As one thinks hack to the days of his childhood, perhaps one of the earliest recollections was the thrill, pride and joy of personal owner-ship. To be able to say of a certain thing: "This is my very own, it belongs to me; and to nobody else!" The words: "I," "me.' 'my," and "mine," were often upon our lips. We spoke of "my house," "my dad." "my mom," "my toys," "my bike," etc. Nor is this pride of ownership lost as we grow older for, deep down within the personality of each individual, is the desire for something he can call his own It may be a wife, or husband, a home, a family, a car, or a business.
There are roughly two thousand nine hundred millions of human beings living on the earth today, yet each one of these persons is an individual, possessed of a personality which distinguishes him from every other person. Each possesses an intellect by which he is enabled to acquire, retain and reproduce knowledge; emotions, by which he reacts to what he sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches; and a will, by which he is enabled to determine on a course of action and carry it out. God respects this personality of man and never coerces it. God seeks to enlighten the intellect through the message He has given in His word, the Bible; to stir the emotions, as man's need and God's remedy is proclaimed, and to precipitate his will to a right decision concerning the way of salvation.
We are living in a world that is geared very largely to mechanized uniformity of design. The assembly line seems to dominate the scene, and the danger is that the individual is apt to be lost in the mass, and man becomes a mere cog in the great industrial machine. This danger has been referred to as "the tyranny of type," by which all humanity is reduced to a common level and governed by a centralized control. This leads to monotony and frustration, for life, under such conditions, seems to be with out purpose.
In the light of this, let us think of three things which the word of God credits each person as possessing, and one that only Christians are said to possess.
I. Your Own Sins. (Deut. 24:16)
"The fathers shall not be put to death for the sins of the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." Here God plainly indicates the personal responsibility of each individual for his own particular sins. He cannot throw the blame on anyone else: they are his own personal property, for which he is directly accountable to God Himself, for all sin is against God, whether it is a sin against oneself or against one's fellow man.
This question of one's own sins is anything but a popular subject, but it is absolutely essential if ever salvation is to be desired or possessed. It is only as a person is brought to realize this true state in the sight of a holy God that there will be kindled within him a desire to escape from the just consequences of his guilt. The words of the Lord Jesus are in order here: "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick . . . For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matt.9:12-13)
God leaves man in no doubt as to His full knowledge of all his many sins of thought, word, deed and attitude, for He has said: "I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins." (Amos 5:12) We are told that: "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Heb. 4:13) Again we are informed: "Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance." (P.a. 90:8) Wise indeed is that person who faces the fact of his own particular sins and owns himself to be what God declares he is. It is to be feared that many refuse to face this question, and consequently live in a fool's paradise, only to awaken, too late, to the awful realization they must now face the penalty of their guilt in the blackness of darkness for ever!
Let us spend a little time discussing this question of sin, and learn what God has to say about it.
First, its definition, or what it is. Broadly speaking, sin is any thought, word, deed or attitude that is contrary to the mind and will of a holy and righteous God. These sins may be placed in various categories. There are sins of commission, that is, the utterance of words and the performance of deeds that we know are wrong. Knowing full well the true and the right, we willfully and deliberately spoke the untrue and did the wrong. In this way we in curred the guilt of sin. Then there are the sins of thought, and who can plead not guilty of this? Mark the words of none other than the Son of God: "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:28) It has been well said: "You are not what you think you are, but what you think you are!" Man's complex personality is an open book to God, and nothing can be hid from His all seeing eyes. He shall one day "judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus". How would we like to have all the secret thoughts of our minds exposed to public view?
Then there are the sins of attitude, and particularly the attitude of rebellion against the authority of God. Sin has been described as an angry face, a clenched and shaking fist and the object of that angry face and shaking fist, almighty God! This rebellion of man's heart to God is seen, in its fullest expression, at the place called Calvary, where sinners rejected and put to death the Son of God. The great sin today seems to be the utter indifference, on the part of men, to the claims of God and the revelation of His word, the Bible. Once more, there are the sins of omission, or the failure to do the good we should. The Bible puts it this way: "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
Finally, there is the sin of unbelief, or the refusal to believe what God says, and to accept the salvation that God has provided at such infinite cost. We read: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God bath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son." (1 John 5:10) Unbelief is therefore the damning sin for we are told by the Savior Himself: "He that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16)
Second, consider the individuality of sin. It is your own personal sins that God has in view: those black, vile, hideous sins which you have committed against an infinitely holy God, who hates sin in any shape or form, and who "can by no means clear the guilty." Try to visualize these many sins. Let them march down the aisle of your memory, and then lay to heart the fact that they are your sins for which you are responsible to God!
