Sermon #1368 Miscellaneous Notes
Text: Zephaniah 2:1-3
Reading: Proverbs 1:20-2:9 and Zephaniah 1:14-2:3
Subject: Encouragements to Faith in Christ
Date: Sunday Morning – September 26, 1999
Tape # V-46a
I want you to turn to the book of Zephaniah. My message today is specifically addressed to you who are yet without Christ, to you who are yet under the wrath of God, without God, without Christ, without hope. I have a message from God himself for you who are lost. May God the Holy Spirit cause you to hear it.
1. You who are without Christ are lost, guilty before God, justly condemned. If you are without Christ you are on your way to hell. You are a condemned sinner. The wrath of God is upon you. You are hanging over the pit of hell, living on the edge of eternal torment!
2. God, who is holy, just, and true, must and shall punish you for your sin. “God is angry with the wicked every day…He hath bent his bow, and made it ready.” He has prepared for you the instruments of death. He has ordained his arrows against you (Ps. 7:11-13).
3. If you die without Christ, God almighty will punish you in hell forever. Your immortal soul will suffer the relentless, unmitigated wrath of God’s infinite anger, wrath, and justice forever!
I do not know, but it may be that before I am done preaching this message you will be in hell. It is my prayer that God will be pleased to let you hear the gospel of his grace once more, and that he will give you his grace, that he will now grant to you life and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, God help you now to trust his dear Son!
Listen to me, now. You do not have to die. You do not have to go to hell. If you would be pardoned of all sin, if you would be cleared of all guilt, if you would be justified before the throne of heaven, read with me what God himself says to guilty, condemned sinners, to men and women upon whom he has pronounced his holy wrath (Zeph. 1:16-2:1-3).
Here, in verse 3, you are commanded to seek the Lord. “Seek ye the Lord.” That is your duty and responsibility; and that is your blessed privilege. Seek his favor. Seek his mercy. Seek his grace. Seek his pardon. But, above all else, seek him – “Seek ye the Lord!” Seek the Lord himself. Seek him early. Seek him earnestly. Seek him constantly. Seek him with all your heart. Seek him in his Word. Seek him in his house. Seek him among his people. Seek him by faith.
Seeking the Lord will not save you; but seeking him is your responsibility. If you seek him, you will find him; and finding him is salvation (Jer. 29:10-14).
In seeking the Lord, we are specifically told to seek two things.
1. “Seek righteousness.” – We have no righteousness of our own. We cannot produce any righteousness for ourselves. Yet God demands righteousness from us (Matt. 5:20). If we would have righteousness, we must seek it from him. Seek to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you. Seek to have the righteousness of Christ imparted to you.
2. “Seek meekness.” – Seek a right knowledge of yourself before God. Until you are humbled before him, until God himself convinces you of your sin, you will never seek the righteousness of God by faith in Christ.
Now, I want you to look at the last line of verse three. This is the point I want to drive home to your heart. If you would be saved, you must seek the Lord. That is your responsibility. You are here commanded to seek him. Here is your encouragement to do so. “It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.”
“Maybe” is not much of an encouragement. But it is more than you deserve. “Maybe” is not enough for good, proud, self-righteous, self-sufficient folks. But “maybe” is all the encouragement a poor, naked, helpless, starving beggar needs. “It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.” That is enough for me.
Proposition: The very possibility of grace and salvation in Christ is enough to cause needy sinners to seek him.
The guilty, condemned felon prefers anything to death. His heart’s resolve is: If pardon might be granted, I will seek it with all my heart, with every fiber of my being. If there is a possibility of life, I will pursue it until I die. And the guilty sinner says, “I will seek the Lord. I will seek him until either I find him or I die, because “It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.”
Divisions: Let me show you three things from the Word of God.
1. “Maybe” is encouragement enough for needy sinners to seek the Lord.
2. In the matter of salvation “maybe” is really a great possibility.
3. There is much, much more to encourage sinners to seek the Lord than “maybe.”
I. “MAYBE” IS ENCOURAGEMENT ENOUGH FOR NEEDY SINNERS TO SEEK THE LORD.
The key word in that is “needy.” If you are a needy sinner, if the Lord God has made you to know something of your depravity, guilt, sin, and utter helplessness before his august, holy law and justice, if you know the terror of the Lord, the terror of his justice, if you know your condemnation, you will need nothing more than a “maybe” to cause you to seek Christ. You will say in your heart, “I must go to Christ. I must seek mercy at the throne of grace.”
“Perhaps He will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there.
I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away I know
I must forever die.
But, if I die with mercy sought
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died.”
A. It nothing but a “maybe” that inspired Esther to approach king Ahasuerus (Esther 4:15-16).
Esther needed the king’s favor. Her life and the lives of all her people depended upon his mercy. So she did what she had no right under the law to do. She came into the king’s court, saying, “If I perish, I perish.” When she did so, she obtained the mercy she needed (Esther 5:1-3).
