He said, “My purpose is to entertain them into the kingdom.”
What does that mean? Well,
he was an artist amongst other things and he said he would use any means
possible to get young people interested in the Gospel.
“My purpose is to entertain them into the kingdom” — so I think that
means Brian is now going to be rapping his way around MississippiState.
But all of you in your work I think we want to encourage you in that
work.

Can I also say, I know the children have gone, but I would love it if you’re a
parent to let your children hear the story of a wee boy called James Laing.
I added his story as an appendix in the book.
McCheyne wrote his story. He loved the kids.
And this wee boy, he died actually when he was thirteen.
McCheyne wrote a tract called
Another Lily Gathered
and it’s an absolutely beautiful, beautiful story and
I would encourage you to read it to your children.
Just one small part of it where he says
this —

“Another night, Margaret (that was his
sister), observed James coming from the prayer meeting in the school in great
distress.” I think he was about
eleven years old at this point. “He
kept close by the wall of the church that he might escape observation.
He was much concerned that night and after retiring to rest he said to
his sister in his own Scottish dialect, ‘There’s me come awa’ without Christ
to-night again.’”

Please, please, please don’t discourage spiritual interest in children.
It’s an incredible thing.
McCheyne, when he went away to Israel, there
was a revival during his absence, and he came back.
There had been maybe one or two prayer meetings before he went to
Israel.
When he came back, there were forty prayer meetings and four of them were
led by children. It’s
extraordinary. We’re talking ten,
eleven, twelve year-olds and it was just incredible.
When you see a spiritual interest in children, encourage it, nurture it.
The Holy Spirit can work in the life of children as well.

Okay, I want us to turn to 1 John and again we looked at this this morning and
again we’re going to look at the first two verses of chapter 2 but let me read
again from verse 5 of chapter 1.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you — God is light.
In Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness we lie
and do not live by the truth. But
if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one
another and the blood of Jesus His Son purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not
in us. If we confess our sins, He
is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness. If we claim we
have not sinned we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our
lives.”

And then these words:

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin, but if
anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense, Jesus
Christ, the righteous one. He is
the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but not only for ours, but also for the sins
of the whole world.”

Let’s pray.

Lord, this is Your Word. Help us to
apply it. Help us to understand it.
Help us, O Lord, to love it, and help us to see Christ through it.
For we ask it in Your name.
Amen.

A couple other things I wanted to mention just in terms for your prayer.
One is really when Gary mentioned this morning the difficulties with
schooling with children, I suspect many of you are not aware of the very serious
situation there is in Sweden, and I would encourage you please to pray for the
church there and children and so on.
There’s a recent case of a child who’s actually been taken away from her
parents because she was homeschooled and it is quite a horrific case, that
particular one. But there can be
some very, very difficult situations there so please continue to pray for them.

I also have a few brochures and actually some DVDs about the work that we’re
doing in Saint Peter’s which I’m going to refer to a little bit as well and
you’re welcome to come down to the front and take those.
We are hoping, in fact we have set up, something called the Center for
Public Christianity. What does that
mean? Okay, using jargon — church
based apologetic evangelism. What
does that mean? It means getting a
whole church to tell the Gospel to the whole community.
It means being able to give a reason for the faith that we have, not just
the really, really mega-smart people, but everybody encouraging people in that
way, training people and so on.
There is an open door, in my view, in British culture and probably in European
culture. I keep saying this that I
think that people are more open to the Gospel now than they have been in anytime
for the past twenty five years in Western Europe, but the church is less
prepared to communicate the Gospel than it’s been for twenty five years.
And we keep dreaming big dreams and we keep knocking on doors and doors
keep opening and it’s just so encouraging to see how many people wanted to hear
and to know about Jesus.

And what we’re going to do as we look at this passage, I wanted to do what I did
this morning — we look at the theology of God’s Word and I hope you’ll see how
it just reaches into absolutely everybody’s life.

Even as we’re looking at this
great doctrine of propitiation
, it’s a
great word, it’s a great teaching, it’s a great doctrine, but it’s not for a
theology class. And I’m even one to
argue it’s not just for a church service.
It’s not to just be contained in here.
It’s not just to be contained in a Bible study group.
You’ve got to be able to communicate propitiation to the whole of Jackson and beyond.

