Bro. Fulton and I often joke about one of the common styles of teaching and preaching. Right now, Austin is using the “expository method” in studying David – taking an entire chapter and generally exposing its highlights – while making personal applications. Our study of Nehemiah is similar, in that we are going through his book, but the style I am using is called “textual,” where I try to find specific sermonic points on which to hang the lessons. For example, we had a message on “Ejaculatory Prayer,” and the three points were – the nature, the privilege and the blessing of this kind of prayer. In this kind of preaching, the texts are usually only a few verses long, although tonight’s message covers an entire chapter. This is by far my favorite way of preaching, no matter what it is we are studying. And, personally, I think that it may be easier to digest and remember this kind of message.
The third style, the one about which he and I joke, is called the “topical” method. In this variety of sermon, a specific subject is studied – taking scriptures and the points of the message from all over the Bible. There is nothing wrong with “topical preaching,” and sometimes it is the only way to study the subject. But quite often this is the choice of lazy preachers, who don’t want to do the work of real Bible study. Beware of the man who preaches nothing but topics. He may not be the Bible student you need. Topical messages are often by nature more simple than others.
I’ve said all that to say that I have a topical message for you today. It is logically quite simple, but that seems to be the condition of my heart and mind this week, and maybe it is the same with you. I can’t remember where it was, but in my reading sometime during the last couple weeks, today’s theme was brought to my attention, but I went on without considering it. And then as I was asking the Lord for a message for this morning, I began going through one of my sermon idea note books, and my eye fell on the same subject, but with a slightly different twist. When my mind pointed out the coincidence, my heart replied, “Maybe it isn’t a coincident. Maybe this is the Lord’s subject for July 5, 2020.” I have decided to pursue that thought, but I’m not following the notes I had put into my little book. That is the introduction to my introduction. Now for the introduction.
One of the positive results of all this pandemic hysteria, is the imposition of unwilling restraints on our lives. Either the government, or circumstances, have tried to force us to do things we have never done before. And they have also forced us to go without things that were once a regular part of our lives. Maybe it was a family tradition to go to a specific park on Memorial Day, but this year that park was closed. The people addicted to sports are going through withdrawal as painful as a drug addict in rehab. I can imagine the emptiness in the hearts of some of those Choctaws and Cherokees, who for a year have been planning and preparing to return to the Spokane Reservation, but who now are told they can’t do it.
But actually, if you stop and think about it, one of the keys to the Christian life is related to this – “self-restraint” or “self-sacrifice.” These may come in different forms, but most often they are related to either sin or non-sinful worldliness. When someone is born again, they must learn to do without the sins of the previous life – gambling, marijuana, fornication, perhaps his music preferences and his choice of reading and entertainment. And as a maturing Christian, he may be forced to turn his back on former friends – people who are intent on trying to keep him from serving his Saviour. He has to learn to do without things which once were a major part of his life. He needs to learn to sacrifice his flesh – not sacrifice to his flesh, but sacrifice the flesh itself.
This may sound strange, especially to young people, and it was beyond my imagination until just recently. But as we age, we learn that we must be willing to give up our bodies. As we get nearer and nearer to our eternal home, the temporal things of life grow less important. As we age, our ears don’t work as well, and our eyes cloud over, and our minds aren’t as sharp. Perhaps the knees of some are telling their owners to be prepared to give them up. Arthritis, and a dozen other things, rob us of other aspects of our physical lives. As these thing begin to go, we might as well learn to replace them with the eternal things of the Spirit. Because one day, we will have new bodies – very unlike the physical bodies we now have. Christians should be preparing themselves for that eventual cross-over, even before the body begins to show much in the way of decay.
I can assure you, now with more than 50 years of experience in this area, that no matter what the Holy Spirit is asking you to give up, He can more than fill that void. The cliche is true – “You cannot out give the Lord.” But you have to be willing to create some room – and to take what God has to offer. For example, can you make the switch from rap, hip hop or country music – to Christian or classical music? Yes, you can. But are you willing? That willingness is the key. Are you willing to give up those magazines, those comics, those “graphic novels” for the Bible and Christian biographies? Did you know you can learn to like books on Bible topics like the life of Christ and the doctrines of grace? The Lord has untold blessings for those who are willing to empty themselves in preparation to receiving better things – eternal things. In some areas we need to learn to do WITHOUT.
And in that regard, let’s consider other ways in which the Bible uses the word “without.”
We need to train our ears to hear this word and to consider how the Holy Spirit is using it. It is found 130 times in the New Testament – this morning we’ll avoid the 255 Old Testament uses the word. Those 130 instances come from 8 different Greek words, some of which are related to each other.
But it’s true that some have very little no important doctrinal importance. For example one verse tells us that Jesus’ mother once waited for him “without” the house – she and Jesus’ brothers were outside. That is not the way we speak today, but it is easy to understand. Peter is plenty clear when he exhorts, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” Jesus’ “coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” Philippians 2:14 and 15 – “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.” Obviously, “Don’t stop praying.” Although some of these are important, these verses don’t use the word “without” in the way, or in the context where, I’d like to use it this morning.
Hebrews 12:13 is more what I had in mind.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, WITHOUT which no man shall see the Lord.” The word “without” here is “choris” (kho-re’-ce) and it means the obvious – “apart from.” “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, (apart from) which no man shall SEE the Lord.”
Of course, “seeing the Lord,” needs some clarification, because, in one way, every one will one day stand before God. They shall “see” their Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ – the one who could have been their Saviour. But this is talking about seeing the Lord in any other way than with wrath in His eyes. The One who has around His throne an army of angels crying out “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” – will invite no one into His presence who has not been given and is not wearing the Lord’s holiness. And those people will actually seek to live and be the kind of person the Saviour has regenerated them to be.
