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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2007-09-30

Text: Isaiah 55:6,7

We have observed that whenever the Gospel is proclaimed and people are confronted to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, one of the most common responses that is heard is, 'I will do it later.' This kind of response is called procrastination, or putting something off. And procrastination is obviously not a good habit for anyone to have. 

Those who keep putting off doing things which should be done without any delay will soon discover that the results can be quite costly. A student who keeps putting off doing his assignments and revision work will find himself insufficiently prepared when the exams come. A housewife who keeps putting off doing her household chores will find piles and piles of unwashed dishes and dirty laundry growing all over the home. A frequent credit-card user who puts off settling his card accounts may find himself laden with a huge snowballing debt that he cannot repay. 

One of the most costly results of procrastination took place in Scotland in the year 1691. This happened when King William III of England became the King of Scotland. He issued a decree that all the highland chieftains had to come and take an oath of allegiance to him by the end of that year or risk having their clans destroyed. Most of the chieftains complied immediately, but one of them, the chieftain of the MacDonald clan of a village called Glencoe, was rather slow to act on this order from the King. 

He unwisely delayed until the 31st of December and then he quickly rushed to the place where he was supposed to take his oath. But he found to his dismay that the place was closed as everyone was partying to welcome the New Year. By the time he took his oath to King William it was already 2nd of January 1692 - two days over the deadline. His error brought about his execution as well as the deaths of 37 members of the MacDonald clan. What a price to pay for such unnecessary delay. Perhaps this may be one reason why MacDonalds today specializes in fast food!

Dear friends, the consequences of putting off things which should be done without delay is particularly severe in your response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you receive the outward call from God to be saved from your sins and you do not respond to it immediately, you risk losing your soul to eternal death! One passage of the Bible that really brings out the sense of intense urgency to respond to God's call is Isaiah 55:6-7. Let us turn to this passage in the Bible. It reads, 'Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.'

I would like you to pay attention to 5 important reasons in this passage why you must not delay to respond to God's call to the unconverted. The 1st reason is that:

I. Rebellion is Firmly Repelled

Do you know that as long as you have not responded to God's call yet, you are living in a state of rebellion? You are rebelling against the LORD. In the passage, the LORD portrays Himself as a great king who speaks with authority to those subjects who have rebelled against Him. He says, 'Why have you forsaken Me? Why have you grieved My heart by your wicked ways and your unrighteous thoughts? Do you not know that your actions have caused an awful separation to exist between yourself and Me? Stop this wicked rebellion at once!' 

Now I want you to observe that the LORD is saying these words not only to all unconverted sinners together as a group, but He is also saying it to every individual in that group. He uses the plural pronoun 'ye' in verse 6, but in the next verse He changes to the singular pronoun, 'he.' These words are therefore also directed to each and every one here who is not yet saved. As long as you do not to respond to God's call to the unconverted, you are continuing to advance your personal rebellion against Him. 

Some may not agree with this and you say, 'Pastor, how can you call me a rebel? I have not consciously done anything against God. I am definitely not wicked. I have tried my best to live a reasonably good life.' That is what you think because you are using the wrong standard to measure yourself with. Imagine for a moment that you are now flying home to Singapore from the U.S. and you want to carry as much as you can on the flight. You call the travel company there to find out what the checked-in baggage allowance is, and they tell you that it is 50 pounds. 

So you carefully pack your bags and weigh them and they add up exactly to 50. But when you bring them to the airport, you are surprised to be told that your have exceeded your baggage allowance more than twice. Why? Because you made the mistake of measuring the weight of your luggage in kilogrammes instead of pounds. This kind of thing typically happens when you use the wrong standard of measurement.

Dearly beloved, have you been mistakenly using the wrong standard of measurement for your life? You must use God's standard, which He has given in His Word. And when you do that you will find that your righteousness is like filthy rags. It is really far short of His standard. God's standard is not based only on one's actions, but on one's motives and attitudes as well. In God's sight, sinful attitudes like pride, envy, jealousy, anger, greed and an unforgiving spirit are as evil as all the acts that they produce. No human court of law can ever convict anyone of wrongdoing on the basis of sinful attitudes and motives alone. But God who sees all and knows what is in every heart, is able to do this. And His verdict is that everyone without exception has sinned. 

