THE SEEKING SOUL HINDERED BUT SAVED AT LAST
A sermon preached by John Gosden, of Southborough, at a
Thanksgiving service at Forest Fold Baptist Chapel, Crowborough, on September 4, 1996.*
‘For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.’Psalm 86.5.
‘Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.’ Psalm 100.4-5.
God, the eternal God, the Creator of all things, is the God who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. We can see from His changeless character that this statement made by the Psalmist in Psalm 100, verse 5, “For the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations,” is a fact and a truth that will never, ever vary.
Let us consider the wonders of God’s grace which spring from that same goodness, that same mercy, and are based on that enduring truth. That is why I have just read Psalm 86, verse 5,
‘Thou, Lord, art good’. The Psalmist had not changed his mind. This Psalm, if it was written by David, as Psalm 86 certainly was, is in agreement on this great truth, ‘Thou, Lord, art good’. The goodness is shown by this fact, that He is ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Him.
A spiritual difficulty
I want just to say why I have turned to that verse, because there may be someone who can agree that the Lord is good; maybe they have received great goodness from Him in their lives, He has opened doors for them. He has been kind to them in their families, He has dealt with them in great love and benevolence in many ways; and yet they are still seeking the Lord at a deeper level, seeking the Lord that they might know a personal interest in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet are finding considerable opposition in their search.
Now, I think this needs to be considered because it is certainly not true that every person who is brought to conviction and who begins to seek salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, immediately comes into
the possession of that salvation. It would be surprising if they did. Some certainly do come from the depths of darkness, hear the Gospel’s joyful sound and there is a response in their heart almost immediately, but that is not often the case. Many dear souls are convicted of sin, and begin a search which seems to be hampered in every direction, and they find it most difficult to come to the assurance that their sins have been forgiven.
I want to tell you why that is. You need to give consideration to exactly what is happening to you if you are in that situation tonight. If you find that the way to Christ and salvation is hedged up, and is difficult, you need to realise why it is, or one of the reasons why it is. It is because you are attempting to escape from the kingdom of Satan, and come into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Satan, with all his power, his venom, and his determination will be set against you finding salvation in Christ. He will not leave you to make an easy entrance into the kingdom. He will oppose you in every direction. His interest is to keep people from the kingdom of Christ, and in his own slavery, and in his own dark kingdom. Immediately one begins to seek after a knowledge of salvation in Christ, Satan will most assuredly be there to complicate the way, and make your coming difficult.
Some of us know only too well that Satan will tailor his stumbling-blocks to suit our particular circumstances. He knows our besetting sins, he knows our fears, he knows our weaknesses, and he will design his interference and snares to stumble us as much as he can. There are many devices that Satan can use. Sometimes he uses the pull of the world. When young persons are first brought to conviction of sin, they sit down and think of all the friends they are going to lose; they will think of the loss that this might incur so far as their work is concerned, or their studies are concerned. It may be with a young married couple that one is convicted of sin, and the other is not, and there will be a cost involved in making a profession of faith. These are serious matters, they are things which hamper coming sinners who know conviction of sin.
Yet there are more subtle and apparently spiritual reasons that Satan will bring into your pathway to impede your coming to the Saviour. Oh, how subtle Satan can be! He can misquote or misuse the Scriptures in order to turn them against your coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. He will portray God to be a miserable, hard taskmaster, from whom blessing can only be obtained with great difficulty. He will hint to you that perhaps you are not elect after all, and if you are not, there is no point in doing anything. You will never be saved! These are subtle lies that Satan may bring into the
pathway of coming sinners. He will question the willingness of Christ to receive you. These are some of the things which have been experienced by the Lord’s people on their coming to the Saviour. These subtle, apparently spiritual stumbling-blocks are designed to hide the true intention of Satan. His intention is quite clear really. His design is to keep you from the Saviour, and if he can stumble you by bringing verses of Scripture to you, then of course, he will be very pleased.
This verse (Psalm 86.5), it seems to me, is designed by the Holy Spirit to give an answer to all these apparently spiritual lies that Satan can bring against us, under the bondage of which we shall find it almost impossible to come to the Saviour. This verse deals with them and deals with them all in a wonderfully simple way: here it is, Thou, Lord, art good, ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy, unto all them that call upon thee’. What could be more simple than that? Not a great deal of complicated theology, not the deep arguments that Paul sometimes introduces in his epistles. It is a simple verse, and I want to deal with it very simply. It would be a fearful thing to complicate this lovely verse. I want to look at it just as it stands, and try to show any that are in Satan’s bondage, that he is a liar and a deceiver from the beginning.
