Sermon 2179. God Fighting Sin
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, DECEMBER 28, 1890.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"But they rebelled, and vexed His Holy Spirit; therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them." Isaiah 63:10.
THIS is a terrible case. When God is turned to be a man's enemy and fights against him, he is in a desperate plight. Withother enemies we may contend with some hope of success, but not with the Omnipotent. The enmity of others is an affliction,but the enmity of God is destruction. If He turns to be our enemy, then everything is turned against us. The stars in theircourses fight against us and the stones in the fields are in league for our stumbling. "If God is for us, who can be againstus?" But if God is against us, who can be for us? The words read like a funeral knell-"He was turned to be their enemy, andHe fought against them."
This shows us that God is not indifferent to sin. Men may try to persuade themselves that God does not care-that it is nothingto Him how men act-whether they break or keep His Laws. Men plead that He is "kind to the unthankful and to the evil," andthe same event happens to all, both to the righteous and to the wicked. And so, indeed, it seems for the present. Our shortsightednessmay even assure us that the ungodly prosper and have the best of it-but this is only our blindness. God hates sin now andalways! He would not be God if He did not. God is stirred with righteous indignation against every kind of evil-it moves HisSpirit to anger.
Some believe in an impassive God, but certainly the God of the Bible is never so described. He is represented in Holy Scriptureafter the manner of men, but how else could He be represented to men? If He were represented after the manner of God, youand I could understand nothing at all of the description-but as He is represented to us in Scripture-the Lord notes sin, feelssin, grows angry with sin, is provoked and His Holy Spirit is vexed by the rebellion of men. Let me read the solemn test again-"Butthey rebelled, and vexed His Holy Spirit; therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them."
God is always the same, but His acts vary. He changes not and yet He is represented in our text as turning. He turns in Hisactions though He does not turn in His purposes. He often wills a change though He never changes His will. He is always thesame God, but He does not always show us the same side of His Character. Sometimes He manifests mercy, at other times justice-Heis as much God in the one case as in the other. At one time He makes a world. At another time He destroys it-but He is thesame Jehovah. A change in His outward dispensation does not argue any change in His inward disposition. He is an unchangingGod of whom we read, "He was turned to be their enemy."
Having said these two or three things as a helpful commencement, I would invite you to consider this remarkably impressiveverse with very great reverence and awe. May the Holy Spirit help us! The current idea, now, is, "Never preach anything thatis dreadful or terrible. If you do, you will earn as bad a character as Spurgeon." Now, I am not ashamed, in the least degree,to have a bad character for preaching against the evil of sin and declaring the sure punishment of it. What have I to gainby such preaching? Shall I get the applause of men?
No, the whole current of this generation's liking rushes the other way! Let the preacher tell men that they may live as theylike and that it will be all right in the long run, and that will please them. Universal salvation is a very popular doctrineamong the "cultured" folk. I want none of your popularity! I will preach to you, as long as this tongue moves in my head,God's Truth, whether it offends or pleases! And the day shall declare who best loved your souls-those who could flatter, orthose who spoke the unpalatable Truth of God.
Our text has in it very little, apparently, that may minister comfort to anybody and yet my persuasion is that if, with reverentheart, you lend your ear to what it teaches, it will lead you into a surer comfort than you will ever find in the
philosophies of men, yes-it will bring your conscience into a state of rest with God for which you will bless God as longas you live!
I. First, MY TEXT BELONGS TO THE LORD'S OWN OFFENDING CHILDREN. Let me try to find them out and lay this text home to them.There are some of God's own people-really converted, saved people-who have, nevertheless, degenerated into such a state ofsin that the Lord is turned to be their enemy! If you read this chapter, you will see that it is so. Let me begin at the seventhverse. "I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hasbestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,and according to the multitude of His loving kindnesses. For He said, Surely they are My people, children that will not lie:so He was their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His Presence saved them: in His love andin His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed His HolySpirit; therefore He was turned to be their enemy."
