One of the joys of preaching the Word is seeing the Holy Spirit use the Word bringing conviction resulting in the salvation of men, women, boys, and girls down through the years. My Sermon Projects will culminate in a book of favorite sermons that involved my reviewing sermon notes from a twenty-seven year ministry. I traveled down Reminiscent Trail recalling pastors and congregations.
The 3 x 5 card file is complete. The entries include the text, the subject, the date a sermon was preached, the place, and any result. It was interesting to note that when we changed pastorates that my first sermon in a number of them was A Prayer for Christians using Colossians 1:11-12 as the text. My last message in four of the pastorates was Heaven.
The first time I preached that sermon in leaving a congregation was at the Rosedale Baptist Church, Richmond, Kentucky on December 17, 1961 following a four-year ministry. Beginning with Westside Baptist Church, Berea KY, in 1953, I had the privilege to serve eleven other congregations as pastor during a twenty-seven year period. Although I never envisioned not having a pastorate, the Lord had other plans which began with a call to the presidency of Northeastern Bible College, Essex Fells, NJ in 1980. It would be difficult for a college president to serve one church as pastor since he must have a wider ministry among the Body of Christ, the Lord was preparing me for the itinerant prayer seminar ministry. If there were more than one of me, however, one would certainly be pastor-teacher of a local church. Another one of me would be an evangelist.
For over fourteen hundred Sundays, I had the privilege of serving as pastor of a local church. From 1953, at the age of seventeen when my work began, until 1980, when I became president of Northeastern Bible College (NJ), there were few Sundays when I was not in my own pulpit leading morning and evening worship services. There were two messages
to prepare and deliver each week or sometimes more.
There are several approaches to preparing messages. One is to develop a sermon outline to guide thoughts and then extemporaneously fill in the words. Another is to write out the message and speak from the manuscript.
The late H. B. Harris, my "father in the ministry" and my mentor (who was the biggest influence in my early ministerial life) used the sermon outline approach. When he was called home in January, 1961, through an automobile accident at the age of forty-three, he left hundreds of sermon outlines. Some he had shared with me over the years. During my early years, I emulated his approach. Since Pastor Harris used the topical approach to sermons, so did I. This basically is choosing a subject, choosing a primary text, and then developing it with key points, supported by Scriptures throughout.
Every week, I worked on my messages, which required my spending time in the Word of God finding support verses for my sermons. In 1977, I became aware that I did not know God very well. I had been too busy working for Him to spend time in seeking to know Him for who He is. I realized for the first time that my basic approach to the Word
of God should be first for my own food and that I should read systematically beginning with Genesis 1 and ending with Revelation 22.
The result has been amazing. As the years have speedily passed, my challenge for some years has not been to get a message to preach, but to have time to share what God has given me through my daily time in the Word. As I began to profit from the Word, I became aware of expository preaching which is to choose a text and open it up. Later I found that the approach followed by both Jesus and Paul was opening up Old Testament Scriptures as they shared the Gospel. Once I discovered this approach, I began to write out my messages in rather complete form and then speak from the manuscript.
As did Pastor Harris, I have kept my messages and have them filed according to texts. There are some messages that God blessed in special ways many times over the years with souls saved or folks coming forward for what we called rededication or regardless of how many times I preached them. From the beginning, I have recorded the date that a
message was preached, where it was preached, when, and the results.
Preach the Word
I am glad that I learned from the beginning to preach the Word. I am glad that I typed up my messages and have kept them. I am glad that I recorded where and when I preached a message and took time to write the results. I am glad that the Lord has laid on me to prepare a book of favorite sermons to extend the influence of the messages He gave to me.
Pray with me that those who read the messages will hear from God and that He will use them to help the readers "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). It is possible to grow in knowledge and not in grace. Nothing could please me more than to learn that the readers know more about the text, but that they will grow in grace as the Holy Spirit brings the Word alive with His special anointing and unction.
The first sermon I will share is "The Healing of a Nation." The answer to the moral crisis is not which political party is in power, but in following God's prescription for our healing. Nothing short of knowing and applying His remedy will suffice. May God bless America!
Text: 2 Chronicles 7:14
"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
"Does America need healing?" If this question were posed, there would be little difference in the answer regardless of the respondent. You know what the answer is. There are 280 million of us now living in the USA and our profile speaks loudly.
