God's Way Of Life
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” —1 John 1:8-9
That is our bill of fare for tonight, and if you do not find enough on that menu then I will say there is something wrong with your appetite or your digestion.
There are four simple but vital truths here: First, the fact of sin; second, the condition of forgiveness; third, the ground of assurance; fourth, the promise of cleansing.
That is a great bill of fare from God’s blessed table. May His Holy Spirit lead us in mind and heart as we feast upon His Word!
I come to you tonight with my heart filled with the desire to see souls saved. Yonder in our church in New York City, at this hour, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed. This afternoon before the meeting, I was delighted to see your organization holding open air services. Our young people at home have also been upon the streets of that great city, bearing to those who are lost, the invitation to come to the Saviour.
My desire is that the saints may be strengthened in the faith, but also, if there is one here who does not know what forgiven sin means, I hope that this will be your birthday into the Kingdom of God.
The Fact of Sin
First of all, there is in this text the proclamation of the fact of sin. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.”There is no escaping the fact of sin if one is honest with one’s own conscience.
I am not here this night to bring you an easy gospel. I am not here to say that there is any soft way by which your soul can be brought back to God. If you are ever saved you will have to settle the sin question. There is no way around, or under, or over the issue of sin between the individual and God Almighty.
One of the easiest things in the world is to practice, unconsciously, self-deception. Ah, my dear friends, it is possible in the most vital things of human life to be mistaken, and when it comes to sin, the natural impulse is to deceive ourselves. I pray this night that you will not make that mistake. “Be not deceived. God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”
There are two possible self-deceptions in connection with this sin question. It is possible for those who are trying to hold to the righteous life to deceive themselves. There are those who speak of “sinless perfection.” I have seen some who claimed that they were absolutely perfect; admitted it themselves, and that made it unanimous, according to their judgment.
God knows we ought to strive for sanctification, but if ever a man or woman in this world reaches the condition of sinless perfection they will not boast about it. They will be the last ones to label themselves “holy.” Even Paul referred to himself as “the chief of sinners.”
Some years ago there was a dog and pony show in the city where I lived. I went to the show. I did not “go to carry the children;” I went to see the show. I went because I love horses and dogs. It was a marvelous performance with a number of well-trained animals.
One part of that program was a jumping contest among the dogs. There was a whole circle of dogs, ranging from a magnificent Russian greyhound down to samples of the little miserable scraps of hide and hair that some women lead around on the end of strings, as substitutes for babies!
The ring-master put a barrel out in the middle of that tent, and the dogs all jumped over it wth the exception of one or two of these little scraps. He then placed a tub on top of the barrel, and most of them jumped over’ and still another tub upon top; then a number dropped out. Only a few went over. Another tub was placed on the top, and very few got over. Still another, and the only dog that could make it that time was the great Russian greyhound. After he jumped over that, the ring-master gave him a more severe test by putting another tub on top of the pile. That greyhound backed off, then ran up and stopped. It was too much for him, but the ring-master patted him on the head and encouraged him, and that seemed to put spirit into him. The dog again backed off to the far end of the tent and then came running like a cyclone, and, brining every muscle into action, with one mighty bound, went over and landed in the sawdust on the other side.
There was not a ripple of applause; there was a death-like silence. Somehow we were just instinctively curious to see what the dog was going to do. What did he do? He did not run all around the tent barking and wagging his tail and congratulating himself. No! Here is what he did—and when he did it I do not believe there was a dry eye in that tent. After that great achievement, after he landed in the sawdust, he turned modestly and crept up to the feet of the ring-master, laid his paws on the ground, put his great head on his paws, and looked up into his master’s face.
Our greatest achievements bring us to our Mater’s feet! The higher we reach toward God the humbler we become, if we are truly in “the way.” If we say we have no sin the truth is not in us. What we need today is humility of purpose, if we are to attain the goal that Jesus has set.
There is another direction that this self-delusion may take. Unsaved man or woman, listen! It is possible for you to deceive yourself. How many, many times in talking with those who are lost and without God, when the claims of Christ are presented, immediately a man will begin to justify himself. He will begin to say, “Why, I am not such a bad fellow.” He will say, “I don’t steal anything,” as though that were to his credit; “I pay my debts; I don’t get drunk, and I don’t beat my wife.” As though he deserved a great deal of credit for not beating his wife! As though ordinary human decency would not keep us from doing those things!
Don’t deceive yourself. God knows you. Don’t forget that God looks into your heart. He understands the motive and the purpose of your heart. Every deed you have ever done, whether in the darkness or in the light, God’s all-seeing eye was looking at you, and you have to answer to Him for all of that.
