Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 (“to die”)
2 Timothy 1: 12 (“for I know whom I have believed”)
These are the only scriptures I want to read tonight, and I would like to be simple, but I desire that the word might be powerful; it is God’s word as we have said in the prayer. A story came to me that I heard a long time ago about an old worthy that went about preaching in the fishing villages up north; he was very well known, and as he was walking down the street the man on the other side of the street asked, ‘What is the time?’. In these days a lot of people did not have wrist watches as we do now; so the worthy took out his pocket watch, thought it over and said, ‘It is time you knew the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour’. Now, dear friends, I would like to cry that out to each one here: it is time you knew the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour! Maybe you have been putting it off, maybe you have enjoyed the preachings over the past year, or two or three years, and you are happy amongst the brethren, but you have not put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, tonight God is saying that it is time you did it; do not put it off. Procrastination - putting off - is the thief of time. Satan would love you to put it off another day. 'There will be another preaching next week', he would tell you. Well, the preacher would say differently: there might not be a preaching next week. So God is saying that now is the time to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Scripture says, “now is the well accepted time; behold, now the day of salvation”, 2 Cor 6: 2. So it is not putting it off; the scripture is very clear, very sharp and to the point; it is now.
It is very easy to put it off. You may say, 'Well, I will consider it; it is very good; very interesting what is being said, I enjoyed that tonight'. That was like king Agrippa; he might have said, 'I like what you are saying Paul; it is all very convincing, but I will think about it; I am nearly persuaded to be a Christian, and I will think about it', Acts 26: 28. I am sure he is one of the millions that have been in a state of indecision, persons that are putting off, indecisive. How sad it is! It is Satan’s way of putting off your eternal salvation. It is very subtle. One day the Lord will come and there will be many that are still thinking about their salvation, it will be too late! So now is the time to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour.
Now I read this first passage because it speaks about time; “A time to be born, and a time to die”. And we are looking forward to a new young one in Leven in a short while, if the Lord will. You could go to the scientists of the land and say you would like to know when this little baby will be born, the day and the time; they cannot tell you that. They can fly persons to the moon, they can give you open heart surgery, but they cannot tell you that. You may say you would like them to tell you when you are going to die; they cannot tell you that either. But God could; God knows these things. God knew when you would be born, the exact time and the exact date, before the doctors knew it, and God knows when you will die. But you might not die, because scripture says “we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together”; it says “the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living”, 1 Thess 4: 16-17. So this is a company of living people, living souls; how fine that is, living spiritually, not living to yourselves. As we came here, there were people out enjoying sitting in the pubs and having a pleasurable day. It is a nice day, a good day; and that scripture came to me “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”, 2 Tim 3: 4. They were showing no interest in their soul salvation, but just having a good time. That is a bit like the younger son: he wanted to have a good time, Luke 15. But persons like that are morally dead. They are living, they are living naturally, but in the sight of God they are morally dead, and I trust there is no one here in this room that is living but is morally dead before God. What does that mean, dear young one? It means that you do not know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour and you are still in your sins. And do you think that such are going to go to heaven? You sometimes hear that; people say, 'Oh, there is another angel in heaven'. Well, if that person was not a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ he is certainly not in heaven. And if you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you are dead towards to God; you are dead in your sins, an awful situation to be in. That younger son was dead. The father says, “But it was right to make merry and rejoice, because this thy brother was dead and has come to life again”, Luke 15: 32. God is looking for life. We have seen it springing up naturally, we have had a bitter winter, and now we are seeing life springing up, and God is looking for life to spring up in this meeting. Maybe you have become a bit dead in relation to the things of Christ; God is looking for new life, new buds, new shoots; He is looking for a return from His word going out.
So here it says there is, “A time to be born”. What a time it was when Christ was born; what a birth that was! Was there pomp or ceremony? Sadly no: He was laid in a manger, a trough which the cattle would eat their food from. That is where the King of kings and Lord of lords was laid, my Saviour, Saviour of the world, God manifest in flesh, 1 Tim 3: 16. That is where He was found; what a birth, rejected by the world around. But it was a unique birth. There was a star too; the Lord’s birth was not just a normal birth. There was not a star when I was born; but it says the magi said, “we have seen his star”, Matt 2: 2. There is something unusual happening, perhaps they had heard of it from their fathers and their forefathers, and now it is happening, the time is here, the Messiah has come. How did these men know? I do not know, but there must have been talk, and the scripture tells us right from the very beginning that there would be One born who would bruise the serpent’s heel, Gen 3: 15. So this must have been talked about for generations: 'One day there will be a star and the Messiah will come'. Think of these magi looking up, and they would exclaim, 'It is in our generation, it is happening now!' And they went to see the King of kings and Lord of lords, God manifest in flesh! How wonderful for them, what a thing it must have been, a thrill to their hearts! Here was God Himself coming in in the form of a babe.