America needs healing! Regardless of the index used, there is abundant evidence that the assessment is correct.
There are shocking demographics which, when cited, grab our attention. Let me name a few of them:
1. One of five Americans need professional help because of emotional problems.
2. One of three babies are born to an unwed mother.
3. Three abortions a minute.
4. One of four homes with children are headed by a single parent.
5. Eight of 100 young people attempt suicide each year--one every ninety minutes.
6. Divorce rate is 60% although 2.6 million live together unmarried.
7. 22.6 million problem drinkers, as many as the population of the New York City area--not counting drug problems.
8. One violent crime every twenty-four seconds.
9. One property crime every three seconds.
10. One rape every five minutes.
11. One murder every twenty-eight minutes.
12. Three children die daily from abuse and neglect.
13. Over one million in federal and state prisons.
14. One million runaways on streets.
15. As many as three million homeless.
16. 158,000 babies born in 1991 addicted to crack cocaine.
17. Three vehicles stolen a minute.
We need healing. There are fractured people and fractured families all around. Adults, young people, children. We are in trouble in America. You know it and I know it.
My subject today is "The Healing of a Nation." In the text, there is indication that healing is possible for a nation. God has a special message for a special people. We want to master the text.
"My people called by My name"
To whom is God speaking? You will notice that the text is directed toward a particular group of people--those whom God calls "My people." Anyone who knows Biblical history could easily settle for Israel as the ones to whom He directed the message exclusively. God choose Israel, not because of any inherent qualities on their part which would merit His favor, but to be able to use them to bring the world to Himself. There is a qualifier on the designee of His message which is important. He speaks to His people, then adds "called by My name." God's people have not always been called by His name.
You will remember in the early days of Christianity that believers were told to carry the Gospel--which is defined as the good news of the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)--to every person. In order to do this, He instructed them to go into all the world. Early Jewish believers in Jerusalem did not readily obey His command. Rather, they stayed in Jerusalem UNTIL PERSECUTION came. It was then that many, other than the apostles, began to spread across the Roman empire.
Some of the people of the Way, as they were often called, settled in Antioch, Syria, a large city of 300,000 to 500,000 people. The Church at Antioch was constituted. This church began to take seriously the injunction to carry this Gospel all over the world to every person. This was the church that sent out the first missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. But something else happened in Antioch that is memorable.
The believers received a new name--Christians (Acts 11:26).Since those early days in Antioch, those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior have been called by His name--Christians.
God directs His remarks long ago to His people called by His name. The only ones, today, who fit this designation are Christians. He is not talking to unsaved people; He is talking to Christians. A Christian is one who has placed trust and faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross to pay for his sins. He is one who made a decision to respond to this grace--the unmerited favor which God has given and the opposite of works.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boost," A Christian is one who has exercised faith in Jesus. Faith does not save a person; rather, faith gets the person to Jesus and He saves. So, have you been to Jesus? Have you put your trust and faith in Him? That is how you come. It is as simple as your taking your feet off the floor and holding them out in front of you. Rest your whole weight on the chair. You have exercised faith by resting your weight on the chair. You trusted the chair.
In the same sense, this is what you have done when you came to Jesus--you trust Him totally for your salvation.
That is how you come.
Several things happen when you come to Jesus. When a person comes to Christ in child-like faith, he is born into the family of God (John 1:12-13). At that time, the Holy Spirit places him into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and indwells him to provide the power needed to live for Christ and to witness. His name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. He passes from death to life. When he dies, he is going to Heaven, not Hell. All these things happened because you have trusted Jesus as Savior.
Isn't it amazing that centuries before believers were called Christians that God would look down and say, "My people called by My name" in the statement which is our text today? So, God is talking to believers, not lost persons. The reason He is not talking to unsaved persons is because they are "dead" (Ephesians 2:5). It is not reasonable to expect a dead person to show interest! The healing of a nation is in the hands of believers.
A simple text to master.
I want you to place this text on the screen of your mind and do a little work on it. I want you to circle two words in the text. Circle "if" and circle "then." These two words are connected. Draw a line between these two words to prepare yourself to understand what God is saying. This is a simple construction. There could not be anything plainer. God says, "If you do this"--and then clearly lists what He wants His children to do--"then I will do this"--and states what He will do with the climax being "I will heal their land." "If , , , then" is easy to understand, isn't it? Surely, those concerned about their land will pay close and strict attention to this text and determine to obey fully and completely what He said to do.
