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WITHERED BY GOD’S SPIRIT

A sermon delivered by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, December 10, 2011

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).


“The voice said, Cry.” What voice was it that spoke to the prophet? It was “the mouth of the Lord.” The voice of God spoke to Isaiah and said, “Cry.”

Then Isaiah said, “What shall I cry?” That is the question which comes before a preacher’s mind as he prepares the sermons he is to deliver each Sunday – “What shall I cry?” The Hebrew word for “cry” is qârâ. It is the same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 58:1,

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

That is what we have here in Isaiah forty, verse six: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?” It is the way a pastor should give his sermons. The text may be divided into three main points.

I. First, I must cry out on the shortness of life.

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field” (Isaiah 40:6).

“All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [all the loveliness and glory] thereof is as the flower of the field.” That is an important thing to preach! We should tell you that you are like grass, or like flowers that shoot up in a field after it rains in the springtime and then dies. Soon life passes away. How very soon this happens! It seems as though your youth will go on forever, but it passes quickly. The summer sun comes up. The grass turns brown. The flowers wither and die. Life is temporary, brief, and short lived. The Apostle James referred to this passage in Isaiah to show the foolishness of focusing one’s life merely on career advancement and the accumulation of material things.

“But the rich…is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways” (James 1:10-11).

Very few people ever have that insight. They reach and grasp to advance in this world, without being struck by what seems like an obvious fact – it will end sooner than you think! C. T. Studd (1860-1931) was one of the few rich men in his day to see that. He inherited a large fortune, but he gave it all away and went as a missionary – first to China and then to Africa. And it was C. T. Studd who said,

Only one life,
   ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ
   ‘will last.

How I wish that every young person would read about C. T. Studd, and seek to be like him. And why not, since “all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field”? Ah, if only you would see the truth of that!

Only one life,
   ‘ ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ
   ‘will last.

Soon you will pass from this earth and your soul will stand before the Judgment Seat of God. You will take nothing with you but your soul. But you will not even keep that if you are not converted! In the plainest possible words, Jesus said,

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

It is absolutely necessary for you to be born again. Otherwise you will lose your very soul – for all time, and for all eternity. “But,” someone says, “there are many important things I must do.” As one girl put it, “Life was calling.” But she was wrong. It was not life that was calling. It was death that was calling! Jesus said,

“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37).

“All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field” (Isaiah 40:6).

Therefore I must cry out and preach on the shortness of life!

II. Second, I must cry out on the withering work of God’s Spirit.

Please read verse seven aloud.

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

Dr. Gill said,

At conversion the spirit of the Lord blows a blast upon all the goodliness of man…and these cause a withering [of] men’s goodness; the spirit of God shews [them] that their holiness is not true holiness; that their righteousness has only the appearance…before men; and their religion and goodliness [are] a mere form; and their good works [are] insufficient to justify and save, and bring [them] to heaven (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 5, p. 222; comment on Isaiah 40:6-8).

This is what Spurgeon called “The Withering Work of the Spirit” (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint, volume XVII, pp. 373-384). As did his predecessor Dr. Gill, Spurgeon said that Isaiah 40:7 speaks of the Holy Spirit withering you, so that your soul dries up and sees its helplessness, sin and hopelessness without the Saviour.

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

Spurgeon said,

The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of your souls, and [cause your] beauty to be seen as a fading flower. He must so convince [you] of sin…that [you] shall see [your] fallen nature is [full of] corruption (Spurgeon, ibid., page 375).

That is the withering work of the Holy Spirit! That is that work of the Spirit of God, which dries up your false hopes, that shows you the horrible deadness and corruption of your own nature, that withers away all hope from your mind, that makes you see your only real hope lies in Christ, your bleeding substitute.

When the Holy Spirit “withers” your soul, you will see that your so-called “goodness” is nothing but filthy rags. You will see that all the religious things you are doing are mere hypocrisy; that none of the “good” things you do can justify you in the sight of a holy God; that nothing you have done so far can make you acceptable before God; that your belief is nothing but a mental agreement with the words of the Bible; that none of these things can justify you in God’s sight; that all you have done, and tried to do, cannot save you from the fire of judgment in the day of God’s wrath!

These things will only become clear to you when you pass through the withering work of the Holy Spirit. One girl said, “I felt so disgusted with myself.” Shortly afterward she was converted. Another girl said, “I am displeased with myself.” She got nowhere. Dr. Cagan counseled her that she must feel more than “displeased.” Like the girl who was converted, she must feel “disgusted.” Until she feels, deep down inside, that she is totally disgusted with herself, she will not have experienced the withering and inner turmoil that most people feel when they are truly converted.

The word “wither” is very important. You must know what it means if you want to understand what is beginning to happen to some of you. The word translated “withereth” in Isaiah 40:7 comes from a Hebrew word which means, “to be ashamed…to dry up (as water) or wither…be ashamed…be confounded…wither away” (Strong’s Concordance #3001).

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

That must happen in your heart. The Spirit of God must wither, dry up, your false hopes and the confidence you have in yourself. God’s Spirit must shrivel, sear, dry up your self-confidence, until your heart wilts like a dying flower – until you are “confounded,” perplexed, embarrassed, and “ashamed” of your own depraved nature and sinful heart. As that girl said just before she was converted, “I felt so disgusted with myself.” That is the withering work of the Holy Spirit, not that she was “displeased” with herself, but that she was “disgusted” with herself. That is what happens in real conviction.

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it…” (Isaiah 40:7).

Iain H. Murray said,

Dealing with the conscience must come first, ‘that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God’ (Romans 3:19). This being true, the conclusion of J. H. Thornwell has to follow, ‘The most successful method of preaching is that which aims at thorough and radical convictions of sin’ (Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, p. 7).

“What shall I cry?” What shall I preach? I shall preach on the brevity of life. I shall preach on the withering work of God’s Spirit. That is the work of an evangelist! That is the work of a preacher! But there is one more point, which I can only touch briefly.

III. Third, I must cry out the Gospel of Christ.

Stand and read aloud the last verse of our text, Isaiah 40:8.

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8).

You may be seated.

The Apostle Peter quoted from that verse. He said,

“But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Peter 1:25).

The eternal, everlasting Word of God, the divinely inspired Holy Scriptures, point the withered sinner to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sin. He rose from the dead to give you life. His Blood can cleanse your every sin!

When your false hopes are dried up and you are disgusted with yourself, then we must tell you to come to Jesus. If you come to Him you will be instantly saved from sin and judgment. Turn to Jesus! You will be saved by Him for all time and for all eternity. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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THE OUTLINE OF

WITHERED BY GOD’S SPIRIT

Delivered by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

(Isaiah 58:1)

I.   First, I must cry out on the shortness of life, Isaiah 40:6; James 1:10-11;
John 3:3; Mark 8:36-37.

II.  Second, I must cry out on the withering work of God’s Spirit,
Isaiah 40:7; Romans 3:19.

III. Third, I must cry out the Gospel of Christ, Isaiah 40:8; I Peter 1:25.