Key Thought: Godliness and the true faith of Christ have many hindrances, which proceed from our unbelief, and our ignorant reasonings. By the true gospel of Christ all these difﬁculties are taken away, as the stone from the door of the sepulchre.
“To this end Christ both died, and rose again, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living.” Romans 14:9.
The gospel of Christ; that is to say, the joyful news of His birth, life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension, is in one respect quite different from any other history. In the case of other histories we need only read and remember them, and then we know all that is to be known about them. But the Holy Spirit tells us that the gospel is what other histories are not; namely, “The power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth.” That is, a power felt by the heart, a power that works faith in the heart, a power by which the heart is made happy, blessed, and safe for ever. With faith in the gospel of Jesus is connected happiness, everlasting happiness. Certainly this is, then, a thing not lightly to be thought of. This gospel is preached to us in the words of the text. I will now explain to you how, by the news of Christ’s death and resurrection, the many hindrances to salvation are removed out of our way.
Godliness and the true faith of Christ have many hindrances, which proceed from our unbelief, and from our ignorant reasonings. Often, almost always, it happens to us as it did to the dear women who were going to the grave on Easter-day. A difﬁculty appeared in their way. As they went along, it struck them that a large stone was lying on the mouth of the grave. They said, “Who shall move us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” You must observe that this difﬁculty never struck them till they were on the road; and although when they were thus on the road it did strike them, they did not turn back again. When they came to the grave the stone and the difﬁculty were both gone.
So it happens with all the difﬁculties which our unbelief or our little faith throw in the way of our conversions. By the true gospel of Christ all these difﬁculties are taken away, as the stone from the door of the sepulchre. I will speak of some of these difﬁculties, of some by which many souls are hindered, and kept away from conversion, from God, from Christ, and from salvation. I will also tell you how these heavy stones are moved away.
Firstly. One difﬁculty, and a very heavy stone it is, is the great weight of sin—the damning power of the law, and the wrath of God on account of our sins. The sinner thinks, “Ah! I have so many sins on my head—such awful sins! I have sinned for so long a time! I have committed this and that fearful sin! My accusing conscience gnaws at my heart; it torments me, leaves me no peace! When I think of God’s justice, of God’s anger, I am terriﬁed! Oh, ‘Who shall take away the stone from the door of the sepulchre’—this heavy, heavy stone of sin, which lies upon the poor heart, crushes down the conscience, and leaves the sinner no moment’s rest, no moment’s peace?”
Sinner, if this stone weighs upon your heart, if you do indeed feel the heavy burden of your sins, and if you do not go to seek Jesus, and to turn to Him with all your heart, I tell you that this stone can never, never be taken away. It shall lie there; and not only so, but it shall become heavier, till it sinks you into despair, into the abyss, into everlasting destruction!
But if you are really in earnest about this sense of sin, if you really long to be delivered from that accusing conscience, from the curse of the law, from the anger of God, and from the deﬁlement of sin, then turn to Jesus! Then I can say to you in the name of God, as the angel said to those dear women, “Fear not: I know that ye seek Jesus, who was cruciﬁed.” How then can this stone be taken away? By those mighty words, “CHRIST DIED.”
Christ died, dear soul; therefore do not despair. When Christ died, His death, His precious blood, paid the everlasting ransom for you. Christ by His death paid the mighty debt all perfectly. He bore the penalty of the sin which we inherit from Adam. He took upon Himself that curse which Adam called down upon man, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” He took upon Himself the curse of the law.
Sinner, you have sinned, you are cursed. But Christ has become a curse for you; so that now the penitent soul, the soul that toils under the burden of sin, may be assured that in Christ all the burden, all the curse, are taken away for ever. There is no more curse for the sinner who has come to Jesus.