B. Jonathan was caught between a rock and a hard place, when a “maybe” encouraged him to single-handedly attack the garrison of the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:6).
He said to his armor bearer, We have no choice. If the Philistines catch us here, we are sure to die. If we must die, let us at least die striving to live. “It may be that the LORD will work for us: for [there is] no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.”
C. It was nothing but a “maybe” that cheered and comforted David when Absalom rebelled against him and Shemei cursed him (2 Sam. 16:12).
Child of God, in your darkest hours of trial, hope still in the Lord. Look to him. Lean upon him. Trust him. Resign yourself to him.
D. It was just a “maybe” that caused those four desperate lepers to enter the camp of the Syrians (2 Kings 7:3-4).
Look at this. Lay it to heart. My friend, you are dying of the leprosy of sin. If you should seek Christ and perish, you have lost nothing. If you stay where you are, you will surely die. But it may be that he will save you. Venture your soul upon Christ, and see.
“Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.”
E. It was just a “maybe” that caused the afflicted mourner to humble himself before the Lord (Lam. 3:27-32).
Put your mouth in the dust. Confess your sin before the Lord. “If so be, there may be hope.”
F. It was nothing but a “maybe” that caused the Nineveh to repent and turn to the Lord (Jonah 3:9).
This is what I am saying. – If you believe what God says about you, about your guilt, and sin, and just condemnation, “maybe” is encouragement enough to cause you to seek the Lord. A little hope is infinitely better than no hope.
How long a beggar will wait, how earnestly he will plead, with no promise of charity, but only the bare hope of winning the favor of someone who passes his way! The fisherman will cast his nets again and again, though nothing has been caught. His only hope is that the fish may swim his way. In days gone by, men would dive into the sea, defying the perils of the deep, with just the hope of finding pearls in oyster shells to enrich themselves!
Will you not draw near to God in Christ in hope of eternal life? As for me, I lay my sin-sick soul down in the dust at his feet, realizing that my only hope of life is Christ. Like the leper, I lay myself before him in worshipful surrender, saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me whole.”
II. Second, “Maybe” is a good encouragement to seek the Lord; but IN THE MATTER OF SALVATION, “MAYBE” IS REALLY A PROBABILITY.
There is really every probability that if you seek the Lord you will obtain salvation at his hands. Let me give you seven reasons why you may expect to find mercy in Christ at the throne of grace.
A. God himself calls upon you to seek him, and promises pardon for all who do
B. It is the nature, character, and delight of God to show mercy to sinners.
C. The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world for the express purpose of saving sinners.
D. You may not know it, but you have already received great mercy from the Lord.
Mercy alone has kept you out of hell this long. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Lam. 3:22).
E. Many other sinners, just like you, have obtained mercy.
F. The sin-atoning blood of Christ and the omnipotent grace of God the Holy Spirit are sufficient to save you.
G. The Lord God gets great glory to himself by saving sinners like you and me.
I urge you to seek the Lord. He may be gracious to you. Indeed, there is every likelihood that he will be gracious to you, if you seek him.
III. But, third, THERE IS MUCH MORE TO ENCOURAGE SINNERS TO SEEK THE LORD THAN A BARE “MAYBE” OR EVEN A MERE PROBABILITY.
Samuel Rutherford said, “Our hope is not hung upon such untwisted thread as ‘I imagine so;’ or ‘it is likely;’ but the cable, the strong rope of our fastened anchor is the oath and promise of him who is eternal veracity. Our salvation is fastened with God’s own hand, and Christ’s own strength, to the strong stake of God’s unchanging nature.”
A. There are certain, sure, unalterable promises made in the Word of God to sinners who seek him.
1. God promises forgiveness to every sinner who believes on Christ, repenting of and confessing his sin.
2. God promises salvation and eternal life to all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. God promises that all who seek him shall find him.
B. I am calling upon you who hear my voice, right now, right where you sit, to confess your sin and trust the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The terror of God’s wrath should make you tremble.
2. The love of Christ ought to crush your heart and win your surrender.
3. The promises of God should draw you to himself.
· God cannot withdraw his promise.
· God is immutable. – He is the same, yesterday, and today, and forever. He is the same now as he was when the promise was made. In effect, the promise of grace falls from the lips of our God fresh every day.
· God cannot lie. – So venture your soul upon Christ.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Application: Oh, needy sinner, seek ye the Lord, while he may be found. Come to Christ and live forever.
Illustration: Benhadad coming to Ahab – 1 Kings 20:31-34
See Sermon 738 preached at Danville 6-7-87 AM. This message preached Friday Night – Dingess Conference 9-24-99 (Grace Baptist Church, Dingess, WV)