"The Look Of Life"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2006 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now I'm sure that some people who are in our meeting tonight who are not Christians, will never have heard of Charles Haddon Spurgeon - but most, if not all, the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ here tonight will have heard of him. He is commonly called 'The Prince of Preachers'. Of course, the King of Preachers is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ - but Christian historians really believe that Charles Haddon Spurgeon, since the Apostles, and maybe after George Whitefield and characters like he and Wesley, is one of the greatest preachers who ever existed since the Apostle Paul.
Now, why do I begin by referring to him? Well, simply because he preached on this text, Isaiah 45 verse 22, many, many times. The reason being that it was through this text in particular that Charles Haddon Spurgeon was converted by the grace of God. In one such of those sermons, he actually tells it in his own words, how the Lord spoke to him through this verse. I want to just give it to you, I can do no better than in the words of the 'Prince of Preachers' himself.
He said: 'You have often heard me tell how I had been wandering about, seeking rest, and finding none, till a plain, unlettered, lay preacher among the Primitive Methodists stood up in the pulpit and gave out this passage as his text' - Isaiah 45:22, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else'. 'He had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed, by me at any rate, except his text. I remember how he said: 'It is Christ that speaks. I am in the garden in an agony, pouring out my soul unto death; I am on the tree, dying for sinners; look unto Me! Look unto Me! that is all you have to do. A child can look. One who is almost an idiot can look. However weak, or however poor, a man may be, he can look; and if he looks the promise is that he shall live'. Then stopping', Spurgeon says, 'he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, 'That young man there looks very miserable'. I expect I did', Spurgeon says, 'for that is how I felt. Then he went on to say, 'There is no hope for you, young man, or any chance of getting rid of your sin, but by Looking to Jesus'; and he shouted' - I'm not the only preacher that does that! - 'as I think only a Primitive Methodist did', Spurgeon said, ''Look! young man! Look now!''.
Spurgeon says: 'I did look, and when they sang a hallelujah before they went home, in their own earnest way, I am sure I joined in it. It happened to be a day when the snow was lying deep, and more was falling; so, as I went home, those words of David kept ringing through my heart, 'Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow' (Psalm 51:7); and it seemed as if all nature was in accord with that blessed deliverance from sin which I had found in a single moment by looking to Jesus Christ'.
Look and live! Spurgeon looked, the promise was true, he lived! Ultimately every child of God has the same story to tell. It may not have been through this particular text or a Methodist preacher, it matters little - but the fact of the matter is: the only way men and women and boys and girls can be saved, and are saved, is that at a time in their own experience they have looked to Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, and they have found eternal life in Him. Many have looked, even in response to this very verse, Isaiah 45:22 - and it is my prayer tonight from the depths of my soul that that will be your experience here and now, that you through this verse will come to look and live through the Saviour.
To do that, we need to see four things that are very clearly portrayed in this verse for us. The first thing I want you to see is salvation's invitation, salvation's invitation. Look at the first three words: 'Look unto me', God says. Now one thing that is very unpalatable for people in our modern day age, people who believe they are extremely rational and reasonable and intellectual, they have evolved to the stage that we are at now - pity help us - but nevertheless they cannot handle the idea that we are sinners. It's more difficult for them to believe that, because we are sinners, God condemns us as such and casts us out of His holy presence like he did our parents in Eden, Adam and Eve, when they first fell. In fact, the Bible in the New Testament teaches that we don't need to do anything to be condemned of God as a sinner, because we are sinners by nature - if we simply do not believe in the Gospel, we are condemned already.
Romans 6:23 makes it very clear that the wages of sin is death. Because our father and mother in the Garden of Eden ate of the fruit that God forbade them to eat of, sin came upon all men; and because all men sinned all men will die, because death is the wage of sin. Now, modern man doesn't like that idea: 'I'm not a sinner. I'm no worse than anyone else who has ever lived. I am, in fact, better than a lot of people that might even call themselves Christians, and I do not want to believe that I'm condemned of God - certainly not condemned to death'. If you even go as far as to mention to modern man the concept of hell, he is horrified! Because God's revelation declares that not only are we sinners who die because we are sinners, but there is a second death - and one day all men without Christ will stand before the Great White Throne, and their works will be read out, and they will be judged according to their evil works. Those that are not found in the Book of Life, the Bible says, will be cast into the lake of fire. The Psalmist says: 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all people who forget God'.
Now whilst you may find it difficult to accept those revealed truths in God's word, I believe and the Bible teaches that God is perfectly just in His condemnation of sinners. If you would consider, just for a moment, that the reason why we find this hard to accept is the fact that we have no true conception of the holiness and the righteousness of Almighty God. If we, as sinners and saints alike, could only get a glimpse, one ray or beam of the ineffable light of God's holy presence, we would begin to wonder why God has had patience with the human race for so long at all.
