Scripture Reference: Ezekiel 37, Ephesians 2:1-10
The Lie That God Helps Those Who Help ThemselvesDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | December 5, 1999
Selected highlights from this sermon
“God helps those who help themselves” is not found in the Bible despite the fact that 80% of Americans believe that it is.
When it comes to our salvation, clearly we need God’s help. We can’t even begin to help ourselves in this arena. God initiates the transaction. He offers us the free gift of salvation, He raises us from the dead. He gives us eternal life, not because we’ve done anything, but because He’s done it all.
And once we’re saved, God helps us so that we might do good works to give Him glory. He gives so that we might receive.
There is an old story about a man who was in his home with floodwaters all around him. As he was sitting on his step a boat came to rescue him, but he waved the boat off and said, “God will rescue me.” By the next day the water had risen greatly and he was actually standing on his balcony in the house, surrounded with water. Again a boat came, but he waved it off saying, “God will rescue me.” Well, the next day he was on the chimney, and a helicopter came and hovered overhead and the pilot shouted, “Let me rescue you.” And he said, “No, no, no, God will rescue me.”
Well, as it turned out, the floods continued. The man drowned and he arrived in heaven in a bad mood. (laughter) And he said to Peter, “I can’t believe this. I thought God was going to rescue me.” Peter said, “Well, I actually also am quite surprised that you are here because we sent two boats and a helicopter to pick you up.” (laughter)
God helps those who help themselves. Eighty percent of Americans believe that that statement is right out of the Bible. What could be more reasonable than “God helps those who help themselves?” Think of the assumptions behind that statement. First of all, there’s a good emphasis on the work ethic. Why should we help somebody who is lazy? Let him help himself, and then we will help him, and God does the same, we reason. Don’t we do that with our children? We’ll pay your tuition if you get a summer job and at least pay for your books, and hopefully you can earn enough in the summer to pay for your books.
It’s based on the assumption of work. It’s also based on the assumption of ability. If you had a disability we would not expect you to work, but as long as you have the ability, as long as you can, you should. And so the belief is that God helps those who help themselves. He’s like we are.
What if I were to tell you that that statement is not only not in the Bible, but that it is very wrong? It is almost all lie, and perhaps only if tweaked, contains a little bit of truth. The simple fact is that it’s not in the Bible, and in a moment I’m going to tell you its origin.
As you know, this is a series of messages titled Ten Lies About God (and why you might already be deceived), and today we come to the tenth and last message. As I look back over the territory we’ve covered, lie number one is that God can be approached at any time in any way by anyone. Lie number two is that He is more tolerant than He used to be. Number three is that He has never personally suffered. Number four is that He thinks like we do. Number five is that He is obligated to save followers of other religions. Number six is that He takes no responsibility for natural disasters. Number seven, He does not know our decisions ahead of time. Number eight is the lie that the fall ruined God’s plan. Number nine was that we must choose between His pleasures and ours.
And today we come to the last – God helps those who help themselves. Where in the world did that statement come from? Well, way back 500 years before the time of Christ, Aesop, who wrote all those fables, said, “The gods (plural) help them who help themselves.” Euripides, a Greek philosopher who lived before Christ said, “Try first thyself, and afterwards call on God.” George Herbert of the seventeenth century said, “Help thyself, and God will help thee.” And then the present formulation that we hear quoted so often comes to us from Benjamin Franklin who said, “God helps those who help themselves.”
And may I say that not only is that a wrong philosophy, it is unbiblical? It may have been part of the reason why Benjamin Franklin has ended up, I believe, on the wrong side of heaven’s gates. You know that Franklin was a very good friend with Whitefield, the famous evangelist who used to preach to crowds with tears running down his cheeks, urging them to repent. He was one of America’s great revivalists, though, of course, he originated in Britain. They had a 30-year friendship and Franklin would have him over and they would spend time together, and before he died Franklin said, “Oftentimes Whitfield has prayed that I might be converted but he has not been able to see the answer to his prayers.” And his very last words, and I hope I have this right because I’m doing it from memory, but I believe that I can show that some of the last words that Franklin said before he died were these words: “Why should I trust Christ now? Soon I shall know whether or not it is so.” Well he’s the one who told us that God helps those who help themselves.