Third, think of the enormity of these sins, for all sin is hateful to God who has said: "Do not this abominable thing that I hate!" Remember, all sin is against God, who is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." Christ declared "Every idle word that men speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment." We are apt to classify sins into various grades of small, medium and large, but God hates all sins of every kind.
Fourth, think of the universality of sin. God has gone on record as declaring: "There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) Again we read: "All we, like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way." And again: "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Isa.64:6) All includes each, and there are no exceptions. for we are told: "There is not a just man upon earth. that doeth good and sinneth not." (Eccl. 7:20)
Fifth, think of the responsibility of it. We are told that: "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:12) Many seek to shift the responsibility for their sins on their circumstances, heredity, friends and environment. Still others compare themselves, to their own advantage, with others, and imagine that this will mitigate against their guilt; but all such devices are in vain. God holds every person responsible for his own sins.
Sixth, think of the penalty of sin. Just as the law of our land imposes penalties on those who break those laws, so God has decreed that those who break His laws, and die in that condition, must face the penalty He has imposed. This penalty is eternal banishment to a place of "outer darkness", where there is "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth." Let no one be deceived as to this matter of eternal punishment. The Lord Jesus, who died to provide a way of escape from this dreadful place, spoke much of hell and its awful reality. See Mark 9:43-48. Compare Rev. 20:11-15. It would be far better never to have been born, than to live and die unsaved!
Seventh, think of the remedy God has, in wonderful grace, provided for sin and the sinner. God does not desire one soul to be eternally lost. In proof of this, He has made provision for the salvation of the sinner at the infinite cost of His beloved Son, whom he sent from heaven to take our place and bear our sins on the cross. Christ willingly assumed the liability of our guilt and sin and met, by His death, all the righteous judgment of a holy God by dying in our stead, and thus satisfying all the demands of divine justice against each sinner who will own his need as a sinner, trust Him as his own personal Savior and confess Him as the Lord of his life. We shall deal with this matter a little more fully later on when we come to the last point.
II. Your Own Soul. (Mark 8:36)
"For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" By the word "soul," is meant the spiritual part of man's being, as distinct from his natural body. It is that part of man that continues to exist for ever after the body has died. Thus its tremendous importance may be realized. We will think of four things in connection with the soul.
First, each person has a soul. Perhaps it would be better to say, each person is a soul having a body. The body is only the casket, or the house in which the soul lives. It has been well said: "There is nothing great on earth but man, and there is nothing great in man but his soul." It is the possession of his soul that gives to man his great value in the sight of God, for the gain of the whole world would not compensate for its loss. Its value can he estimated by the price the Son of God paid for its redemption, His own most precious blood.
Second, the soul is negotiable, for it can be exchanged and bartered for something else, the world, for instance. Judas exchanged his soul for thirty pieces of silver; Pilate, for the favor of a fickle populace; Agrippa, for sinful lust; Felix, for filthy lucre. Truly it was a bad bargain for these men! But what shall be said for those, in this day, who barter their souls for the fleeting pleasures, popularity, power and pelf of this passing world? The poet has put it thus:
"It may not be for silver,
Remember, whatever it is that is keeping you from trusting Christ as your Savior and living for Rim, is the value you are placing on your soul; and what shall it profit you if you realize your life's ambition and, in so doing, lose your precious soul?
Thirdly, a person's soul can be eternally lost. If the reader is unsaved, then your soul is lost, but not eternally. Death fixes the eternal destiny of the soul, either for heaven or hell. May we ask you, in all kindness, where will you be in eternity? It depends entirely on what you do with the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone has put it thus:
"To lose your wealth is much,
Fourthly, each person is responsible for the destiny of his soul. The great American statesman, Daniel Webster, was once asked what was his greatest thought. He replied: "My personal responsibility to God." Should the reader die unsaved, which God forbid, he will have no one else to blame but himself for his abysmal folly and sin. The story is told of a little girl who went to a great bank and asked to see the manager. When the manager came, she asked him if he would please show her where all the money was kept. The manager took the girl down into the sub basement and showed her the strong room and the large piles of money stored therein. The girl then asked: "But supposing burglars came, wouldn't they steal all this money?" "No," replied the manager: "Once that big steel door is shut and locked, it is burglar proof." But supposing the bank caught fire, wouldn't all this money be burned?" "No", was the reply: "This strong room is also fire proof!" "But," persisted the girl: "Supposing a big flood were to come, wouldn't it destroy all this money?" Again the manager assured the girl that the strong room was also flood proof. At this the little girl gave a sigh of relief and said: "I'm so glad, for you see, I've got a whole dollar in this bank and I wanted to make quite sure it was safe!" We may smile at the simplicity of the child who wanted to make sure her dollar was safe; but may we ask you, in all faithfulness: "Is your soul thief proof? fire proof? and flood proof? Have you made certain of this most important matter? If not, give your-self no rest until you know, on the authority of the word of God, that your soul is in the safe keeping of the One who died and rose again to secure the salvation of your soul.