Okay, let me explain how this works.
I went to hear a lecturer at the
University
of Saint Andrews, a man, a
physicist, called David Wilkinson, in which he talked about the beauty of the
universe. And I don’t know if
you’ve ever seen this clip, maybe it’s on YouTube, I’m not sure, but it begins
with a couple in a park in Chicago
and it has a dot on the man’s hand.
And it goes out every second a camera kind of moves out multiplied by ten, to
the power of ten. So at first thing
it’s about a meter away and then ten meters and then a thousand, a kilometer,
and so on. And it goes into space
and it goes right to the very edge of the universe and it’s just incredible as
it shows you the symmetry and the beauty and the wonder of the universe.
And then it reverses and kind of warps back into the hand and then it
goes right into the hand, right in to the tiniest, to the minus twenty I think,
and how our bodies are made of cells and the protons.
Just everything, it’s absolutely incredible.
And I listened to that lecture.
I was just sitting there. My
daughter, she was there as well, because I promised her we would go out to a
restaurant afterwards so she would sit through the lecture.
And I just pointed her Psalm 19,
“The heavens declare the glory of God.”
It was just a real wow-factor.
And you think, “How can anyone not believe in God when you see that?”

And then you’ve got someone singing, you know, “I see trees of green and skies
of blue.” I’m not going to sing it.
That’s what your own minister does.
But, “I see trees of green and skies of blue and I think to myself, ‘What
a wonderful world.’” There are times in your life when you just walk around
going, “What a wonderful world!
What a great world!” We thank the
Lord for that.

But then two weeks ago I visited a lady in the hospital.
She didn’t want to see me. In fact it’s quite funny.
I went in and she said, “I’ve been bribed to see you.
I don’t want to see you.”
And I said, “Actually, I don’t want to be here either.
It’s my day off.” So we got
off to a great start. It was a
friend of hers who’s got MS and she has MS and her friend said, “You’ve got to
see David because if you don’t see David it will make my MS worse.”
So that was real manipulation.

But anyway, I said, “Let’s get down to business.
Let’s not muck around here.
I know you don’t believe in God.
Why not?” She said, “Both my
husbands have died, my one year old child died in my arms, my brother dropped
dead when I was talking to him on the phone, I’ve got MS, and I’ve just been
told yesterday that I’ve got lymph cancer and it’s unlikely to be treatable.
You expect me to believe in God?”

It’s the most common objection to belief in God.
Everyone’s going to believe in God who’s going to give you a lottery
ticket every time that you win.
Everyone’s going to say, “I thank the Lord when you’re in a car crash and you’re
not injured.” But are you going to
say, “I thank the Lord,” when you’re in a car crash and you are injured, or your
child died, or anything along those lines?
How do you explain who God is?
How do you explain the goodness of God to people who suffer?
And ultimately we all suffer.
And would your faith survive suffering?

It’s all well and good to say, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus. Things are going
really, really well. I go along to
church and all.” But what if things
weren’t going well? What if you
were ill? What if you lost your
job? What if you didn’t have money?
What if your relationships did break up?
Would you still be saying, “I believe and trust in Jesus”?
There’s a lot of us, we can’t say that until it happens.
It’s like Peter — “Lord, I’ll follow You whatever.”
What would you believe and how do you explain this?
Now what I would say is very simple.
It’s what I said to the lady.
I said, “Listen, let’s take God out of the equation.
Let’s say you are right.
Let’s say there is no God. How does
that change your problem? It
doesn’t. In fact, it makes it a lot
worse as we’ll see.” What I tried
to say to her is this — “You’re telling me there’s something wrong with this
picture. Here’s your life, and it’s
in this picture, and there’s something wrong.
And I am agreeing with you that that is the case, but it’s as though
you’ve got a painting and there’s something wrong with the picture and you’re
either saying, “The artist is not a very good artist” or “The picture is damaged
and needs to be restored.” How can
you restore the painting without destroying the original?
You just pain over it.

And what we’re saying in the world is this — we’re saying there is something
wrong in this world; there is something perverse in this world; there is
something unjust and unfair. We
live in a bent universe. It
shouldn’t be this way. Earthquakes
shouldn’t happen in Haiti and people
die because of it. Drunk drivers
shouldn’t crash into the family and kill all the family.
It shouldn’t be this way.

You stand at a coffin like I stood at a coffin of an eighteen-month old baby and
say, “No, this is not right. This
should not be this way. This is not
natural. This is not good.”
It’s a picture. You look at
the world and you say, “This is the world, but there is a burden that we face.
This is not the world as it should be.”

Now if you are an atheist you say, “This is the world as it is and there’s
nothing that can be done about it.”
If you’re a Christian, you say, “This is the world but it’s not as it should be.
It is not as God created it.
God created the world and it was good.”
But what’s wrong with this picture?
It’s been defaced and there’s not one of us here that can say we live in
another world, a parallel universe, where we don’t face that defacement.
Yes, we do. We absolutely
do. So we then have to ask not
“Why?” particular situations.

But what’s going to be done to put the whole picture right.

