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I. SOME THINGS THAT DEPEND ON WHAT WE DO WITH JESUS CHRIST
I want to call your attention first of all to some of the the things that depend on what we do with Jesus Christ.
1. In the first place, our acceptance before God depends upon what we do with Jesus Christ.—If you accept Jesus Christ God will accept you; if you reject Jesus Christ God will reject you. We read in John iii. 18 and 19: “He that believeth is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God; and this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” Our acceptance before God does not depend on the good works we perform. In order to be accepted before God on the ground of our good works, our good works must be perfect; and no man’s works are perfect. For it is written in the Law of God., “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them”; and no one has kept the whole law, and therefore no man can be accepted on the ground of his works. Again, our acceptance before God does not depend on the character we have built up. In order to be accepted before God on the ground of character, our character must be absolutely holy, for God is an infinitely holy God; and there is no one who has not sinned.
Our acceptance before God depends upon our acceptance of Him who lived a perfectly holy life Himself, and then died as the substitute for those who have led unholy lives. If the vilest man or woman in London should come into this gathering to-night and should here and now accept Jesus as their Sin-bearer and Saviour, the moment they did it God would blot out every sin they ever committed, and their record would be as white in God’s sight as that of the purest saint in Heaven.
I remember preaching one morning in my own church in Chicago on Romans viii. 1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”; and I was led to make this remark: “If the wickedest woman in Chicago should come into Chicago Avenue Church this morning, and should here and now put her trust in Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour, the moment she did it God would blot out all her sins, and her record would be as white in God’s sight as that of the purest woman in this building.” Now quite unknown to me a true Christian woman, a member of my congregation, had gone out that morning, and had gone into one of the lowest dens of infamy in the city, and there she had asked a woman living in sin to come and hear me preach. But the woman answered: “No, I never go to church; church is no place for a person like me.” But the good woman replied: “Our church is; the vilest sinner is welcomed at our church.” “No, no,” this outcast woman said, “I could never go.” “But I will go with you:” “No, that will never do,” said the woman; “the people on the street know me; the policemen know me; the very boys on the street know me, and sometimes they throw stones at me when I go down the street; and if they saw you walking with me they would take you to be like me.” But the lady replied, “I don’t care what they think about me; you come along with me, and I will go with you to the House of God.” But the woman still refused, and said, “I cannot do that; but,” she added, “you go a little way ahead, and I will follow you up the street.” So the lady consented, and this woman who was a sinner followed her. They came to the corner where my church stands, and mounted up the steps at the entrance into the vestibule, and when they got inside the church this poor woman who was a sinner dropped down into the very last seat, at the back of the church. I was preaching when she entered, and just as she got to that seat I uttered the words, “If the wickedest woman in Chicago should come into the Chicago Avenue Church this morning, and should here and now put her trust in Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour, the moment she did it God would blot out all her sins, and her record would be as white in God’s sight as that of the purest woman in this building.” My words went floating down over the heads of that audience and dropped down into the heart of that woman. She believed it, and accepted Christ, and God met her and blotted out all her sins, and washed her record white right then and there. And after that service the woman came down the aisle of the church to me, the tears streaming down her face, and told me how God had blessed her that morning.