III. Your Own Place. (Acts 1:25)
After the treacherous betrayal and suicide of Judas, the eleven disciples met together to select another to take his place. After much prayer they selected two men, Barsabas and Matthias, and then said "Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two Thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." The three last words are full of deep spiritual significance. Judas, at his death, went to that dreadful place for which he had fitted himself by his diabolical treachery, and he has been there ever since.
Every person, now reading these words, shall also, at death, go to "his own place." The Bible speaks of but two places to which a person shall go at death: heaven or hell. It knows of no such place as purgatory where, it is alleged, those go who are too bad to go to heaven and not bad enough to go to hell. This is a pure Invention of man, and has no foundation whatever in the word of God. The question we would courteously put to each reader is: Where would you go if you died this moment? One thing is certain: you would go to "your own place," for which you have fitted yourself while on earth.
A preacher once observed: (1) Every man has his own place, here and hereafter. (2) Everyone fits himself for his own place. (3) Everyone will find his own place. (4) Everyone will feel it is his own place when he gets there. Let us spend a few moments thinking of these two places which shall be the eternal destiny of all humanity, remembering that the Bible speaks of each as a place, having a definite location, and being an actuality. Let no one be under any misapprehension as to this. There are many who deny the reality of both, but denying a fact does not eliminate it.
First, Let us think of hell, the destiny of all who, having reached the age of responsibility, die rejecting, despising or neglecting the salvation secured by the Lord Jesus Christ at the infinite cost of His precious blood. Let us note four things about this place.
1. It is a place that is described by none other than the Savior, and in solemn words that admit of no other meaning. The reader may verify this for himself by reading the following passages from the Bible. Luke 16:19-31; Mark 9:43-48; Matt. 25:41- 46; John 12:47-48; Revel. 20:11-15. To those who say: "No one has come back from the dead to tell us what happens after death," we would reply: "The Son of God has died and come back from the dead, and He has told us what takes place after death, and no one has come back to contradict Him!" Someone has described hell as "the truth seen too late!"
2. It is a prepared place. (Matt. 25:41) It was prepared for the Devil and his angels, and also for all who side with him in his mad rebellion against God and His Son. These must therefore share his eternal doom.
3. It is a place of just retribution Christ spoke of it as "everlasting punishment." Each person who finds himself in this fearful place will be in full possession of his memory, by which he will be enabled to recall the many lost opportunities he had of being saved and going to heaven. He will have his conscience, which will perpetually accuse him. He will also have his reason, which will justify God in placing him in hell. He will admit the justice of a holy God in consigning him to this place of torment.
4. It is a perpetual place. It is described as "everlasting punishment." The same word translated, '~everlasting," to describe the duration of God's retribution on the impenitent, is also used to describe the eternal existence of God. No hope is held out in the Bible for a "second chance" after death. Death is the determiner of one's eternal destiny. There are many today who carelessly say: "I'll take my chance on what comes after death." These foolish people fail to realize that their "chance" is their "choice!" A person does not take a "chance" of being killed if he jumps from the top of a fifty story building to the street below, he will most certainly be killed. No sane person would jump on any train that happened to be leaving a station, and take his "chance" that it would bring him to his desired destination. No, a person makes sure he is on the right train.
If every person now living knew what every person discovers after he dies, there would be no souls in hell! The sinner's only hope of escape from eternal retribution rests in the false assumption that perhaps the Bible is not true! The word of God describes hell as a place of unimpaired memory, ungratified desire, unanswered prayer and inescapable doom. God, in His grace and mercy, has left us in no doubt as to the awful reality of hell, so that men and women may take advantage of His provision and escape the consequences of their sins through faith in the Son of God. Remember what the Bible says, "If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it." (Prov. 9:12)
Second. Let us think of heaven, the home of the redeemed of all ages.
1. It is a place. Our Lord said: "I go to prepare a place for you . . that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3) Thus heaven is just as definitely a place as is hell.