And that’s where we come in with 1 John because
– yes, that was just the introduction by the way, but we will make it a
wee bit shorter.
The problem.
Here’s the problem. Is my biggest problem relationships?
Is it health? If I could ask
God for one thing, what would it be? Now I can tell you honestly it would be
this — “Lord, deliver me from evil.
Deliver me from sin — my own sin, the consequences, and the effects of other
people’s sin as well.” Now that’s
the problem with people, even that statement, and for various reasons.
I want to give you three quotes, actually four quotes, of what people
think about sin. Four quotes — this
is from people, as far as I know, were not Christians.

A man called Marek Edelman who died last year was the last surviving member of
the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, said this — “Man is evil.
By nature man is a beast.”

But in the west, liberals and conservatives, it’s an axiom of western theology
and western understanding that man is by nature basically good and there’s a few
people who go wrong. We are likely
in Britain to have
new prime minister, David Cameron, who is the conservative prime
minister. Here is what he says
about this subject — “While those on the political left are essentially
pessimists, believing that people will do the wrong thing unless they are told
what to do by government, we on the right are optimists.
We have faith that most people are good and will do the right thing if
only you trust them.”

That’s not what the right used to be.
The right used to believe that the job of government was to restrain evil
and accepted that there was evil.
Now we’re saying actually let’s make sure people are basically good.
Just let them get on with it.
Imagine if you did that in
Jackson. You
said, “Okay, no police. Who needs
police because people are basically good?”

They did an experiment in a town in
England
where traffic wardens — is that what you call them here? — guys who go in and
put parking tickets on your cars if you park in the wrong place always turn up.
I’m just fifteen minutes in a place and there’s always one there.
It’s just awful. But anyway,
traffic wardens — they decided because traffic wardens were so unpopular they
decided they would do without traffic wardens.
Do you know within two days the public were petitioning the counsel to
put them back because there was chaos on the streets.
The fact is that people by nature are not good.
They are not good.

As I say, I debate a lot of atheists.
At our Center for Public Christianity we’re teaching people to be
involved in kind of thing. I was in
Cambridge, a young man there looks at me and says, “David” — this is in a
question and answer section at Cambridge University or I think it was in Borders
— and he said, “David, I don’t get you.
You know, you seem a nice guy.
You seem a great guy.” And I
said, “Well, appearances can be deceptive.”
But he said, “You’ve got an awful view of human nature.”
I said, “Do you have a good view?”
And he said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay, I can empirically prove that human
nature is not good.” He said, “Do
it.” I said, “Go to those
bookshelves and take any of the history books off and I will demonstrate it to
you here and now.” I said, “But why
do you believe that human nature is good?”
And he said, “I have to.” I
said, “Wait a minute, you said you needed evidence to belief things.”
He said, “No I don’t need evidence for this.
If I didn’t believe human nature was good, how could we carry on?”
And there are an awful lot of people who are absolutely blind to the evil
that’s in the world. Evil is in
other people if it’s there at all.
Human nature is not good and there is a real problem in that.

John Betjeman, a poet, wrote a poem called,
Huxley Hall, which I quite like
because it’s kind of this sort of very middle class, upper middle class,
aristocratic type thing. “Not my vegetarian dinner, not my lime juice minus gin,
quite can drown a faint conviction that we may be born in sin.”
In other words he’s saying, “I’m enjoying the good life, but there’s
still something in me that’s saying there’s something wrong.”

Slightly less subtle – George Thorogood, of George Thorogood and the Delaware
Destroyers , who wrote “Bad to the Bone.”
Bad to the bone. And that’s everybody.
There is a problem there.
John wants fellowship. There’s a
problem of sin.

Now the irony is, the non-Christian will generally say sin is not a problem — “I
don’t have a real problem with sin.”
If non-Christians really believed they had a problem with sin they would
try to do something about it. If
you really believe you’ve got cancer you try and sort it out.
If you really believe you’re about to go bankrupt you try and do
something with it. If you really
think you’ve got a problem with sin you do not rest until that problem is dealt
with. Most people don’t think they
have a problem with sin. They think
other people may have problems with sin but not themselves.

The irony involved in this is that the Christian will be the opposite. Actually
the non-Christian will very often blame shift in our culture.
It’s always somebody else’s fault.
I think that’s partly because we don’t understand what sin is, it’s
partly because we act as our own defense, it’s partly because we’ve followed the
pattern since Adam and Eve. There’s
an old rhyme that goes — “Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the
serpent hadn’t got a leg to stand on” which is an absolutely appalling,
absolutely appalling line. But Romans 3:23 —“All have sinned and fallen short of
the glory of God.”