2. In the second place, our finding peace of conscience depends entirely on what we do with Jesus Christ.—In Romans v. 1, we read, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We can never get peace of conscience by good works; we can never get peace of conscience by prayers and penances. How many have tried to get peace that way and have failed! Martin Luther, after his wild university life, roused to the sense of the fact that he was a sinner, tried to find peace by good works, by long nights of prayer, by penances, but failed! At last he went to Rome, and started to climb up the steps at St. Peter’s on his knees, hoping to find peace that way, but failed. At last, the words of God came ringing in his ears, “The Just shall live by faith,” and Martin Luther, put his faith in the finished work of Christ, and found peace instantly. I have a friend over in America, and in the days before I made his acquaintance he was a very vicious man. He was a professional gambler, one of the most desperate gamblers on the Mississippi River in the old days of the Mississippi gamblers. One night he was at the gaming table, and a man across the table accused him of dishonesty at cards, and Stephen Holcombs, who is now my friend, drew his revolver and shot at his accuser. The bullet went into the man’s neck, and when he saw what he had done Stephen Holcombe sprang to the man’s side, lifted his head on to his knee, and tried to staunch the flow of blood in the gaping wound; but the man bled to death then and there. Stephen Holcombe was arrested for murder; he was tried, and was acquitted on the ground that he had shot the man in self-defense. But, though acquitted by a human court, he was not acquitted before the bar of God, nor before the bar of his own conscience. He tried every way to find peace. He gave up gambling, and he gave up all his evil ways to find peace, but he did not find it. He even united himself to a church, and went to the Communion table, but he did not find peace. Two years after that awful night he was in his room alone in misery, his face buried in his hands, and the memory of that day was haunting him, and as he knelt there he cried: “O God, can anything blot out the awful memory of what I have done and give me peace?” And the strains of the old familiar hymn came singing through his heart—
What shall wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What shall make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
And then and there Stephen Holcombe saw Christ on the Cross for his sin. He saw all his sins, the murder and all, laid on Christ. Then and there Stephen Holcombe found peace, and from that day he has gone up and down our country preaching Christ and the atoning blood that gave him peace.
Is there some man or woman here to-night haunted with the memory of the evil you have done? Men and women, there is a way to find peace, only one way—by simple faith in a Christ that was crucified on the cross of Calvary for your sin.
3. In the third place, finding deep and abiding joy depends on what we do with Jesus Christ.—As the Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter i. 8, “Though now ye see Him not, yet, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” A man can never get joy through the accumulation of wealth. Many have tried it, but no one has ever succeeded. A man cannot get joy through seeking the world’s honours; many have tried it, but no one has ever succeeded. A man cannot get joy through indulging in the world's pleasures; millions have tried it, but no one has ever succeeded. But, friends, the wretchedest heart in this world can find joy to-night through believing in Christ crucified and risen.
Some years ago I remember a noblewoman of your country was studying at our Bible Institute in Chicago, and on the day she left the Institute she told us these two incidents that happened over here in England. She said, “I had a letter from a dear friend of mine, a lady, and she asked me to come at once to see her. I hurried to her home, and, as I went up the elegant marble stairway and saw the costly paintings on the walls and the magnificent statues that lined the hall, I said to myself, ‘I wonder if all this wealth and splendour makes my friend happy.’ I did not have to wait long to find out, for presently the lady came hurrying into the room, and, after greeting me, dropped into a seat and burst into tears. All the wealth, honour and dignity of her position had not given her joy. After this I went to visit a poor blind woman in an humble cottage. It was a dark rainy day, and the rain was dripping through the badly thatched roof, gathering in a pool before the chair where the woman sat. When I saw the poverty of that blind woman I was driven to turn to her and say, ‘Maggie, are you not miserable?’ ‘What, lady?’ and she turned her sightless eyes to me in surprise. ‘What, lady? I miserable; I, the child of a King, and hurrying on to the mansion He has gone to prepare for me? I miserable? No, no, lady, I am happy!’” Wealth had not brought joy to the one, but a living faith in Jesus Christ had brought joy to the other in the midst of her overly and misfortune.
4. In the fourth place, our obtaining eternal life depends entirely on what we do with Jesus Christ.—We read in 1 John v. 11, 12, “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” What stranger ideas even Christian people have about how to obtain eternal life. If I could come to some of you to-night and say, “How do you think people get eternal life?” some of you would answer something like this, “If a man leads a very good life, and fights against sin, and overcomes it, and is faithful in his service to God, at the end of a life of struggling and victory and service perhaps God will give him eternal life.” Thank God, that is not the doctrine of that Book. The doctrine of that Book is, that when God sent His Son Jesus Christ down to this world, He sent eternal life in Him, and the moment you take Christ you have the eternal life that is in Him; and if the worst outcast in London should here and now take Christ, the moment he did it he would have eternal life.
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