This is, if you like, the dark side of the message of the gospel that God has given to us. It is that we are sinners, and it is that we are condemned for being such. This is part of the gospel for sure, and if you cannot see yourself as a sinner, and a sinner that deserves nothing but the wrath of Almighty God, and certainly nothing of the mercy of God, you will never be saved. I think that's elementary: if you don't see yourself as a sinner, why would you ever need a Saviour? I think the problem for many in accepting this great gospel that the Bible teaches is the fact that they leave their understanding of the Gospel there, where God declares that they are sinners, we are condemned, we are lost in hell for all eternity if we do not repent - and they stop there in their view of God, in their view of the message that God has given us. They don't realise that that is only half of the old old story, the rest of the story, the second half, the better half if I can say it, is of Jesus and His love. It is the message that angels cannot tell, the message that this God whose holiness is unapproachable, whose holiness has been offended, is the very God that offers pardon and forgiveness to all men.
You see, the message of the good news that the New Testament outlines for us is that God has come to man. God has sought from man reconciliation. You see, if you only see God as some angry despot in the sky, that just wants to judge people and send people to hell, you have got a short-sighted view of God! Yes, He is holy; yes, He is just; yes, He is angry at the sinner every day - but you need to see the Gospel! What is the Gospel? That God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. You need to see this God taking upon Himself human flesh, going to the cross at Calvary and after He had lived among men, witnessed the deeds of men, rejected by His own men in His own nationality - and, going to the cross, the Bible says, He was made sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.
To put it another way: the requirements of reconciliation between sinful man and an offended holy God, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ have been completely fulfilled. It is done! The work is complete! Jesus has died and God has created a covenant, signed in the blood of His own Son, to say that sinners - whoever they be, wherever they come from - all men can come unto God by Christ. All that is left is for the sinner to embrace this gift of salvation. Now surely, if you look at God in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, surely this evening it has enhanced your view of Him? That you no longer see Him as a judgemental figure, though He judges sin, but can you see Him as a pardoning God? Can you see Him as a God of grace, a God who has gone to these lengths of sending His only begotten Son to die and bear the agony and infamy of our sin upon Him as if it was His own? God comes to you tonight in the salvation invitation, and says: 'Look unto me'.
It's not just something that you look at to see, but I think in this idea of looking there is also the sense of turning to look - and you can also turn to look in order to speak. You turn in order to talk to someone, and the remarkable thing about the salvation invitation is that God, this holy God of heaven, the Creator and Judge of mankind, actually invites sinners to speak to Him. Have you ever spoken to God? I'm not talking about primarily in times when you're in distress - even atheists pray when that happens. I'm talking about: have you ever come to God and spoken to Him about your sin? Have you ever told Him that you are a sinner? Have you ever told Him what you are, all that you consist of as a human being, all that you have done, have you confessed it to Him? Have you ever told God how you feel about this issue of salvation, maybe even how you wish you would feel about it but you simply can't? Maybe you feel you can't repent of your sin, you can't believe this message - well, have you ever told God about that? Why don't you come to Him and say: 'Lord, I just can't repent, I can't believe what I'm hearing'?
What I'm saying to you this evening is: whatever your state is, the implication of God's word is that you respond and come and talk to God - and even if you doubt that He even is in the heavens and exists, I believe if you respond to this invitation God will respond to you. If you draw near to God, He will draw near to you - for He has said: 'Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool'. This is an invitation to see the love of God, but it's an invitation to speak, to talk to God, to pour out your heart before God and find your need met in Him.
Looking and turning to look, also implies, I believe, looking away from something. I mean, if you turn to look at something, the inference is that you've turned away from something else. In order to look to Christ, and to respond to this invitation, you must turn away from other things. 'What are those things?', you say. Those things wherein you have sought satisfaction apart from Jesus Christ. The Jewish people that Isaiah was prophesying to in this book were looking to the idols of the Gentile nations to find their satisfaction. They were looking to their iniquitous, fornicatory, immoral worship to find satisfaction in the flesh and with other gods. You have an idol tonight, and in that idol - whatever that idol may be - you are seeking satisfaction in the flesh, in the emotions, through the mind, in the spirit...but you cannot find it.
That idol may be a sin that you love too much to let go of for Christ. These idols don't have to be negative in the sense of particular sins that are transgressions of the ten commandments, your idol could be a church, it could be a denomination, it could be an affiliation, it could be a creed, it could be a religion outside Christendom, it could be a sacrament - baptism, the Lord's Supper, confirmation. It could be anything: it could be a code of morals, maybe you're humanist, you don't affiliate with any religious body or institution - but you believe ethically that man should love his fellow men, and that is your idol. Maybe it's a lover, or it's a friend, or it's a member of your family that is keeping you from Christ. If you need reminding, let me remind you: to this moment in time you have not found satisfaction in any of those things. Do you know why? Because you must look away from them and look to Christ. That's why Jesus one day said to a people who were trodden under the weight of sin: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. The hymn puts it:
'None but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me;
There's love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee'.
