|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Sins: Secret and Manifest (Audio - End Missing)|
|Text||1 Timothy ch.5 vv.24-25 |
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"Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid" (1 Timothy 5,24-25).
1. There will be a Day of Judgment
2. Who will be judged
3. Are you prepared for judgment?
Let's begin with a few questions. Would you like to live in a world where evil triumphs and where virtue fails? Would you like to live in a world where might prevailed over right in the end? Would you like to live in a world where there's going to be a happy ending for the wicked? and a bitter ending for the good? Would you like to live in a world where there are no rules as to how people ought to live or what standard people ought to observe?
It seems to be part of the spirit of the age that many people today would like to live in a world just of that kind - a world which is non-moral. We call it 'post-modernism'. The idea behind this word post-modernism is something like this: you live as you choose and I will live as I choose. If we work in the same office or in the same school, you don't ask me anything about my private life and I won't ask you anything about yours. If you want to live like the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, that's your business and nobody else's. And if I choose to be a thief, adulterer, a murderer, a rapist, a bank robber - that's my business and you should leave that to me.
There are people who wish to live, I say, in a non-moral world - not only a world which is immoral, not simply a world which is a moral maze, but they wish to live in a world where there is just no such thing as good and no such thing as evil. They would like to live in a world which is a moral vacuum - like one of these anesthetic bubbles that you can put very seriously contagiously ill people in so that they have no contact at all with anybody else; everybody is an island unto himself; everybody lives precisely as he wishes and every man does that which is right in his own eyes.
It's very strange that the same people who would like that to be true of the moral world have the very opposite view when it comes to their favorite sport. You can imagine a crowd of twenty, or fifty, or a hundred thousand people watching, let us say, a game of football in which there were no rules and in which there was no referee and where there were no linesmen to signal offside or ball out of play. And these same people who would like to live in a non-moral world where there are no rules seem to be very indignant at the slightest infringement of any of the rules to do with their favourite sport. Only let the referee make a slight mistake in judgment and they're ready to lynch him. Only let the linesman make a slight misjudgment as to where the ball really was, in their opinion, and they're ready to force them into exile. How inconsistent human nature is!
My questions were to lead you to this point: to say to you that we live in a world where there are moral rules, whether men like it or not. And moreover we are playing the game of life and there is a referee in this game. I speak by way of illustration. If I were to use Bible language I would not call Him a referee. I would call Him the Great Judge.
That's what the Apostle Paul is bringing before our attention in the words of my text. Let me read them again. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment" (text). Notice those words first, "going before to judgment." It's a reminder to us of the great coming Day of Judgment. Now the Bible tells us about this day over and over and over again. You can't read many chapters of the Bible without being reminded of the coming Judgment Day.
No preacher talks more about the coming Judgment Day than the great Judge Himself - the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord has sermons about judgment, He has parables about judgment, He has pithy statements about judgment, He illustrates judgment, He uses Old Testament cases to bring the point more clearly before us - and judgment is one of the supremely great themes of Jesus Christ's preaching. That is true of the whole Bible; it is a Bible and it is a book that tells us much about the Day of Judgment.
Well let's consider it in terms of what is said in my text. The first thing I would like to say is this. The Day of Judgment, probably, at the end of the world, will be a very long day. Maybe it will last for hundreds of years - maybe for thousands of years. Or, if you want to be more accurate, it will last for a long period of the eternity in which men will then be. This seems pretty obvious because sin has been in the process of being committed for thousands of years, by millions of people. And it will take, surely, a long time for all those people to come to the judgment seat of Christ and a long time for all those sins to be judged.
The Judgment Day, says the Bible, is a day when people of all ages will be present. There will be old men like Methuselah - nearly one thousand years of age. And at the same time there will be babes who were aborted - who never saw the light of day. They will all be there - people of all ages and people of all generations from the beginning of time to the end. All who have ever lived must take their position in front of Christ the Judge and give their account to Him. All the nations will be represented - every single one.