Now, of course, interpreted just loosely you can say, “Of course there’s some truth to it.” Of course, if God wants us to be rescued we’d better take advantage of that boat or that helicopter. And certainly if we have the ability to do work we should do work because we can’t expect God to send money out of heaven to fall on our lap, so in that sense we should be doing our part and then trusting God to do His part. That much is correct, but when it comes to the fundamental spiritual issue of salvation, not only is it not true that God helps those who help themselves, but follow this. God can only help those who know that they cannot help themselves. We’re too bad off to help ourselves. Thankfully that is not an impediment to God.
The text is Ephesians 2. Ephesians happens to be one of my favorite books, and whenever I have the opportunity to preach from it, I like to take that opportunity. The text opens by telling us how bad off we are apart from Christ. And then we’ll be answering the question of whether or not we can help ourselves, and then God comes along to help us. And we’ll tweak that statement at the end of the message, but notice verse 1: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
I begin today by talking about our problem apart from God. What is our problem? First of all, he says, “You were dead.” Let’s take a tour of a cemetery, but before we go to the cemetery let’s be sure that we stop at Walgreens to get a prescription so that we can help these people. You don’t do that when you go to a cemetery. You do that when you go to a hospital, because when you are in a cemetery the people are not simply sick. They are dead. They are not in a position where you and I can do very much to help them. They are dead. Now this is spiritually speaking. He’s talking about people who are alive physically. They are doing the cravings of the flesh and of the mind. They are doing all kinds of things. They are reading books. They are going to work. They are driving cars. They are going to operas. They are enjoying life. They are doing all the things! Some of them are listening to this sermon which is proof that it’s possible for the dead to be able to hear some things and to be able to interact, but spiritually speaking they are cut off from God and they are dead, incapable of resurrecting themselves. What a statement of our condition!
Not only does he say that we are dead, but we are deceived. Did you notice it? He talks about Satan. “You followed the course of this world, and the prince of the power of the air.” That’s a reference to the devil. The Scripture says that the devil puts in the minds of those who believe not; he blinds their minds lest they see the light of the truth of the Gospel. And so you have Satan putting ideas into people’s minds that they think are their own, and so there’s deception involved.
Martin Luther characteristically said it very clearly. He said, “The problem with the unconverted man is this. Though he is dead, and though he is blind and though he is deaf, he thinks of himself as someone who is alive, someone who can see, and someone who can hear, so the deception is very genuine and deep seated.”
Some time ago I did a study of self-deception, and I am quite sure that there is such a thing, by the way, as genuine self-deception. There are times when people believe their own lies, but they know down deep that they are lying. By you can actually get to the point where you are absolutely convinced that you are right, and yet, it should be self-evident that you are deceived.
Years ago I went to that state fair and walked into different rooms with different mirrors. One mirror makes you very, very tall and exceedingly skinny. Another mirror does just the opposite, and I think you are getting the picture. And then another mirror makes you very lopsided. Do you know what we are doing in life? We want to go around and find a mirror that makes us look just right no matter how we may perceive ourselves, or no matter how we may be.
I’m reminded of the prayer of Erma Bombeck before she died. She said, “Oh God, if you cannot make me thin, then please make my friends look fat.” (laughter) In other words, we want to be perceived in a certain way, and we’ll find a mirror, we’ll find some way to justify how we want to be. We are not only dead. We are deceived, and then we are depraved. Notice this. It says, “Following the desires of the flesh (and in the last part of verse 3) and by nature we were objects of wrath.” By nature! That little child that’s so beautiful, and that little child that comes into the world that we think is so perfect is by nature a child of wrath. Let him or her grow up and you will see sinful behavior. We sin for the same reason that a bird sprouts feathers.
We by nature are children of wrath. Well, that’s a pretty sad story. You can’t go around telling people, “Now, you know, you should be able to help yourself, and then God will help you.” How do dead people help themselves? They are helpless. This is a parenthesis now, a commentary on contemporary culture, but you see, unless we agree with what the problem is in our hearts, we will never agree on the solution. Today you have some people who say, “Well, the real problem is environment. What we need to do is to change people’s environment because the environment is the problem. Some people say the real problem is not sin. It is knowledge. What we have to do is to teach people the right things and then they will do the right things. The Bible would say that the problem is much deeper. It is a problem of the human heart that only God can solve. Once you understand the problem you know that we need God to solve it.
