The Everlasting Gospel and Ben Trying
This story is of one who realized his lost and hopeless condition. He knew that he was without God and without hope in the world. He knew that he needed help. As he reviewed his past life, there was nothing upon which he could have confidence — nothing upon which he could have assurance or boldness to know and be certain that his acceptance was sure.
His story begins and ends in Mercy Hospital — in the intensive care ward. The patient's name is Ben Trying. He'd been trying to be a Christian. He'd been trying to be good. He'd been trying to believe, to have faith, to break through — but it seemed useless, hopeless. And now he lay flat on his back with but a few brief hours to live. To him time was very precious. He knew that he was breathing on borrowed time. He had no one to help him prepare for eternity except his three religious sisters. Each were professed Christians. Each had come to comfort and console their dear brother in this tragic moment of crisis and grief. Maybe they could help him break through and believe before it was too late. Even now they waited in the lobby of the intensive care ward to see their dying brother.
The nurse whispered to one of the sisters, Miss Nebulous N. Tangible. She quietly followed and was told that she had three minutes. As she sat by the bedside of her despairing dear brother and looked into his eyes, she knew that he was without God and without hope. He clutched her hand and moaned, "Please, sis, help me to break through. . . . I don't. . . have much time. . . . Help me to believe. . . . Please help me." How could he be helped? What could she say? She took a deep breath and began to speak. "Ben, Ben, listen to me. You must give your heart to Jesus, quickly." Ben stared at her in disbelief. He moved his hand over his heart and looked puzzled. "You must reach out your hand and take His, then invite Him into your heart. You must behold the Lamb and turn away from sin and surrender all." Ben's expression conveyed confusion, so she continued. "You must fall on the Rock. You must rely on His merits and repent of your sins, then accept freely of His unconquerable robe of righteousness. This is your covering — your wedding garment. It is yours, Ben, when you repent and believe." Beads of sweat rolled off his tired, worn face. His head lay back on the pillow as he stared hopelessly at the ceiling. A mournful sigh escaped his lips as he trembled in despair. The nurse came in and whispered, "Miss Nebulous, your time is up."
The second sister, Miss Solid Ann Concrete, made her way into her brother's room and sat at his bedside. Before she could say anything, Ben looked frantically at her and with great effort forced out these words: "Oh, sis, please help me. . . . Help me to believe. . . I'm trying . . . to break through, . . . but I can't. . . . can't." She leaned over and looked into his face. It portrayed the anxiousness of his heart. She then took his trembling hand and said, "Ben, I can only tell you what the Bible says about the kind of people that will go to heaven. Their behavior will be in distinct contrast to that of the world. If you want to be there . . . well, it's up to you. But in order for you to have hope and in order for you to be a Christian, you must first renounce your old life of sin — your life of wickedness and selfishness. Your social habits — your behavior and conversation — must be drastically changed. Everything you do has got to go. It's evil. It's no good. I have to tell you the truth. You must give up your gambling. Stop smoking. Stop drinking. Quit going to those terrible bars and nightclubs. Change your habit patterns. Don't associate with your old friends. Make new ones. Lose all that weight. Quit being a glutton. Make your body a fit place for the Lord to dwell. Allow only good and uplifting and ennobling thoughts to enter your mind. Stop reading those vile magazines and dirty stories. Instead, read the Bible. Fill your mind with things that are pure and lovely. Dwell on things in heaven. Love the Lord and hate evil with perfect hatred and . . . and . . . Ben! . . . Ben! . . . Are you listening? . . . Ben? Are you all right? Nurse! Nurse!" Ben gasped for breath. He choked and gagged. The nurse quickly took his pulse. "He's. . . almost . . . gone. Could you wait outside, please?"
Moments later the nurse beckoned to the last sister. "Are you Ben's other sister?" she asked. "Yes, I am." "You don't have much time." The nurse paused, then added, "And neither does he." "I understand, nurse. Thank you so very much." Sitting beside her precious brother, Miss Faith N. Christ took his hand and prayed silently that her words would be a savor of life unto life to poor Ben, her wandering, lost baby brother. She looked into his eyes with hope and courage, and said, "Ben, are you ready to die?" "No . . . I'm not ready . . . sis, . . . but I'm trying to be ready. . . . I'm . . . trying to breakthrough. . . . I'm trying to believe,.. sis." He wrung his hands, and he wept as he sighed and shook his head. "But it's no use.... I just can't believe. ... I just can't break through. I've tried as hard as I can—but it's no use . . . no use. . . . ."
Faith leaned toward his ear as he lay there motionless. "My dear brother Ben, I understand your predicament. Would you just be still for a few minutes? Just be very quiet and listen. That's all I ask for you to do — just listen." As soon as he was calm, Faith began to speak. She did not urge him to try harder to believe, but instead she gave him the assurance of how God the Father had loved him in Jesus Christ. She began to tell him the good news — the glad tidings. "Ben," she said, "while you were His enemy, the Father loved you and chose you to be with Him where He is. He spared not His only Son for you. All of heaven was emptied and went bankrupt for you. He's given all of the accumulated and hoarded love and wealth of eternity in the gift of Jesus, His Son. You have been redeemed, forgiven and accepted in Jesus. Yes, God the Father has done all this for you by His grace, Ben. It is God's riches, at Christ's expense, by grace alone. The Father saves you by His grace.