Suppose I had a great scroll, with the picture of your heart on it, and the record of your life, beginning way back in your moral responsibility; everything you have ever done written there upon the heart; even the thoughts and meditations on purposes of your heart written there; and I were to say before this congregation, “I will show you now the heart and record of Mr. So and So,” and you were sitting there. If I were to take hold of the string and were to pull down that chart, how far would I go before you would rise and say, “For mercy sake, go no further!”
The time is coming, my dear friends, when everything will be revealed. Every secret thing laid bare. What about your heart? The great question of this age is the sin question. It is that that is wrong with the world today. It is sin that is destroying the nations of the Earth. It is sin that is dragging down the children of men toward the raging fires of hell.
You know that what God’s Word says is true. The sin is there. What is sin? It is the violation of law. Crime is the violation of human law. Sin is the violation of divine law. We are disturbed if we commit crime. We should be more disturbed when we commit sin. Not only is sin a transgression of the law, but it is a grief to our Heavenly Father’s holy heart, and He cannot but hold us responsible, for this government of His is a moral government. God is righteous and just and true, and this world is founded upon righteousness and justice and truth, therefore, the sin question must be settled.
The Condition of Forgiveness
What is the next step?
The Scripture makes a way out—the condition of forgiveness. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Thank God, there is a way out from sin! Even for the vilest man that ever was upon the Earth, there is a way out. What is the way? It is the way of confession. To whom? A priest? No! Why should you go and confess to another man who is also a sinner? You are to make confession to God. What does confession mean? It is simply taking God’s side against your own sin. As long as you justify yourself you take sin’s side. You stand over with your sins and you say, “Now there will be some way out,” and you justify and excuse yourself. The spirit of confession is exactly opposite. You say to God, “Oh, Father, I have sinned. Here are my sins. I love them no more. I will cherish them no more. Oh God, here are my sins; forgive me!”
That is confession. The very essence of confession is to take God’s side against sin. When we confess our sins we bring them out into the light of day and take God’s side against them.
The Ground of Assurance
You say, “How may I know my sins are forgiven?”
That brings us to the ground of Christian assurance. Our text tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Something happens if we confess our sins. There is the human side—repentance and faith. There is also the divine side. If we confess our sins, He, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What is the ground of assurance? How may I know that I am a saved soul? Not by my feelings. Always, everywhere it is, “Believe, and thou shalt be saved.” That is the message of God. If the matter depended upon our feelings, we would be upon unstable ground. One day I feel good. The next day I don’t feel good. Am I lost? No! There is something greater than our feelings. God’s way is not feeling, fact, faith. God’s way is FACT, FAITH, FEELING.
God calls us to face the fact of sin and then the fact of Jesus Christ as a sufficient Saviour from sin; not feeling first, except penitence for our sins and a desire to be forgiven.
What then is the ground of assurance? It is the moral character of God. God says if we meet certain conditions then we shall be saved, and we can know forever that we are saved when we have met those conditions.
When someone asks me, “Are you your father’s son?” I say, “Yes,” and I am proud to say it. Why do I know that I am my father’s son? Because he told me so, and that is the only way I know it. I was there, of course, when it happened, yet I did not have any way of making my record. I know I am my father’s son because my father has told me so. The memory of that father, gone home now to glory, is still precious to my heart, and I know I am his son because he told me, and to be uncertain about it would be to reflect upon the honor of my mother and the word of my father.
How do we know that we are God’s children? Because He tells us so. We can take His word and stand upon it through all eternity. The ground of our assurance is the moral character of God. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleans us from all unrighteousness.”
God is “faithful and just.” Mark that! Thank God for the precious truth of His faithfulness. We are alive at this moment because of the faithfulness of God. Our hearts are still beating. Why? Because God is faithful. If God should withdraw control of our lives for even a second, then our hearts would stop beating.
The same stars that looked down upon David, around the hills of Bethlehem, are looking down upon us tonight. Why? Because God is faithful. Yes, our souls are saved because God is faithful. When we meet His condition and confess our sin then He promises that we shall be saved, and we can stand on that truth through time and through eternity. We can stand on that and plead His promises, and we may know that we are saved because He says it.
The old Scotch woman [sic] had it right. This dear old lady was a believer in the perseverance of the saints. A man once said to her: “But supposing after all you should find that you were mistaken, when you come to the judgment bar of God, what would you do?” She replied: “I would denounce God before the assembled universe.”
The man was somewhat shocked, and he then asked: “What do you mean?” She answered, “God has promised my salvation if I would meet His terms. I have met His terms. I have accepted the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, as my Saviour, and if God would say, after that, that I was lost, I would denounce Him before the assembled universe!” And she was right.
The Promise of Cleansing
We have here also the promise of cleansing. Not only the fact of sin, and the way to forgiveness, and the ground of assurance, but the promise of cleansing.
