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The Sinner's Flight from Reality
L. R. Shelton, Sr.

1967

Listen to Isaiah 1:4-6, "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."

Every preacher you talk with today of any denomination, who has any spiritual discernment at all, will tell you there is something wrong in the pulpit and the pew, but he is not able to put his finger on it and point it out and tell you exactly what it is. Now, my friend, that's the situation we face all over the world today. That's right. There are a few who can, but they are in the vast minority, and their voices are cried down, because man is trying to figure the way out himself instead of submitting himself to the Lord. The ministry will plow on and preach and struggle and wrestle with the unknown problem, trying this method and that method, this plan and that plan, to try to remedy the thing that is wrong in the pulpit and the pew, but in the end they find that all their plans and methods have failed. Why? They are spiritually blinded. They are sincere, honest, zealous, and many of them are giving their very lives trying to remedy the situation but they cannot bring us out of the mud and mire in which we are stalled today. That's exactly where we are - we are bogged down in the mud of materialism and rationalism and infidelity and the mud of sin and religious profession.

Now what is the trouble? You may ask me the question, "Brother Shelton, do you know?" Yes, I do know - and that's not being smart either. It's all because one day god opened my eyes to let me see my own condition, my own spiritually bankrupt, totally-depraved condition; and having seen my own condition, I know the condition of every other individual who is in the same rut. If I were a doctor brought in on a case to analyze or diagnose that patient's condition, and I told you exactly what was wrong, Would you call me smart? No, you would say, "He just knew."

I remember an incident that happened some years ago in the western part of this state. A man lay dying, and they called in doctor after doctor, but no one could find the cause. Finally this group of doctors turned to the family and said, "We are at our road's end. We do not know the cause nor the remedy. Do you have any suggestions to make?" The wife said, "Yes, about 10 miles from here, in the country, is an old-time doctor. Will you kindly call him in?" They laughed, but said, "Well, there's nothing we can do. We may as well call him." They stood silently around the bed as an old stoop-shouldered, gray-haired doctor came in, sat down by the bedside and looked at the patient. After he examined him, they asked, "Doctor, do you know the trouble?" He said, "Yes, he has what we termed in my younger days a case of old 'swamp fever.' You doctors missed it because you didn't recognize the type of germ you found under your microscope, it looked like a cocklebur, didn't it?" They said, "Yes." Then he said, "That's the germ of the extreme type of malaria called old 'swamp fever'." The doctors had missed it! "Well, what's the remedy?" He answered, "Liquid quinine in the veins." "But doctor," they said, "that's dangerous!" "Yes, it's a life and death proposition; it will either kill or cure." They had to have that quinine brought in by plane from a distant city. He injected it in the veins of the dying man and sat up with him all night - and that man recovered. Now did they call that doctor smart? No, he just knew!

The trouble with our religious situation today is that our preachers see and acknowledge one side of the Gospel, but reject the other. They see that Christ died for sinners; they see that salvation is by grace; they see that there is no redemption apart from shedding of blood; they see that you must believe on Christ to be saved, but the thing they don't see (and will not admit) is man's totally-depraved condition, because they have never been awakened by the Holy Spirit. They have religion without life; profession without possession, and church membership without Christ. They grope in the dark, but never find the door that leads to the light, That door is repentance, and repentance is the missing note in present-day preaching. Some of them will talk about repentance and try to give a description of repentance, which they have read out of books but they have never experienced repentance.

The reason they have never experienced repentance is because they have never known Holy Spirit conviction. Much that is passed off as Holy Spirit conviction today is nothing more or less than a psychological, emotional moving upon an old dead corpse by high pressure evangelism that has moved him intellectually, but cannot awaken him spiritually. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken a dead sinner. "You hath he quickened (or made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). All your organization cannot take the place of Holy Spirit conviction. Organization is all right and needful - there's nothing wrong with that; there has to be a certain amount of organization in anything you do; there has to be the shell to hold the kernel. Prayer meetings, cottage prayer meetings, etc., are all right, but all your organizations, no matter how perfectly they run, no matter how many prayer meetings you have - and they ought to be - will not awaken sinners if Holy Spirit conviction is missing. All your preaching, and so on, will never awaken a sinner!