Thou, Lord, art good
The first statement this verse makes is that ‘Thou art good’. Well, we should not really need any confirmation of that, should we? His goodness has been demonstrated in so many ways in our lives. We need to have it re-emphasised because Satan will soon come and say to you, ‘This Lord is good?! What about these children that are born with fearful deformities? What about the natural disasters that happen when thousands die in famine, in earthquake, in volcano eruption? This God is good? The One that created this world is good?!’ Or more personally perhaps he will say to you, ‘Is He good?’ Look at those prayers of yours that have never been answered! Is He good?’ This is the subtlety of Satan, he will half-.quote a verse, and he will attempt to distort what that half-quoted verse is saying.
Yes, He is good. The Psalmist David knew the goodness of the Lord. This God has declared Himself to be good. He is not a hard taskmaster from whom blessings can only be extracted with the greatest difficulty. Yes, sometimes, He keeps us waiting for our prayers to be answered. We have been warned that that is so, and we are exhorted to show importunity, perseverance, not to give up in our approach to God, because He is good, intrinsically good. God is light’, John tells us in his first epistle, ‘and in him there is no darkness at all’. He is not operating a private and secret agenda, He
is not saying one thing in His Word, and doing something else to poor sinners to mock them. That is not the God to whom we come. He is good, in Him is light, in Him is no darkness at all. Satan is a liar.
Now, you need to make your mind up as you consider these things. Which is true, the words of Satan or the Word of God? The Word of God that has been proved to be true in your own life, and in the lives of friends. This God is good. This goodness was shown supremely in the chapter that we have just read together, John chapter 3, and that great statement regarding the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why did He come? ‘For God so loved the world that he gave’, gave the greatest gift that He could give; He gave His only begotten Son, who left the glory, and came into this sin-torn world in order to save worthless men and women that had rebelled against His government, and that is what we are by birth. He came. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved’. That is the supreme indication of God’s goodness, He so loved that He gave His greatest possession.
In the first Epistle of John, chapter 3 verse 1, ‘What manner of love has God bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God?’ What manner of love? He is good, intrinsically good, there is not a dark thought in the mind of God. All that He has proposed, all that He has executed, it is out of His love and goodness, His compassion to fallen men and women such as you and I are. Oh, how dare Satan come and say this God is not good?
I could explain the reason for natural disasters, for deformities, it could all be explained by the fall, but we will not go along that route now. God is good, and the indication, and the proof of His goodness is that He sent His only begotten Son.
When Satan comes and calls God a hard taskmaster, and says, ‘Yes, you will have a problem to get anything from God’, he is a liar. Take it to your heart that this God to whom you come is good, and the promises that He has made to sinners are true, and that He is a changeless God, and therefore will fulfil the promises He has made.
He is ready to forgive
But the Psalmist does not stay there. Why is He good? Because He is ready to forgive. Ready to forgive! What poor sinner has a doubt about that? You have no doubt that God through Christ can forgive sins. That is not your problem probably. You do not doubt it, you have seen it happen in other people’s lives, that God can forgive sin. The problem is not that. The problem is, Will He forgive
me? You are not concerned about His ability, but you are concerned about His willingness so far as you are concerned. You are a little like that man in Mark’s gospel who came as a leper, and he said to the Lord Jesus, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’. Is that the way you come? Do you come knowing that the Lord is able to forgive your sins, but you are not at all convinced that He will forgive your sins? Is that the real issue for you?
Satan would also have us doubt in this way. He would say, ‘But are you sure that Christ died for you? For you? Yes, we know that Christ died, we know that God can forgive sins on the basis of the redeeming work of Christ, but do you know He died for you?’ These are the questions that he will ask us. And this Psalm replies, ‘He is ready to forgive’. Now, He is ready to forgive. All things are now ready. Everything has been accomplished that is necessary in order to redeem sinners. When Christ died on the cross of Calvary, and cried, ‘It is finished’, all that was necessary to redeem that great number that no man can number of every kindred, tribe, and tongue was completed. Nothing more is necessary. He is ready to forgive on the basis of His finished work. Ready to forgive! That great hymn of Joseph Hart makes that point:
‘He is able. He is willing, doubt no more.’
This then is a problem that Satan can suggest, and make it into a stumbling-block to those who are seeking salvation. Is He ready to save me? Did He die for me? The Psalm says. He is ready to forgive, ready to forgive. This then is another weapon in our armoury when Satan comes with his lies. We can say, ‘No, Satan, that is not true, the Word of God says, He is ready to forgive. The Word of God says. All things are now ready.’ ‘It is finished’ – the work of redemption, nothing needs to be added to it. ‘He is ready to forgive’.