This looking also implies - my second point - not only in this verse do we find salvation's invitation, but we find salvation's intention: 'be ye saved'. 'Look unto me, and be ye saved'. Looking implies expectation, you would only be looking if you expected something to happen - and why shouldn't you expect salvation when God has provided it? Need I go over the ground again, though it is a privilege to do such: the intention of God sending His Son from the realms of heaven into the form of a babe in Bethlehem, to grow among men to be 33 years of age, to walk in His precious feet on Palestinian soil, and then one day to be taken - after He taught men things that they had never heard - and nailed to a cross, the hands that performed the miracles, that made blind eyes to see, that stilled the ocean. There He hangs, the blood gushing from His form - why? Because God intended to save men, and because God, through the death of His Son, was providing that salvation - why should you not expect it if you look to Christ this evening?
Not only through His blood that He has provided, but in His word He has promised it - here, right here in this scripture and many more Scriptures - that if you look, you will live. He has promised to receive all who on His Son believe. My friend this evening, as sure as you look to Christ, you can expect to be saved - you will be saved. It's not a presumption to go to a wedding and expect a feast, is it? Oh, it's not presumption or wild arrogance that when God invites you to look to Him, that you should expect to be saved - indeed it is His declared declaration and intention in salvation: 'Look unto me, and be ye saved'.
Oh, what certainty is in it, and how many other texts between the two covers of Scripture declare this same truth. Romans 10:13: 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'. Acts 16:31: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved'. John 6:37: 'All that the Father giveth me', Jesus said, 'shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out'. What a cruel mockery Calvary must have been if God didn't intend to save men through it. Why would He die? Why would He shed His precious blood? Why, in those three hours, would He bear the wrath of Almighty God in His very soul? The reason why is, as Isaiah says in his great discourse, prophetically, in chapter 53: 'He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed'. We sang it a moment ago:
'We are healed by His stripes. Wouldst thou add to the word?
And He is our righteousness made;
The best robe of heaven He bids thee put on
Oh! couldst thou be better arrayed?'
Are your good works, are your religious affiliations, are your charitable deeds better than the cross work of Jesus Christ that He finished for you? Salvation's intention is that you might be saved - are you lost? Do you feel that your life is lost, and could be described in that way just now this very moment - you feel like a vessel out in the wild sea, tossed to and fro, you can't get rest, you find yourself battered and bruised by the winds and the storms and the waves of sin, you don't know where you're coming from, you don't know where you're going, you don't know why you're here? My friend, look and live! In Christ alone can you find your way! If your life, you don't admit it's lost - what will your eternity be? Will your eternity be lost? When you stand before the judgment bar of God, and the works of your life God reads to you, and then the pronunciation comes in conclusion when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says to you: 'I never knew you. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and all his angels'. My friend, if you don't know yet, surely those words make you realise you need God's salvation! The only way to have it is to 'Look unto me', God says.
Thirdly, salvation's inclusion is obvious here: 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth' - salvation's conclusion. I'll tell you, there's not many verses in the Old Testament that are addressed to Gentiles, but here is one of the few ones that you will find. The prophet, looking to a future day, when all men of nationalities and backgrounds and cultures will be one in Christ and united - why? Because God's plan and intention in salvation is that He should love the whole world, and through the death of Christ that He should save all men from all races and cultures, all types of people on this globe. You see, it doesn't matter who looks, all that matters is you look. God is not concerned whether you're a Catholic or Protestant, Unionist or Nationalist, black or white, Socialist or Tory, these things don't matter at all with God!
'All the ends of the earth may be saved', that's why the apostles were told in the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, for this is a message to all men. But also we find in this inclusive statement that no one can ever be too far from God. We used to think the British Isles was the ends of the earth, then they discovered the Americas, and it became the ends of the earth. My friend, wherever you are tonight, however far away from God you feel you are, even if God is so far away from you that you feel if you went to look at Him you couldn't even focus or see Him because of the darkness of your sin and nature's night - I tell you tonight: none is too far from God to look to Him, all the ends of the earth can be saved! The Psalmist cried: 'From the ends of the earth will I cry unto Thee. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I'.
