"And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." - I Pet. 3:15
This text commands us who are saved to be ready to tell others why we are Christians. We are to do so with meekness and with a sweet reasonableness; so as to convince, if possible, our questioners.
In this large audience of some 1600, there must be many who are not Christians, and among you there are probably many who are asking what are the reasons why some people turn to Christ.
Let me be the spokesman for every Christian here while I tell our unsaved friends around us on your behalf and mine why I am a Christian.
Let us make sure to begin with that we know what the term Christian means. A Christian is one who has received Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, has thus become a child of God and a possessor of the gift of eternal life. Although he has never seen Jesus Christ, he believes in Him and hopes that through faith in Christ his eternal salvation is assured before God here and hereafter.
And now, why am I a Christian? There are at least 954,876,410 reasons why. I have not time to mention all of them in this message, but I will take time to mention the last ten reasons.
The proof of this to me is overwhelming. And since I apprehend that every one of us here would acknowledge the existence of God, I need not elaborate on this proof. Every star in the sky, every leaf on the tree, every flower in the garden, every bird in the air, every snowflake on the ground tells me there is a God behind the wonders of nature. There's not a wave of the deep blue sea, As it rolls along in its majesty; Nor a leaf, nor a flower, nor a single sod, But bears the marks of the finger of God.
The solar system with its uncounted and uncountable millions of worlds flying through space with incredible speed, each keeping with mathematical precision to its own orbit - all these tell us that behind this marvelous design is a Designer. You may as well tell me that when this church was built no architect designed the plan, no workman fashioned and laid these stones, but instead a storm from the lake blew up the street, carrying with it bricks, mortar, wood, stone, and glass; and that in the fortuitous concourse of materials, by caprice of the wind, this church appeared!
No, no, my friends. There is a God who planned this world, who made your wonderful body and mine, and that is the first reason I am a Christian - I know there is a God.
I do not require the Bible to tell me this. I do not need any preacher to inform me. The voice of my own conscience tells me I have not always done what is right, and I have often done what was evil. My hands tell me this pulpit is here; my eyes tell me that door is yonder, my ears tell me that a streetcar passed a moment ago; my conscience tells me I have sinned.
Now this consciousness of sin condemns me. I know I am guilty of wrongdoing. I fell alienated from God because of it. My conscience tells me I deserve to be punished.
This knowledge is written into the constitution of my being. It has been implanted there by Someone and is found in almost every human heart.
There are friends of mine who tell me there is no hereafter, no Heaven, certainly no Hell; and sometimes I wish for their sakes that I could believe them. But I cannot, for they give no proof of what they affirm. Their denial of an afterlife will not stand up under investigation.
And even if they could prove it to their own satisfaction and mine, suppose it should happen that they were wrong! They could not then help me. They could not then alter my destiny or take my punishment for me. Having argued me into Hell, they could not argue me out of it.
But I know there is a life beyond. Man is not five or six feet of clay - five in my case and six in yours! The coffin does not contain the man. My instinct for immortality tells me that though the body may die and be placed in a coffin and later crumble to dust, the man himself, the living personality, lives on. I know by this infallible instinct that is part of my God-created being that death does not end all, and this fact is a potent reason why I am a Christian.
I am a sinner and feel guilty before God because of this sense of guilt. And since death does not affect our character, therefore death will not end this sense of condemnation.
If a man dies blaspheming God, he does not wake up in the next world to find himself singing hymns. If his heart has been full of hatred, covetousness and uncleanness here, it will be like that hereafter.
If a man boards a train in Toronto, bound for New York, he does not become another man when he arrives in New York merely because he has changed his location. He is the same man in each place.
And a man on earth with a consciousness of guilt and condemnation will carry that accusing conscience with him into the next life.
It is reasonable that God should have done so. If there is a God who made this beautiful, marvelous world; who has provided so wonderfully for all its needs, feeding the birds and beasts and fishes, providing harvests for the food of man, storing coal in the earth to keep him warm, and providing for man's physical needs in a thousand different ways, then it is inconceivable that such a wise and beneficent God would not be interested in the spiritual needs of the creatures of His making.
God must have had a purpose in creating man, and, if so, it is unthinkable that He would not desire to reveal to man that purpose.
And He has, He has. God has chosen certain men to hear from Him through His Spirit the revelation of His will and purpose concerning man, and a glorious, noble, and Godlike purpose it is.
This revelation of God's will for man was written in a Book called the Holy Bible. It tells us God is a wise and holy and infinitely loving God. It confirms the voice of our own conscience and tells me that man is a guilty sinner worthy of condemnation. It further tells me how sin came into the human heart through the fall of the first man. And, praise God, it tells me how that same sin and guilt can be taken out of the human heart through the victory of a second Man whom God sent into this world!