Under "if," there are four things His children called by His name are to do. It is important that we understand fully each of them separately and then as a whole. Be assured that God is ready to do what He said He would do when we come in complete obedience with Him.
The beginning point is "humble," a word which you and I need to comprehend. The word simply means dependence on God, not self. This is a difficult position for any of us because we tend to depend on other factors than God only. We depend on our intellectual or physical strength. We depend on our education or our employment. We depend on family members or our friends. But God wants us, above all, to depend on Him.
If I could teach you what this word means to the point you would begin to incorporate the definition in your praying as you come boldly (Hebrews 4:16), it would revolutionize your prayer life. The word "pray" is the word "ask" when you want God's hand to move, or you want Him to do something. This is a word with narrow parameters in which we must function if we are to obey His directive.
When we think of prayer, we think of five elements which constitute our communication with God. There is adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession. The word used here is not adoration, which is seeking His face and the third thing God wants us to do. Do you see any difference in seeking His hand and His face? There is a vast difference.
When you want God's hand to move and God to do something, there are two directions for your praying--for self and for others. When you ask God to do something for you, the word is petition, which comes from the Greek word deomai. This word is used when one person asks someone else to do something for him. Either God or man could be the recipient of the request. You and I need to ask God to do things in our lives.
The other direction for praying is toward others. The word is intercession, from two Latin words, which, when joined together, means "a go between." An intercessor is one who stands between God and someone else or some circumstance. The sovereign God has ordained prayer as the tool to get His work done. God works only in concert with the praying of His people. Prayer not only prepares us to do His work, it is the work which must be done before any other work for the Lord is done if there is to be success.
Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit join us when we begin to pray because they know the Father moves only in concert with the praying of His people.
Seek My face.
There is a difference in seeking His hand and His face. When you and I seek His face, we go before Him just to be with Him and not ask Him to do anything. There is a reason why it is important for us to come before Him with praise and worship. It is important, first, to understand that adoration does not change God. Matthew Henry noted that we cannot add to "God's perfections." That is true. God will never be any greater than He is and our worship does not add to Him at all. Adoration changes us. When we begin to praise and worship, we are changed and want to love Him more dearly and walk with Him more closely.
Turn from sin.
Remember, God is speaking to His children, not unsaved people. Do you find it strange that sin enters the equation?
Do Christians have problems with sin? There is not one of us who does not understand the necessity of Christians dealing with sin in their lives.
It will be helpful to understand sin in a Christian's life. There are two aspects. First, God says: "There are some things I do not want in the lives of My children." What am I doing that God does not want me to do? Then, God says, "There are some things I want in the lives of all My children." What am I not doing that God wants me to do? Doing forbidden things and failing to do expected things--this is sin for a Christian.
Until the Christian confesses and forsakes known sin in his life, he cannot pray for the healing of his nation. The Word is plain: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18). "God's hand is not short that He cannot save. Neither is His ear heavy that He cannot hear, But your iniquities have separated between you and your God and your sins have hid His face from you so that He cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2). A person who wants to pray for America must confess and forsake sin if God is to hear his requests.
In order to know what sins are in your life, my suggestion is to get off to yourself with a piece of paper and a pencil in hand. Ask God to show you what sins are in your life and write them down. David gave us a model to follow when he pled: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). You will soon become aware of specific sins of commission and omission which you need to write on your paper.
Becoming conscious of sin is known as conviction--and is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 18:6-11) who applies the Word of God as a mirror to let us see ourselves as God sees us. This is the beginning point in getting on praying ground.
Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, but what comes next is our job and that is repentance. Once you know there is a sin, you must repent which is to change your mind about the sin. Unless repentance occurs, there is no possibility to experience cleansing.
Once you know there is a sin in your life and have changed your mind about it, you are ready to confess before God your sin. Confession is to say the same thing about your sin that God has said in agreement. Confession must be specific, not general. The sin you became conscious of through the Holy Spirit and which was the focus of your repentance must now be confessed. If you do not deal with specific sins and try to do it by wrapping all your sins in a bundle to present to God, you have simply run the lawn mower over the weed. The root is still there and the weed will come out again. The only way to get the root out is through biblical confession.