On one occasion the Israelites in the Old Testament were murmuring against God and His ways and His leaders, and God sent fiery serpents into the camp in the wilderness, and they began to bite the people of Israel, and they fell one by one and started to die. Moses ran unto God and asked Him for a way for the people to be saved, and God told him to take a staff, and put a brass serpent upon it, and tell the people to look unto that serpent in the middle of the camp and they would be saved. Can you picture the scene: these half-corpses, writhing on the ground as the pain of the poison flushes through their veins, and they feel death's bony grip coming upon their very soul - but yet if, out of the corner of their dusty sin-ridden eyes, they can get a glimpse of that brass serpent, they will be saved!
One day Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, a Jewish religious man, and asked the same question: 'How can I be saved?'. Jesus said: 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life'. Wherever you are tonight, whatever you have done, however far from God you may be: if you look to Christ He will save you from the ends of the earth.
Salvation's invitation: 'Look unto me'. Salvation's intention: 'Be ye saved'. Salvation's inclusion: 'All the ends of the earth'. But finally, I want you to see salvation's exclusion: 'I am God, and there is none else'. Because of your sin, my friend, you need a God to save you. Your sin is so heavy, it weighs you down to the very depths of hell, that the only one who can lift it is one with an omnipotent hand, one who is Almighty - and there is only one true and living God, the Almighty Jehovah! He is the only one who has sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. That means, my friend, if you're going to be saved, you're going to have to be saved through Him. I don't care what our pluralistic, politically correct, syncretistic religious society says about that - God's word declares, and the day is coming soon when we may be locked up for saying it, that there is one God. He is not Allah, He is not Buddha, He is Jehovah. There is one mediator between that God and man, the Man Christ Jesus - neither is their salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. One translation says: 'There is no second name, whereby we must be saved'. In other words, if you don't take God's salvation, you will be excluded from it! You will never be saved! Jesus said: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; and no man cometh unto the Father but by me'. My friend, don't look to any other man, don't look to any other god, for God has declared: 'I am God, and there is none other'.
Well, have you looked? Have you heard salvation's invitation, 'Look unto me'? Have you seen salvation's intention, that you can be saved and know that you're saved? Do you see the inclusion of salvation, that wherever you are, wherever you're from, whatever you've done, however far off you feel from God: He invites you? Do you see salvation's exclusion, that if you don't come by Him, and the way of His Son, and the way of His cross, you can never be saved?
There's a story that was told years ago of an old farmer who, whilst walking in the fields, told his companion that he'd been saved by his good looks - imagine that! 'You know', he said, 'I have been saved by my good looks'. His friend was so surprised, so he explained further that some time ago he lent his barn to an evangelist who took gospel meetings in it. He decided one night: 'I want to see what's happening down there, it's my barn'. Intrigue got the better of him, so he went down, and this is what happened: the preacher read his first text, Isaiah 45:22, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else'. The preacher pictured, just like the preacher for Spurgeon, the cruelty of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ - Jesus on the tree, bearing the sins of the world. The farmer said, sitting there he gazed at that amazing sight. With the inner eyes of his soul he realised that he saw Him dying for me. Then the preacher turned to his second verse, Hebrews 12:2: 'Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God'. He said: 'Then I pictured a risen Saviour, a Saviour who was not only able to save me on Calvary's tree, but a Saviour now who is alive and able to save to the uttermost all who came unto Him, a Saviour who is able to keep me from stumbling, able to present me faultless before His throne, able to empower me victoriously. He could not only do the job for me on the cross, but He could do the job for me, in me day by day'. Then he turned to his third text, Titus 2:13: 'Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ'. He said: 'What a thrill it was to hear that this same Jesus is actually coming again for His own blood-bought people, so that I'm looking for a time when I will see Him', the farmer said, 'and I will be like Him'.
His companion was so impressed, he said: 'That's wonderful, I understand now how you have been saved by your good looks' - have you looked to Him? The One who has died, the One who is alive this very evening to save you, and the One who is coming soon to judge you or, if you're His, to take you home.
Let's all bow our heads. You've heard the invitation from God's Spirit tonight, and all you must do is respond. Look away from whatever idol you're seeking satisfaction in, and turn to the true and the only living God who can save you, and His Son Jesus Christ. Just say: 'Lord, I confess my sin, and pray that you will give me the power to repent of it as I am willing to do so. I thank You that Jesus died for me, and in dying for me took my sin upon Himself' - this is a very serious time, please, everyone concentrate - and ask Him to save you. Say: 'Lord, save me now, come into my life, make me Your child and be my Lord'. Will you do that now? He has promised that if you look, you will live - but please, I plead with you: look tonight and live.
Lord, we thank Thee that the Gospel is so simple that a child can understand. We pray tonight that young and old alike, men and women and boys and girls, will lift their eyes from the dearth and dirt of sin, and look to the glorious realms of heaven where there is a nail-pierced Saviour at the right hand of God, risen and exalted and able to save all who will come unto God by Him. Give grace tonight, and glorify Thy name we pray, 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 recording, titled "The Look Of Life" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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