L.R. Shelton, Sr.
As we continue our study today, let’s hear God’s Word, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither con he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor.2:14). I never quarrel with an individual who does not understand the Word of God, because, according to the Word of God, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27). I can’t cram it down your throat. I can’t make you see and understand it. I can’t make you be1ieve it. After the resurrection of Christ, as recorded in the 24th chapter of Luke, He OPENED THE UNDERSTANDING of His disciples, and also OPENED THE SCRIPTURES (Luke 24:45) that they might understand. If the Holy Spirit has not opened your mind or understanding, and illuminated the Scriptures, the only thing that you can see in John 3:16 is free will. You can’t see anything else. I didn’t; for years I was in that condition, but the Lord opened my mind one day and illuminated the Scriptures.
That goes for many other gracious gems of Scripture that you misunderstand, misemphasize, and misapply. In the interpretation of Scripture, remember one thing — YOU CANNOT INTERPRET ONE SCRIPTURE TO CONTRADICT ANOTHER. For instance, in Romans He said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom.9-13).
Now that is Scripture whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not. Then to turn right around and say that God loves everybody is to contradict that Scripture. To do so you have to try to explain that Scripture away. When the Scripture plainly says in Jonah 2:9, “Salvation is of the Lord,”
then you cannot interpret any other Scripture in the Bible to contradict that great eternal truth. When it says in John 6:44, “No man can come to the Son except the Father draw him,” then you have to interpret other Scripture to fit in with that. To ignore one Scripture to interpret another Scripture apart from it is contrary to the rules of interpretation.
In our study of John 3:16 we first saw, God’s Sovereign Love, and in our second message we saw, The Bondage of the Sinner’s Will . Our study today is, “THE LOST SINNER.” Let’s read our text,
Let’s look at that phrase, “Whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH, but have everlasting life.” That expression, “SHOULD NOT PERISH,” is conditioned on “whosoever believeth.” “Whosoever believeth” is conditioned on “for God so loved, “ that is, God’s sovereign love.
The word, “PERISH,” comes from the Greek word, “APOLLUMI, “ which is translated in Mark 2:22 as “marred.”
“And no man putteth new wine in old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be MARRED: but new wine must be put in new bottles.”
Then this same Greek word is translated in Matt. 10:6 as “lost.”
“But go rather to the LOST sheep of the house of Israel.”
It is also translated in Matt. 15:24 as “lost.”
“But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the LOST sheep of the house of Israel.”
Then it is translated “lost” in Luke 15:4-6,32. Let’s read verse 32:
“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was LOST (or perishing), and is found.”
So we could read it,
“That whosoever believeth in him should not be lost, but have everlasting life.”
Therefore, our subject is “THE LOST SINNER.”
Now the questions are asked, “Who is a lost sinner?” and “What is God’s estimate of a lost sinner?” or “What is God’s description of a lost sinner?” Without going anywhere else in the Bible, we find in the third chapter of John God’s vivid description of a lost sinner out of Christ. If you have your Bible, let’s open it at the 3rd chapter of John, will you? each up and get your Bible and turn to the 3rd chapter of John . If you have a pencil or a pen, I want you to mark these expressions. Now you listen. THERE ARE TWELVE CHARACTERISTICS OF A LOST SINNER SET FORTH IN THE THIRD CHAPTER OF JOHN that I want to call your attention to. They are just as plain as language can make them, and yet they are overlooked by every free-willer, who will reach out and just take John 3:16 out of that great chapter and interpret it according to his own opinion! The first one is set forth in the 3rd verse, which reads thus, “Except a man be born ago in, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Now look at that expression, “He cannot see the Kingdom of God.” EVERY LOST SINNER IS BLIND — HE CAN’T SEE. He is blinded by the god of this world, so much so until the Gospel is hid from him, according to II Cor 4:3-4, If a sinner cannot see the Gospel, which is Christ, if he cannot see the blessings of the atonement, if he cannot see the kingdom of God, which is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom.14:17), then how in the world can he believe until he is born again! He is lost, and as Ps. 107 says, “he is wandering in the wilderness,” wandering up and down in vain, searching and yet finding nothing. He is lost in a boundless waste. He is utterly lost, and does not know the way out because he cannot see, and he cannot open his own eyes. The most tragical thing of it all is, he is always going in the opposite direction from God — that is, away from God. An individual who is lost physically is always turned around, and never goes in the right direction. So it is with a lost sinner. He is always going in the opposite direction from God.
