If you have a copy of the word of God with you this evening, we're turning in our Bibles to the book of Job. The book of Job in the Old Testament - don't worry if you don't have a Bible with you, or you can't find the book of Job, you can listen as we read the word of God together. Job chapter 23, Job chapter 23, and we'll take time to read the whole chapter to get the context.
"Then Job answered and said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him! That I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him. Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him". This is the verse that I want us to concentrate on this evening: "For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me: Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face".
Let's come before the Lord in a word of prayer, and ask His help as we come to His precious word. Our Father in heaven, we thank Thee for the word of God. We thank Thee that there is power in the word of God. Lord, we don't handle it lightly this evening but, Lord, we need help - we're weak. Lord, we really do ask that Thy Holy Spirit may presence Himself with us, that He may come and do the job that He does so well of saving souls for eternity. Fill me with Thy Spirit I pray, and may there be a divine consciousness that God is in this place, for we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Let's look at verse 16, again, of the chapter: 'For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me'. If you know the story of Job you'll know that the devil came to God, and the devil said: 'There is this man Job, and he serves You, but he only serves You because he's well-off for following You'. So God says: 'I will test my servant Job to prove to you, Satan, that he follows Me because he loves Me. And when he is tried', as our passage says, 'he will come forth as gold'. God permitted Satan to do such with him. He lost his family, he lost his cattle, he lost his business, he lost his home, he lost absolutely everything. He's sitting on a pile of ashes with boils all over his body, and he is asking God: 'God, what are You doing?'.
Now Job was a saved man, as we say today. He was a Christian, he followed God. But even Job, because of the way God was dealing with him, he could turn to God and say: 'God, You're melting my heart, You're softening my heart - and, Lord, You're troubling me to the depths of my soul!'. I wonder have you been at these meetings in the week gone by, and God has started a process in your life of softening your heart and troubling your soul. The Bible calls that by this name: 'Conviction of Sin'.
What is it? It's simply this - and God describes it a little bit in the work of a saint, but it's also in the work of the unsaved sinner - it says: 'He is in one mind, and who can turn him? And what his', God's, 'soul desireth, even that he doeth'. You've heard the Gospel, perhaps, or someone gave you a tract - maybe not from this church - or you heard the Gospel somewhere else, in the open air, or through a book, or through a video, or through a friend - and for some reason you, after hearing the word of God, have been troubled about it. Your heart has been softened, something has been pricked into your soul, something is different now. You begin to think about these things and the thought of God, and your sin, and eternal things, and salvation, is really troubling your soul! That's the conviction of sin.
Let me say this: it is God that is doing it. You might say: 'How can God do such a nasty thing? I'm troubled to the very depths of my soul, I feel it in my bones! There's something wrong, I can hardly sleep at times, I can hardly rest because this thing is going on my head'. Friend, listen! It is God! God has one mind concerning you, God has His eye on you, God has His finger, His hand, upon you - and He is determined not to let you be lost. God is not willing that any should perish, and He doesn't want you to perish, my friend. If I can say it reverently: God is hunting you down! God wants to make you uncomfortable, He wants to make you tremble, He wants to make you frightened and uneasy because of the Gospel - because He knows that if you're too comfortable you'll never ever want to come to Him!
It's the word of God that does this. It's not new-fangled ideas, it's the old-fashioned word of God. You see God Himself describes the word of God as a hammer. Your heart may have been hard, and maybe it's hard this evening, and you're like the frost outside - each time you hear the Gospel it's like another layer on top of the previous layer, and it gets harder and harder and harder and harder, until you can sit in a meeting or a mission like this and it doesn't affect you at all! My friend, God's word is like a hammer, and it can smash and break the hardest of all hardened hearts. God's word is called the sword of the Spirit. It is double-edged - it's so sharp, the word of God says, it can divide the very bone from the marrow, the soul from the spirit. Perhaps you've been sitting under the word of God, and you've almost felt a dagger go into your heart and into your life because God is speaking to you!