This includes you. It means that you are a rebel who is rebelling against God. You are the wicked and unrighteous person mentioned in verse 7 of our text ('Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD'). And since God cannot tolerate even the very least rebellion against His divine authority, this is definitely not good news for you. Rebellion must be firmly repelled by God, and He must take stern decisive action against all rebels. And this is first reason why you must not delay to respond to His call to be saved. If you choose to delay, God will act against you. Let us look at the second reason, which is:

II. Repentance is Formally Required

This requirement is spelled out in verse 7 of our text 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD,' Here God directs the sinner to abandon his wicked way and his unrighteous thoughts and to return to Him. This is what true repentance is all about - it is not just a turning away from sin, but it is a returning to the LORD as well. Both of these actions must take place in true repentance. If a person merely turns away from sin without returning to God (such as those who attempt a self-reformation of their own life), it will not be long before he reverts to his old self and goes back to his old sins. 

This is actually quite similar to the problem of drug addiction. When a drug abuser makes up his mind to give up his addiction, he goes for rehabilitation and endures the painful cold turkey treatment. But after he is freed from his addiction and leaves the rehab centre his old drug-abusing friends and associates contact him and influence him and soon he is back to his addiction. He then goes through rehabilitation again but the same thing happens after he comes back into society. Only when he turns to God after turning away from drugs, is he finally delivered from his addiction. I have heard many such stories of deliverance.

The same thing is true of dealing with sin. There is no way that you can deal successfully with the deep-seated problem of sin in your life without returning to God. God is the only One who can give you a new heart and a new life. God is the only One who can satisfy the deepest needs in your life and subdue the sinful nature. And so you cannot successfully turn from your sins, unless you also return to God. 

Conversely, you cannot return to God unless you are willing to turn from your sins. If you were to say, 'I really want to return to God, but I also want to continue living a sinful life,' the LORD will not receive you. Why? It is because He hates your sin. The very sight of them fills Him with disgust. He cannot receive anyone who keeps on cherishing sin in his heart. In order to be right with God you must share the intense aversion that He has against sin. Repentance requires you to agree fully with God about all your sins. You must admit that you are a sinner and that you sincerely want turn away from your sins and return to Him. 

And this is something that you cannot put off doing to a later time, because your window of opportunity is now open, but it may not remain open for very long. You must, at all costs, make the best use of this present opportunity to repent of your sins and to seek the Lord now, while He is near and while He may still be found.

If you don't, the day may come when the door will be closed for you. Dear friends, you must take these words most seriously. Please do not wait for a better time turn away from your sins and turn to God. There is really no better time to do this than now. Listen carefully to what God says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, 'Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.' And I want you to see what an amazing offer of salvation this is! Why should you wait to turn to God, when He has given such a wonderful offer as this.

In the first few verses of the same chapter where our text is found the Lord says, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.'

Has anyone ever made you an offer that is as good and as generous as this one? - A most loving offer of the water of life and of the bread of life which really satisfies the soul? - An offer of pardon, of peace and reconciliation? If your answer is, 'No, there has never been any offer like this one,' then ponder this question, 'How can anyone in his right mind hesitate to accept such an offer?' This brings us now to the next reason why you must not delay to respond to the call of God. This reason is that:

III. Reconciliation is Freely Offered

Let us look at verse 7 again and see what the LORD says He will do to the one who turns from sin and returns to Him: 'and He will have mercy upon him.' The word 'mercy' here is translated from a Hebrew word which means 'love,' 'compassion' or 'tender affection.' A while ago we saw that God was speaking in this passage to a rebellious race that has grieved Him. He even described every individual in that race as being wicked and unrighteous. And yet He now says, 'I will have mercy upon him. I will have love, compassion, and tender affection for him.'

Is this not a glorious reconciliation? Here we see God taking on the role of the Father of the prodigal son. In this heart-warming story that Jesus told (Luke 15:11-24), the prodigal son demanded that his father hand over to him his inheritance and then he went far away to squander it all away in riotous living. When he became penniless the son repented of his wrongdoing and decided to return home to face his father's wrath and to ask him for employment as a servant. He did not expect to be reconciled or to be restored. Little did he know that his father had been patiently and earnestly waiting for his return, and was ready to welcome him home warmly with a loving embrace and a kiss. The father even ran to receive his son when he saw him coming from afar.