The Lord grew up in holy perfection. He grew up as a young boy, as a teenager, as a young man, He was found here holy, perfect to God. It says, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners”, Heb 7: 26. Even in death He was separated from sinners. He was separated from sinners in one sense because of who He was, but even in death He was separated from sinners. The Lord had to die. He knew it; we do not know how long our lives may be here, but the Lord knew the time He was to die. He said of Himself, “But first he must suffer many things” before coming in glory, Luke 17: 24, 25. He told that to the disciples, it did not seem to impress them, they did not seem to understand it, but I think it was before the Lord much in His service that He was to die; He came here to die. Why? He came here to die because of you and because of me, because of my sins and because of your sins. One man saw Him and he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”, John 1: 29. One hymn writer says -
Guilty, vile and helpless we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He!
Well, dear friends, that was Christ, the Lord Jesus, this Man who was born to die, born to be offered up as the sacrifice that would glorify God in relation to sin. So that is what He did. We were speaking in the reading as to His laying down His life and He could say in John, “On this account the Father loves me”, chap 10: 17. He was aware of that, that the Father loved Him because, as He could say, “I lay down my life”. What strength that must have been in His pathway here. Others did not know it, others did not love Him for it yet, but He says, “On this account the Father loves me ... I have received this commandment of my Father”, v 18. The Lord went to the cross. There He was crucified by man, and He has become the propitiation for our sins, and indeed for the whole world What a time that was! What a dark day when the Lord was crucified. One said that the Man that died on the cross was God, FER vol 15 p182. These things are worth thinking about; it was a miracle that He should die, that the Lord of glory should die, should lay down His life for His sheep, for His flock. He did it, He took men's sins as His own; have you ever considered that? Before the eye of God that spotless Lamb of God took on guilt for us; God made Him to be sin for us. It was the very thing that He abhorred most. He did that to be available as a Saviour for you and for me. So we can speak carefully in relation to the Lord Jesus of “a time to die”. It says He “cried with a loud voice”, (Matt 27: 50); what a time! The whole creation had been waiting for that time, God had been waiting for that time, because then God was able to come out fully. At that time when that blessed life was laid down, judgment borne, the sin question finished, the Lord cried out, “It is finished”, John 19: 30. Wonderful words, “It is finished”. The whole question of sin dealt with before a holy, sin-hating God, and removed; but I have often thought that for all that, for God to be satisfied, it needed the blood to be shed. His was a perfect life, a perfect sacrifice, but it says, “without blood-shedding there is no remission”, Heb 9: 22. So God was waiting for that time. Man pierced the Lord’s side and forthwith there came blood and water. Dear friends, that blood can cleanse you from every sin, 1 John 1: 7. Not just the worst ones: it can cleanse you from every sin, and now you can have your place before a holy, sin-hating God. How wonderful! When you are saved you are taken up; you are not condemned now. How terrible it must be to be on the condemned row, condemned to death. They do not know the time, it has not been fixed yet, but they are waiting there in line to die; they are condemned men. You are no longer condemned; you are justified in Christ and you can take your place before God. Could you ever think that you could be before God in your sins? It is a moral impossibility! God will never and could never surround Himself with uncleansed sinners. You must be justified, and this is the time: now is the time to be saved. I do not know what is on offer next week; I do not know what is on offer tomorrow; I do not know what is on offer tonight! Other people are looking for signs; there are things that have been happening in America, and foolish people say, 'You know the Lord is coming this year, He is definitely coming'. O yes, He is coming, but the day of the Lord comes as a thief, 2 Pet 3: 10! He will not have external signs so that you might think it is all right to delay. He will come when you least expect it! So do not waste time, accept Him as your Saviour tonight.