From the study of the Bible and old Puritan writings, an individual can learn depravity, and he can talk about depravity, but it never registers with him that his will is depraved. Now, brother, I did that for three years before God ever awakened me to the fact that I was a lost sinner. That's right; such individuals don't know that their wills are depraved, and governed by their depraved hearts until they experience it under Holy Spirit conviction. Until a preacher experiences Holy Spirit conviction and is made to see that his will is totally depraved and is governed and controlled by a totally-depraved heart, he will preach and teach that man has the ability to believe and receive Christ, and that salvation hinges upon man's believing, which is equivalent to making faith salvation, making faith your god. When once a sinner has been brought under Holy Spirit conviction and is convicted of the sin of unbelief, and comes to see that his whole depraved heart is one of unbelief, that his old depraved, unbelieving heart controls his depraved will, and that he can't believe until the Holy Spirit breaks the power of sin, the power of Satan, and gives him faith to believe, it is then and only then that he can receive Christ and trust Him as his own personal Lord and Savior. Salvation is wholly of grace and is wrought within the heart by the Holy Spirit. Faith is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, the faith of God's elect, the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ by which a man receives Christ. When a sinner is awakened, I send him to the Word of God because Christ is revealed to his heart through the Word. The Holy Spirit first reveals the sinner to himself through the Word. Now, you put that down and hold it. Then the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to that sinner's heart through the Word - the way out. Christ doesn't come from above or from beneath; He's lifted up out of the Word, and you are lifted up out of the Word, that is, He lifts your condition up out of the Word. You make much of the Word, sinner.

The individual who has never been awakened will grope in the dark trying to describe salvation and tell how a sinner is saved; he will use expressions that are true, but which do not describe salvation. First, every sinner must be awakened. He must be quickened and made alive by the Holy Spirit, so that the sinner sees, feels, and knows his own depraved undone wicked heart. God shows a sinner his ruined condition only through the Word by the Holy Spirit and leads that sinner to see that Jesus Christ died for sinners, that He is the world's Redeemer. A woman said one day, "You know, I believe my husband is making good progress getting to the Lord now since he laid aside the Word, since he's laid aside his Bible. He's about read himself intoHell." You don't read your Bible intoHell! Now, you put that thing down and hold it, It's only through the study and meditation on that Word that you come to know yourself, and come to know Christ. You don't know Him any other way.

Then as the Holy Spirit continues to open that sinner's heart, the sinner comes to see his hopeless, helpless condition and his inability to save himself; and he is brought to trust or commit himself wholly and completely in the hands of Christ apart from all other creatures. But this is not salvation.

The sinner is brought to see that the Bible is the Word of God, and he believes it and comes to rest upon the promises of the Word as a drowning man - but that's not salvation. He begins to plead the only ground of hope, that is, the blood of Christ and the death of Christ on the cross for his salvation. Then when the Holy Spirit has brought the sinner to the end of his way - at the end of the Law is the righteousness of God - to the end of all flesh, and the sinner lies at the feet of Christ completely yielded to Christ and Him alone, helpless and hopeless, there it is the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to that sinner's heart through the Word. Let me emphasize that fact: you can't make a god of the Word if you are studying it with one view of getting to Christ. When that has been wrought in his heart by the Holy Spirit, the sinner receives Him as his Lord and Savior, his Substitute and Redeemer. Two things stand out with that sinner from then throughout eternity - first, his totally-depraved nature, heart and will; and, second, that Christ died for him and him alone. Christ becomes a living reality to that individual - his Lord and Savior. The Person and Work of Christ becomes his testimony - he becomes a living witness of the Person and Work of Christ. That sinner knows who he is by nature, what he is by nature, and the judgment he is under - and he never gets away from it! That sinner knows that Christ is the Son of God, the sinner's Substitute, and he knows that Christ is his Substitute and Redeemer. He may be yours; He may be somebody else's, but he knows He is his. That sinner knows he has been delivered from the family of Satan and translated into the kingdom of the Son of God. Brother, every sinner who ever gets saved comes that way.

Now, if we would preach to that end and see men and women really born again into the kingdom of God, that would bring us out of the mudhole that we are in. That's the remedy for our present-day situation, but how few know it and understand it. No sinner ever wants to be awakened to face his bankrupt spiritual condition. You preachers in the pulpit, you don't want to face it, because it will hurt your pride, your reputation. Well, you've got to lose your reputation. You've got to come to the place where you are willing to lose your character and everything for Christ. "He that forsaketh not all that he hath cannot be My disciple." The Apostle Paul said that he lost all things to win Christ.