Another characteristic of a lost sinner is set forth in the 5th verse in these words,
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
That expression, “HE CANNOT ENTER into the kingdom of God,” sets forth the great truth that he cannot find his way back to God. HE DOES NOT KNOW THE WAY. Christ said, “I am the way,” but he does not know Christ. Therefore, he cannot enter in until he is born again. Christ said, “I am the way,” and the way is narrow . The way is hard. The way is strait, and few there be that, find it. Only the one who is born again finds the way into the kingdom of God. No matter how much he searches, no matter how much anyone tells him, he cannot find his way back to God. If he starts in search of God, he is like a sinner lost physically; he begins travelling in a circle, always coming back to the place from which he started. Then please tell I me, free-willer, how is that man going to get to Christ if salvation is not of the Lord? So in the first place, he is blinded and cannot see; in the second place, he is without hope of ever finding the way back to God of his own accord, and he cannot go in. HE CANNOT; HE IS IMPOTENT — HE IS HELPLESS. He cannot enter in. May the Holy Spirit drive that truth home to your heart. If you are saved, you have been saved by the grace of God, wholly and solely of the Lord. If you were not saved wholly of grace, you are not saved. If there is one thread of works in your so-called salvation, you are lost!
Then in the 6th verse is set forth this great characteristic of a lost sinner,
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
This truth is brought out so clearly in John 1:13,
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will I of man, but of God.” That which is born of the flesh is always flesh.
FLESH CANNOT CHANGE ITSELF. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer.13:23). So no sinner can turn himself toward God. No sinner can find God by his works, or by his faith, or by anything he does. Everything that the sinner does, or is, is of the flesh. You can cultivate the flesh, you can train it, you can educate it; it is still flesh. You may become religious, but you are still of the flesh. You must be born of the Spirit, and this is a miracle of grace, sovereign free grace, based upon God’s sovereign love for the sinner. I know it is taught everywhere that every sinner has the power to make his own choice for salvation in Christ, but nowhere in the Word of God is that taught. I know some go a little farther and teach that a sinner must be convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that he must repent toward God, and must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but then they will tell you that the faith with which the sinner trusts Christ is a faith that can be exercised by the sinner at his will. But let me tell you, friend, no such doctrine is taught in God’s Word. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and will remain flesh, and NO SINNER CAN BELIEVE UNTIL HE IS BORN AGAIN.
Now let’s look at the 12th verse, and you will find set forth another characteristic of every lost sinner,
“How shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”
Christ, speaking to Nicodemus, put it in the form of a question, “How shall ye believe heavenly things?” If he is blind, he can’t see them, if he is hopeless and cannot enter, then HE CANNOT ATTAIN TO HEAVENLY THINGS. this fact is brought out so clearly in I Cor.2:11, where it says, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” This being true, then a lost sinner does not know, and cannot know, heavenly things and things of the kingdom, or spiritual things, until he is born again. You cannot make him see it. In the first place, he has no taste for them; in the second place, they are obnoxious to him; in the third place, he does not want to know them; and in the fourth place, he cannot know them unless they be given him from above by the Holy Spirit.
Now let’s look at another characteristic of a lost sinner, as set forth in the 17th and 18th verses of John 3,
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
We see here one of the outstanding characteristics of every lost sinner is, HE IS UNDER THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. Christ said to Nicodemus, “I come into the world not to judge (or condemn) the world.” Why? Because the world has already been judged and is under judgment. He said, “I came to save every one who will believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Are you beginning to see the awful condition of a sinner? He is blind and cannot see; he is impotent and cannot walk; he cannot believe heavenly things, and everything that he does is of the flesh. And then here it says he is under the judgment of God.