I read in this other passage about those who have accepted Him as their Saviour. As that old worthy said, it is time you knew the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. Now all or many in this room know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour! It is a wonderful thing! But we can become a bit dull, a bit jaded, corners have got rubbed, we are not as sharp as we used to be, but Paul says, “I know whom I have believed”, I know Him! Do you really know Him? Do you know Him as your Friend. One song writer could say,
And He walks with me
And He talks with me,
That is knowing Him. Paul knew Him. There are a lot of children here, and some are hoping to go to universities. We can be thankful for education in one sense. There are persons who have no education, who are illiterate; they cannot go to school because they have to provide for their families. These things we may take for granted, that we have a good education in this land; we are thankful for it, it is a blessing from God. Paul was an educated man, I think he would be a university man, he was a very clever and astute man, he was taught in the best schools or universities of that time, I suppose, but one day he sat down and he counted all these things over; he counted it loss and he speaks rather about the power of Christ's resurrection. Now Paul came to know about that like no one else, because he was on that road to Damascus to slay the brethren and imprison them and a voice spoke out of heaven - Christ in the glory; Paul knew that. Do you know Him as a living, raised and glorified Man? I once went to a convent to fix a clock, and there were crucifixes everywhere, some of them as tall as me; it became a bit oppressive. I do not know if the nuns really knew Him and the power of His resurrection. To go over Christ’s sufferings is very important in your life, but, dear friend, you have got to know Him where He is. He is not on the cross now; the Father has glorified Him. Paul writes about “the might of his strength, in which he wrought in the Christ in raising him from among the dead”, Eph 1: 20. Christ has been glorified, He is in heaven, so do you know Him there? That is my test. Do I know Him there? He is living to intercede for me day by day; He is there for me. So we can say He is a Counsellor and Guide, He is a Defender. Paul knew Him as a Defender: he says, “all deserted me ... But the Lord stood with me”, 2 Tim 4: 16. How wonderful to know Him as a Defender, One who is going to stand up for you, defend you, maybe in school, maybe in the workplace, maybe in the street. He will defend you; He will stand by you. Others may flee from you, but this blessed Man will never flee from you. Get to know Him.
Paul might have sat down and listed the things that had been important to him naturally: education, jobs he had had, and so on, and he would have had to score through everyone until he came to the end of the page. And he eventually said, “I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”, Phil 3: 8. So a university degree may get you a job, but the knowledge of Christ is far exceedingly above any of these things. Get to know Him! Now is the time to do it. This is the growing time, we are often told. We may not even have two or three weeks left! So get to know Christ where He is tonight, on your knees. He wants you to have a relationship with Him. He does not just want you to know Him as your Saviour and leave it at that. He wants to interact personally with you. He wants to have a relationship day by day; so that one day, you will hear that voice, that assembling shout, and “we the living … shall be caught up”, 1 Thess 4: 17. “We the living”, that is us now; we might not see death. How wonderful that is, what a prospect that is; do you ever think about it that you might not see death. The man in the street might not have that view; he might think he will live and die and that is it. But the believer has a different outlook, “we the living who remain”, that is those that are trusting and have their faith in Christ and have their object heavenly; a heavenly destiny, how wonderful that is. How fine to have your residence as heaven. Where do you stay? Heaven - that is where I live. It is not wherever you stay in Dundee; can you say, 'That is my residence'. Dear friends, that is where a believer belongs; their name is written there. Is it written there? Are you sure it is? Make sure it is tonight because, “now is the well-accepted time; behold, now the day of salvation”, 2 Cor 6: 2.
What I would say too is that the blessed Spirit will help you to get to know Jesus better. I would say that with all simplicity; that is maybe half the reason I do not know Jesus better, because I have not trusted in the Spirit and relied on Him more to bring out His glories, to bring out His beauties. One could say, “he is altogether lovely”, Song of Songs 5: 16. That is a person who has spent a lot of time with her beloved. “He is altogether lovely”! You will find no flaw in Him and the more you look at Him the more you will love Him.
These are simple words, but profound, and now is the time to take them up. God would say that, 'Do not put it off'. How sad if you went into an eternity saying, 'I wish I had not put it off; I wish I had accepted what the preacher had said; I wish I had accepted God at His word that day, but in my foolishness I put it off'. Friend, that will never be the case with anyone in this room, if each one will accept Christ as their Saviour tonight. And then we have each to get to know Him, “For I know whom I have believed”.
Well may it be so for each one of us, for His Name’s sake.
17th April 2011