Well, that’s the problem. What about God’s power? Notice now it says in verses 4 and 5: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved.” Let us just stop there for a moment.
Intervening into this cemetery is God. God makes us alive. And let me ask you this question. When did God make us alive? It was while we were dead. He came and spoke the word and said, “Arise,” and we heard His Word, and He granted us the ability to believe, and we were brought into fellowship with Him by a divine miracle of intervention.
When Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, He didn’t say, “Well now, Lazarus, we know, of course, that God helps those who help themselves. I’m willing to help you get out of the tomb, but you have to do something first. You at least have to take the first step. Lazarus, at least wiggle your toe, and I’ll take it from there.” No, God came along and had to do it all. Underline the words had to.
Many of you know I teach every fall. In the last couple of years I’ve taught a class at Trinity International University, and this fall I did what I’ve done on previous occasions. And I told you several years ago what I did, and I redid it, but since some of you weren’t here I’ll retell it.
On a beautiful fall day I ask the students to close their notebooks, and I tell them we’re going to the cemetery in Deerfield. They have no idea what we’re going to do there. Once we arrive at the cemetery we get in a circle and we go to a gravestone, and we look at the marker. It’s the one I used before. I think it’s Jonathan and Rita – dead about 1912. And then I read this passage that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and then I ask one of the students to go over and to preach to them and tell them that the Day of Resurrection has come and they are to stand up.
I did it this fall to one of the students. I said, “Would you please preach to them and tell them to get up?” And he said, “No. I actually only preach to those who can give an offering,” and he said, “I don’t think these people are able to…” (laughter) We are training our students well over there at the seminary.
So, once again, I had to do it. I went over and shouted, “Jonathan and Rita, stand up! It’s the Day of Resurrection.” And then I waited very, very silently. I said to the students, “Of course, they’d rise if only they could hear me. I didn’t shout loudly enough.” So the next time I said the same thing with more energy and more power, and I waited for a resurrection. Fortunately, there was none. (laughter) I was really glad. It’s always a little scary for me to wait for those moments. (more laughter)
And then I turned to the students and said, “How do you think I felt doing that?” I said, “I felt pretty stupid, so stupid because when I asked one of you to do it, you wouldn’t.” That’s how stupid we are every time we share the Gospel. Imagine preaching to dead people.
Except for one fact, God in His mercy might intervene and create a resurrection. God might give the enlightenment, taking away the blindness of the eyes, the deadness of the ears. He might grant to them the ability to believe, and they may be converted, but God, who is rich in mercy, intervenes. Apart from that, it is helpless. And then I went over to the book of Ezekiel, chapter 37, where Ezekiel was asked to preach to dry bones. Now whenever I mention that at a pastors’ conference, all the pastors are saying, “Yeah, been there and done that. Yeah, I know what that’s like.” But in the process of preaching, God created life. Pretty soon the bones came together and then God breathed. And that’s why, my friends, today I want you to know that we must always do it in total dependence upon the Holy Spirit because the Gospel is the work of God.
I remind my students that Spurgeon apparently had 17 steps from the base of the floor, where he preached in England, to the top of the pulpit. You know, in those days the pulpits were very high. And I’m told that as he went up on each one he said, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit.” And this morning, as Marie was singing, and knowing that I was going to have to preach, I said, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit,” because apart from Him it is helpless and worthless.
You’ll notice that it is God who intervened. The power of God! You say, “Well, the power of God is a God of resurrection.” Yes, and when He regenerates you there is something within you that was not there before He did it. There is actually a new heart that is created. “For if any man be in Christ He is a new creation.” That is a miracle of God’s omnipotent creative power, and if you’re born again here today you’ve experienced that.
And now I need to add another parenthesis. Do you think it’s more difficult to resurrect somebody who has been dead for three years versus somebody who has only been dead for three days? What about you going to a funeral and saying, “Well, you know I should be able to resurrect this person because you know he just died last night.” (chuckles) Does it make any difference? Of course not! If you were an omnipotent God, which you have to be to create resurrections, it really does not matter whether you’ve been dead three years or whether you’ve been dead three hours. It takes the same power.