Now here’s the trouble. Some of you
are sitting here and you’re thinking, “I knew this.
They come to a Presbyterian church and they talk about sin.
Don’t they understand the way to get ahead in a church is to make people
feel better and to affirm them?
Hasn’t Christ delivered us from sin?”
Well yes that’s true but you won’t want Christ unless you need delivered.
If you don’t think you need delivered you won’t bother with Christ.
And I think it’s so important we recognize the problem.
Now the Christian who draws close to God begins to ask, “How can we
approach a holy God?” The Christian
recognizes in the words of Hebrews 12:1 that “sin so easily entangles.”
And we sometimes as Christians we’re more aware of our sin and it’s a
problem for us in that way.

Now let’s go back to my friend in the hospital.
What I was not saying to her, and what you must never say, is “You have
multiple sclerosis, you have cancer, because of your particular sin, because you
have been a sinner.” That’s
shocking theology, appallingly cruel.
One of my name’s sakes, and he’s an absolute disgrace to the clan and I’m
clan chief and he’s disenfranchised.
You can give him a new name.
It’s Pat Robertson. And when Pat
Robertson said the Haitian earthquake happened because the Haitians rebelled
against their slave masters two hundred years ago I’m thinking, “How insane is
that and how cruel and how also how dumb that people buy into that.”
It is absolutely incredible.
It is absolutely appalling theology.
Who sinned when the tower
of Siloam fell upon these
eighteen people? Who sinned when
the blind man — him or his parents?
Jesus said no. Jesus is basically saying this is the world we live in.
These things are all saying this whole world is struggling and groaning
because of the judgment that is to come because of the sin that has entered into
the world. The point is simply this
— the picture is wrong because of sin and we need, this bent universe, need sort
it out.

Now how does that happen? He says
that if we do sin we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense, the
parakletos. Who is the parakletos?
That’s the word that’s used.
Well, it’s obviously Jesus. People
say, “Why can’t God just forgive?”
The French writer, Rousseau, said, “God will forgive me.“
That’s His job. That’s what
God will do.

Really? You want to live in an
amoral universe? You want to live
in a universe where someone goes out and kills a child and God says, “It’s okay,
I forgive you.” You want a God like
that? You want an unjust God?
You want a God who ignores all His own moral laws?
That doesn’t make any sense.

We want justice but we need mercy.
So what happens? He says we have
been given a lawyer, a council for the defense, an
advocate.
It’s more than that actually, it’s a friend, someone who stands beside
you, someone who comes alongside
John 16 verse 6.

Now that word is used twice in the New Testament and it’s very interesting the
different ways it’s used. First of
all it’s used for the Holy Spirit.
John in his first book, in his gospel, is saying the Holy Spirit is the advocate
for Jesus Christ. He’s the one who
comes and convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and the world to come, and
He’s the one who shows us Jesus Christ, and He’s the one who takes the word of
Christ and instead of it just being a religious thing it becomes something that
goes right into our very being. So
the Holy Spirit is Christ’s lawyer if you like.
He’s the one who presents Christ to us through His Word.

But here, Christ is the advocate.
He is the advocate for us. The
Spirit advocates Jesus to us; Jesus advocates on our behalf.
And you see how He is described — He is Jesus, the human one who takes
away sin, He is Christ the Messiah, He is the righteous one.
And He comes and He delivers us from our sin. We have one who speaks to
the Father in our defense, Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He does not lie, He does not excuse us, but He does deliver us.
And so He comes to my friend who’s in hospital and if she accepts Jesus
He offers to her that He will be her friend, that He will be her advocate, and
something as we’ll see even more.

Because it then goes on to the third thing is — that we need the
parakletos but we need this
propitiation.
The NIV says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
I know what they were trying to do but I still think it’s better to leave
it at propitiation. The Greek word,
hilasmos, which means this — not just
cleansed, not just forgiven, but God’s
wrath turned aside
.

There is this storm, this tsunami of God’s wrath coming towards us and Jesus
stands and He turns that away. Now
this is where the Christian church is under vicious assault from within, and I
mean vicious because there are Christians and there are evangelical Christians
in my own country a man called Steve Chalke, but in this country as well, who
are teaching a doctrine who some people say, “This is new.
We didn’t know this.” It’s
not new. It’s late nineteenth
century liberalism just come back in a postmodern guise and it is absolutely of
the pit because it takes away from the heart of the Gospel.

There are lots of errors and heresies that are not that important in some ways,
but this is so important. You see, what Steve Chalke and other do, Steve used a
phrase where he said the atonement is “cosmic child abuse.”
And others pick up on this idea.
They say, “Look, this idea of a wrathful God and propitiation,
hilasmos, comes out of Greek and
pagan understanding of the gods and how they need to be bribed so they’ll have a
good harvest, how they need to be bribed so you don’t get cancer, and so on, and
you are just bringing this pagan stuff into Christianity.”
Well that sounds all very good and nice until you look at what the Bible
actually says.