See, dear Friends-once they were on the lap of love, once they lay in the bosom of favor, once they knew the sympathy of Christ,once they could sing of loving kindnesses and a multitude of mercies-but they rebelled. Is it not a shocking thing that thefavored people of God should backslide? Is it not sad that they who have eaten the bread of Heaven should hunger for the ashesof this world-that men who have lain in the bosom of Christ should, nevertheless, play the traitor to Him and provoke Hisanger? Yet it is so, sadly so-we have seen it so in others. God grant that it may not be so with us!
These people, after tasting all this love and all this favor, became rebellious. He calls them "rebels." They were not merelychildren that made a mistake, children that fell through folly, but "they rebelled." Does the child of God ever get into thatstate? Yes, children have rebelled. David thus erred and many others have shamefully rebelled against their God. I cannotsay how far a man who has tasted of the Grace of God may go in sin but, I pray you, do not experiment with it! No, let uskeep as far away from sin as possible. Yet it appears that those with whom the Savior had such sympathy that in all theiraffliction He was afflicted, nevertheless "rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit."
Well, then, what happened? Now we come to the text, indeed-"He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them."This is the story in many cases. He sends affliction. There come upon the man's harvest the palmer worm, the caterpillar andthe canker worm. There come upon his business a blight and a blast. He cannot understand it, for where everything seemed togo well, all affairs now go amiss. All that he gets is like money poured into a bag that is full of holes. Seeing that heis a child of God and has become a rebel, he has vexed God's Spirit-and chastisement falls upon him.
Perhaps he is brought low by a painful disease. Perhaps a dear child is taken away. Affliction comes into the family one wayor another-not the affliction of Job which tried him for God's Glory-but the affliction of Jacob who was afflicted in hisfamily because that family had become defiled with sin. God is jealous and deals severely with His erring children. He sendsthem affliction, but worse than that, He turns to be their enemy and He fights against them by withholding the comforts ofthe Holy Spirit. Oh, how they once enjoyed a sermon! It was full of Grace and the Truth of God. They do not enjoy it now.
The same preacher. Other people are edified as much as before. But they are not. Such a man goes to pray, but he feels noSpirit pleading within. He reads the Bible and it is a dead letter. He seeks the company of Christian people, but their societyis dreary to him and yields no solace. God has shut up the windows of Heaven. He has made the angels cease to bring down blessingsby the way of the golden ladder. God has turned to be his enemy and fights against him. I have known cases in which true peopleof God (I know they were the true people of God, for they have come back and they never did lose the life of God, even whenthey were away from Him) have come to this-that God has fought against them in their prayers and they seemed to pray likea man shouting inside a great copper caldron where every sound echoes in his ears like thunder.
I charge you that are the people of God to mind what you are doing, for God, who loves you, will deal roughly with you ifyou sin against Him. Remember that text, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punishyou for all your iniquities." As I have often said, if a man saw a boy in the street breaking windows, or doing mischief,he might say very little to him. But if he was his own boy, he would give him a smart blow and send him home- and so is itwhen the Lord catches His own children sinning. He may let the common sinner go on and sin until judgment
shall be executed-but as for His own children-they cannot transgress with impunity. "He was turned to be their enemy, andHe fought against them."
At such times, if they still pursue any Christian career of usefulness, they are smitten with great barrenness and their workis without efficacy. I should greatly sorrow if my words brought bruising to the most tender of God's people, but yet I knowthat it is so. If the preacher leaves his God, his God will leave him to preach in vain. If the teacher quits the Savior,the Savior will quit the teacher and leave him, or her, to fail with the children. What generally happens with a ministerwhen God has gone? Well, instead of going to God and humbling himself and crying to Him for mercy, he resolves that he willbuy a new organ! That will do the trick!