Now that is the teaching of the Word of God. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5,10). And that is what Paul is referring to in my text. Listen, "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after" (text).
Now it is very suitable that the judge on that day will be none other than Christ. It is absolutely appropriate that Christ shall be the judge, firstly, because He Himself has got our human nature; He is a man and He has been through this world. He has breathed our air, eaten our food, trodden the dust of our earth, taken His place in real history. He had a family. He knew what it was to be poor. He knew what it was to live in a house, to do a job of work. He has been through all the things that you and I have to go through. He has the experience of manhood and so He is well fitted to judge the world.
At the same time, this same Jesus Christ is the most perfectly suited person to be our judge because He is also God and He knows everything. Nothing will be outside His knowledge. Nothing will escape His attention.
You know, when there are human cases of judgment and human courts and human judges sometimes mistakes are made, very understandably, because the judge may not have heard all the evidence. He may not have heard all the witnesses. There may be material facts that he just did not know and so his verdict may be coloured and it may be false because his understanding is only partial.
But that will not be the case with the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows everything about everything and about every one and consequently there will be no mistakes made - and so all authority is given to Him to be the sole and only judge of the world.
Now it stands to reason that the basis of judgment will be the Word of God. If you want to know on what grounds will Christ judge you and me, and on what basis will He form His verdict on your life and mine, I say to you it's on the basis of the Bible. Now it is very commonplace for people to scoff at the Bible. It is very easy business scoffing at the Bible. It is very cheap to say that the Bible is an old book, hundreds of years old. It is very easy to say the Bible is a boring book - not that I find it so, but there are some apparently who do. But I have to say to you that however boring people may find the Bible, or however old fashioned they may suppose it to be, it is important at least in this way that it is the basis upon which God in Christ will judge the whole world. And one would have thought that at least that was a very pertinent consideration. This book gives us the Ten Commandments. And the Ten Commandments are the basis upon which everyone's life who ever lived will be assessed.
Christ will assign to each one of us our everlasting destiny - in heaven or hell - and He will do so on the basis of His own holy truth. We know that the Moral Law, the Ten Commandments, is absolute righteousness and absolute holiness. The Bible refers to it as a plummet; it says that "judgment shall be to the plummet" (Isaiah 28,17).
Now young people may not know much about plummets so a word of explanation may do no harm. When you're building a wall in a modern society we have a thing called a spirit-level and if you want your wall to be vertical and not to be leaning, then you keep on checking your bricks as you go higher and higher with this spirit-level. If you don't do that, unless you're an outstandingly good bricklayer, you are very likely to produce a wall that is not vertical. Well, in the days of the Bible there weren't spirit-levels; they didn't have them. What they did have was a piece of lead on the end of a string and the duty of one of the builders was every now and again he would put his string over the top of the wall and he would make sure that the wall was parallel to the string.
"Judgment is to the plummet." Judgment means that Jesus Christ will judge all that you have done. That is what is to be judged - all that you have done from the day of your birth until the day of your death. And not simply what you have done, but Jesus Christ will judge all the motives. Why did you do it? Not simply what you did but why you did it. He will uncover our motives. And He will also judge the secret things which go on in our secret minds and in our secret lives; the things that nobody else knows about you and me - and there are quite a lot of those, are there not? - things you would rather nobody heard about; what we sometimes call the skeletons in our cupboard; things that we would rather forget in the past. Well, all those secret things will be judged.