This Book tells me how I can be rid of sin by accepting this Man who was both God and man as my Saviour. It promises new life and new strength to overcome sin. It promises new desires and new hope and gives such promises of a future of glory as to make the man who believes it to stand spellbound in wonder, love and praise.
And this same Book that tells me of Heaven for every saved sinner, also tells me of a day of judgment and a place called Hell for those who continue in sin and unbelief, despite the offer of a kind and loving God. The same Bible that describes a Heaven for the saved declares a Hell for those who would not be saved.
The revelation of God's power and glory in the Bible harmonizes with the revelation of that power and glory seen in nature; it is consistent also with the voice of my conscience; not only so but it is confirmed by the test of experience.
Those who believe the message of the Bible and put it to the test find that it works. Just as Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, sustained His claim to deity by the performance of wonderworks humanly impossible but wrought in the power of God, so the Bible, the written Word of God, credentials its claim to divine origin by a chain of miracles humanly impossible wrought in the hearts of those who have received its glorious message: drunkards made sober; harlots made pure; thieves mad honest; the weak made strong; lives transfigured; homes transformed; villages, towns and cities transformed, until the pale of civilization is seen to be coextensive with the march of the Bible's progress.
Thus by the scientific method of putting its claims and promises to the test, I find the Bible works; and I prove it's message to be true.
I read in the Bible about the life and death of Jesus, and profane history verifies the story. The existence of Jesus of Nazareth is as well attested a fact as the existence of Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne or Napoleon Bonaparte.
Now before the fact of Christ, I face a question: Who is this Man? Jean Paul Richter said of Him,
The holiest among the mighty and the mightiest among the holy. He lifted with His pierced hands empires off their hinges, turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages.
If that be so, I am compelled to ask, "What manner of Man is this?"
Even Napoleon stood in awe before this incomparable Christ. He said in exile at St. Helena,
Everything in Christ astonishes me, His spirit soars above mine, and His will confounds me. Between Him and every other person in the world no comparison is possible. I have inspired millions of men who died for me. Certainly I possess the magical power which exalts the spirit.
Now that I am nailed to this rock, who fights and conquers empires for me? What an abyss of distance between my misery and the eternal reign of Christ, preached, loved, living through all the world. I see nothing of the human in this.
And I say, neither do I. Do you?
I ask every thinking man or woman within the sound of my voice tonight: Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus Christ not only lived a life no other man has ever lived, but He lived a life nobler than any man has ever been able to picture? The feet of Christ trod higher than the highest thought of man has ever reached.
I know what I think of Christ. What do you think of Him? That is a reasonable, a natural question. What do you think of Jesus of Nazareth?
Will you tell me you do not know who He is? Will you say, "I have not thought out that question"? Will you admit there walked the earth a Man greater than all earth's millions, and you have never given thought to His identity? Will you admit this Man stood on earth and said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," and you have never investigated the truth of that momentous claim?
Will, that is an astonishing and humiliating confession to make. To be able to read and observe and think, yet to have no clear conviction as to the identity of the Person called Jesus Christ - on whose birthday the world's calendar is based - implies mental inferiority, proves intellectual dishonesty, alleges cowardice of heart and mind.
No man in this enlightened age, throbbing with the life and teaching of Christ, can say he has never thought much about that subject and escape the charge of being a mental and moral weakling. I will repeat that. It is moral and intellectual cowardice not to be willing to look the fact of Christ straight in the face.
Who is this Man whose blameless life was the spotless perfection of sinless manhood? Is He only man? He claimed to be both God and man. Was He? He claimed to be the only way of salvation. Was He? If He was not God, He was a fraud. If He was not the Saviour, He was an impostor. Who was Jesus Christ? Honesty compelled me to face that fact, and facing it led me to become a Christian.
It is true that conscience brings a sense of guilt. But God's salvation provides a remedy for sin, a cleansing of guilt from the conscience; and those who come to the cross of Christ lose forever their burden of guilt and sin. Only those who have seen sin as it really is, who have known what was in the depths of their own sinful hearts, can appreciate what the forgiveness of sins means.
Think of it! Every sin, no matter how great or how many they may have been, has been blotted out by God. 'Thy sins have I blotted out and will remember them no more.'