First of all the Bible does recognize that the wrath of God is real.
Romans 1 verse 18 — “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven
against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by
their wickedness.” That doesn’t
mean that God is sending lightening bolts and cancer and earthquakes to people.
It means in the context of Romans 1 that the wrath of God is when human
beings say to God, “Leave us alone,” and God says, “Okay” because there is
nothing God could do that would harm you more than if He leaves you alone.
And the wrath of God is very real thing.
John 3:36, Colossians 3:6, there are numerous other passages in the New
Testament which speak of the wrath and the anger of God.
It’s not arbitrary, it’s not capricious, it’s settled, it’s steady, it’s
controlled hostility towards all that is evil.
And do you really want to follow a God who’s not angry at evil and what
evil does? No.
The wrath of God is a real teaching.

Now, also the wrath of God, when Christ turns aside the wrath of God, it’s not a
bribe, it’s not Jesus saying, “Hey, here’s some money.
Don’t harm them.” Go to 1
John chapter 4 verse 10 — “This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved
us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Now you see why that is important?
It is important because it is saying it isn’t as though God is coming and He’s
really angry and Jesus comes along and says, “No, no, no, don’t do that.”
God is angry at sin and what does
God do? God so loves the world that
He sends His only Son.

Don’t have this dumb idea of an angry God the Father and a loving Jesus the Son.
It is the loving God who sends
His own Son to bear the wrath.

And if you think of Jesus as the gentle, peaceful, loving one — and then
the judgment – who is the Judge on the Judgment Day?
Who will come as the rider on the horse?
It’s Christ who will come in glory and to judge.
But here, this is not the pagan teaching of hostile deities being
propitiated by other forces, it is the
one who needs to be propitiated Himself giving up the greatest thing He possibly
could to justly deal with sin. Christ
is the propitiation.

Now again, I don’t have time, but you could go through Hebrews — read Leviticus
and read Hebrews, and especially Hebrews — and it is extraordinary how in
Hebrews Christ is portrayed both as the Lamb and the Priest.
It all comes in about Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t put Christ against God.
Hebrews 10:7 for example quotes Psalm 40 — “I have come to do Your will,
O My God.” John 3:16 — it’s the
same thing. So I would argue that
propitiation is this, and I made this up and I hope it’s right and if it’s not
speak to your minister and he’ll correct the crazy Scottish theologian, but this
is an amalgamation of different things.
I understand propitiation in this way — as an appeasement of the just
wrath of God by the love of God through the gift of God, Jesus Christ.
And that’s what John is saying.

Now he also says, “Not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole
world.” He’s not saying everyone in
the world is forgiven. He’s saying
this, “If you want to be right with God, if you want to know God, if you want
the world to be a better place, then if you are Chinese or African or American
or Scottish, whether you are young or old or rich or poor, it’s the same all
over the world.
There is no other way.
There are not different paths to the same God by different religions.

Another heresy that’s coming into the evangelical church which says, “Yeah, it’s
fine for us to believe in this because we’re Southern and we’re brought up in a
Christian culture.” One, no you’re
not, and two, the fact that you’re Southern has nothing to do with the kingdom
of heaven, nothing. You’ve got to
say simply this, “There is only one name.
There is only one way, and that is through Jesus Christ.”
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
1 John chapter 4 verse 14 says this — “We have seen and testify that the
Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world” and there are some
Christian teachers who think that it is loving and kind and gracious to say,
“No, He didn’t. No, He didn’t.
He sent Him to be the Savior of these people and these people and these
other people, but there are other different ways.”
No there is not. There is
no other way
.

So I come back to my lady in the hospital and I say, “Look, what’s wrong with
this picture if you use a computer, it’s pixilated.
There’s — a virus got in.
How that happened is not the important question.
How you put it right, how you restore it, is the most important
question.” You read Romans 8, the
whole creation is being renewed. So
that’s why I said that I believe Steve Chalke is attacking the very heart of the
Gospel because he’s presenting, ultimately, a Christ who does not deal with sin
and cannot deal with a bent universe.
It is a “tea and sympathy Jesus.”
It is a portrayal of the worst kind of religious person who faced with
absolutely tragedy just says, “Well, I’m going to be really nice to you.”
Of course we’re going to be nice to people and care for people and
provide them with drink and provide them with food, but people it’s not enough.
People need more than that. It’s so patronizing.
I’m amazed that we’ve got American evangelicals that have suddenly
rediscovered that Christians ought to help the poor.
Of course we should. What
kind of Christian are you if you don’t?
But the notion that this is a new display of the Gospel — no, you help
the poor, that’s a fruit of the Gospel because you don’t hang onto your riches
anymore. You don’t hang onto your
status. You don’t need it.
You’ve got Christ. A Christ
who does not deal with sin and cannot deal with a bent universe is absolutely no
good.