Oh, soul, do not go here or there for help—go to Jesus only! Jesus died for sinners. He died specially for those who go to Him, and seek help from Him alone. Do not let people comfort you in any other way, by saying that your sins are not so bad, etc. This will not remove a grain of the heavy burden. No, plead guilty; say, “Yes, my God, I have deserved death. I have deserved hell. All is true, my God, that is said in the law to condemn me. I have lived in this and that hateful vice, I have done abominable things, I have offended Thee justly. My God, I plead guilty at Thy bar. But Christ died for me. To His death, His blood, His great atonement I look in faith, and I look to that only.”
Thus must every penitent soul, who feels the weight of this heavy stone, ﬂy to the open arms of the mercy and love of God in Christ, waiting humbly, waiting in faith, and waiting untiringly till the great power of that love is felt; till by the power of the death of Jesus peace comes down into the weary heart, and the stone is taken away from the door of the sepulchre.
Further, there is a second difﬁculty, another stone which often lies heavily upon the heart of the sinner. The sinner thinks, “God is such a holy God. How dare I come before Him? How can I venture to pray? How dare I draw near to so holy a God? When the soldiers were watching the sepulchre, and only an angel appeared to them, they fell to the ground as if they were dead. Even those dear, holy women were frightened when they only saw an angel. The holy John, the dearest, the very dearest of all the disciples of Jesus, when he saw Jesus in His gloriﬁed body, fell down as a dead man. If God then is so holy a God, what will happen to me if I go into His presence? How can I stand in His sight? Who can dwell in the devouring ﬁre? Who can abide in the everlasting burning of His glorious presence?” Sinner, this is all true. We dare not triﬂe with the holiness of God. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God is a consuming ﬁre “to all the hypocrites in Zion,” who shall become as stubble in the ﬂames. So long as thou art not seeking Jesus, so long as thou remainest out of Christ, I tell you this stone can never be taken away. It must lie upon your heart for ever, and nothing awaits you but a “fearful looking for of judgment and ﬁery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.”
But if what you feel is a true sense of sin, if you feel that you are altogether unclean and unﬁt to appear before God, and will give yourself up entirely to Jesus, then I can say to you as the angel said to those frightened women, “Fear not, I know that ye seek Jesus.” If you seek Jesus, and come with Jesus, you need not fear the holiness of God.
Why not? How can this stone be taken away? Answer, “Christ died.” Christ, by His sufferings and death, opened for us a free and unhindered way to God, to that holy God; not only a way into His perfect glory and blessedness after our death, but a way into His blessed presence here, during our earthly lives. When Christ died, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. The holy of holies was thrown open. Under the old dispensation, anyone who touched the ark of the covenant, which was most holy, and where the glory of God was seen, was at once struck dead. Whoever went into the holy of holies, were it a high priest himself (except on the day of atonement), was a dead man.
But now Christ has died. Now all truly penitent sinners, through the merits and the sanctiﬁcation of the blood of Jesus Christ, have boldness of access into the holiest place, into the nearest and closest communion with God. “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His ﬂesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.”
Every believing soul who is determined to have nothing more to do with sin, can, through the sufferings and the death of Christ, notwithstanding its unworthiness, go close to God, and rest in Him with the conﬁdence of a little child in the arms of a tender father. Oh, let us use this blessed privilege more than we do! Christ died, therefore the holy God, before whom the angels veil their faces, is become our joy and delight. We need no more fear and tremble before Him. We can come, we may come, we shall not die, we shall not be consumed by His holiness.
In love, in faith, in prayer, we may go into the holiest place, and there we shall learn by our own happy experience that the holy God is honoured by His believing people as a dear father is honoured by his children, that the holy God has no terrors to those who draw near in faith, looking unto Jesus.
Thirdly. There is a third difﬁculty, another stone which often stands in the way. The sinner thinks, “Satan has such a great power over men! My cruel enemy Satan holds me so fast, I cannot possibly get away. The world holds me fast. This, and that ungodly companion, hold me so fast, I cannot get free. Now, ‘Who shall take away this stone from the door of the sepulchre?’ How shall I ever get rid of it?”