Think of the story of Achan in the book of Joshua - it is a very good example of a secret sin. They didn't know, in Israel, that this man had stolen the things that were dedicated to God; things that should have been burned by fire; things that had been taken out of Jericho. This man coveted them; he confesses later he coveted them; he saw them - the wedge of gold, the goodly Babylonish garment, pieces of silver, and he secreted them away. When no one was looking, under cover, he smuggled into his tent and he buried them under his tent. Nobody knew. And his hope, of course, was that nobody would ever know. But God saw it and all Israel suffered in the battle - a number of them were killed in battle and all of them were chased by their enemies of Ai because God had seen this wickedness, this secret sin, and it brought a judgment upon them all. "Israel hath sinned," says God, "in the accursed thing...they cannot stand before their enemies because the sin is in their midst. They must put away this evil," says God, "out of the midst" (Joshua 7,11-13). And that's what they did. They took Achan and all his family, because presumably they were all a part of this, and they stoned them with stones and they died. And they called the place where he died the Valley of Achor; where Achan was stoned to death for his secret sin.
Well, that is what is going to happen on the Day of Judgment. God is going to judge us all. And the Bible would have us know there will be no exceptions. People will not be able to opt out. Now they can opt out in this life. People don't have to go to church; they don't have to read the Bible; they don't have to listen to a preacher; they don't have to sing the Psalms. They can stay at home, watch television, take their drugs or whatever they do, do anything they want. There's no one really going to stop them, within reason. They don't have to come to the church, but they do have to appear before the Judgment Seat. There is no option on that one. "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5,10).
Now that is why the Bible makes it very clear that we should begin to take an interest in our own souls - and in Jesus Christ's gospel - because our own soul is in danger of being lost. If we don't take heed to our own soul and prepare for the Judgment Day, Then, says the Bible, we lose everything. The gamble is so terrible - we lose not only our life, but our very soul and everything we could possibly wish.
Well that's the first thing and I come now to the second thing in my text at verses 24 and 25. Here in these two verses the Apostle Paul tells us about four kinds of person who is going to come to the Judgment Day. Let me show you what they are.
"Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid" (text). Now he's giving us a picture here of four different types of human being. Men or women or children - they're all in this together. He's saying that these four kinds of people include everybody who ever has lived; you and I and everybody else, we're in one of these four classes. As we read and look at this together you might want to ask yourself, Which of these am I? Well let's look at them in order.
First of all he says this, "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment" (text). Now what he means here is that there are some people and their sins are very clear to everybody. Some people, before they come to the Judgment Day, their sins are obvious; their sins can be read by the whole world.
I remember when I was a teenager I had been hitchhiking in France (something I wouldn't do today but I did in those days) and there were two other young men with me. We were back in London after having been in France and we had our heavy rucksacks on our back and not very much money. We came to London and accommodation in London was even in those days very expensive, so we decided to do something which was rather foolish. We decided to try to spend the night in a Salvation Army hostel. It was very cheap, maybe half a crown, which is just a few pence. So we stood in a queue - three young men, very obviously schoolboys.
It wasn't very long before about twenty older men, mostly unshaven and rather rough looking, gathered round us and began to ask for money. We were as green as grass and I suppose we gave them what money we had - a shilling here, a sixpence there. It wasn't long before other men, equally unshaven, joined the queue and looked for a handout. It was easy picking, wasn't it? Then these men began to quarrel one with another because one was getting a shilling and the other one wasn't - so there was a fisticuffs began. The next thing that happened was along came a London policeman. He quelled the riot, and he said to us, Look here, he said, if I were you I would find somewhere else to stay the night - and we did; we took his advice.
Now I tell you that story just to show one thing. Sadly, those men's sins were open beforehand; they were on drink and drugs; they had dirty clothes which told you something about their sad lives, and so on. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment" (text). It's a very sad thing to see people in that state - but they are going to be judged. Isn't that a terrible thought? They have no Bible knowledge to speak of. They have no salvation for their souls. They have no knowledge of Christ, and yet these men, sadly, and women, with their dirty clothes and dirty lives and dirty habits, they're going to stand before the splendour of Christ as before a tremendous searchlight - and He is going to pronounce upon them where they will eternally go.
Now, I'm not saying they can't be saved. People like that can be saved. From the roughest and toughest of backgrounds people can be saved - through the grace of God. We must never be dismissive of these people; we must never look down our noses at them as though they were so much dirt. No, no they are human beings. Although, sadly, their sins are manifest to the whole world - they can be saved.