I want to quote from McCheyne again on this.
It’s such an interesting phrase where he talks about how we need to get
the Gospel out to people and let people see because see people in my city, young
lads, twenty one, twenty two, faces — we say in Scotland — the “blanket” — faces
drawn and worn, battered and bruised with drugs, sexual promiscuity and so on.
And I just want to go to them, “There’s more!
There’s more! There’s more!”
In Jackson
there’s so many people who do not know.
When McCheyne went away to Israel he came back and this is how
he described what had occurred at the church, how he came in and the church was
packed every night and they went on until midnight every night.
Now forget all that nonsense about how in those days they could sit
forever. No they couldn’t.
They had those hard pews and they got as bored as anybody else in church.
And I’m not suggesting here that we’re going on till midnight — you may
feel like it — but I’m just saying simply that we want God to be at work in this
way. Listen.
Let me just read a little bit of what he said.

“I never saw” — the building was crowded
with over twelve hundred people on a Thursday evening — he said, “I never saw
such an assembly in a church before.”
This was the day he came back.
“Mr. Roxford, Mr. Arnor, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Lowe, and other ministers came
to support me. There was not a spot
in the church left unoccupied.
Every passage and stair were filled.
I was almost overwhelmed by the sight but felt great liberty in
preaching. I never before preached
to such an audience – so many weeping, so many waiting for the words of eternal
life.”

I stand in that church every Sunday.
I’ve stood in that church in McCheyne’s pulpit preaching to seven people
and I read these words. When I read
these words in his diary I just found it so incredible.
And I didn’t think, “Oh, this is McCheyne, this was in the past.”
I cried out, “God, do it again.
Do it again and much, much more.”
And that’s what we want. I
don’t care and you shouldn’t care if First Presbyterian survives and it’s filled
with people and so on. It doesn’t
matter. It matters that people are
coming into this building to find out about Jesus because there is a famine of
hearing the words of the Lord because in this city you’ve got far too much
religiosity, far too much religion, and it may be a whole lot better for you if
the attendance in churches was considerably lower than it is to that people
could at least wake up. Far too
many people are trusting in that.
Where are people who are weeping to be put right with God? How do you have an
eleven year old boy going home, sneaking along the walls so he can’t be seen,
because he’s so ashamed that he’s come out of church without having Christ and
he knows he doesn’t have Christ.
You know what we would do? We would
say, “Come here, say this prayer.
Off you go, and you’re converted.”
But he knew he wasn’t. So many
weeping. I want to see that happen.

When I first stood up in Saint Peter’s I said to the people, “Look, I’ll preach
from down here (at the organ console we had — now gone)” and I said, “I’ll do
that until we regularly get a hundred people and then I’ll go up to the pulpit.”
And the handful of people there laughed.
And I said, “No, don’t laugh.
Please don’t laugh. I’m
being serious. I’m not saying I can
do it because I can’t. I’m not
saying God will do it though He can.
But you have to believe that He can do it.”
Well now our folks get disappointed if there’s less than a hundred and
fifty people in the church, but it’s not enough.
It’s not enough. There are
two hundred thousand people in the city.
A hundred and ninety thousand never go near any church, never hear any
gospel. It’s not enough.
They need to be able to hear.

Let me conclude in this way. Let me
first of all speak to those of you who are not Christians.
And I know you’re Christians in the nominal sense of the word and you go
to church and you say you believe in Jesus — right, fine.
So does the devil. That’s
not what I’m bothered about. What
I’m bothered about is whether or not you truly are someone who’s entered into
the kingdom of God.
I’ll tell you what you need.
You need this double paraclete. You
need, John 16, you need the Holy Spirit to show you your great sin and Christ as
a great Savior. I challenge you, I
dare you, I really dare you, to ask God to show you those two things — your
great needs and a great Savior.
Christ is the righteous one. Christ
is the light. Christ is the
heavenly advocate. Christ is the
atoning sacrifice, the propitiation.
Christ stands in the gap. He
absorbs the wrath of God.

