Pastor L.R. Shelton, March 5, 1967, www.radiomissions.org
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, l 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 into hell," You don't read your Bible into hell! 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'11 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 along 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 sine God is showing you? Then you are facing the reality of your own spiritual condition, your bankrupt condition and your old sin nature.