I have spent many weeks giving Richard Baxter’s (1615-1691) reasons for calling sinners to turn to God without delay (and we’re not finished!). He believed it important to lay out the reasons to believe in Christ to men and women who did not care about Jesus Christ while they still had time. You get some of the urgency even in his titled, “Why a Sinner ought to turn to God without delay.”
Richard Baxter was a part of a movement among Christ-centered folk in England in the 16th-17th centuries; these were the times of the “Puritans.” At first, this was a pejorative hurled at these peculiar people. The early Puritans didn’t take to the name. Yet, eventually, it did come to capture the essence of their zeal. These folks were not convinced that they knew enough of Jesus Christ themselves, as churches and as a culture. They were unsatisfied with the worship of the time. They were dissatisfied with the morals of the time. And, they knew each of them would see an end of their time.
They had some advantages over us. They had plagues. They had high infant and adult mortality rates (life expectancy: 35). Eighty hour work weeks. There was civil war. Aggressive French and Spanish. Turmoil in parliament. Dynasties of kings and queens that seemed in-and-then-out, tolerant-then-persecuting. Water was bad. Rats were bad.
Advantages? At least they didn’t have to look far for reasons to expect a short life. As a result, when the preacher stood up and spoke of hell as the dead’s reward for unbelief and heaven for their belief, people took notice. There was clutter, of course. Human cultures have always created structures to keep our minds off of eternity. This wasn’t necessarily a time when people were more open to religious things even if their living conditions contained more squalor than ours. Yet, mortality was hard to avoid or ignore.
So, Baxter begins to entreat his people to quit delaying and close with Christ; make Him their own. Many did: when he began his ministry in Kidderminster, drunkenness, profaning the Lord’s Day, and a general disregard for Christ were rampant. At the end of his time there, rather than drinking songs being heard all around, it was hymns that were sung. Most of the town had been converted to Christ and were striving hard after Him.
The results of his ministry were proof that he was zealous for all the people under his influence to hear about Jesus Christ and seal the deal with him. He understood the stakes were high – have you considered the stakes?
If a person believes in Jesus Christ and follows Him, he has decided upon a course of life that includes many things good and hard. And, when it is all said and done, heaven itself. What’s your view of heaven? What’s it like? Here’s one:
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Most people who think about these things, create a picture of heaven that encourages them. Yet, many of those same people imagine a way to get there that doesn’t include submitting themselves to Jesus Christ. But He has clearly told us that the only way to the Father, to heaven, is through Him. So, the choice that I have is to allow some to persist in believing everything’s alright when in fact, when one opens his eyes to his eternity, he would see nothing that he ever imagined and only all that he ever feared.
You can delay if you want. You can resist and deny Christ. You can continue to be satisfied with a small life of carnal pursuits thinking that “a good God wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” But you’d be wrong in every way. And not just wrong: condemned.
Now is the time to believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him. You will be wise to do so, never disappointed in having done so and blessed beyond all reckoning.