The Psalmist says: 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path'. Maybe in these nights, or in some other experience that you've had in your life, you have found the word of God shining into your heart like a laser beam, uncovering things that no-one else knows about, the secret things of your heart and in your life. God, like a light, has shone in! You know what it was like this morning, a beautiful morning. Maybe you were in the kitchen or the bathroom, and the sun was shining through the window - and what happens? You could have dusted, ladies, the house the night before - but it doesn't matter, when the sun shines in through the window you see the dust float everywhere.
Has God's word made your heart soft? Oh, there are many things that can make our heart soft. The birth of a child can soften a hardened drinker or gambler, so much so that they want to leave their old ways for the sake of their child. Maybe they'll send their child to Sunday School, bring it up as a so-called Christian, because their heart has been softened by nature's cries. There are so many things - a bereavement - that can soften the heart, but can I say that that is not conviction of sin! Conviction of sin is when God comes in with His word, and He begins to do something supernatural. He makes your heart soft - you almost think it could break, you've no rest, you've no peace - and like Job says: 'the Almighty troubleth me'.
Do you know what God has been doing? He's been sitting at His divine drawing board, working out how He's going to trouble you. He wants you to be moved, He wants you to be shaken out of your lethargy and your apathy and your carelessness, because of your soul. He'll do anything, by anyway, by any means, to bring you out of that quicksand of indecision - he wants to trouble your soul, my friend!
There was a great revivalist preacher in America by the name of Charles Finney, you can buy his biography on the table at the back. He was a man so full of the Holy Spirit, a man so anointed of God to preach the Gospel, that hundreds of thousands of unbelievers came into the kingdom of God because of him. Do you know what the records say? The state in America where he was having his revival meetings was at the coast, a bit like Kilkeel. Boats that passed the shoreline a hundred miles out - wait till you hear this - they were playing cards and poker, gambling, smoking their fags, drinking their booze, doing all those sorts of things - but as soon as they came within the radius of where Finney was, and where God was moving, a silence came upon them. It all stopped, and they stood still, they feared that if they took another drag, or another sip, or another bet, that God would come down upon them!
Do you feel any of a measure of that my friend? There could be reasons why God has softened your heart, there could be reasons why God is troubling you, and I think the first reason could be this: God has been uncovering your sin. That's what troubles us the most. You don't like being caught, do you? It's like the criminal that murders someone, and what does he do with the dead body? He either digs up his garden and buries it and then builds a patio over it, or he takes the body and he ties something heavy to it and puts it in a bin bag and throws it into the river. What's he trying to do? He's trying to bury the evidence of his crime, he's wanting to get rid of it. Maybe, my friend, in your life God has been bringing the skeletons out of the cupboard - He's been reminding you of the things that you thought that you'd forgotten long ago, you'd wiped off your memory and time had erased, but all of a sudden God is softening your heart to these things. God is troubling you, and you wish you could forget them all again!
Is it the sins of youth? Job talked about the sins of youth. He said that his bones 'were full of sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust'. He was saying that he would take his sins of his youth with him, they troubled him so much - he couldn't forget about them. David cried to God: 'Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions, according to Thy mercy. Remember Thou me in Thou goodness, O Lord'. Is it forgotten sins? You may have forgotten, my friend, but God has not. Jesus Christ, one day, will stand upon the earth and He will look eyeball to eyeball into your face, and He says: 'Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement'. Secret sins, He says: 'There is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad', in that day when God shall judge the secrets of men's hearts by Jesus Christ according to the Gospel.
Is your sin troubling you, my friend, is it? Because it ought to! If God is working with your heart, and if God is striving in your life, you can be sure that if there's unrest, if there's uneasiness, it is God who is the originator of it because God wants to save you! The apostle John says that: 'If we say that we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and make God a liar' - and anybody in this place that doesn't feel God upon them because of their sin, they're deceiving themselves. Maybe God is softening your heart, or troubling you, because He is uncovering your sin.