He is plenteous in mercy
He is plenteous in mercy. This is another aspect of His goodness. He is plenteous in mercy. Satan may well say to you, ‘But look at your particular sin.’ Maybe you were privileged to be brought up in a Christian home, you knew the Scriptures from your childhood, you had parents that prayed for you, and sought to direct you in the right ways. Yet immediately you were old enough to leave home, you did so, your determination was to have a good time in the world. You had had enough of the restrictions that this Christian home brought upon you, and you were determined to go your own way. Satan will say, ‘But do you think that after all that. He will forgive your sins? You have abused the privileges that you have already had. You surely do not expect God to forgive such sins as that, do you?’ Your sins may be sins that you would not want to mention in
the hearing of Christian people; you would not want to allow your best Christian friend to know of some of your sins in the world, and Satan will say, ‘Do you remember this? Do you remember that? Do you expect God to forgive that sort of thing?’ Well, the New Testament is ever so clear. The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin. If we are respectable Christian people, let us not delude ourselves into believing that it is only ‘respectable’ sins that Christ came to deal with and to forgive. You think of the sins in the New Testament; you think of Peter’s sin of denial with oaths and curses. You think of the sin of Mary, or the sin of David in the Old Testament. Unclean, unsocial sins! The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin. Why is that? It is because He overflows in mercy, plenteous in mercy, plenteous in mercy. He is a God of compassion, a God of mercy. He is a God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. We are encouraged therefore, to come in our worst condition, He will understand the pressures of life and His blood cleanses from all sin. The terms of the Gospel are these, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’, all unrighteousness’. He is plenteous in mercy.
Satan, when he tries to limit the saving power of the blood of Christ, is insulting the Saviour and His work of redemption. It is sufficient to cleanse the blackest sin. Do you believe that? Well, let not Satan stumble you, determine which you are going to believe, the lie of Satan, or the Word of God. The lie of Satan is something he makes up and brings into your mind. The inspired Word of God is here before us, we can read it, and the God who had the Holy Spirit inspire this Word is a God who cannot lie.
Let me say something more. The history of the Church proves this. If there are those that doubt all this, look at the testimony of those that have gone before you, speak to some of the old saints that are still alive, and they will tell you. They will tell you. We had a dear old lady in our Church for some years; she is in glory now, but what an influence she was to some of the unbelievers that worked in her home! I believe one of them was brought to true conversion because of her witness. She was 103 when she died, and she would speak of His faithfulness, she would speak of the fact that on Brighton station, when she was 18 years old, the Lord came to her, and forgave her sins, and brought her into assurance, and that every step of the way. He had been with her. Oh, she knew times of darkness, times of trouble, of course she did, but He never left her. About the last service she attended in our Church on the Sunday morning, she came out, and she said, ‘I am glad I am as old as I am, because I am almost there’. You see, Satan is a liar; you only have his impressions in your mind, but you have the Word of God, and
you have the testimony of the saints in every generation to verify the Word of God. He is good. The Lord is good, ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy.
Another hindrance overcome
‘Yes’, you may say, ‘we agree with all this, we agree with everything you have said so far’. But Satan is not yet silenced; these facts are no problem to him, because he will bring his master- card out and say, ‘Of course this is all true, but only to the elect’. Oh, what a snare that can be! The grand doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation. The only foundation on which salvation can stand is God’s sovereign intervention and activity. Satan will use this, turn it around, and make it a stumbling-block for coming sinners, and he will say, ‘Yes God is good, ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy to the elect.’ We all know this is true, but it is not what this verse says, is it? This verse says this, ‘Thou God art good, ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto . .’ No, He does not say to the elect. He says, ‘unto ALL them that call upon thee’. Different, is it not? ‘To all them that call upon thee’. When Satan comes to you, and says, ‘How do you know that you are elect? If you are not elect, there is no point in you seeking. There is no point in you calling upon the name of the Lord if you are not elect’, you can say to Satan, ‘The promises of the Gospel are not made to the elect as such, (that is, those who already know they are amongst the elect), they are made to poor sinners, such as I am’. What is more, the Gospel is this, that ‘the Lord is good and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all them that call upon thee’. It does not mention the elect. It really is not our concern at this point. The doctrine of election is a foundation truth, and that is why Paul has brought it into that lovely chapter, Romans 8. He fully works it out in that chapter. Why does he do it there? Because he is writing to Christians in the Church at Rome, those that have believed on the name of the Lord, those that have come to the Saviour, they are safe in Christ, and nothing can separate them from His love. He is bringing the doctrine of election in at that point in Romans 8 for this reason, they were under persecution, and many of them were going to be martyred for the Faith. Paul is saying to them that your future is not contingent on your little hold of God, nor is it contingent upon the Romans. It rests in the eternal purposes of God. Each one of you that have come to the Saviour, and have known salvation in Him, He has loved with an everlasting love, and on the basis of that love, He has drawn you to Himself, and nothing, nothing is going to separate you from that love. Do you see the point? Paul is showing those that are in Christ that they are on the Rock Christ Jesus, and nothing can take them away, not even death. Death will bring them the sooner
into the glorious presence of their Redeemer. Death can never take them from the love of Christ.
