"A Sinful Certainty"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we're turning in our Bibles to Numbers chapter 32, Numbers chapter 32, and this is a very well-known word of Scripture, and I want us to read from verse 20 of chapter 32 tonight. The title of my message is: 'A Sinful Certainty'.
"And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war, And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out".
Let's bow in a word of prayer together: Our Father, we come before Thee tonight and many have been praying already for this meeting, and indeed are praying at this moment. We come afresh to Thee to bathe this effort in prayer, and we ask Thee that Thou mayest come by Thy Holy Spirit and make this the message of God to some sinner's heart, and Lord we pray that You will save them tonight, that You will bring them from darkness into the light of Your glorious gospel; and we pray that You will emancipate them from sin, that You will deliver them and give them the grace to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We pray that they may ask the question of themselves: 'What will I do with Jesus, that is called the Christ?'. I pray that You will anoint me with the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel now, in the Saviour's name we pray, Amen.
'A Sinful Certainty' - maybe you've learnt this verse at Sunday School, or you've heard it repeated to you as some kind of proverbial statement in life: 'Be sure your sin will find you out'. You know as you read Israel's history - and that's the book that we're reading from tonight, the book of Numbers, and from Genesis right through to the book of Deuteronomy - you get a real picture of the early days of the nation of Israel's history. The nation of Israel were chosen by God to be His people, to be a light among the world, to show forth God's glory in the darkness of paganism and heathenism. As you look at the history of Israel you find a cycle in their spiritual life - what I mean by that is this: God called them in His grace, God made them a people, and God blessed them with all the blessings that they could have imagined in Himself with one condition - that they followed God, that they obeyed His commands and kept His precepts. But as you read the Old Testament Scriptures, you can never fail to see that there is a cycle and it keeps repeating itself over and over again. You find that there is a cycle of blessing from God, God blesses His people; but then His people return God's blessing with sin. After they sin against God, you find God warning them not to sin, otherwise He will take from them all the blessings that He has given them. Then you find in that great cycle, not only blessing, then sin, then warning, but because the people continue to sin God sends judgments upon them - yet still all He receives from His people is more sin.
So you find this cycle: God blesses them, yet they sin; God warns them 'Don't sin', yet they sin all the more; God brings judgment upon them through other nations, through pestilence and disease and all kinds of famine, yet still they sin against their God again. But the miracle of our God is this: that our God is a God of grace, a God who is merciful, a God who is long-suffering in all His compassion and loving-kindness, and a God whose mercy is always longer than the sinner's stubbornness and obstinacy. Although as you read Israel's history God sent them into slavery in the land of Egypt because of their sin, yet God delivered them out of Egypt because He loved them, because He wanted them to love Him in the way that He loved them. He brought them across the Red Sea, He brought them into a land that He called the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, and God warned the people: 'This is the land that I have promised you since your father Abraham; but my people, my people, if you want to stay in the land - don't sin!'.
Again came the warning: 'If you want to stay in the land of promise, if you want to enjoy the blessings of the fruit of this place of milk and honey and of sustenance and riches, you must obey me, obey my commands, honour my laws and my precepts'. But - surprise, surprise - again the people of God forfeit the blessing of God because of their sin. God told them: 'If you sin, you'll not remain in the land', and as you read Israelite history you find that they were put out of the land. He said to them: 'If you think that you can sin, and that you can be saved, you've another think coming! If you think you can hide from your sin, I'm telling you now in the land that I have given you: be sure your sin will find you out! Be sure you cannot hide it from me!'.
Now I believe, and I think I'm right in thinking that the Israelites believed that they would get away with their sin - of course they did! Because if they didn't believe that they wouldn't have sinned! If they thought that God would put them out of the land, then they wouldn't have sinned - but they, somewhere in their subconscious sinful psyche, they believed that they could get away with sinning against their God. I think that that is identical to our situation today, for when we are tempted - and if you're honest with yourself, when you are tempted to sin, you mentally maybe decide to sin, and you make that commitment to that act or thought or feeling in your heart. When you actually do that and use this process of reasoning: there is the temptation, it looks good so I'm going to sin, and by your will you determine to do that thing - you never ever contemplate the outcome of it when you are tempted, sure you don't? You see sin as sugar-coated, as glistening with jewels, promising giving you, it's pregnant with all the things that you've always wanted for that particular moment of pleasure - but after you commit the sin, then you get the guilt, you get the shame, you get the heartache, you get the consequences and the fruit of your sin. But you never think about that when you're contemplating it, do you?