I want you to know today, my friend, that the issue before you and God is not the greatness of your sin. It’s not how dead you are. Some people are more (quote) dead than others. It makes no difference to God. Of course, it’s much better to live a good life than to live the life of a criminal, but as far as God is concerned, He can resurrect either just as easily. And I mention that because there may be some people listening to this message either here or by (cassette tape) CD or by radio. You are listening to this message, and if the truth were known, you have done some pretty terrible things, maybe even criminal acts, and you say to yourself, “Can God save me?”
It’s like the man who wrote to me from prison because of our radio ministry. He said, “I have raped four women. I have ruined their lives. Can I, too, be forgiven?” There is something within me that wants to say, “No, not you! You should burn!” But the answer is, “Yes. The God who intervenes can save even big sinners.”
Do you remember when one of Luther’s friends, Spalatin, wrote to him and said, “Luther, I can’t forgive myself for something I’ve done?” And you know all that Spalatin did was give some bad advice. Today if he had gone for counseling people would have said, “Spalatin, just chill out a little bit. What you did isn’t so bad. Look at what all the other people are doing. It’s terrible.”
Luther didn’t handle it that way. He didn’t minimize the sin, but he did maximize grace. He said, “You say that you’ve done a terrible thing. Oh Spalatin, you’re a big sinner? Oh, come over to us because we are hardboiled sinners.” He said, “Spalatin, you have to get used to the idea that Jesus didn’t just die for nominal childish sins. Oh no, Spalatin, Jesus died for big terrible sins, for damnable iniquities.”
And I say to you today who are listening, and you have not come to Christ because you feel so far down the ladder, “Jesus died for damnable iniquities, and the God who can speak a word of resurrection to one person is able to speak a word of resurrection to others,” and so we see here God’s power.
Notice how far we’ve come. Let’s retrace our steps. We’ve seen our problem, which is incredibly serious. We are dead. We are depraved. We are deceived. We’ve seen God’s power – but God!
And now let’s look very briefly at God’s purpose. What was he up to in doing this? Well, I’m going to pick it up there again in verse 4 to get the context: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Wow! Do you notice three verbs here in the text? It says that God made us alive. It says that God raised us up. It says that God seated us. What do you do when you read those words? You think of Jesus, don’t you? And these are references to the historical secession of events in salvation history. Christ was made alive. Resurrection! Christ ascended into heaven. There you have the ascension! He raised us up. Christ is at the right hand of God, the Father. That is exaltation! So that does not surprise us. What surprises us is that Paul says that this is true of us. It’s true of us!
In fact, he actually invents three verbs. He takes the regular verb and then he adds a prefix to it to say that we were alive with Christ, we have been raised with Christ, we have been seated at the right hand of God, the Father, with Christ, exalted with Him. And you read it and you say, “Paul, are you sure? Can this be?”
Christianity is often criticized because it just puts people down. I’ve had people say to me, oftentimes in anger, “You know, that’s the problem with you Christians.” I know that there was one case in which that happened (And someone who is sitting on the platform remembers it) where I was in a certain place here in Chicago, and they said, “That’s the trouble with you Christians. You know, you’re always putting people down. You’re always talking about sin.”
Oh, I know. We’re always talking about sin. We’re always putting people down, but I want you to know that if you believe in Christ, there is no religion in the world that so exalts undeserving humanity as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Notice that the text says that we have been raised with Him. And this isn’t just positional. This is actual. You are legally and judicially in heaven today. You are seated at the right hand of God, the Father.
Now why all that? That’s what we’re trying to answer. What is God’s purpose? Did you notice it? This is verse 7: “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
What is the first purpose of redemption? It’s not for us. It’s for Him that He might throughout the ages have trophies that display His grace. Listen to me carefully. When Jesus was raised from the dead, that was an act of power, but when you and I are raised from the dead, it’s an act of mercy. It’s an act of grace. In other words, where He is, is an act of kindness because He deserved to be raised but we didn’t. And so throughout all of eternity we are going to magnify the grace of God, being on display as to what a gracious God will do with terrible sinners.
John Stott said that when he left Cambridge University the principal of the school was also leaving that year, retiring. And in honor they painted a picture of him (an artist did) and it was unveiled, and it was apparently excellently done. And the principal, in speaking about it, paid tribute to the painter and said these words: “In years to come when people look at this painting they will not ask, ‘Who is that man?’ They will ask this question. ‘Who was the painter?’ And I want you to know that throughout all of eternity when we are on display before angels and demons (if they still are around though they will not be in that context), as trophies of God’s grace forever, nobody is going to ask, “Who are these people?” People are going to ask, “Who was the Redeemer to take these miserable, selfish, bigoted sinners and exalt them to the right hand of God the Father?”