There was a great case in the last century of a man called Francis Thompsen - a very clever man. He sank down and down and down and down into the gutter of life. Drunkenness was there and everything else no doubt. He was reduced to the point in which he was in places like the Piccadilly Circus in London selling bootlaces to passersby, and matches - you know these wretched little places where men will sell bootlaces. He was that far down. Francis Thompsen tells us when he was there Jesus Christ had mercy on his soul and he became a true child of God. But he came out of this first group - "some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment" (text). That's the first class, and the second class are these.
"And some men, they follow after" (text). Some men have sins that are not visible. Now what kind of men are these? Well, they are churchgoing people. They are not like the first class. These people wear clean clothes, and they look it. Their lives appear to be highly respectable and you would say they are very decent folk. They are probably churchgoing people, probably in important places in life - leaders, professionals, some of them are monks, some of them are nuns, some of them are bishops, some of them are cardinals, some of them are popes, some of them are Presbyterian ministers, and all the rest of them.
But the Bible says about them that their sins are following them to the judgment; that is to say, their sins are not visible to us. We would never think that they're not going to heaven. If we were to look at them, and their lives, and the kind of people they are we would say, Well they are obviously Christians; obviously they're on the way to heaven. Their sins, in other words, are concealed; they are not seen. Now Jesus Christ tells about these people a number of times in His preaching. He compares them to what He called 'whited sepulchres'. Now that needs an explanation.
A sepulchre is a tomb, and in the times of the Jews dead bodies were regarded as ceremonially unclean. Anybody who accidentally or purposely touched a dead body became ceremonially unclean; that is to say, before they could go about their ordinary business or worship God they had to have water sprinkled on them in a ceremony. Now if you touched a dead body not realizing it was a dead body then you would be unclean without knowing it. If you came to a tomb and it was whitewashed over and you didn't realize it was a tomb and you touched it - you would be contaminated, ceremonially.
That is what these people were like. He was referring, of course, to the Pharisees, the Sadduccees, the Chief Priests - and He said, You are like white washed tombs or sepulchers; You look so clean on the outside, but on the inside you are full of corruption like dead men's bones. Many who touch them become themselves contaminated.
Now that's the class number two mentioned here, "Some men's sins they follow after" (text). In other words, they're dead before you realize that they have a whole mass of sin - not the outward sins of the dirty life so much as the inward sins of pride, envy, malice, hypocrisy, jealousy - those inward things that are just as wicked in the sight of God as are the sins of those who wear the dirty clothes; "some men, they follow after."
Now the third group is mentioned in verse 25, "Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand" (text). Now he's referring here to those children of God and Christian people whose lives are full of good works. Now we could give a large list of these people, and I'm going to mention one or two to make the point.
For instance, Dr. Bernardo, in the Victorian time, was a man who devoted his life to helping orphans - Dr. Bernardo's Homes. Another one like him was George Mueller of Bristol - devoted his entire life to helping boys and girls who had no living parents; they were just thrown out on the streets. He would go round and he would round these children up and give them clean clothes, a bed to sleep in; he would give them education; he would make sure they had proper food and were well educated - given a training for life - and then he would see them into a job. There were hundreds and hundreds of these boys and girls all over the country, all over the world, who thank God for George Mueller and people like him.
Or again, you could think of William Wilberforce. Now he again, a little earlier, was a man who did wonderful work. His works for God were well known and are still well known. He obstructed a terrible evil called the triangulation system. What was that? Well, ships used to go from Liverpool and Bristol down to west Africa, and there in Africa the people would buy black people - black boys, black girls, black men, black women - for money. And then they did a terrible thing. They had ships which had special rows and rows of decks, and they would force these black people onto their back and then they would put shackles on their hands and feet and hammer nails into the deck so that they couldn't move. They were carried from West Africa right across the ocean to America, and the few of them that survived (because many didn't) were thrown out into the open market and they were sold like cattle. William Wilberforce spent his whole life as a Christian defying this wicked practice! And eventually he and his brethren prevailed - and thank God he did. He did great work.