The matchless love that God has for sinners makes Him wait even more earnestly for their repentance than that father, and it makes Him welcome them even more warmly when they turn to Him. 'There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.' (Luke 15:10) Dearly beloved, a glorious reconciliation with God is just waiting for you now. It is ready to receive every broken-hearted prodigal son and prodigal daughter who comes home. And what makes this reconciliation even more glorious is the great cost that God had to bear to obtain it. It cost Him the precious life of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! 

Why did Christ have to die? It was because the debt which we owed to God for our sins was very great, and someone had to pay it. It was because the restoration of our relationship with God could not be accomplished without the pardon that His death alone can bring to us. This brings us now to the fourth reason why we should not delay to respond to God's call of salvation. The reason is:

IV. Restoration is Fully Assured

The last part of verse 7 reads, 'and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.' The words 'He will abundantly pardon' literally means, 'He will multiply pardon.' By this you can rest assured that no matter how great or how many your sins may be, God will abundantly pardon you. He will forgive and forget. And He can do this only because of the infinite value of the sacrifice that Jesus made when He died on the cross of Calvary.

Christ is therefore the means of your salvation. Without Jesus Christ no one can be saved from sin and from eternal death, which is the penalty you deserve for your sins. And it is only through the blood of Jesus that your sins will be washed away, and your relationship with God will be restored. Jesus Himself said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.' (John 14:6) He also said, 'I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved' (John 10:9)

Dear friends, in order to come to God, you must receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, and believe in Him. What does it mean to believe in Jesus? 

Firstly it means accepting everything that the Bible says about Him and about yourself as true - that Jesus is the Son of God who came down from heaven to be made a sacrifice for sin, and that you are a sinner who deserves nothing but judgment from God. Secondly, you must put your trust entirely in Jesus alone to save you, and throw away whatever confidence you may have in your own good works or in any other thing to save you. And thirdly, believing in Jesus means surrendering your life to Him once and for all with no thought of turning back. He must be made the Lord and master of everything in your life. 

Now that you have heard the God's outward call to the unconverted and seen His generous offer of salvation, how will you respond to it? Will you respond by receiving Jesus into your life right now? Or will you use the very same excuse that many have used before 'I will do it later.' Let me remind you of what was said at the beginning of this sermon: Procrastination can have very costly consequences. When you receive the call from God to be saved from your sins and you do not respond to it immediately, you risk losing your soul to eternal death! Therefore the fifth and final reason that you must now consider why you should not delay any longer is this:

V. Responding is Foolishly Postponed

It is a very foolish thing to postpone your response to the Gospel. There is great danger in any delay. God's offer is open only for a limited period. This is clearly implied in the words of v.6 'Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.' The day will come when the Lord will not be near to you any more and when He may not be found by you any more. 

This does not refer to God's presence since God is everywhere at all times. This nearness is about God's personal favour toward individuals. It may come when you hear a Gospel message that particularly convicts you of sin. It may come when death strikes someone who is close to you, and you begin to fear for your own soul's future. It may come when you fall very sick and realize how weak and helpless you really are. God uses many different ways and circumstances to speak to your heart, calling you to repent and return to Him. But if all His calls to you go unheeded, then the day will come when He will withdraw His favour from you and the calls will fall completely silent.

For some people, that day may be the time when the heart has become hardened and unreceptive to the preaching of God's Word. For others, it may be the time when disaster and death strike unexpectedly and they find themselves cast into Hell. And as their souls languish in hell, they can only regret woefully that they had delayed and procrastinated so long to enter into God's kingdom that the door had shut on them before they could do so.

So if you really care for your soul and you do not wish to see it end up like those blighted souls in hell, then please do not postpone your response to the Gospel anymore. Do not be so foolish as to say, 'Oh never mind, I will do it later.' For who knows whether something unexpected may happen to you, and your postponed response can never take place? A rich man described in Luke chapter 12 thought that he had many more years to live, to take his ease, eat, drink and be merry. But God said unto him, 'Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.' (Luke 12:20) 

Please don't wait for God to say those awful words to you. But listen to Him now speaking these words of Isaiah 55:6,7 to your heart: 'Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.' You have a golden opportunity right now to be saved by receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour. Will you use it well? Please use it well.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11