The first purpose of redemption, my friends, is always God. It’s not us. Paul says in the book of Romans: “God set forth Christ. Why? To declare His righteousness.” Salvation is always first for God. But then we get in on the benefits. You’ll notice that it says, “in order that we may show the riches of His grace expressed in His kindness in (to) us.” There’s a lovely line in Mozart’s Requiem in which he says, “Oh merciful Jesus, remember that I was the cause of your journey.” And that’s right. You and I are the cause of His journey. The first purpose is for God. The second purpose is for us. He comes to redeem His people from their sins so that throughout all the ages glory might go to God.
Well, does God help those who help themselves? You know it says this in the book of Romans. It speaks directly to the issue. It’s almost as if the Apostle Paul said, “You know, someday Ben Franklin is going to say something, and I want to set him right.” Let’s listen to what he says: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. (In other words, you earn it.) And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” It is to those who don’t work. Could I add, it is to those who can’t work because there’s nothing that we can do to gain God’s attention to make it right, given our situation?
Now, of course, in Ephesians 2, and we’re back there for a moment, the Apostle Paul does say that we are saved by grace. And then he says, “It is the gift of God.” This is in verses 8 and 9, which is, of course the point that I have been trying to make. Verse 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Notice this. God helps only those who cannot help themselves when it comes to salvation, but after we are saved, God helps us in order that we might be able to help ourselves, or more accurately, that we may be able to do good works to give Him glory. But God always is the one who initiates. God gives that He might receive. God redeems that He might change us and leave us differently than He found us. That is always the work of God. Before salvation, our works are as filthy rags. After our salvation, Jesus Christ makes them acceptable to the Father.
Now today I’ve been preaching on the grace of God. This is Paul’s theme here. Grace is very difficult to accept. Let me give you two categories of people who find it very difficult to accept grace. The first are those who have sinned greatly. I’m talking about drug addicts and prostitutes. I’m speaking about child abusers, adulterers - people who have been involved in a lot of sin. They find it difficult to accept God’s grace because they say, “I don’t deserve it.”
Simon Wiesenthal in his book, The Sunflower, tells the interesting story of when he was in a concentration camp. He was suddenly whisked out of the camp and taken to an army hospital run by the Nazis. He did not know why he was there. There was a young Nazi soldier who was dying who wanted to speak to a Jew so that he could ask the Jew’s forgiveness for an atrocity that the young man had committed. Specifically this young soldier had blown up a Jewish village, and the screams of the women and the children haunted him. And now he was about to die, and he wanted to speak to a member of the race whom he had brutalized, and that’s why Wiesenthal was brought into the hospital.
And so the young man began to unburden his soul, and could this Jew, Wiesenthal, not forgive him? Well, some of you know the story and that the answer was no. Wiesenthal said that, first of all, he could not take such a terrible atrocity and simply grant absolution or forgiveness. Number two, he could not speak on behalf of the dead, he said, who had experienced these atrocities. And so the young man was left to die without the benefit even of one human being’s forgiveness.
Afterwards Wiesenthal thought to himself, “I’d like to know whether or not I did right,” and he wrote a letter to 32 different people, respected in various disciplines, and told them the story and said, “What would you have done?” Twenty-six said, “You did right. There’s no way you can speak for the dead.” Six said, “You should have taken the high road and at least, as a human being, granted the young Nazi his forgiveness before he died.”
Now I can understand the struggle. I can understand the struggle of those who have been so terrorized and brutalized. But I want you to also understand this young Nazi’s struggle. I want you to hear his guilt, his cries, his longing that somewhere in the depths of his soul someone could say to him, “Thou art forgiven,” a privilege he did not experience.
If you had been at his side, and he had said, “How can I prepare to meet God?” would you have told him the wonder of the Gospel? Would you have said to him that there was a Savior who died, and if you trust that Savior, and put your confidence in Him, that the issue is not the greatness of your sin? It is the wonder of the sacrifice and its completeness that was offered. Would you have said that? I hope so. You see, people who have sinned greatly find it very difficult to believe that God can forgive them. And maybe I am talking to many people like that today, and I want you to know that the issue is not the greatness of your sin.