The new organ, after all, blow it as they may, does not come to much. Well, then, he will have sensational entertainments,a Sunday evening concert-fiddling, or something or other! If God will not help him, he is in the same plight as Saul, theson of Kish. He will try music first, and if that does not render him aid, he will go to the witch of Endor, now called "moderntheology," and ask assistance there! God have mercy upon us, if we ever do that! I do not wish for success in the ministryif God does not give it to me-and I pray that you, who are workers for God, may not wish to have any success except that whichcomes from God Himself in God's own way-for if you could heap up, like the sand of the sea, converts that you had made byodd, unchristian ways, they would be gone like the sand of the sea as soon as another tide comes up.
O child of God, do not try to do without God! Do not bring in new inventions to patch up the breach that your sin has made!If the Lord turns to be your enemy and fights against you, bow before Him and confess your wrong. I leave this point whenI have made solemn enquiry. Am I speaking to any Christian man or woman to whom this text is sorrowfully true? Is not sinthe curse of your sorrow? I beseech you, do not trifle with this matter. It is a very solemn thing to have God fighting againstyou. Say to Him, "Show me why You contend with me." But do not despair. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, He would havesternly said, "He is joined to ideas: let him alone." To leave a man altogether alone is God's ultimatum with the hopeless-butto flog the wanderer back to his Lord is love in a mask.
The wise man can see beneath the mask and understand that it is because God would not destroy you with the wicked that thereforeHe now brings you under the discipline of His family and makes you feel that sin and smart must go together in an heir ofHeaven. Seek the Lord! Cry unto Him and confess your sin! The parable of the prodigal son belongs much more to you than itdoes to an unconverted person, for you can call God, "Father," and you may come back to Him as a son-for you are His son,notwithstanding all your riotous living in the far country and all your wasting of your Father's substance.
Arise, and go to Him at once. You know the way. Retrace it. You know your Father-fly to Him immediately. Put your head onHis bosom and sob out your confession, "Father, I have sinned"-and before this present service is over, you shall receiveyour Lord's full absolution and you shall feel yourself-
"To your Father's bosom pressed, Once again a child confessed. From His house no more to roam, But with God to rest at home."
God will soon put away the rod when you put away the sin. If He does not stay the chastisement, you will patiently bear itand bless Him that He has forgiven you-for that is the chief thing to be thought of. As a rule, the Lord ceases to fight againstthe man who ceases from sin, but if He does not, prostrate yourself before Him.
There is a picture in a quaint old book which represents a man with a flail trying to strike another. The man who is assailedruns close in, so that the adversary cannot strike him. Run in upon God and He cannot strike you! What does He say? "Let himtake hold of My strength; and he shall make peace with Me." That is-go right up to God who has been smiting you, and say,"Lord, I fully submit to You. By the heart of Your compassion, I pray You, forgive me and restore me to Your love." He hasno pleasure that you should suffer-as His dear child He would have you happy. He is grieved that you should wander away fromHim. Come back at once, Backslider! Come back even now! The Lord enable you to do so now, for Jesus' sake!
II. THE TEXT IS TRUE TO THOSE WHO CANNOT SAY THAT THEY ARE THE PEOPLE OF God-who
would give their eyes if they could. Many an awakened sinner feels that he has rebelled and vexed God's Holy Spirit- and nowhe feels that God has turned to be his enemy and is fighting against him by sending him trouble. Yes, he was
getting on splendidly and his prosperity was a snare to him. He had plenty of money and therefore he could go into every placeof amusement and every haunt of vice. Now he mourns an empty pocket. Tonight he hardly knows where he is going to find lodging.He was a young gentleman once, but he has to herd with beggars, now.
Yes, many and many a man has been brought down, by lechery and drunkenness, to the lowest abyss of penury. God has turnedto be his enemy, for all things fail him. He has tried to get employment and he cannot. He has worn his boots off his feetand he cannot find work. Perhaps I speak to some young woman here whose course has been far away from God and she, too, hascome down in another sense. Health is gone. Alas, for that laughing girl! That hectic flush upon her cheek tells that theworm is within the fruit. Poor soul! She is sickening. She will pass away and she is still without hope.