Secondly, perhaps it's because you're starting to feel the guilt and the danger of your sin. It's like legal conviction. When you're caught in a crime - or, as the saying goes, you're caught red-handed - do you know what that feels like? The embarrassing feeling of knowing that you've been caught doing wrong, red-faced embarrassment and guilt. Some of you, perhaps, know what it's like. It's the feeling of standing in the courtroom, and there is the judge and the jury, and you've gone through the trial and dug up all the dirty washing. You're waiting for the pronouncement, the judgement upon you - and then, when you hear it and it's the worst that you can hear, there is that sinking, burning feeling rising up in your soul. The feeling of guilt and terror at what has happened!
I wonder has God's customs officer stepped onto the boat of your life and found something? Has He? It's so tragic that it is softening and squeezing your heart, and troubling you to the depths of your being. In these last nights or, my friend, in your life, has the Holy Spirit put His chains and handcuffs upon you? Has the divine jailer imprisoned you, and aroused your conscience to what is going on in your life? Let me say this: if that is what is happening in your life, the likelihood is this - that you're trying to close your ears to God! You're trying to shut Him up! You're trying to harden your heart and numb yourself! What often a lost man or woman, or a backslider, does is: they go and they run head-long and saturate themselves in their sin to numb themselves to the conviction of God!
They'll go and get full to try and numb the dagger blows of the word of God into their heart, and the slashes of the two-edged sword of God's word. You've heard about men and women drowning their sorrows, well some of you have been drowning your conviction - or at least trying to. But just as you wake up with a sore head the next morning, you wake up with a sore heart - because He is softening your heart, He is troubling your spirit, and God is moving among you. God is speaking to you through your family, through a church, through a tract, through something - and it seems that, no matter how far you run away from the sound of the Gospel, everywhere you turn, everything you go to do is troubling you because the Gospel darts of God are flying full at you!
I heard about a man a few weeks ago, and he was declaring how he used to walk with God, and he used to - as he said - be a believer, but he could 'never go to church any more'. He could 'never even send his children to church, because they are so out of touch with reality, and Christianity isn't as it ought to be'. Then, in the next breath, he says this: 'I don't know why I'm going on about this, for I'm not interested at all'. As William Shakespeare says: 'He protests too much'. Are you one of these people that bad-mouth Christians, Christian churches, Christian ministers, any form of Christian doctrine or anything? You know why you do it, your friends don't - they think you're big and tall - but your friends don't know that, inside your heart, what you doing is: you're trying to drown out God's conviction! You're trying to convince yourself that you want nothing to do with all this! You just wish God would stop speaking!
You're like Cain, remember he killed his brother? God punished him, and Cain turned round and said to the Lord: 'My punishment is greater than I can bear'. Is that the way you feel? God is weighing you down. Like the nation of Israel, He said that they'll find no ease for their foot, 'neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give them a trembling heart, failing eyes, sorrow of mind: And their life shall hang in doubt before their eyes; they shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of their life'. Do you fear for your life day by day? In morning, do you say: 'Would to God that it was the evening', and in the evening you say: 'Would to God it was the morning'? Are you like David? David says in the Psalms that his life was spent in grief, he sighed year after year, his strength failed him, God's arrows stuck into him fast, God's hand pressed sore upon his brow, there was no rest in his bones because of the heavy burden of his sin crushing him down! He said that his wounds stank, even that his family and his friends wouldn't come near to him! Is that the way you feel?
If you feel like that, God is after you! Are you trying to hide from God? Are you trying to bury your head in the sand? Are you trying to turn your back, plug your ears to God? What are you trying to do, my friend? Because the Holy Spirit of God is coming after you, and perhaps it's not just because He's uncovered your sin, or He's making you feel the guilt and the danger of your sin - but perhaps, as you've heard about the cross, and as you've heard about Christ bleeding and dying and in agony, of Christ bearing the world's hell so that they wouldn't have to, as you've heard about Jesus being stripped naked, being shamed, being spat upon, being buffeted, being mocked - you have heard God say: 'Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for your iniquities: the chastisement of your peace was upon him'. He was punished so that you might have peace! As you hear that God poured out His soul as an offering for your sin, perhaps you've sat and you've thought: 'That was because of me! And I know it! I've been told it since I was a child, and there's many a time it has bothered me, and I just wish it would stop!'.