Sinner, if you are not seeking Jesus, if you do not give yourself up entirely to Him, I tell you this stone shall never be lifted from your heart; but you will remain in prison, and Satan, the gaoler, will keep you there for ever. It is true that Satan has all unconverted people under his rule, in his power, groaning under his tyranny; he keeps them here in his kingdom of darkness, he shall keep them hereafter in hell. So long as you do not thoroughly give yourself up to Christ, there is no help for you; you must follow the devil all your life, and go to him at your death, there is nothing else for you to do.
But if you are hungering after Christ, if you are heartily seeking Christ, if you honestly desire to be set free from the power of the devil, then fear not. Christ not only died, but also He is risen again, and by His resurrection Christ is “exalted above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”
Look! by His resurrection, our dear Saviour has gained the victory over the devil, and over all the dark, devilish powers of hell. When the dear Saviour died, the devil thought, “Now I have conquered Him! Now I shall keep men in my kingdom, under my power, in my clutches.” The wicked world, the rulers, the Pharisees and Scribes, were glad also, and they thought, “Now it is all up with Him. Now the people can no longer run after Him as they did. Now they will have to follow us. Now we shall have it all our own way with them.” They thought the time was come when they might abuse and revile Him with impunity. “Ah!” they said, “this deceiver said, when he was yet alive, ‘In three days I will rise again!’” Christ was now the deceiver, the seducer.
But what did they say on Easter morning when Christ rose again, and the soldiers brought them the news? And what did the devil feel when he saw the King of glory burst the doors of the grave, and come forth in a glorious body, into a glorious life, completing the redemption of His people from the power of Satan for ever? The devil and his armies must have fallen down then as Dagon before the ark of the Lord.
Are we seeking Jesus? Are we truly giving up ourselves to Him? Then we need not fear the devil, no, nor a whole army of devils. Let us fear Jesus, and own Him as our Captain and Leader.
That which Moses said in the name of God to Pharaoh, that Christ now says to the devil and his armies, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” Pharaoh wanted to keep the people. He had no idea of letting them out of his slavery, and releasing them from their heavy burdens. God sent him a message, “Let My people go!”
Look how the devil, the Pharaoh of hell, begins to resist. He too will not let souls escape from his kingdom, from his power. He will keep his subjects, his miserable slaves. But Jesus, the risen One, says, “Let My people go! It is now My people; it is now My purchased possession. Thou hast had them long enough in thy service, in thy clutches. Now thou hast no part or lot in the matter, no claim upon them, no right over them for ever. Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” Further, when Pharaoh saw that the people of Israel were really in earnest, that they actually were going away, in fact, that they were already gone, he thought he would have one last blow at them. He would after all get them back into his power; or else he would drive them into the Red Sea, and there would be an end of them.
Just so the devil does, when he sees that a soul is really in earnest about getting away from him. He ﬂies after it. He uses force or fraud, or any means he can think of, to get the soul back into his power. He says, “You will ﬁnd it impossible to get away. You will ﬁnd such endless difﬁculties. You will have to give up this and that amusement, and be always denying yourself and making your life wretched. It is much better to give up the whole thing altogether, and follow your natural inclinations, and do what you ﬁnd pleasantest, and not trouble yourself any more about it.
“Besides,” the devil says, “if you begin, you will never be able to go on; you will soon think better of it, so it is not worth while to start with anything which you are sure to give up.”
But, dear soul, I charge you not to go back. The Lord will make a way for you, and bring you safely to the end. Do not stay arguing with the devil about it. Moses did not let the people of Israel stand and ﬁght with Pharaoh. Moses said, “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord… The Lord shall ﬁght for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”
This is just what we must do. We must let our risen Saviour ﬁght for us. With Him we shall go forward, and go straight through all the difﬁculties; and our enemies shall be put to shame, just as Pharaoh with all his armies was drowned in the Red Sea, whilst the children of Israel went through, and sang a song of victory on the other side.