No sinner would ever be saved if he could help it. When the Holy Spirit awakens a sinner, he begins to run for cover trying to hide himself from reality. He will try to weave his fig-leaf apron of self-righteousness by joining the church, by being baptized, by dedicating his life, or by surrendering to preach. There are many, many covers that sinners will try to hide under when God begins to deal with them. On the other hand, he may turn on the messenger, complaining or murmuring, saying, "I can't stand this; if this is the way of salvation, I don't want it," and he's telling you the truth. Christ said, "They don't want to give up the old for the new," and He also said, "I'll not sew a new piece on the old garment." And that's the reason unsaved religionists fight me so much. They don't want to give up what they have. They don't want to give up their old depraved will; they don't want that will broken. They don't! They'll lie; they'll falsify everything in the world. They will tell every lie out of Hell on me to try to justify themselves, and turn around and say, "Well, now, you are living in sin, You're living in sin. Now, you confess; you repent and then I'll believe you." They are not my god! I don't have to repent to them; I don't have to confess my sins to that bunch of devils. No, sir! I have been fought for these forty years that I have been here. Now, brother, if you are in that condition, you are going to Hell! You'll give up the old before you can have the new.

In many instances a sinner will completely rebel against the truth in open rebellion and will hide under his old rebellious heart, making the excuse that he cannot give up his sin because it has such a hold upon him. An individual was talking to someone over the phone the other day, and said, "Well, I just can't give up this cigarette. I have asked the Lord to take it away from me, and He won't take it away from me." No, He's not going to do it! You've got it to do; throw it away and never go back to it. If not, you'll go on to Hell. If you are in rebellion, you walked into it. You've got to walk out of it before God ever saves you.

In another instance he'll hide under a false profession and try to convince himself that he is all right, that he is already saved and has nothing to worry about. But, remember one thing, God does not compromise with a sinner - every sinner who gets saved has to face grim reality. My friend, you are going to face your bankrupt spiritual condition - you may just as well make up your mind - if you are ever going to get saved. You are going to face it fairly and squarely, and you are going to acknowledge it to yourself; and maybe God will make you acknowledge it to the world, I don't know.

Let's look at the sinner who is facing reality, because every sinner who ever gets saved faces reality. Now don't get away from that. You can't just run down the aisle, dedicate your life, and get by with that, thinking you are going to get to Heaven on that. God doesn't do business that way. God doesn't take in washing for the devil. You may say, "There's no hope for me; you don't understand my danger." Let me say, if the power of God did not uphold you - if the Holy Spirit did not support and fortify you - if there were no hope and expectation at the bottom of your heart, you could not stand one hour. You would drown in despair, be driven to madness and sink into the bottomless pit of Hell in a split second.

I don't believe there is an individual listening to me who is as deep in the horrible pit as I was; and I know one thing, that if you were not in God's strong hand you would have been in Hell a long time ago. So would I - so would everyone. My friend, it's the strong hand of God that holds you, or you would have been gone a long time ago. You would have gone back to sin; you would have fled from the presence of God. Yes, you would!

Is there a strong desire in your heart to know the blessings and to enter into the benefits of the death and resurrection of Christ? Is there a deep desire in your heart to drink at the fountain of cleansing? Then you are beginning to face reality, The more you pray, and the more you long for Christ, is your heart being opened the more to see your awful condition? One by one are you confessing the sin God is showing you? Then you are facing the reality of your own spiritual condition, your bankrupt condition and your old sin nature.

In the first place, let's notice some characters who reaped no benefit from the death and resurrection of Christ. Let me call your attention first to the SELF-RIGHTEOUS, Christ said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance: the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Are you a sinner? Do you see yourself as a sinner? Then Christ came to call you to repentance. The self-righteous know nothing of the benefits of the death and resurrection of Christ. They have their own reward, They glory in themselves. A sinner glories in Christ.

Then there are the WISE and PRUDENT who see no beauty in Christ, because they are wise in their own conceit, The Word of God says, "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isa. 5:21). To these the mysteries of God are hid, A sinner facing reality comes to know nothing; he sees himself as nothing. He sees his need of a Substitute, and that all he will ever have or ever know is tied up in Christ, To the born-again believer everything that he knows, or ever will know, is found in Christ. To know himself is to be driven to despair unless he knows Christ. Let me tell you something, sinner - if God should open your heart right now, wherever you are, and let you see yourself as you are without hope, without Christ, it would drive you literally to despair, and you would become a raving maniac. That's what Hell is. That's what Hell will be throughout eternity - awakened sinners with no hope! Then they face reality with no hope. But deep down in your heart, as God opens it and shows you the awful spiritual, bankrupt condition you are in, there is at the bottom a hope that you will get to Christ - there is a hope that Christ died for such a sinner as you. Conviction and repentance are sweetened with the cross of Christ.