"Two thousand years ago, when the fulness of the time had come, God the Son, your Saviour Jesus, left heaven because all of its stupendous glory was not a place to be desired while you were lost. He whom angels loved and worshiped stepped down from His exalted throne and position, and condescended to come to this dark planet earth. And at Heaven's appointed hour He was born in a lowly stable for you, Ben. He grew up, lived, and suffered shame and humiliation as the rejected One in order that you might be the accepted one. For your sake He became poor that through His poverty you might be rich. He was treated the way you deserve that you might be treated the way He deserves. He wore the crown of thorns that you might wear the crown of life. The vinegar and gall were His that the honey and sweet might be yours. He paid the price that you might enjoy the inheritance. And by His crucifixion and death He has taken your sins and put them in the tomb, burying the old life of failure forever. He's destroyed death, defeated the devil in your behalf, shut the gates of hell, and opened paradise. We're saved by His work and not our own. He rose again the third day, and by the power of His resurrection and ascension, He's taken that perfect, flawless Life and Righteousness to the throne of God. The Father has received Him back — honored, embraced and accepted Him as our Representative, as our Substitute in the place of our failure. And Ben, when the Father received, honored, embraced and accepted Jesus back, it was the same as if you were received, honored, embraced and accepted, because your humanity was constituted in Him. Faith says, 'Mine are Christ's living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did.' All things necessary for your salvation have been done, Ben, through the doing and dying of Jesus. The warfare has been fought — the victory is accomplished. God the Son has reconciled you to the Father. By His death on the cross you are pardoned. By His resurrection and life you are promoted. It is by Christ alone. The Son saves you by His life and death.
"And that's not all, my precious brother. Even now, God the Holy Spirit is present to give you faith through the hearing of the gospel. It is His work to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment. It is His work to create faith in our hearts as the gospel is heard. He too loves you and will comfort you. He will illuminate your mind, show you the cross, draw you to Christ, and give you the blessed hope and joy of acceptance in loving fellowship with the Father and with the Son. He causes us to see the goodness of the Father in giving His Son, which leads us to repentance and gives us rich faith in His unspeakable love and mercy. Because only by love is love awakened.
"God the Father loves you and saves you by His grace in giving you His only Son. God the Son loves you and saves you by giving you His life, His death — His doing, His dying. God the Holy Spirit loves you and saves you by giving you faith to accept your acceptance and to believe on the name of the Son of God so that you may know, Ben, that you have eternal life, 'and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life.'
Ben's ear had heard the everlasting gospel. Faith was kindled in his heart. He saw through the illumination of the Holy Spirit that he was accepted because Jesus was acceptable. He saw that he was pleasing in God's sight because Jesus was altogether pleasing. ("This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.") He grasped the simple truth that Jesus was His personal Representative and Substitute Righteousness at the Father's right hand. He realized now that the question was not, "Will God accept me?" but in the light of the gospel, "Will I accept the fact that I've been accepted?" He comprehended the amazing discovery that the very fact he was a sinner entitled him to come to Jesus. There was no question now. There were no doubts. The Holy Spirit illuminated his mind, and little by little the chain of evidence was joined together. In Jesus — bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross — he saw the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Hope flooded his soul. Now he knew and had the assurance and confidence and boldness that Jesus' life was his life. He knew now that his acceptance was sure because he was accepted in the Beloved. Gratitude swelled in his heart for Jesus. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Joy filled his soul. Melted and subdued, a smile broke upon his face as he said, "I see it. . . . I see . . . that . . . it . . was . . . for me. I accept it. I believe."
That was Ben's last message of mercy. He never lived another day. That night Ben passed away. Faith in Christ through the everlasting gospel was his only hope.
When I contemplate this Life of mine —
This one faultless Life, the Man divine
Who lived in my stead — by faith I see
This Life has fulfilled the law for me.
This history — pure, without a spot —
Was wrought out for me, oh blessed thought!
And when on the cross my Saviour died,
In Him sinful flesh was crucified.
In Him guilt was buried, put away.
In Him I was raised one glorious day.
In Him I sat down at God's right hand.
Now perfect and pure in Christ I stand.
Now all things are ready — "It is done."
I come to the marriage through the Son —
Come boldly without the fear of shame,
For I may draw near in Jesus' name.
His righteousness meets the law's demands.
My Saviour holds out His wounded hands.
Though I may be wretched, poor, and blind,
In Christ not a stain the law can find;
So I need not fear how God views me,
For Christ's life is all that He can see.
Christ's birth, life, and death stand in my place.
I witness in awe such boundless grace.
Above human thought, my Father's plan
That He should accept me in this Man.
My Substitute, Surety, Lord is He;
Amazing His love beyond degree!