The same could be said about Lord Shoksbury. You know, boys and girls and young people, in those days, children were sent up chimneys to clean the soot out of chimneys in these Victorian houses, and there was a master of these children. He would beat them up and they had to go up into these horrible narrow chimneys - up and up and up. It was a terrible job with the soot falling on you - you couldn't breathe. The boys would come back completely coated over, half dead. And this went on and the master made the money and the boys had to do it morning, noon, and night. Other children were sent down into the mines to open the doors where carriages were carrying coal from one part of the mine to the other - quarter of a mile down in the earth. And they were doing that from the age of about seven or eight. Girls - stark naked - in the darkness all day opening a door like this; they couldn't see anything in front of their faces. And Lord Shoksbury and others like him said, This must stop! They brought in what we call the Factory Act. They made it impossible for employers to exploit young children anymore. And we thank God for the humanity which these people had, and the vision they had.
That is the third class of people, "Some men's good works are manifest beforehand" (text). Their good works are known to all the world.
And then there's the final class of those who are going to be judged, right at the end of the chapter, "and they that are otherwise, cannot be hid" (text). Now this fourth group of people consists of those who have done good works in this world but nobody has heard about it. These are the ones who go to hospital beds and share a kind word for God to the sick. They don't get on the television for doing that. They don't get headline news in the national press for doing that, but their good works are noticed by Christ the Judge. These are the ones who give money quietly to charity. They take seriously what Jesus Christ said, "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" (Matthew 6,3). They give money, quietly, to the work of God in the world.
These are the ones who spend time on their knees, secretly, in prayer. Now they're not famous for this. People don't say, Oh have you heard of that woman, that widow, that unmarried lady who spends all those hours on her knees in prayer every week? People don't know about it. They cannot know about it - it's done in the quietness of their own homes.
And those who show loving hospitality to the Lord's people, and those who encourage the Lord's people - now this is the class of persons referred to here, "they that do otherwise". Their good works are there, but no human eye is aware of them. But they will be made aware of them when the Judgment Day comes. You see? "They that are otherwise cannot be hid" (text). The good works of those who work for Christ in secret, quietly, doing what they can for the cause of God, these are the ones, also, who will come to be judged, and Christ will tell the universe what they have done for Him quietly and silently.
Well now, I must say to you my friends that every one of us comes somewhere into this passage of scripture. Either your sins are open beforehand, or they are secret. Either your good works are manifest, or they will follow on after you. You may know what your class and condition is, and I may not know - nor does it matter that I should.
But I would like to say this to you, that if your life is in class one, or if your life is in class two, I must remind you that you need above everything else to have your sins dealt with now in this present time because there will be no opportunity to have your sins dealt with on the Judgment Day. When Christ returns, it will not be to pardon sins. Sins are not pardoned in the Judgment Day if the sins that we have committed are not already pardoned in this life.
When Jesus Christ comes it will not be to pardon sin - it will be to justify the righteous and to condemn the wicked. It will be to give heaven to the one, and to give hell to the other - everlasting life to the one, and everlasting death to the other.
This brings me to say to you, my friend, young or old whoever you are, you need once again to remember the gospel of Christ our Lord - that the Judge who will judge you has first of all become the Saviour who has died to give you life. He came into the world and was crucified for our sins. He died "the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3,18). He was made sin for us "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5,21).
Your need is to believe on this Jesus. Your supreme need is to get right with God by faith in Christ - to repent! of the wickedness of your life whatever it is, whether it be public sin or private sin or secret sin. What you need is to cry to God in your soul that He will have mercy upon you! and that He will prepare you for the great Judgment Day to which you are travelling, as the rest of us are - that the blood of Jesus Christ may cleanse you and that you may have faith in Christ and that you may do service to Christ here in this life.