Now, when Paul, the same Paul that wrote Romans chapter 8, is dealing with the Philippian jailor, he took a different stance altogether, did he not? When the Philippian jailor through the intervention of God in the affairs of that prison, began to cry for mercy, he said, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Paul did not then say, as Satan would have us say to men and women, ‘Well, the first thing you need to do is to discover whether you are elect or not. Until you can discover that I cannot help you!’ What sort of a Gospel is that? Well, it is not good news for perishing sinners, is it? If Paul had said that to the Philippian jailor, the Philippian jailor would have been without hope. But he did not say that. He pointed him to the Saviour. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved! That is the Gospel answer to this great question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ It is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. Does that offend anybody? It is not my word, is it? It is the Scripture. It is Paul’s word by inspiration, in the Scripture. What does it mean? Well, it means what all the other great directives mean, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.’ ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. ‘Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’. It is this looking, coming, casting ourselves upon the mercy of Christ. That is what it is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Has Satan stumbled you? Bewildered you? Kept you back? Well, that is his intention. The Gospel is written in order to call you to the Saviour, and this verse, it seems to me, is designed to help you to overcome each and every device of Satan which he calculates will keep you from Him. ‘The Lord is good, ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy to all those that call upon Him.’
Who are you going to believe then? The suggestion of Satan which he brings to your heart and mind as he tries to stumble you? Or are you going to believe the Word of God, and the testimony of the Lord’s people over generations? This question has been a stumbling-block to many. ‘If I am not elect, there is nothing I can do.’ You do not find that emphasis in the Scriptures, do you? Do not let Satan hold you away by that false reasoning any longer. ‘The Lord is good, ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy to all those that call upon Him’. When Satan therefore comes to you, and says, ‘But are you one of the elect?’ you say to Satan, ‘You are asking the wrong question. That is not my concern. My concern is to be obedient to the revealed truth of God, and that revealed truth is that all those that call upon Him will find Him ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy’. My dear friend, that is the question you need to ask yourself now. Are you pondering on whether you are one of the
elect? The question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Have I called upon the name of the Lord? Have I felt my need so keenly that there was none other to whom I could go?’
Am I believing?
Finally, there is another difficulty that Satan will perhaps bring, in your pathway. He will say, ‘But you have not got faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Without faith there is no .salvation because the Scripture says, Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.’
What was the faith of the publican? His need was so keen that he went, in spite of everything, to the Temple where God had promised to meet with men and women. He went just as he was with nothing. He said, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’, and he was saved with an everlasting salvation. Where did faith come in? Well, faith was his response to the facts that he knew, and that is what faith is. It is coming, it is casting yourself on the mercy of Christ. It is your active response of mind and heart and will to the Word of God. It was as he came, and it is as you come. Look at the example of the Lord Jesus in John chapter 3 again. ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.’ What example did He give? Moses in the desert. Moses, when the children of Israel were dying from the bites of the serpents, cried to the Lord as to what he should do. He told him what he should do. He should make a model of the serpent, put it on a pole, set it up in the midst of the camp of Israel, and those that looked to that brazen serpent lived. That is the example that Christ gives of saving faith. It is coming to Him with nothing. It is looking to Him. It is casting ourselves upon His mercy.
This verse, I say, contradicts every lie of Satan, and if you do nothing else today, if you are under the temptations of Satan, if he has placed stumbling blocks in your pathway, take this verse home, and whatever Satan comes to you with, I believe you will find an answer here because, ‘Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all those that call upon him.’ It is true. Many have experienced it in their lives, and they are the ones tonight, who not only desire to thank God for all His benevolence to them. His kindness and patience to them in life, but they are those who desire to thank Him for His special grace which ensures that they will be amongst the number He will guide by His counsel, and afterward receive to glory. The Saviour Himself has prayed for poor sinners that know themselves to be such, and who have fled to Christ for refuge. His prayer for them was: ‘Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory’.
My dear friend, every poor sinner who sees the lie of Satan and believes the Word of God, and comes to Him with nothing but sin and unfitness, and casts upon His mercy, will be amongst that great number which gather finally in glory, and they will be with Him, and they will praise Him then as they desire to praise Him now. May God bless the Word to us, and remove the stumbling-blocks from any poor sinner’s way.
* In the afternoon Mr. Gosden preached from Psalm 100: the following is the sermon he preached in the evening from Psalm 86.