Then there’s another category of people, and by the way, someone whose testimony you are going to hear in a couple of weeks makes an amazing statement. He said that he was brought up in a home where it was always said that God helps those who help themselves. Here’s a kid who was into drugs. He was into immorality. He was bound by all these chains, and “God helps those who help themselves.” It wouldn’t work for the young Nazi, and it wouldn’t work for him either.
But then there’s another category of people that find it difficult to accept God’s grace, and that’s these good people, the people who do volunteer work, the people who think to themselves, “There are a hundred people I could name, without thinking, who are beneath me in the moral ladder.” Now bless them. We should be doing relief work obviously, but they use that as their righteousness, and they think to themselves, “Surely I am fine, because look at all that I do.”
The first category says, “I can’t respond because I don’t deserve God’s grace.” The second category says, “I can’t respond because I don’t need it.”
This past week I spoke at a prayer breakfast and you know how these prayer breakfasts are? You have different members of the local clergy, and this was in another city. It was not Chicago. And they had a member of the clergy, and I’ll be just that vague, give the opening prayer and thanks for the food. And as he was reading his prayer I was listening to it and he said these words: “Oh God, help us to conduct ourselves so morally that when we stand before You we will be proud of our moral life and the way we lived.” I thought, “Oh yummer!” (laughs) Yummer cannot be translated. (laughter)
Let me ask you a question today. Can a man who prays a prayer like that be born of the Spirit? Does he understand the Gospel? I don’t think so. I want you to know that when I stand before God someday I do not expect to be proud for the way I lived. I expect to be much more like Isaiah, saying, “Oh woe is me, for I am undone and I am a man of unclean lips, oh God,” because at the end of the day, the Scripture says, we are still undeserving servants. Nobody proud!
Jesus told the story that really illustrates the fact that if you believe, like Benjamin Franklin, that God helps those who help themselves, you will be lost forever even as, so far as we know, Franklin was. He said there were two people who went into a temple to pray. One of them said, “Oh Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like other men who are adulterers and extortionists and unjust, but I give tithes of all that I possess, and I give to the poor. And I thank you that I am not like the man standing beside me, this tax gatherer.” And he could have added, “I thank Thee also, Lord, that You help those who help themselves, and therefore, Father, I thank You that I have so impressed You, and I know that I will be proud of the way in which I lived.”
And then there was another man, the tax gatherer. He smote his breast and he said, “God (He wouldn’t look up. He couldn’t stand to look up toward God.), be merciful to me, the sinner.”
Both of them believed in grace. The man over here you remember said, “I thank Thee, God, that I am not like other men.” Can’t you just hear him saying, “Oh, but for the grace of God, there go I? Yes, it’s because of God but He has given me the ability to do such nice things.” The other man thought to himself, “If God only helps those who help themselves, I shall be damned,” and he received in humility the gift that only God can give.
God does not help those who help themselves with respect to salvation. God helps only those who cannot help themselves, and who know it. And that’s why Jesus said that the harlots and the prostitutes go into the Kingdom of Heaven sooner than some of you who stand and pray about how proud you are for your good works because he who humbles himself will be exalted. He who exalts himself shall be abased.
You’ve heard me quote Augustus Toplady’s song many times, but I must do so again today.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for Dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Vile, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank You that You found us in the graveyard. We thank You that when we were dead and when we were deceived, and when we were so perplexed and depraved You came. You entered this cemetery, and You spoke and our dungeon was filled with light. We thank You today, Father, that in grace, as You quicken the hearts and minds of those who are listening in this auditorium and wherever, that even at this moment You can given them that desire and enlightenment to believe. Grant it, Father. Enter into the tombs of those who are here today who have never come to life, and grant them what only You give.
And even as You spoke to Lazarus and said, “Come forth,” so we pray, oh Lord God that eyes shall be opened, ears shall be unstopped, and wills shall be transformed for the glory of our God. We do love You. We thank You that You are a God who is rich in mercy. And we thank You that forever we shall display that.
Now before I close in prayer, what is it that you need to say to God today? It is possible, you know, for you to receive Christ even where you are seated, to simply say, “Oh God, thank You for showing me today that I am in the graveyard, but today I believe. I trust Christ. I come helplessly to believe.”
Would you tell him that?
Father, we wait to hear Your voice. Grant it to us, Lord, we ask. Amen.