There is cleansing for you, oh man, discouraged with your life, you can come out as white as the undriven snow. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Not a sin left! Not a spot of iniquity left! The whole of our lives washed white because the promise is, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
God will cleanse. He not only declares you justified for Jesus’ sake, but He starts within you a vital process of sanctification that brings you into a clean and godly character.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with those modern institutions known as butter refineries. There is a method by which they make over old butter. They send wagons around to the grocery stores, and if butter has been on the shelf too long, so that you know it is in the store without seeing it, or if a pound of the butter falls on the floor and picks up a lot of hair and splinters and sand, they gather it up, and with all the second-hand butter they have in stock, send it out to the butter refinery.
First of all, they melt it down. They have a great iron cauldron. They put that butter over a hot fire and melt it down, then put a lot of water in the receptacle and move it about. The oil and water clash together, and the particles of oil fight against the particles of water. The water, being the heavier, goes to the bottom, carrying with it the sand and hair and trash, and the butter, in the form of oil, being lighter, is drawn off.
But it is not ready yet. They take it and put it into another receptacle and mix in oxygen. They pump down the pure air and impregnate it with oxygen. They send that air, filled with oxygen, into the butter, and they move it all around so that the particles of butter come in contact with the particles of air. Then the purifying power of the oxygen in the air burns up the impurities of the butter, just as the oxygen in the air we breathe purifies the blood.
One more step. They take that oily butter and put it into a certain proportion of fresh, new cream, and they mix it all together and pass it through a cooler, and it comes back into the firmness of butter. Then the manager takes a mold, fills it up and stamps a rosebud on the top of it, and once more it is sweet, pure, wholesome butter.
That butter has been touched by the skill of man, and the power that God has put at man’s control, and made over into a new life.
That is what our Heavenly Father does with us. He takes our poor lives and melts us down by the fires of repentance, and in His great mercy and tender love sends to us the power of redeeming grace. We see Jesus upon the Cross, and His blood touches us, and we are made clean and white and pure. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Hear me, my friends! Any Christian here who has not been living close to God, come once more under the blood; remember your faith, and your vows and your loyalty to the Master. Let Him wash you in Calvary’s stream. My unsaved friend, man or woman here tonight, there is cleansing for you. I would have you believe there is not only forgiveness, but cleansing. God, through Jesus Christ, not only pardons you, but He makes you over. There is a new life for you. You can go out this night, from this place, with the power of the living God in your heart, and with the demonstration of His Spirit in your life. God will look down upon you and will see your sin no more forever, no matter how black it has been.
The little girl was quite right, who asked her mother, “Is there anything God cannot do?” The mother replied, “No, I don’t think there is anything that God cannot do. God is almighty. God is omnipotent.”
The little girl then added, “One thing God cannot do. My Sunday School teacher told me, and I know it is true. There is one thing God cannot do.” The mother asked, “What is it?” The child replied, “Mamma, God cannot see my sin through the blood of Jesus!”
The little daughter had it right. We can stand in the presence of God, white and innocent and pure in His sight, because Jesus has died for us; and if we believe in Him and confess our sins and trust Him, He will not only cleanse us for this world but He will take us home to Heaven.
The Heavenly Home
Let me say this—that the highest stake of this life for you is just here. What does it mean, after all, if we win all the world and miss Heaven? What is it worth? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that we might not perish, but have everlasting life.
Yonder in one of the great cities of the East there was a large mass meeting of railroad men. They were being addressed by a famous engineer, a devout Christian, and as he stood before that crowd of men, he said:
“I cannot tell you, men, how sweet the thought of Heaven is to me. When I started on my run years ago, there was a little cottage on the hillside, and as I would come around the bend in the evening, I would pull the whistle cord and the door of the cottage would open, and a little sweet-faced lady would wave at me. Then she would go back into the house and say, ‘Thank God, father, Benny is safely home!’ Then one day she went away to be with God.”
“But,” he said, “I still blew the whistle and still the door would open, and a dear old gentleman would step out and wave at me, and then say to himself as he went back into the house, ‘Thank God, Benny is safely home again.’ Then the time came when I had to say good-by to that dear old father also.”
“Now I no longer pull the whistle cord as I go by the little cottage on the hillside, but how sweet to me, when life’s journeys are all over, when I pull my last train into the Union Station, how sweet is the thought, that as I go through the gates into the city of God, there will be at least two persons to greet me there. There will be a sweet-faced old lady, and a dear, gray-haired old gentleman, and I will hear her say, as I pass through the gates into that city of light and joy, ‘Thank God, father, Benny is safely home!’”
Is there any mother’s boy here tonight, in this great city, who is far from God and caught in the traps of sin? There is forgiveness for you, dear lad. Is there any mother’s girl here tonight in the depths of iniquity? Thank God for the blessed assurance that, through Jesus Christ, you may be saved.
God has done all that He can do for our redemption. Will you accept the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Saviour, tonight and let Him take you home to glory?
—Sermon delivered at The Moody Church by John Roach Straton, D.D., Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, New York City