We never really fully appreciate the way we will feel after we sin, and the long-term consequences of it. I would say that if we thought we were going to get caught, and ultimately if we thought we were going to go to hell for our sin, it might be a different thing - maybe it wouldn't, but I think if we really believed deep down in our hearts that God was going to judge us for our sin, that our sin was going to be found out, I think it would make a difference! Do you not? I never cease to be amused with great diamond robbers - you know, you see the films, or you read the books, or you see it in papers. They always try to steal the biggest diamond of them all, don't they? Maybe it's a bank robber, and he never goes - well, some of them do, in Ulster, go into the small banks - but most of them will want to get the big money, they want to be the 'Great Train Robber', they want to get away with millions upon millions of pounds and go to Brazil and live it up for the rest of their days. Now why do they do it? It never ceases to amaze me that they, all of them, every single one, think they're going to get away with it - they believe: 'Though everybody has been caught trying to do what I'm going to do now, I believe I'll be the one to get away with it!'.
Sadly there are many broken marriages in our world today, and one of the reasons is that many men - not just men, but women - have illicit sexual adulterous relationships with other married men and women, or unmarried men and women. I'm sure if you quizzed a man that has committed that sin against God and against his wife, after he has been found out and caught, he would tell you: 'Yes, I know it was foolish, I know I shouldn't have done it, I know I should have seen it coming, but you see when I was in the middle of that temptation? I thought I could get away with it! I thought I would be the first one never to be caught!'.
It's like the church robber trying to escape up the rope, and he finds that the church bell is on the end of it. That's what our sin is like - or like the fugitive I heard of recently who was standing that long in the Post Office admiring his own photograph on the wanted poster that he got caught! That's sometimes the way it happens in our own land - when I was in Portadown, I'll tell you this wee story, I lived in a place called Killicomaine. It's a very very staunch Loyalist community, and there was a little Post Office, and there was a hold-up one day in the Post Office. The man came in with a balaclava and with a gun, and leather gear from his motorbike, and walked in and pointed the gun at the Post Office man behind the counter. He demanded all the money and went away. The next day the police came round to his door, knocked the door, picked him up and took him away - simple as that...because he was the only black man in Killicomaine, and he didn't put gloves on! His sin found him out!
That's the deception of sin - we can laugh at those things, but really they illustrate to us the deceptiveness of our sin. We delude ourselves, we become self-deluded that we can get away with it. I read a story this week about a tourist in Egypt, and he had his purse stolen. The Arab guide that was with him one night said: 'I'll get it back for you' - now I want you to mark the shrewd steps of this Arab. He called everybody in the camp neighbourhood before him, and asked: 'Who stole the money?'. All of them denied it, so he left them to stew a little bit, and go alone and think solemnly for an hour who really did it - but the same result of denial came forth., only the guilty man among the company was getting more guilty and more restless all the while he was waiting. The Arab guide says: 'I'll get you your money', and he got a mule, and he put the mule in a tent, and he ordered everybody in that community to go into the tent, and he told them to pull on the tail of the mule - and when they pulled on the tail of the mule, the mule would make a yelp for the man that was guilty.
So one by one they all went into the tent, took their time, and pulled the mule's tail, and there was no yelp - not one of them. He said: 'I'll still get your money Sir', he said, 'Everybody that went into the tent, I want you to come up to me, and I want you to put your hands on my cheeks, and when you put your hands on my cheeks I'll tell you who the guilty man is'. One by one they all came up and put their hands on his cheeks, and after not so long a time - after about ten people - one man put his hand on his cheeks, and he said: 'You're the guilty man'. He owned up to it, the police came and prosecuted him, took him away to prison, and the man got his purse back - but how did he know? Well, he had put perfume on the donkey's tail, and the one that was guilty didn't pull the tail of the donkey, and he got caught!
All these stories tell us and illustrate to us that even in everyday life we can try to do everything to try to hide our sin, the wrong things that we do, even in a secular capacity - yet much of the time, if not all the time, we get found out because our hands are different! I want to tell you tonight, the message that God has put on my heart is that you will be found out in your sin. First of all: you will be found out in the hardships of your sin. Solomon, the great wise man, in Proverbs 13 and verse 15 said: 'The way of the transgressor is hard'. There are men and women here tonight who could stand up and testify of the life that they lived before they were converted, and they would tell you - and I've heard some of them say - the way of the transgressor is hard. Now come on, let's be honest to ourselves: do you not find it hard being a sinner? Be honest! Do you not find it difficult? Now, I know that there is the common perception that sin is seen as fun, it's exciting, it's exhilarating and rewarding and gives you everything that you want in life - and for a large extent of the time those are the immediate results of sin. Often you do get pleasure, you do get excitement and exhilaration, but let me tell you this - you'll know this, any of you that have been sinning for any length of time - that the way of the transgressor is hard! It's alright the first drink, it's alright the first trip, it's alright the first pleasure, the first illicit relationship - it gives you the buzz. But when you find yourself living a life of sin, you find that it's hard.