Those who are already converted are already prepared for the Judgment Day. When John Wesley was once asked a question, he gave a great reply. They said to John Wesley, "Mr. Wesley, if you were to be told that tomorrow Christ would come again to judge the world, what would you do now?" And the great John Wesley said, "I would do what I have done for the past twenty or thirty years. I would get up early in the morning, I would pray to God on my knees, I would read His Word, I would go out into the country and preach Christ to those who would listen, and I would do exactly what I have done before." Oh happy man! He had nothing in his life to change.
But not everyone can say that, can they. Are there things, my friend, that you ought to change in your life? Are you ready for this judgment? Are your sins going before you? or are they coming after you? Are you a manifest sinner? or are you a secret sinner? Or are you a true saint, converted to God with the spirit of heaven already in your soul and prepared to meet the Judge when He comes?
Let me finish very briefly with a story I read in a magazine some years ago of a young boy. I'm going to call him Paul. This young boy came from a home where the father was a drunkard and there was no money for anything. Whatever money the mother had she only had it because she wrested it from the clutches of her husband. Paul's home was a miserable home. The father drank, and drank, and drank.
One day there was a knock at the door. It was Sabbath School teachers from a nearby church, and they said to the parents would they come to church and let the boy come to the Sabbath School. Well, said the parents, we won't go to church, but this boy can go to the Sabbath School if he wishes. So he went. And in the Sabbath School he learned how Christ had come into the world to die for sinners, and this young child Paul believed.
The day came when he took seriously ill and had to be confined to his bed. And in his bed, when he was there coughing - I presume it was tuberculosis, which was a killer then - the doctor was called and examined him. The father sat on one side of the bed and mother on the other, and when the doctor had examined him he shook his head and he said, This child is gravely ill and can hardly be expected to live. So the doctor rose and went on his way, and the mother went downstairs.
The father remained seated on the bed. He looked at the child Paul and he said, I am very sorry. I have been a very bad father to you. Oh, said Paul, Father, don't say that - I love you still! But father I want you to do something for me before I die. Oh, said the father, Don't talk about dying my son. It's true, said Paul, I must die - but I'm not afraid, father. I've come to faith in Christ. When I die I shall be with God and with the angels - forever.
And then the boy looked at his father hard in his face. But father, shall I see you there? The father put his eyes down. I don't think so, he said. I've lived a wicked life. I have been a heavy drinker, as you know. Well then, said Paul, I want you to do one thing before I die. I want you now to go on your knees and to pray to God that He will have mercy upon you and forgive you. Oh I can't, said the father, my heart is so hard. I would be a hypocrite. God would not listen to such a wicked man's prayer. Father, said the boy, you hold my hand and I will hold yours. Put your big hands round my little hands, and I'll pray quietly to God while you pray to God. He will hear you - if you mean it.
Moved out of love for Paul, to whom he had been so poor a father, the parent knelt down at the bedside holding his son's frail hands in his as he prepared to pray to God. He gasped and struggled to find words with which to pray to the God whom he had for so many years neglected and ignored.
As he struggled thus to pray something like ice melted in his heart and he poured out his soul to God. Hot tears of genuine repentance ran down his face. Not just for one moment or for two did he pray to God but for many minutes till a wonderful assurance filled his heart that God had given him forgiveness.
When at length the father's prayer was finished he looked up into Paul's face. The child's hands were now strangely cold and his body stiff. Paul had gone to be with the angels. But in death there was a serene smile on his face. He had in these moments died. But before he had gone to heaven Paul had heard his father's prayer for mercy. He now knew that his dear father would one day be with him in glory with Christ.
Dear friends, God is ready to pardon all your sins and he can do so in a moment if you will turn to him in faith. Are you not prepared to pray in this way to God for mercy? Will you not make your peace with God? Then why not do so right now in the silence of your own heart?
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