This scripture, along with several others, tell us that without holiness, we are in trouble – you are in trouble. The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” – they alone shall see God. But how do wicked people like us come to have “pure hearts”? Only through the grace of God’s salvation. Only when God imputes His righteousness will we be righteous. And still, without the effects and results of salvation you will never see the smile of God. To be without holiness means eternal damnation – judgment.
Taking that a step farther, Ephesians 2 describes these same people in a slightly different way.
Verse 1 – “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Verse 12 – “That at that time ye were WITHOUT CHRIST, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Paul says that to be without Christ is to have no hope and to be without God. Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” – the way to Jehovah God. Verse 4 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The Bible divides the people of the earth into two groups – the righteous and the wicked. And what constitutes the difference? Some people have been saved by God’s grace and others have not. While all people are sinners, those whom the Lord has saved are also “saints” – sanctified ones. And in this we have another use of the word “without” – there are those who are in Christ and those who are without – outside the Lord. I Corinthians 5:13 says that those who are “without God” – outside the Lord – will be judged by the Lord. And you who are Christians need to walk honestly towards those who are “without” – I Thess. 4:12.
Are you “in Christ” or are you still “without”? What is your answer? You must answer, and you must answer correctly. This is an important question on so many levels.
Because WITHOUT Christ we ARE nothing and can DO nothing in the sight of God.
Please turn to that very familiar passage of scripture in John 15. The Lord Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” God the Father is the center of the universe – He really is God – Creator, Master, Judge. And Christ Jesus, the Son, is vitally and intimately connected to the Father. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” There are people who are connected to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the opposite to those who are “without Christ” and “without God.” Jesus goes on, “Now YE are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” These people are in Christ and are branches of Christ because the Lord has made them so. He has cleansed them.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for WITHOUT ME ye can do nothing.” Being without Christ means we are not one of His branches and we have no connection to the Saviour. This disconnection is proved by our lack of spiritual fruit. What kind of fruit are you growing for the Lord? What is there in your life which indicates that you are connected to Christ; that you are His branch? “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Verse 6 describes the end result of those who are without Christ and therefore without God.
Of course, the Lord is using this vine and its branches as an illustration. and following that illustration, the reason the branch should be productive is due to its connection to the vine. Flowing between them and empowering growth of the bud, the flower and the fruit is what we call “sap.” In humans that life-carrying fluid is not sap, but blood. This it takes us another Biblical step to say that those who are “in Christ” have spiritual life because of the blood of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
In Hebrews 9 Paul explains some of the significance of the Old Testament priestly ministry. For example, on the Day of Atonement, “the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.” If that priest, no matter how righteously he had been living, or no matter how full of faith or prayer, if he entered the inner part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, without the right blood to offer, he was a dead man. Verse 8 – “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Verse 22 – “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and WITHOUT shedding of blood is no remission.”
Do you see that – “without shedding of blood is no remission.” Leviticus 17:11 says “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sins. But as Paul was saying, it’s not just ANY blood – it’s not the blood of bulls, goats, lambs or chickens. Without the shedding – and God’s application – of the blood of Jesus Christ on your behalf, there is no covering and atonement for your sins.
And we are WITHOUT EXCUSE if we are without Christ.
Do you remember our scripture from last Sunday morning? Romans 1:14-17? “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are WITHOUT excuse.”
When people stand before the Divine Judge, having died without Christ, they may think they have an excuse – a reasonable explanation for their lack of faith, love and worship of God. But as Paul says, they actually have nothing, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are WITHOUT excuse.” That Inuit man, living in the Boreal forest of northern Canada, may try to argue that he should be given a pass for his unbelief and idolatry because no one brought him the gospel. But Paul pre-argues before the day of judgment ever comes, that man should have looked at the creation, the aurora borealis, the arrival of spring, the lives of the creatures around him and recognized the hand of the Creator. He should have pleaded with that Creator for more revelation about Himself. There is not a man, woman or child in any part of the world who can successfully argue they have a pass for their rejection of the one true and living God.
But you and I are not isolated, unevangelized people. We have the gospel, you are in have a gospel church. You should know “the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” because you have read and heard the truth so many times. You should know “for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. You should know that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” You, my friend, are without excuse before God if your life is without Christ
And without your PERSONAL REPENTANCE and FAITH IN CHRIST you are eternally lost.
As Paul begins his great discourse on the subject of faith in Hebrews 11, he gives us a fitting description – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” As an example he adds, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Since the creation of the world took place so many thousands of years ago, and there were no human witnesses, and since there is no way to replicate that creation, we must trust what God had said about it. Then after describing the faith of Abel and Enoch, and before giving many more examples of believing people he said, “Without FAITH it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
What separates those who are in Christ and those who are without? It is the sovereign grace of God. And it is experienced by humble faith when that sinner grasps that he is in Christ – saved by the grace of God. And contained in the word “humble” – “humble faith” is the Biblical doctrine of repentance. There are many mis-definitions and mutilations of the doctrine, but the truth still stands. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” Without a complete surrender and humble submission to the authority of Jehovah, ye shall die eternally. Without an understand and admission that you are unworthy of God, Heaven, salvation – grace – you prove yourself to still be “without.”
Can I rightly summarize this message….. Can I rightly summarize the Biblical presentation of the gospel this way…. Without repentance and faith we are without Christ, and without Christ we are without hope because we are without the grace of God.
Are you without Christ and without hope this morning? I plead with you to repent before God and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and bow before the holy God. I’d be happy to talk with you more about your need of salvation. Just ask.