It's hard because there's the guilt of past sins, there are the skeletons that haunt your quiet moments, there are the piercing thoughts that wound your peace of mind - and how much you would long to put the clock back, and pull back time, and undo some of the things that were done, and rub out some of the sins that you have committed - but you can't! The guilt of past sins haunts you, and will haunt you until the day you die - that's why it's hard to be a sinner! It's hard because of the guilt of your past, it's hard because of the guilt of deception today. What was it Kipling said? 'O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive'. How true! If you're deceiving someone, and maybe even deceiving yourself, you ought to know that it's a hard thing to deceive: when you deceive a wife about adultery, when you deceive your family about the addictive habits that you have - because the more you lie about it, the more you find you have to lie about it to keep the first lie going. It gets harder, and harder, and harder, and it takes its toll on you - and you find through your hardships that your sin is being found out!
There's the guilt of past sins, there's the guilt of deception, there's the fruit of a misspent youth - those memories, bad memories; those broken relationships, the ruined virginity; the bad habits that have plagued you for a lifetime that were formed in your youth, your first drink that has you where you are here and now, the first bet that has spawned a habit of waste in your life - we could go on and on and on. You could retrace your sinful steps right back to the original seed and act in your youth - is it not hard? Does it not torture you when you remember those things, past sins; when you have the guilt of deceiving people and yourself; when you remember the fruit of a misspent youth; when you remember the trophies - and you look, actually tonight, where you are - you look at the trophies of a life spent in sin? What do you have to show for your sin? Come on, what can you show me for it? Can you show me true happiness, real joy, real satisfaction? I tell you, and you know, that all you have is hardship; all you know is a wife's tears; all you have is a tortured memory, broken dreams and ambitions. Maybe you're actually watching your own children, here and now, carrying out and making the mistakes that you made - and they learnt them from you!
You might be sitting here tonight and saying: 'Well, that's not my sin'. Well, you know there's religious sin - for not everybody has the same taste for sin, we all like different sins. For some people, religious sin turns them on, some prefer to be moral, some prefer to be good to their neighbour - but that's a sin also in the eyes of God if you do not have Christ. Many men and women all over our world, they choose a religion with high moral ethics. They practice that religion in its rituals and its ordinances, and they try to be like those saints who have arrived in their religion, who are special men and women of God - the great heroes of the faith - but in their life they testify as to how they are wrecked with frustration, wrecked with guilt, because they can't live morally, they can't overcome their sin. There is even religious transgression that is hard! It's hard because it's fruitless, but perhaps its most deadly in the fact that it gives birth in the human breast to a pride that this world has never seen before, the pride of a religious man, a moral man, an ethical man; a good man who will not repent of his sin, who will not come to Christ, who has a standard of morals and holiness in this world's eyes, and says: 'I am good with God, and if I come to God, God must accept me because of my achievements'.
I wonder are you being found out in your hardships? Are you being found out in the hardship of the guilt of the past, of the guilt of deception that you're living in now, of the fruit of a misspent youth that comes after your footsteps moment by moment in your life and reminds you of the way you were and the way you have become? Those trophies of sin that are looking and staring you in the face, that testify that the way of the transgressor is hard! You may be found out in your hardships, but you may be found out also in death. Ezekiel said, and the hymn that we sang together phrased that in the third verse: 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die'. Do you know what Paul says in Romans? 'The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord'. Now, if you're an expert sinner - and what I mean by that is if you know how to sin, and I think we all know how to do that - maybe you're on the road a long time, and you've got a bit of expertise at it, you will know that your sin brings the hardship of death. Ultimately, of course, we all die, if the Lord doesn't come - but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about sin working death in your body - in other words, when you live a life of sin you feel like you're dead on the inside. You feel like that, don't you? You feel like there's death and decomposition in your soul. The sinful human race are the walking dead of the universe today - they live but they are dead; and the more they live, because of their sin, the more they die!
Way back in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and 3 we find there that God commanded man and woman, Adam and Eve, not to eat of that fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil - and they ate of it, and in the day that they ate thereof they died. Spiritual death came into their heart, physical death began to work on their body, and indeed on the whole universe - and we are living today, because of what they did, we are dying because they died, because of that first sin. James comments on it, and he says: 'Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed, then when lust has conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it has finished, bringeth forth death'. You lust, you see a thing you want that's sinful. You think about it, you commit yourself to it in your mind and your heart. You take it, and the moment you take it you find death working in your own heart.