In the Book of God there is not a single sin against any man whose trust is in Christ, not a single one, not even the shadow of one. So that we can say, My sin - oh, the bliss of this glorious tho't, My sin - not in part, but the whole - Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
God not only deals with sin past; He gives power to overcome sin day by day. This victory is not won by our own unaided willpower but by the Spirit of God who indwells every Christian. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." The life of God comes into our lives, and we have a daily victory over sin.
He not only lifts us out of the pit; He keeps us lifted. If He lifted us out, giving us a fresh start, then left us, we would soon be where we were. But God not only pardons a sinner - He keeps him. He lifted me out of the pit And from the miry clay. He set my feet on a rock, Establishing my way.
So I am a Christian because God daily keeps me.
Only a Christian, of course, can understand what I mean. God has put within every man a yearning for satisfaction, for peace, for joy; and that yearning can be satisfied only by knowing Jesus Christ. Nothing this world can give will satisfy completely the longing of the human heart.
You may make millions in money and have houses, lands, cars, servants, popularity, and all the pleasures wealth can buy, yet live and die without satisfying the deepest longing of your soul or knowing the greatest joy in life.
That joy and satisfaction come from being right with God through God's only way, Jesus Christ, and having the life of God flow into you and through you in blessing to others. There is no joy like this joy.
And if there is a man of the world hearing me now who has had much of this world's pleasures and physical joys, I will make you this promise: If you will this night accept Jesus Christ, you will know more real, radiant, unspeakable joy than if all the thrills of you past life were concentrated into one moment of ecstasy.
Now don't misunderstand me. This does not mean physical feeling but a sense of peace, the consciousness of sin forgiven, the presence and power of God's Holy Spirit filling your heart, and the assurance that for all time and eternity you are God's child and saved from the power and penalty of sin.
How can you compare this unspeakable joy with the passing pleasure the world gives? One may have a physical sensation of joy, but it does not last. Certainly the highest joys are not physical but spiritual. And there is no man or woman listening to me now whom God cannot fill with this radiant, unspeakable joy.
Oh, men and women unsaved, let me speak to you, not professionally as a preacher but as a fellowman and out of a full heart. How can you be content to live another moment rejecting this wonderful Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you will one day meet? How can you be willing to reject God's gracious love, despise His salvation, spurn His offered forgiveness, resist His convicting Spirit, and say, "No," to the dearest Friend a man ever had?
You have heard this testimony of mine. It is the testimony of hundreds around you here and millions elsewhere. What is your response to it? Are you willing to live the rest of your life alienated from God? How can you smile, laugh, play and pretend to be happy when you know that at the end of a Christless life there is judgment and Hell?
Consider, I beg of you, this Hell Christ pictured. He said it was a place "where their worm dieth not and the fire is (never) quenched."
He said it was a place of outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. He said it was a place where men cry out, "I am tormented in this flame." All that and more, Jesus Christ said of Hell.
Are you willing, then, to spend the endless future in a place where are gathered all the vile and debauched and degenerate who ever lived and be shut out from all the Christian people you ever knew, including those you love who are saved?
If a doctor told you just now that you had a loathsome, incurable cancer fastened on your vitals and that in six months you would be dead, would you eat, drink, and be merry those six months? In the face of that death sentence, would you laugh and joke and live your life gaily as if you were never to die? Certainly that melancholy news would spoil life's fleeting, empty pleasures, and more so as the day of your death was approaching.
Very well, I tell you with all the earnestness of my soul, and in the name of God who cannot lie, that there are a judgment and a Hell for the despiser of God's great salvation. If you hear about God's Son and His offer of salvation and, hearing, do not respond and seek forgiveness, then you have rejected the only One who can cleanse your heart and conscience and give you peace as you face the future. This peace the Christian has, for "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
What a tremendous loss not to have this peace and know it is one of the many momentous reasons why you should become a Christian!
Who among you will turn to Christ this moment and be saved? Who among you will be wise and consider your latter end? Who in this great congregation will consider these reasons I have given for being a Christian and make them your reasons?
They are not the only reasons why you should come to Christ. Every blessing of health given you by God is a reason why you should come. Every true sermon you ever heard is a reason. Every prayer offered for you is a reason. Every year you have to live here and hereafter is a reason. Every saved friend you have is a reason. Every stripe laid on Christ's back when He was wounded for your transgressions is a reason. Every angel in Heaven waiting to rejoice over your salvation is a reason why you should come to Christ and be saved and why you should come now.
I have read the sermon by Dr. John Linton, "Why I Am a Christian." I believe that Jesus Christ died for me and that He will save me if I trust Him. I wait no longer. Here and now I accept Him as my Saviour. I am completely depending upon Him to save me and take me to Heaven when I die.
Let us know about your decision by E-Mail so that we may rejoice with you.
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