And this is what happens. Now please listen to this.
Jesus, when He died, the curtain of the temple was ripped in two and that
was signifying that the way to the holy of holies is open.
There’s a way back to God from the dark pass of sin.
There’s a door that is open and you may go in at
Calvary’s Cross is where you begin when you come as a sinner to
Jesus. And I have this picture in
my head of Jesus saying at the curtain, “Right now, come in.
You can come in.” And it’s because of His propitiation, it’s because of
His sacrifice, it’s because of what happened on the cross.
There’s nothing you can do to add to it.
There’s nothing you can do that can take away from it.
It’s all done. It’s all
there. No religion.

How ironic – Ligon and I were talking about this earlier — I’m a Calvinist and I
get accused of being a legalist and all I hear on God-television and
Trinity-television and so on is evangelical legalism.
“Give your money to this. Do
this; don’t do that.” It’s not the
Gospel. The Gospel is there’s
nothing you can do. Jesus has done
it. I wouldn’t dare lift the
greatest of my good works and say, “Lord, please accept me because of this” when
I understand the cross. The curtain
is ripped and I can walk in.

And you, if you are not a Christian, if you walk out of this building and you
say, “I’m not going in.” Do you
realize how much of an insult that is to Jesus Christ?
Please don’t. I don’t care
what sin you’ve committed. God
doesn’t, in the sense that because of what Jesus has done, it’s enough, it’s
sufficient, for anything you could or will ever do.
So please, if you’re not a Christian, don’t walk out of this building
saying, “Well maybe some day.” You
find Him. You seek Him, you seek
Him, you seek Him. It is the most
important thing in your life. It is
more important than anything else you will ever do.

But I have to address this to myself and I have to address this to those of us
who are Christians — Why am I, why are you, if I believe this — and there are
people who go, “Yeah, yeah, this is good.
I like this. I like
theological preaching. Propitiation
– that was a good one.” I heard
somebody say to me, “I didn’t realize you were sound” because I used the word
propitiation. Stop it.

There are plenty of people who can talk about this, but it still doesn’t mean
you’ve got it. If I’ve got it then
why am I so fearful at times? Why
are you so fearful, so lukewarm, so asleep, and so complaining?
Why such anger and bitterness?
Why so lazy? Why are you not
burning to tell others and to assist in every way that you possibly can?
Ligon said this morning about the Faith Promise and the church wants to
get back to a millions dollars.
That’s the very least you can do.
You live in the wealthiest country in the world.
We are wealthy people, by and large, there are people who have nothing.
You should be absolutely burning to give as much as you possibly can.
The standard is not “X amount, X percentage” — you don’t get off that
lightly. Legalism does that to you,
but the Gospel says you give it all.

When we redid our church it cost us about one and a quarter million dollars for
a small church, a hundred and fifty people, mostly students and young people, I
said to the architects, who weren’t Christians, “This is a lot of money.”
And they looked at me and said, “No, it’s not, David.
We have people who spend that on their houses.
This is not a lot of money.”
I was telling them what we wanted to do and how important it was.
They said, “This is not a lot of money.”
Why are we so obsessed with trivia?
Why are we so blasé about the one who took all our sin and pain, all our
guilt? Why do we still hold onto
that guilt? Why are we so cold?

McCheyne got in trouble once and I’m glad I’m not the only minister that gets in
trouble sometimes from that pulpit.
And he wrote a letter to a newspaper because he had someone preach in his pulpit
that wasn’t from his denomination.
This is what he says, and I’m really glad he said this because if I had said
this I would get in so much trouble.
This is the godly Robert Murray McCheyne,
I’ve got his shrine so you can come and visit, no problem.
This is what he said,

“Had I admitted to my pulpit some frigid
Evangelical of our own Church–(I allude to no individual, but I fear it is a
common case)–one whose head is sound in all the stirring questions of the day,
but whose heart is cold in seeking the salvation of sinners, would any watchful
brother of sinners have sonnded an alarm in the next day’s gazette to warn me
and my flock of the sin and danger ? I fear not. And yet Baxter says of such a
man, ” Nothing can be more indecent than to hear a dead preacher speaking to
dead sinners the living truth of the living God.” With such ministers I have no
communion.”

I ask God, “Lord, please don’t let me
become cold.” Let me tell you this,
“Be careful praying that because the burden Christ places on you is sometimes
overwhelming when you see people as they really are, as lost it gets, rid of all
your complacency. S, I urge you as
a Christian to look at the cross.
It’s not love pleading with justice; it’s justice pleading with love.
It’s Christ saying, “I’ve done it all.”
It’s Christ’s intercession being in a continual application of His death
to our salvation. There’s no guilt
in life, there is no fear in death, what a friend we have in Jesus.
I have a lawyer who’s the greatest advocate in the world.
I have a friend who is the best friend in the world.
I have a friend who loved me and gave Himself for me and who is also the
Creator of the universe.