You know what I'm talking about - and because Adam and Eve did that, Paul says: 'As by one man, Adam, sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men; for that all have sinned' - all! Could there be one person here, and they're sitting in this meeting saying: 'He's not talking about me!'. Well, there isn't one, maybe you think you're the one, but there isn't one - for all have sinned! We all have the hardship of sin, we all have the death of sin in us if we're not in Christ - all have sinned!
Billy Sunday, the great evangelist in America, before he took one of his gospel campaigns in one of those great American cities, he wrote to the mayor of the city and asked him to give him a list of all the people in the city that needed help, that needed counselling, that needed prayer and care. You can imagine how surprised Billy Sunday was when he received a city directory in the post, with every single name and address of everybody in the city. Everybody, all of us, there's not one of us who isn't a sinner. We all are sinners, and we all need Christ.
There's a tradition to the effect that Noel Coward sent identical notes to twenty of the most prominent men in the City of London, and do you know what he wrote on it? 'All is discovered, escape while you can' - and all twenty men disappeared from London! He was only doing it for a laugh, and all twenty of them disappeared because all twenty of them had something to hide! There's not one of us would be in this building if our sins were written up here for all to see - not one of us - I wouldn't be here, I'd be away for dust I can tell you. You wouldn't be here, for we're all sinners - and the sooner you come to that realisation, my friend, the better; and it will be to the saving of your soul if you do.
You can be found out in the hardships and in the death that sin brings, but let me tell you this: you can be found out in your sin at Calvary. You can be found out in your sin at Calvary - and if there's a place you can be certain and sure that your sin can be found out, it's at Golgotha's Hill. Peter said: 'The Lord Jesus Christ in His own body bare our sins on the tree; that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness - by His stripes we are healed'. Paul said: 'For He, God, has made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him'. Do you see the picture? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, hanging on a tree being crucified, being sacrificed for a Jewish Sanhedrin, for a Roman government - but there was more than all that going on! For there at Calvary's cross, in Christ's body, His soul, and His spirit your sin - your sin - was being found out. Your sin was being placed in His bosom, and He was suffering for it. Paul says He became your sin, and God laid your sin on Him - your sin was found out there! He suffered in your place, and He died in your position as a hell-worthy sinner.
Zaleuchus, a lawgiver of Locrians once made a law, this is what it was: if you committed adultery you were to be punished. The way you were to be punished was that the offender's eyes were to be plucked out. You can imagine the sorrow of a man who made that law, when he realised and found out to his horror that his only son was the one who was the first to commit that sin of adultery. Do you know what that father did? 'It's my son, and although I made that law, I'll pluck one of his eyes out, and I'll pluck one of my own out for him' - that's some love, isn't it? I'll tell you a greater love than that: because of your sin and because of my sin, God the Father plucked the two eyes of Jesus Christ out for you - not literally, but what He did do was He made Him pay for your sins! He didn't make Him go half way, and you've to go the other half way - that was love for that father, but God, for God this was amazing, this is grace, this is the greatness of God's forgiveness - He went all the way to Calvary, He went and He bore your sin, He stood in your place, and He cried before He died: 'It is finished!', so that we all might know that we're forgiven if we trust Him.
Oh, this is the gospel: that your sin can be found out at Calvary, that's the simple plan of salvation. Do you see if I ever stop preaching the simple plan of salvation, would somebody please tell me? All have sinned, not one of us is righteous before God; sin brings death; but Christ suffered the penalty of sin at Calvary - and when we believe in Him, we are saved. 'For God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us'. Oh, my friend, your sin might have been found out in the hardship that you bear; your sin might have been found out in death that is working in your very members, soul and spirit, at this minute; but oh tonight that you would get to Calvary! That you would see the bleeding Lamb of God dying for you, and that you would be found out there - for there's no better place to be found out than at His feet, and where His blood is shed.
Can I say that if you're not found out at Calvary, you'll be found out at the judgment. John says in the book of Revelation: 'I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works'. My friend, that is a day that is coming, and you can as surely put it in your diary that it's going to happen to you if you haven't trusted Christ. Jesus the Son of God, the Lord, the Christ said that there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested, neither is anything kept secret but that it shall come abroad. On that day all the books of your sin, your secret sins and hidden sins, your private sins, your mental sins, your emotional sins, your literal actual physical deeds will all be opened and be declared in the judicial halls of God Almighty! There'll be a judgment, and what an awful thing to think that you can be religious, you can be moral, you can be an awful reprobate sinner - but yet to have hid a lifetime of sin from God, at that moment as you stand before the all-white pure throne of the Almighty, you will be outed - your sin will find you out!