Forgiveness and cleansing.
Following confession is forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). The very moment you confess your sins, your record sheet in the ledger which contained them is now clean.
Change of direction.
Following conviction, repentance, confession, cleansing and forgiveness is a change of direction.
In the Scripture, Spirit-filled does not mean "more of" or quantity. Rather, it means "control." The analogy of a drunk man is used for Spirit-filled ( Ephesians 5:18). As a drunk man is controlled and influence by the drink that is in him--as is manifested in changed talk and changed walk--we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit who is in us. We have a problem today. Most Christians are carnal Christians--which means self is in control, not the Holy Spirit. If you show me 100 Christians (and I mean those who have received Jesus as personal Savior by an act of faith and commitment, not simply nominal Christians), I will show you at least ninety-five carnal Christians. There are two reasons Christians are carnal. First, most Christians have no idea how to get clean; second, most Christians today have no idea what Spirit-filled means or how to be filled with the Spirit.
As you walk in the Spirit, you can pray for America and your prayers will make a difference.
Once we do the four things God has specified, He will do three things. Understanding His promises will certainly uplift, encourage, and strengthen our faith.
"I will hear from Heaven."
I equate Heaven with Headquarters, where the resources are kept. It is significant that the first promise God has made is that He will open up the store house. He does not have to put us on back order.
"I will forgive their sin."
Unconfessed sin robs the Christian of the joy of God's salvation. That is exactly what happened to David (Psalm 51:12). When the Christian loses the joy, he does not worship well, walk well, work well, witness well, or war well. A heavy load will settle on him--even if he does not know what is happening.
The word forgive means to lift and remove a heavy load.
"I will heal their land."
God has told us what we are to do which will result in healing in the land. Let's do it one by one, person by person, believer by believer.
God bless you and God bless America !
The centrality of preaching in many churches is illustrated by placing the pulpit in the very center of the auditorium. It is important to proclaim the message under the power and unction of the Holy Spirit.
Many preachers preach without being well prayed for which is a tragic situation. Prayer is the work that must under-gird preaching, as well as all other efforts to do the Lord's service. When Jesus gave His "greater works" message, He pointed out that asking things in His name was the basis of the greater works (John 14:12-14).
Having served as a pastor for over fourteen hundred Sundays (twenty-seven years), I have no doubt that I preached over three thousand times during those years or almost always twice on Sunday as well as revival sermons delivered during two-week revival meetings. From the beginning at the age of seventeen when I preached my first sermon, I learned to prepare with a rather full sermon outline. During a large portion of the ministry, I wrote the sermons and delivered them verbatim which means I have many sermon notes that almost anyone could read and follow.
One of my assistants has organized the sermons according to text and subject using index cards. The cards include, also, the date I preached the sermon, the place, and the results. It is interesting that sometimes I recorded the number saved actually listing the names of those who came to Christ.
Delivery styles of preachers vary. Most young preachers want to emulate those whom they have heard and considered effective. While there is nothing wrong with patterning after another preacher, I decided early that my call was to be myself and follow the delivery style of preaching most conformable to me. On one occasion, a leading pastor said to me during my first days in a new pastorate that I had mighty big shoes to fill referring to the outstanding ministry performed by my successor. My response was to express appreciation for the work the Lord had used him to do, but to affirm that I had no intention to try to fill his shoes since I had my own shoes to fill.
It is a joy to share some of my favorite sermons with you.
Subject: Speaking In His Name
Text: Acts 4:10, 12, 19-20
"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him does this man stand here before you whole . . . Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby ye must be saved . . . Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. " Acts 4:10, 12, 19-20
If someone offered you $5,000 for a month's work or a penny doubled each day for a month, which would you take? Our first urge would be to take the $5,000 obviously. But the penny doubled each day would come to $10,737,418.24. Incredible! That is the power of multiplication.
If we won to Christ only one person per year and discipled that person to win others, it would take only a few years to win the 5 3/4 billion people on this earth to Christ.