God has turned to be her enemy, (so she thinks), and He fights against her, for the medicine is of no use to her- while otherpeople seem to have been cured-she remains as sickly as ever. There are those here against whom God has been fighting of lateand when God fights, it is not child's play, nor mere buffeting-He fights, indeed. Perhaps He may be fighting with some ofyou in this respect, that your spirits are gone. You were once as merry as a cricket. You used to count it one of the easiestthings to drive dull care away. Oh, what a jolly fellow you were! And now you cannot hold up your head. An awful depressionhas come upon you and you cannot look up.
It may have been through a sermon-or you were all alone, thinking-and you began to feel despondent, melancholy, unhappy. Godis fighting against you and in the depths of your soul you feel His frown. Or else you are in monetary difficulties. Formerly,your prosperity was your ruin. You could not be saved while you were rich and your ease and your carelessness had to be brokenin upon. There was no saving you without burning up the bed in which you slept so securely! God is tearing to pieces all yourdeceitful joy and making you see the truth of matters. I should not wonder if God is fighting against some of you in anotherway, so that your flimsy notions of religion are all going.
You formerly boasted, "I can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ whenever I like and it will be all right." You once thoughtit such an easy thing to believe, but you do not find it so now. You have been thinking about salvation, lately, and it isnot quite such a trifling matter as you thought it was. Why, now you cry, "I cannot feel! What is worse, I cannot believe,I cannot remember! I cannot restrain myself from evil, I seem possessed by the devil! God help me, for I cannot help myself!"God does not seem to help you, but He makes you feel more of your weakness than you ever knew before- and the more you laborto be better, the worse you are. "He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them."
In the progress of this battle you may have suffered very serious damage. There came a man into this Tabernacle, some yearsago, who said, "I got spoiled one Sunday morning. I came into this Tabernacle and I thought that I was as good a man as anytradesman within 50 miles of the place." Said he, "I went out spoiled, for I was made to confess that I was as bad as anybodyin Newington, or within a thousand miles of the place." That is what comes to us when God begins to fight against our self-righteousness.
I thought myself, as a child, a good and decent lad till I saw my own heart. I was a fine soldier till God came with His battle-ax,smashed in my shield and hewed away my finery. I stood there, in my own apprehension at that time, the worst youth that hadever lifted his hand against God! God makes great havoc with the trappings of self-righteousness. Our tawdry finery soon goesto pieces when the Truth of God deals with it. At such times, when God is fighting against a man, his inward sorrows seemto increase. His memory shouts at him, "Remember this! Remember that! Remember the other! Remember that night of sin! Rememberthat day of rebellion!"
His fears rise up and stalk like grim ghosts before him. His hopes that once sang sweet siren songs, now turn their sonnetsinto dirges. His expectations fail. The man's thoughts are all a case of knives, cutting his soul at every point. O Sirs,when God besieges the town of Mansoul, He sets His batteries against every gate! His artillery is turned against every partof the wall! His big shells burst in the center of the heart! The Lord is a man of war, Jehovah is His name! When He goesforth to battle, it shall be terrible for the man against whom He fights. I hear you say to me, "You are giving a very terribledescription." I am not describing everybody that is saved. Many come to Christ very readily and simply trust in Him and liveat once.
But, my Hearer, you are not of that tender sort. You would not come. A mother's tears could not persuade you. Your teacher'sexhortations could not induce you. Even the gentler dealings of God could not drive or draw you and you have lived in sintill at last God has effectively taken you in hand. Your conscience is awakened-you cannot go on any
longer as you now are. "Oh," says one, "I do not feel like that." Alas, I wish you did! I have to meet with a great many peopleof a sorrowful spirit. They are constantly seeking me out. I have known them come for many a mile to have a talk with me,for they seem to think that I know something about these wounds and bruises. They are right in their belief, although thefact causes me great labor among the sad.