Oh the shame of it, the sins that brought your Saviour from glory to die - that you should have to answer for them because you have not His blood upon your soul. The shame of it, that you never accepted Christ, and that you're standing in eternity without His blood even though His blood was shed for your soul - and you're found out at the judgment! But it gets worse: for if you don't find out your sin at Calvary, you'll be found out at the judgment, and then you'll be found out in hell! For John goes on in his book to say: 'And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire'. Oh please don't deceive yourself that it doesn't exist - do you know what I read in the paper this week? John Travolta, the great film actor of Hollywood, he said: 'If my body is going to hell, I will eat caviar going' - if my body is going to hell, I'll eat caviar going! He'll not be eating caviar going to hell, let me tell you, there's no caviar in hell! There's no alcohol in hell. There's no horses or dogs in hell. There's no rosary beads in hell. There's no churches in hell. There's no people to do morals with in hell. My friend, hell is a place of torment, it's a place of separation from God. He will answer for his sin because he doesn't believe that he will answer for his sin - if he believed that he would answer for his sin, and his sin would find him out, he would never utter those things from his lips.
Oh the finality of it, the absolute tragedy of it - all lost! Why? Because you would not uncover your sin, so that the Christ of Calvary could cover it with His precious blood. All because you wanted to hide it, all because you want to save face, all because you didn't want to admit to it to God. We're not asking you to stand up here and tell everybody what you did, but we are wanting you to admit to God who knows everything you did anyway! The foolishness of it, that you would forfeit eternity for your own sinful pride! Can I assure you tonight of a sinful certainty: you will be found out one way or another. Maybe you are ignorant to the hardships that sin is bringing into your life at this moment, you won't admit that. Maybe you think you're living it up, and you're having a ball, and your life is just full of everything that you ever hoped for, of ambition and success, and wealth and fame - I don't know. But my friend, if you bypass those hardships of sin and the death of sin, and most of all if you ignore your sin at Calvary being led on Christ, can I reassure you that your sin will be found out at the judgment seat, and your sin will be found out in hell! I plead with you, I beg you: don't wait until then! For there'll be no grace, there'll be no mercy, there'll be no bleeding Lamb of God to cleanse your sin, there'll be no Holy Spirit to emancipate your spirit; and then repentance and faith will be all in vain. Heaven will be a dead opportunity, and hell will be at present reality - oh don't wait! Why do you wait?
Oh my friend, if I could grab you by the spiritual scruff of the neck and pull you into God's kingdom I'd do it, but I cannot. Will you not come? Why would you wait another gospel meeting? Why would you wait another year when you can't be sure of another year? Why would you wait even another minute? Why don't you come to Christ now? Come to Him who is not willing that you perish! If you, my friend, are one day found out for your sin it'll be because you never took God's amnesty for sin, it'll be because you never were saved. At this very moment He'll grant you pardon from guilt, He'll grant you peace with His kingdom, He will give you citizenship to live in His kingdom and to live the fullest life absolutely possible - will you not come?
Pardon freely offered, all who will believe, Jesus says that whosoever - whosoever. The Spirit and the Bride say 'Come, and let him that hears say 'Come', and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely, and come'. Jesus says: 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. Jesus says: 'Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out' - will you come? Will you find out your sin before God finds it out for you, and will you plunge it by faith beneath the crimson flood of Calvary, and will you come and find eternal life, forgiveness, emancipation and pardon. Oh, will you come, my friend? Come believing, come receiving, come to Jesus, look and live! For be sure your sin will find you out.
Let's have every head bowed, and if you know the Lord please pray with us, and if you don't know the Lord will you ask Him to save you now? Ask Him to save you, young or old, it doesn't matter - He is able and willing to save you - will you come to Him now by faith? Confess your sin, tell Him: 'Lord, I know I'm a sinner, and the wages of my sin is death and hell - but I thank You that the Lord Jesus took my sin at Calvary, and I ask You to save me upon that'. My friend, He can't not do it if you plead Calvary - will you ask Him? I'll be at the door, I have some literature on the literature rack. I'll be there to speak to you, and if you want to speak to me in private I'll be more than glad if you want to get saved - but please, if the Lord has been speaking to you, would you trust Him tonight?
Our Father, we thank Thee for this hour, we thank Thee for Thy help. We thank Thee for those in our gathering that are not saved, and we pray that tonight - O tonight - that their sins would be found out at Calvary, and that they would confess them, that they would believe the gospel, and that they would be saved. Part us now with Thy blessing, and bless us until we meet again, for Christ's sake, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "A Sinful Certainty" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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