Therefore fear not. Take courage, poor soul. If you feel your bondage, and come to Jesus to be freed, neither Satan nor the world can hold you; they must let you go; Christ shall deliver you, and you shall come off victorious. Turn then to the risen Saviour.
Fourthly. There is another stone, another difﬁculty. It is this, The sinner says, “I have such a bad heart! such a wicked nature! I have lived in sinful habits all my life. I am grown quite hardened in sin. My sins hold me so fast, I cannot possibly leave them off. If I were to try my best, if I were to take endless trouble to cure myself of them, nothing would come of it; I should be just as I am. The next temptation I have would be too strong for me, and I should fall into sin just as before. ‘Who shall take away this stone from the door of the sepulchre?’”
Sinner, if you only say this as an excuse; if you are not in earnest; if you are glad to ﬁnd a reason for continuing in sin; if it is a relief for you to say, “It is my nature, I cannot help it;” then I tell you plainly you cannot help it. The stone shall lie on your heart for ever, because you do not really wish to have it taken away. But if you do wish from your heart to be freed from your sinful nature, your wicked habits, your chains of vice; if you wish to leave them off, all, every one of whatever sort—gross vice or hidden sin, great sins and small sins; if you wish to be thoroughly set free, hear this news, Christ is risen!
When Christ arose He broke all the bands which held Him in His grave; and just so, by His resurrection, He breaks all the bands which hold us in the death of sin.
When a sinner becomes aware that he is held captive by sin, when he sees in himself evil habits and wicked ways, which he cannot shake off, let him go to God for the resurrection- power of Jesus Christ, by which every chain is broken in which the soul can possibly be held. Paul says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, because you are under grace,” because you have given yourself to Jesus. If you see your weakness, if you see that you cannot mend yourself, only open your heart wide to receive the resurrection-power of Jesus, He will come into your heart, cleanse you, and deliver you. Thus will this stone be taken away—you shall be made free, no matter how strong your chains are, nor how long you have been held fast by them.
Fifthly and lastly. There is one more difﬁculty, one more stone in the way. The sinner thinks: “After all, holiness is a very unpleasant thing; Christian people are a very wretched sort of people. I am always hearing about their afﬂictions, and their trials, and their crosses. Very often it seems as though the more pious people are, the more misfortunes and miseries they have in this world. And besides all their outward afﬂictions, I hear them talk about their inward temptations, their trials of faith, and so on. Altogether it seems to be a most miserable thing to be a Christian.” Now this is indeed a heavy stone lying at the door. It is a misgiving that many people cannot get out of their minds. “Who shall take away this stone from the door of the sepulchre?”
Answer, Christ is risen. Christ before His resurrection was a despised man, a man of sorrows, a man of grief. Oh, how sad a life He led during those years on earth! But He is risen—then all His sorrow was at an end for ever—all His sufferings were over. He had overcome and was victorious.
See now, dear friends, how Christians should look at sufferings and sorrows. When they are afﬂicted, or mocked at, or despised, they should look to Jesus; Jesus who, though He might have been enjoying perfect happiness, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2.) Let us consider Jesus, and the glorious end of all His sufferings. Let us keep fast hold of this risen Saviour, and through Him we too shall overcome; as Paul says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”
Whatever happens to Christians, or whatever might yet happen, should never frighten us. The stone is taken away by these words of power—”CHRIST IS RISEN.”
Do you think you ought to be better off than Jesus was? Besides, all these things which seem to you so dreadful, are after all for a very little while. All the Christian’s outward and inward troubles, all his shame, and contempt, and everything else which may befall him, are only troubles which last just for the moment. Not only so, “our light afﬂiction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Yes, even now, out of every cross, every sorrow, every shame, every disgrace, every temptation which the Christian has, a glory ﬂows forth, and he can rejoice by faith in all these things.
And when the day comes, when the everlasting morning appears, we shall see all these things transformed into eternal glory, eternal beauty, and eternal joy.—Gerhard Tersteegen
Taken from, Frances Bevan, Quiet of the Land, pp. 140-145.