Let me leave you with two answers I gave to two questions I gave in our debates
and discussions. You know, for me
debating and discussing is not about winning the argument.
It’s about presenting Christ.
And to be given the opportunity to do that is absolutely thrilling.

There was a man in
Chelmsford, in
England.
He said, “Who do you think you are David?”
I said, “You mean I’m not an Oxford professor?”
He said, “No, no. You’re one
of six billion people on this tiny planet in a galaxy of millions of galaxies.”
I said, “I hear what you’re saying and you’re right, as a secular and as an
atheist, I’m nobody. I’m a blub of
carbon moving from one meaningless existence to another.
I’m a cockroach.” If you are
a secular humanist, if you are an atheist, logically you have to accept that
there’s no real difference between you and a cockroach except a cockroach will
probably live longer and is more indestructible.

But I answered him this — I said, “You’re right, but in the eyes of God and what
the Bible tells me, I am someone for whom the Creator of the whole shebang, the
Creator of this whole universe — and if there are multi-verses He created all
them as well — sent His Son to die for me.
So in your eyes I might be nothing, but in God’s eyes, I am that
precious.” His face, he said to me,
“That’s a fantastic answer. If only
that were true.” I said, “It is.
It is true.”

One lady in a bookstore she said — we finish with this — she said, “David,
interesting talk but I don’t understand how you can possibly know that God loves
you. How do you know that God loves
you?” And I explained to her the
Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me and I explained to her the
cross. And please, by the way, if
you’re a Christian, can you explain the cross to a non-Christian?
Please get it. Grasp it.
Learn it, learn it, and learn it again and again and again and again.
“Preach to me the cross. I’m
learning the cross.” And I
explained to her about the wondrous love of Jesus Christ. And her mouth, her
face, was like this. Her mouth was
wide open. Her eyes were wide open.
The Christians around her were looking at her going, “Wow, it has that
impact.” I’m saying, “Yeah, it
should have an impact on you as well.
You’re so dead to it because it’s just become religious cliché.”

But here’s the incredible thing. At
the end she said, “David, if that is true,” she said, “I’m not saying it is, but
if that’s true, that’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever, ever heard.”
You have people in your homes, you have people on your street, you have
people in your work, you have people in this city who have never really heard
about propitiation and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
Of course, you’re not going to use that word, but you’re going to have
that concept. They never ever
really heard. The cross is as
much as religious symbol to them as it is to a Catholic or whatever.
They don’t understand the power and the meaning and the wonder of the
cross and you have to communicate it to them and in order to do that you have to
feel it yourself. You have to grasp
it yourself.

Pray that Christ would let you see the wonder of the cross.
It’s because of that that we can have such enormous hope and that we can
go out. Whatever your circumstance,
whatever thing you into now, you can say as a Christian, the Son of God who
loved me and gave Himself for me. I
love it.

I spoke to my daughter this afternoon, my wife this afternoon.
I mean, for a Scotsman I’m not doing bad.
I feel all gooey and romantic when I’m away from them.
You know I think it’s wonderful my daughter loves me, my wife loves me —
it’s brilliant! The Son of God
loves me. That’s not religion.
That’s not a cliché. That’s
the most overwhelming, jaw-dropping, wonderful, mind-blowing thing ever
possible. Please, as His children,
let’s recognize that and live that.

Let’s pray.

O Lord, I pray for this church.
First of all I pray for anyone here who doesn’t know the wonder of the cross.
O Holy Spirit, come, and show each person and our need of Jesus and the
glory of Christ. I pray, O Lord,
that this church would be filled with people who are seeking You and every
church where the Gospel is preached in its fullness in this city that people
would be drawn to hear Your Word.
And I pray that You would stop the mouths of those who would confuse You and
preach a false and a wrong gospel, who murder people’s souls.
Lord I pray for those tonight in this city who think they know and think
they have rejected but have never really grasped or understood.
And Lord, we don’t know how to reach them.
Lord give us the desire that we would want to reach.
And I pray for Uganda and I pray O Lord for the student work and
I pray for Scotland, for
Dundee and beyond Dundee.
Lord, McCheyne wrote, “Heaven has come down to
Dundee and this wilderness of chimneys has become a vast green field
for the Gospel.” O Lord, pour out
Your Spirit upon that city again.
Pour out. May we be overwhelmed.
May we need many ministers and others to come and to assist as the people
cry out for a Savior. And Lord
bless our churches together as we cooperate and work together.
Lord forgive us when we’re parochial and inward looking, self centered,
concerned more with our institutions than Your glory.
May You be glorified.

Now stand for the benediction and then we will sing the response that is in the
sheet, “We Have Heard the Joyful Sound,” and indeed it is.
Let’s stand.

Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us and remain with us now and forevermore.

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

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