Then there are those WHO TRUST IN and BOAST OF THE LIGHT OF NATURE. They are WORLDLY-WISE. They are always talking about what they can do, what they are, what they have done, where they have been, what they know, etc. They try to impress the world with their importance. Christ said, speaking of this type, "If ye were blind, ye should have no have sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth" (John 9:41), The Pharisees had never faced reality - they did not want to face reality. When you try to be true to such an individual, and try to get him to face reality, he'll get mad with you. He thinks that you don't love him, that you have it in for him. Usually he is toucheous [sic] on some one point, and when you hit that sore spot, he'll run. It's because he is unwilling to face reality and be broken at the feet of Christ that he might enter into the benefits of the Gospel. Christ said, "I am sent unto the lost sheep... The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost... If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them who are lost... blinded by the god of this world." Are you lost? Are you a lost sinner?

There are those who are alive under the Law while sin is dead in them - sin has never been revived. They can sit and listen to Gospel preaching and never be moved. Many of them love Gospel preaching - the stronger the better, but they have never been awakened to their danger. If the Holy Spirit moves their heart the least bit, they will stay away from the preaching for awhile until all is settled. Christ came to save the condemned - those under damnation, those who realize they are condemned to die. Christ pardons only guilty sinners. Are you guilty? The sinner must know that he is guilty, acknowledge that he is guilty, take his place as a guilty sinner before he can be pardoned. Such a sinner ceases to fight back. He becomes as docile as a little lamb and he rests there with one cry, "Oh, where can I find Him? I've got to find Christ." There's a thirst; there's a hunger; there's a longing; he's like a man who is out on the desert dying of thirst, he's crying, "Water! Water! Water!" That sinner's crying, "Christ! Christ! Oh, Where is He? I've got to get to Him. I'm condemned to die. I'm a sinner; I'm lost!" There's no fighting back in him; his mouth is shut; he has become guilty before God. That sinner will be saved. Yes, he will.

Now let's notice briefly those who benefit by the death and resurrection of Christ. First, those who are dead in trespasses and sin, but who hear His voice. "They that hear shall live" (John 5:25), "You hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Yes, those who are condemned at the bar of justice, condemned by their own conscience, those who feel the curse as a transgressor of the Law, those who feel the weight and burden of their sin, those who are damned as unbelievers of the Gospel. None but such souls as these ever hunger after Christ or thirst after the righteousness of Christ, because they alone see their own unrighteousness, and feel and know their need of a covering. What covering do you have for your sin, my friend? Has the Lord God ever passed by you and said, "Live"? Have you ever felt the arrows of God striking deep into your soul? Have you ever faced the fact that you are condemned to die, and that justly? Have your unrighteousness and uncleanness ever been so manifest, or revealed to your heart, until you have cried out for the righteousness of Christ? Then has God ever passed by you and spread His skirt over you and covered your nakedness? Just let me probe your heart. If He has not covered you with His righteousness, is there a deep desire in your heart that you can't give up, you can't let go, and you don't want to let go until God spreads His skirt of righteousness over you? Is that your condition, my sinner friend? Then you are facing reality, and you are walking down the way of grace.

Then those who are meek also enter into the benefits of the Gospel. Christ said, "He hath sent me to preach good tidings unto the meek" (Isa.61:1, Luke 4:18). The meek are the only ones who will hear the good tidings of the Gospel. Only the soul that is bowed down through grief and anguish and trouble and distress - only the soul that is so dismayed and dejected that he cannot bear a harsh word because his spirit is sunk so low through continual sorrow of heart and grief of mind - will listen to the Gospel. They want deliverance. They want the comfort, the peace, the pardon, the deliverance of the Gospel. Yes, those who are broken by the cutting convictions of God's Word - they who are broken by the cutting conscience - they who are broken by the terrors of the Law - they who are broken by the accusations of Satan - they who are broken by the reproaches of those who are at ease, will know the binding up of their broken hearts by the hand of the Lord Jesus when He pours oil and wine of the Gospel into their wounded hearts - the oil, the grace of God for healing; the wine, the joy of the Gospel.

My friend, do you know what it means for the Lord Jesus to stoop over you and bind up that broken heart, pour in the oil of the grace of God and the wine of joy, the comfort of the Gospel, and take you in His arms and bear you on His shoulders, saying, "This is My sheep which was lost, but now is found"? Oh, that everyone were broken at His feet this hour and knew the benefits of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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