My friend, there's two ways it will stop. Listen, the first is: if you turn round to God one time too many and say: 'Leave me alone' in the time that He listens, the next time you hear His voice will be in hell. The second way to get rid of it is to do what the Jews did. Do you know what a scapegoat is? You talk about a scapegoat, and it's someone blaming another person to get themselves off the hook. What they did in Judaism was: they got a lamb, a goat, and the high priest - who represented the people before God - put his hands on the head of the goat and confessed his sins, and then they took the goat and loosed it out into the wilderness. It was symbolising that all their sins were going away.
Christ is your scapegoat. God has put on Him, God has blamed His Son, to get you off the hook. God's Spirit is striving with you to make you realise that it was your guilt, your sin, that was put upon Christ and killed Christ! He died that we might be forgiven. You've heard about heart transplants and kidney transplants, where another person's organ has been taken and donated to one in need. Well, this was the sin transplant - where God took your sin and my sin and put it upon His own Son! Do you know something? Listen: if you're to be free of this troubling of your soul, and this softening of your heart, my friend, listen: 'Burdens are lifted at Calvary'. You need to get your eyes to Calvary, you need to see that bleeding Lamb taking your place, dying in your room. You need to see that it was because of your sin, it was because of your wrong and your rottenness - you need to see that! You need to fall at the feet of God and say: 'Lord, I'm sorry. Lord, I take what You did for me there. I ask You to save me, and forgive me, and take me to Glory with You' - and when you do that, just like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, the burden on your back will roll away!
Maybe God is troubling you because of the cost to leave your sin. You know the fear of the sinner coming off his sin is like the drug addict going through cold turkey. It's like the alcoholic with the shakes - they need it! They want it! They can't live without it! It's like your sin, my friend, have you ever seen a doctor who is pleading with a person with lung cancer to give up the cigarettes because it's killing them - and the doctor can't cure them because they won't help themselves! The alcoholic lying in an intensive care bed with a liver like a sardine shrivelled up, lying there with a body poisoned with alcohol, and he's pleading with him: 'Will you not stop drinking? It's going to kill you!' - but he can't! He won't! He needs it!
My friend, you will never be free from your sin, you'll never be free from the pain and the guilt and the judgement of your sin - listen to me! - until you come to Christ. He'll take the burden, and He'll heal the heart. He'll give you a new heart, He'll give you a new nature, He'll give you a new life, He'll give you peace with Himself, He'll give you a hope of home in heaven. He'll give you everything that He has promised within His word - my friend, what could stop you?
What are you going to do? Is your heart soft? Is God troubling you? Listen: God wants you so much that He was prepared to buy you with the blood of His own Son. Would you not give Him your life, this evening, and finish this whole thing with God? The peace of God that passes all understanding will rule in your heart and your mind through Christ Jesus.
Now, if God has been speaking to your heart this evening it is of utmost importance, and there will never be a bigger, more important, or greater decision that you will have to make in your life than to listen to Him. Why not trust Him now? Hear His voice with a softened heart and a troubled soul, turn to Him, away from your sin. Trust the death of the Lord Jesus, and His blood that was shed, and ask Him to save your soul. You can do it now, where you are, by lifting up your heart to God in prayer, and saying: 'Lord, I'm sorry. I have sinned, I turn from my sin, I trust the Saviour's death. Lord, save me'. He will do it.
I have some booklets, and there are some sitting on the table on your way out. They're free, you can take one of them. You can talk with me this evening, for as long as is necessary - but listen: please don't go without trusting Christ.
Our Father, we thank Thee for this time. We find it hard to even say this, but we think Thee for troubling us about our eternal destiny. We thank Thee for softening our heart to Thy word, and to what the Lord Jesus did for us - because He loved us - at Calvary. For Lord, if You hadn't troubled us, we would never have been saved. Lord, I believe that this message was for some soul here, because You are troubling them, and You want them for Your own this evening. Lord, I pray that You will take them, take them from the devil, take them from the world and their own sin, and put Your peace into their heart and save their soul. We thank Thee for this time, and we pray now that Thy blessing will go with us, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Kilkeel Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Conviction Of Sin" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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