Psalm 86:5 — “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
The question, what must the grieving; sinner hear, is an important question. The answer to that question concerns the gospel of Christ. The answer to that question will, in a large measure, determine what one preaches. We must note that the question asks something about the grieving sinner. If a minister considers that the sinner must hear that God loves him, the content of his preaching will be, undoubtedly, that God loves all men. Or maybe the minister thinks that the sinner must hear that Christ died for all men and that all will eventually be saved. His preaching will be the gospel of universalism. which is not the gospel of Christ.
Note too, the question is not what must every sinner hear? For many sinners have not heard the gospel and have died in the darkness of heathendom. Evidently, God was pleased not to send them the gospel of Christ. We confess don’t we, that God sends
the gospel to whom He will, when He wills, and according to His good pleasure? Do not forget that the fact that God sends His gospel at all is according to His grace.
The grieving sinner must hear a particular gospel. The one and only gospel of the Word of God, which reveals to us the sovereign goodness of our God, the grieving sinner must hear. The sorrowful sinner is a peculiar sort of individual. He is one of those who have become the property of our Lord. We know that all men are sinners worthy of damnation on account of their sin; but precious few persons grieve about their sins. How about you and me? Do we grieve because of our sins? Are we sorry for what we are? I am not only responsible for what I do, but I am also responsible for what I am — a sinner, dead in sin and misery.
We know that to be Reformed we have to say with respect to ourselves something about total depravity; but whether we have experienced personally the truth which we confess is another matter. To know yourself to be a wretched miserable sinner, unable to do any good and prone to do all evil, is a gift of God’s grace to you. Every man in the pew or on the pulpit is a sinner before God, whether the individual on the pulpit or in the pew experientially knows that of himself or not. Some people in the church do not know the horror of their sin. Therefore, they do not seek rest in Christ. The sinner who does not walk in the consciousness of his sin and guilt before God does not come to church in order to hear sermons from God’s Word about sin, grace, atonement and sanctification. He comes to church for other reasons.
All of us frequently walk in the sins of greed, malice, lust, pride, envy— breaking the whole law of God. But only some are troubled by the knowledge of their sin. Some have not only the knowledge of their sin, but they also grieve over it; while others may intellectually know they are sinners, but they could not care less about it. In fact such seek the pleasures of sin. The difference between the grieving sinner and the “couldn’t care less about it’’ sinner is the irresistible grace of God.
But the question confronts us, what must that burdened and heavy-laden, grieving sinner hear? What must the preacher preach? The sorrowing sinner must hear this: God is good, and ready to forgive!
What does it mean that God is good? We can say, first of all, that God is good in that he bestows all manner of good gifts upon His creatures. God gives health, food, rain and sunshine, clothing for the naked, and all things necessary to sustain His creatures as it were by His hand. God is good! Secondly, God is good as the ethically perfect God. God is virtue. He is love, grace, mercy, and loving-kindness exactly as He is the thrice holy God. He as the Holy One fills the whole earth with His glory. You understand then that the goodness God shows to the creature is a revelation of His goodness as He is in Himself. As the Lord, who is good, He is righteous in all His ways and Holy in all His works. God is good exactly because He is the Holy One, who loves Himself as such. In the third place, God’s goodness implies that he is ever ready to bestow His righteousness upon them that seek to be righteous. God reveals Himself in Christ as He who is ready to forgive all them that call upon him, namely, the grieving sinner, who seeks to be righteous. This righteousness Christ has merited for all His own by His death upon the cross of Calvary.
God is good. Therefore the sinner need not be afraid to come unto God in prayer asking for forgiveness. God is always ready to remove His hand of oppression from off that sinner who grieves under the burdensome knowledge of his own sin. God is ready to bestow the righteousness of Christ upon him.
It is true that if the sinner did not know that God, who is holy, was also ready to forgive, the sinner would not dare to come in prayer before God’s throne of justice. The sinner who did not know that God is good and ready to forgive would rightly be filled with terror before God expecting to be consumed in the fire of His just wrath. But Scripture declares, and the preacher must declare, that God is good and ready to forgive, being plenteous in mercy. God’s mercy is this that He desires to forgive the sins of the grieving sinner and cause that sinner to experience the joy and blessedness of friendship with the covenant God.
God is always ready to forgive. It is not so that God is unforgiving, as if God were some tyrant who created and sustains all things and who rules and controls all things irrespective of the desires and longings of His rational moral creatures. Such a god, God is not. But men receive forgiveness in the way of seeking it and only in that way. Men who don’t seek His forgiveness ever experience God’s wrath. God is ready to forgive all them that call upon Him. Unto all who seek remission of sin, God grants remission. Unto all who seek to be righteous in Christ, God grants them the consciousness that they are righteous by faith, a righteousness Christ merited for them and which always remains Christ’s righteousness even when you possess the consciousness of it by faith in Him.
This gospel the grieving sinner must hear. It is a particular gospel. The gospel is addressed to them “that call upon him.” It is personally addressed to a peculiar people who sorrow for their sins. The assurance that God is ready to forgive is given to them that call upon His name. That assurance is given to none other.
Upon the impenitent, God, according to His holiness and expressing that all His ways are holy, breaks forth in judgment in this life and life to come.
The sinner must know that God delights in the repentance of the penitent. The preacher must declare that God will hear the sinners’ cry for help. The sinner who grieves must cry out for forgiveness. He need not be afraid before God, who is
holy and good. The sorrowing sinner in the knowledge that God is ready to forgive must call upon His name seeking forgiveness for his sins.
Do you believe that God is good and ready to forgive and plenteous in mercy to all them that call upon His name? Then, whoever you are, call upon His most holy name! Ask Him to bow down His ear; and say, hear me, O Lord, for I am poor and needy! That you need forgiveness is true, isn’t it?