Oh, dear Hearts, if God fights against you, throw down your weapons! Pull those feathers out of your caps! Down on your facesbefore Him! Yield, and when you have yielded He will do you no harm-He will stoop over you and lift you up- and forgive you!The woman taken in adultery in the presence of Christ is an example of what He will do with you, taken in the very act ofrebellion against Him. The tender Savior said, "Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more!" Dear Soul, yield, yield, yield!Make no excuse! Offer no extenuation! Yield to the Omnipotence of God, which, in your case, will be Omnipotent love! He haswounded and He will heal. He has torn and He will bind you up. "The Lord kills, and makes alive: He wounds and His hands makewhole."
But how can He make those alive who were never killed? You that were never wounded-you who tonight have been sitting hereand smiling at your own ease-what can Mercy do for you? Do not congratulate yourselves on your peace, for at the bottom ofthe painful experience I have described there lies the wondrous secret that this fighting against men is fighting againsttheir evil for their good, that they may be saved. God fights against your pride, that you may be humbled. He fights againstyour self-confidence, that you may be ashamed of it. And when His warfare has answered its purpose, God will be no enemy ofyours, but you will find Him blotting out your sins like a cloud-and like a thick cloud your iniquities.
I leave off when I have warned you to watch carefully that you do not go into sin. It is a blessed thing to be forgiven, butit is a more blessed thing to be kept from sin! Oh, what agony, what mischief I have seen brought upon individuals and familiesby acts of carelessness which have afterwards led to acts of licentiousness! Steer clear of the lesser forms of sin lest youso vex the Spirit that He shall turn to be your enemy and fight against you.
III. Lastly, THIS TEXT IS A VERY DREADFUL ONE IN REFERENCE TO THOSE WHO DIE IMPENITENT. Concerning those who die impenitent,what shall we say? What ought to be the truth about them? You-I speak only, now, of those who have heard the Gospel-of suchas are sitting in this Tabernacle where the warning and the promise are set before them-if you die impenitent, having willfullyrejected the great sacrifice of Christ, you will die with a vengeance! Jesus Christ has died and you have refused the meritof His blood. You have willfully and wickedly done despite to the mercy of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit-andthis is in addition to all your other sins!
Now, let me ask you-What is to be done with the man who will not have mercy when it is set before him? If a convicted criminalis invited to confess and receive pardon and he will not do it, what remains but to carry out the sentence? Both justice andinjured mercy require that it should be so. When a man who dies refusing Christ and rejecting Divine Mercy gets into the nextworld, he will fight against God even there and, according to his ability, he will be a greater sinner there than here. ShallGod give him pleasure? Shall the Lord make such a rebel happy? Shall He stand by and say, "I will reward the rebel. He hasvexed My Spirit, but I will ennoble and reward him"? Shall the Judge of all the earth act so?
If you will turn to this Book, you will not find between these two covers a solitary ray of hope for a man who dies withoutGod and without Christ! I defy any man who believes this Book to be Inspired to find anything in its sacred pages but blankdespair for the man who will not, in this life, accept the mercy of God in Christ Jesus! My Lord and Master said, "He thatbelieves and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned." That is His Word and there it stands-andthere it will stand forever. It will never be reversed. It is the final sentence, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlastingfire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
I charge you, by the living God, do not provoke Him to this! Rush not upon the edge of Jehovah's sword. At once look to Jesuscrucified-Jesus crucified for the guilty-Jesus who came into the world, took our nature and bore our sins and shame! He criesfrom the Cross, "Look unto Me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth." I cannot speak to you like an angel from Heaven,but I speak like a sinner saved from Hell-and I implore you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved-"forGod so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlastinglife." God bless you! Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON- Psalm 106.