Being under judgment means that he stands before God guilty, condemned to die. Why? Because he is a lost sinner.
That truth is brought out in the 14th verse, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. . . ”
The word, “serpent, “ there indicates that every sinner is a child of Satan, has the nature of a snake, is bitten with sin, and the virus of sin has consumed h is whole life, so much so until you cannot separate the sinner from his sins. The sinner is sin. Therefore, HE IS JUDGED GUILTY ALREADY. He is not on probation, but only under a reprieve, awaiting the day of execution, and he does not know when that moment will come. He is locked in the prison house of sin, guilty, condemned to die. He is perishing. He is lost. He is waiting for the day of slaughter. He is on the road to destruction and cannot save himself. He is lost and cannot find the way home. Oh, what an awful condition every sinner is in !
My friend, no individual can clearly understand the awful position and condition of a lost sinner until he is awakened by the power of the Holy Spirit and sees himself clearly as lie is, under the judgment of God. We are living in a day when the average individual in and out of the pulpit thinks of sin as merely some little disease, not knowing that it has locked the sinner in the cell of condemnation, and he cannot rescue himself or pardon himself from the guilt and penalty of sin. He cannot deliver himself from the power of it, or from the power of Satan, for he is taken captive by Satan at his will (11 Tim. 2:26). That is the condition of every sinner. Now how is that sinner going to get out from under the judgment of God? HE HAS TO BE PARDONED! Such a pardon comes from the Lord God of Heaven, and before any sinner can be pardoned, he must know he is condemned to die. How does he know it? By the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Our trouble today is, there is practically no Holy Spirit conviction in our pulpits and pews.
As we proceed with our study, the picture of a sinner as set forth here by our Lord grows darker.
Let’s read that 19th verse,
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
Now here is set forth the most awful characteristic of a lost sinner, and that is, HE LOVES SIN. He loves the pleasures of unrighteousness. He loves the life that he is living; he loves darkness. He loves Satan, and the power of darkness. His whole nature is turned against God. The Holy Spirit put it like this in Rom.8:7,
“ He is enmity against God: for he is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” This is because the sinner is sin. He is not at enmity with God, but he IS ENMITY against God. He is not a sinner, primarily, but he is sin. His whole being — every member of his being, every faculty of his life — is sin, and he loves sin; he is set against God and holiness. And the sinner has no power to change that nature. No preacher has the power to change it. Even God cannot change it. The sinner must be born again. He must be made a new creation in Christ Jesus. God sets aside all that the sinner is within himself and makes a new being, or implants a new nature like unto the Son of God. This is wholly the work of the Holy Spirit. This is wrought through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The sinner cannot pardon himself any more than he can open his blinded eyes. God must do the pardoning; God must open his eyes, and the Holy Spirit must place a new nature in him that we call the new birth.
Now we come to that 20th verse. Let me call your attention to this phrase,
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light ....”
We noticed in the 19th verse this phrase,
As we turn to the 27th verse, we notice another outstanding characteristic of every lost sinner. Listen to God’s Word, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” Talk about your free will — this verse of Scripture is a clincher, isn’t it? NO SINNER RECEIVES ANYTHING FROM GOD EXCEPT IT BE GIVEN HIM. You can receive no material blessing or spiritual blessing unless God gives it to you from heaven. Christ is Lord (Phil.2:9-11), and God does not give one thing to a saint or a sinner, except through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.8:32). Therefore, you do not receive salvation, and cannot receive salvation in Christ except it be given to you. You do not learn one spiritual truth of God’s Word, except it be given to you directly from God Himself. You cannot know one thing about yourself except it come to you by revelation of the Holy Spirit. Read the 17th chapter of John, and you will find over and again that God gives every one of His children to Christ, and then Christ gives unto them eternal life. You don’t earn it; it’s a gift, God has to grant you repentance (Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18). God has to give you faith (Eph.2:8-9; Acts 18:27). God gives you Christ (John 4:10). God gives you the new birth (John 3:6; Titus 3:5,6; 1 Pet,1:23). May I say again, you do not learn one spiritual truth except God give it to you.