2. It is a prepared place, and prepared by none other than the Lord Jesus. It is a prepared place for a prepared people, and the preparation for that place must occur on earth. The question is: "Have you been prepared for that place by being saved?"
3. It is a pleasant place. See Revel. 21 and 22. God uses negatives to describe the glories of heaven. We are told there is no sin, no curse, no night, no defilement, no sickness, no pain, no parting, no death and no sorrow. It is a place of unending joy, perfect fellowship and complete satisfaction. No words of man can adequately describe the surpassing beauties and glories of this blessed home of the saved of all ages. Let the reader make sure that he will be there by coming to know the Lord Jesus as his own personal Savior!
4. It is a perpetual place, for the redeemed shall be there for ever! Best of all, they shall be with and like their blessed Lord and Savior, the One who loved them and gave Himself for them, and they shall share His eternal glory!
"Come, sing of the home which the Lord has
No tongue can e'er tell, and no pen can describe
With glorified bodies, made like to their Lord,
The Lord Jesus Christ is the light of that home,
The theme of their song, in that beautiful home,
Home, beautiful home! Home, glorious home!
IV. Your Own Salvation. (Phil. 2:12)
Paul, writing to the Christians at Philippi, makes use of this expression, and said: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God, which worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure." We also read in Isa. 12:2: "Behold, God is my Salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my Strength and my Song: He also is become my Salvation!"
The words, "your own salvation," can only be true of one who has been saved by the grace of God through faith in the Son of God, and consequently has been born again by the Holy Spirit of God. Is this true of the reader? If not, make sure that it is ere you close your eyes in sleep. Pay good heed to God's way of salvation as it is described in the words that follow. We shall think of seven things concerning this salvation.
1. This salvation is in a Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for we read: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Many falsely imagine that salvation lies in the repeating of a creed, or in submitting oneself to certain ordinances, or in joining some religious organization, or in the performance of a host of good deeds, or in the making of good resolutions to live a better life in the future, or in the sincerity of one's belief. Mark carefully what the word of God has to say regarding this matter: "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:11-12) Surely nothing could be clearer than this, yet thousands substitute the things we have mentioned for simple trust in the Son of God, and the work He did on the cross for sinners. He said: "I am the door, by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." (John 10:9)
2. This salvation has been provided by God and purchased by Christ. All the work needed for the salvation of every believing soul was accomplished by Christ over nineteen hundred years ago, when He willingly bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and then suffered all the righteous judgment of God against them by dying in our place, and rising triumphant from the dead. Since the work that saves has all been done, to God's complete satisfaction, what is left for the sinner to do in order to have this salvation as his very own? We are not left in any doubt as to the answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31)
3. This salvation is now freely offered to every lost and guilty sinner. Hear the glad message: "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23) Notice, it is a free gift, which cannot be bought or earned by our good works. God will never sell it or exchange it for something we can give Him in return for it, for we are told it is "not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:9)
4. This salvation must be personally received if it is to be ours. Though a gift may be offered to a person, it does not become his until he receives it. Thus we read: "To as many as received Him (Christ) to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." (John 1:12) What would you think of a person who, when offered a valuable gift, fell down on his knees and asked for it to be given him? Yet this is what thousands are doing right now. Instead of taking the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and thus receiving the free gift of God, they are praying for something that God is offering them! Why not, right now, take the gift and thank the Giver?
5. This salvation is assured by the word of God. It is not a question of feeling, but of fact. Note carefully what the Bible has to say on this matter: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) Hear the very words of the Savior Himself: "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed out of death into life." (John S :24) Thus, every believer is assured, by none other than God Himself, that he is already the possessor of eternal life and is now saved eternally. Could anyone wish for anything better than this?
6. This salvation, when received, should be confessed, for we read: .lf thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. 10:9) By this confession of Christ, by word of mouth, the believer thus nails his colors to the mast, and lets others know he is now on the Lord's side.
7. This salvation should be evidenced in the life, so that others can see, in the changed life of the believer, the proof of God's saving grace Paul could write to those who had been saved under his ministry and say: We give thanks to God for you . . . . remembering your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope." The real evidence of a genuine work of God in the soul is a life lived to the glory of the One to whom he now belongs, body, soul and spirit, for time and all eternity.
May the reading of this booklet bring each reader to face the question of his own sins; a realization of the value of his own soul; a knowledge of heaven as his own place and, best of all, to an assurance of his own salvation!
Alfred P. Gibbs