NOW, MY FRIEND, WHERE IS YOUR FREE WILL? If the above is the characteristic of every sinner out of Christ, you do not come into possession of one thing but that which is given to you, and it is given to you on the basis of free sovereign grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t earn it; you can’t earn it. You are blind and can’t see. You are impotent and cannot walk into the kingdom of God. You are born of the flesh, and the flesh can beget nothing but flesh. You are bitten by sin, and are under the condemnation of God. You love darkness and hate light. You love sin and hate holiness. Therefore, everything in the world that you ever receive is from the Lord. Therefore, SALVATION IS OF THE LORD (Jonah 2:9).
Now let me briefly call your attention to that 30th verse which reads thus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Every sinner coming to Christ must decrease in his own imagination, and in his own concept of himself and in his own estimation. In other words, EVERY SINNER MUST COME TO SEE HIMSELF AS HE IS, with all his pride gone, his rebellion subdued,, and he must take his place as a lost, doomed, damned sinner at the feet of Christ. Everything else must fade away and the sinner find himself at the feet of Christ for Him to save him according to God’s sovereign grace and love, or damn him according to God’s sovereign justice. Let me say again, Christ does not and never has and never will stand before a sinner to be accepted or rejected, but the sinner is prostrate in the dust of repentance at the feet of Christ as it were with a rope around his neck to be saved or damned at the disposal of the Lord God of Heaven. So in the sinner’s eyes Christ is all in all, and the sinner is nothing. That truth and fact will hold good throughout the life of the believer.
In conclusion, let’s turn to that 36th verse and read, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
There are two outstanding characteristics of every lost sinner in that verse: one is, “He shall not see life.” Therefore, if you do not have the Son, YOU DO NOT HAVE LIFE; therefore, YOU DO NOT SEE LIFE. This is life eternal, that you know Christ, the Son of God (John 17:3). Isn’t it an awful state to be in, sinner — no life, because no Christ? The other is the worst of all, YOU ABIDE UNDER THE WRATH OF GOD. Did you ever stop to think that every moment you live, whether at work, or at home, or travelling, or eating, or playing, you are under the wrath of God? You live under the wrath of God. God is angry with you every moment of your life, as set forth in Ps.7:11, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” May the God of all grace and the Father of all mercies open your blinded eyes to see that you are under the wrath of a sin-avenging God, and that you are living only under a reprieve waiting the day of execution. You are condemned to die, and the instrument of death is already prepared for thee (Ps.7:13).
Now, you may ask, “Brother Shelton, in the face of these twelve outstanding characteristics of a lost sinner, WHAT IS MY HOPE?” My dear friend, your only hope is CHRIST. Your hope is not walking the church aisle and giving the preacher your hand. Your hope is not making a profession of faith in Christ. Your hope is not a decision or anything you may do. If the God of all grace has put a cry in your heart and given you grace to cry, you can cry for mercy. All of God’s children are criers. You will not even cry for mercy unless God has put it in your heart to do SO. If the Holy Spirit has spoken to your heart and has moved it, then cry to the throne of God’s grace for mercy, “God be merciful to me a sinner. Lord show me myself, and give me grace to acknowledge what You show me. Open my heart, oh Lord: I cannot open it. Lord, show me Christ, who died for a wretch like me.”
My friend, THE ONLY HOPE I can hold out to you IS THE SOVEREIGN LOVE AND THE SOVEREIGN GRACE OF GOD. If He has set His love on you and moved your heart toward Christ, what grace, what mercy. Then cry unto Him to break you at His feet in the dust of repentance, taking your place as a poor, lost, undone, wicked, vile, wretched sinner with no hope outside of Christ. My prayer is that Christ will become all in all to your heart and life, that He may be the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, world without end.
THE OLD PURITAN PRESS
These messages were delivered over the VOICE OF TRUTH broadcast
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