God wants an individual saved, but Satan does not. After a person is saved, Satan knows it is too late to do anything about that person's eternity; however, he then wants the person to lose his influence and his witness. That is the insight we gain from 1 Peter 5:8: "The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." The word translated devour is translated in Hebrews 11:29 as "drown". The devil wants to drown our influence. He wants us to be silent Christians--and he has been quite successful in many lives.
The great sin of most contemporary Christians is that we shut Christ in our lives, not out of our lives. But there is something that we can do to reverse immediately this situation and begin multiplying believers for the kingdom of God in our day--and that is to follow the example of the early believers in Jerusalem. The purpose of this message is to encourage believers to launch out and begin SPEAKING IN HIS NAME!
The message background
During the first years following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the early church grew rapidly. By Acts 4, there were five thousand men in the church. Not only were people added to the church daily, the addition became multiplication. Nine plus nine equals eighteen--that is addition. Soon, the text states they multiplied which brings different results from addition. Nine times nine equals eighty-one. The early church multiplied.
As background, let's take a few minutes to study Acts 3 and 4. The religious leaders became agitated and threatened by the rapid growth of Christianity. The opportunity came when a lame man was healed. The decision was made to arrest the leaders of this new movement. Peter and John were imprisoned and beaten. The text is from the final show-down during which the religious leaders demanded that there be no further effort to win people to Christ. Peter and John simply replied, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. But we cannot help but speak in His name."
SPEAKING IN HIS NAME is my subject today. Most Christians have not yet found a natural and satisfying way of sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. A dilemma develops between the sense of OUGHTNESS about personal evangelism and the sense of FRUSTRATION in not having a natural and effective way to witness.
Let's talk about two ways to SPEAK IN HIS NAME: first, through developing and sharing your personal testimony and second, through learning to use a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Christ.
Developing Your Personal Testimony
One of the most effective tools each Christian has is his own personal testimony. Let's talk about a way to develop your personal testimony so that you can share it in ninety seconds standing at a water cooler if that is the opportunity you have.
Our model is Paul's personal testimony which is recorded in Acts 22:1-6 and 26:9-18. By studying this model, each believer can get some pointers about how to develop his personal testimony. My suggestion is to get pencil and paper and develop your personal testimony.
There are four basic themes which Paul used in his testimony. Let's look at them in the light of including each in our testimony.
First, "I've not always been a Christian." Most unsaved people somehow think that a Christian has always been a Christian. Consequently, he doesn't relate very well to the Christian. Affirming that you have not always been a Christian provides a point of reference for the lost person. Describe your life before Christ (B.C.). Use twelve to eighteen key words or short phrases which describe you "B.C." such as hateful, selfish, lustful, or whatever. Put these thoughts into a couple of sentences once you have them in mind.
Second, "Here is how God got my attention." State briefly how you realized your need of Christ as your Savior.
Third, "Here's what I did when God got my attention." Relate how you received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Tell how you committed your life to Jesus.
Fourth, "Here's how my life changed." Tell how Jesus makes your life full and meaningful. Tell about the joy and peace you have. Highlight basic changes in your life.
Note the approach of using key words. Jot down key words. Use short phrases if that is more helpful in getting your thoughts together and organized.
PRAY AS YOU WORK.
Start the work of building your own personal testimony, work for a brief time, go do something else and come back to it again. Give the Holy Spirit time to speak to your heart as you prepare. Then take all you have and condense it to a statement of 125 words which would take between sixty and ninety seconds to share.
Since you have prepared yourself and are seeking the Holy Spirit's help, you can expect to have opportunities to share your personal testimony. God honors preparation.
Keep your testimony simple and brief. Keep to the point. Keep positive. Avoid bragging, unless it is about Jesus. Negative comments and remarks lead to negative discussions. Keep language understandable. Remember that the "language of Zion"--so commonly used in church services--is sometimes difficult to understand by those who are unsaved.
Since you really want to be used by God, discipline yourself to prepare a basic personal testimony. You will find this approach will provide a natural, effective, and satisfying way to share your faith--which is mandated by the Scriptures.
Examples in shoe leather
Since it is always helpful to have personal application of how truth has worked in shoe leather, let me introduce Inga Marcussen, now home with the Lord. Inga, a native of one of the Scandinavian countries, lived in Connecticut before retiring to Boca Raton, Florida. When she heard me share how to prepare your personal testimony, she said, "I can do that!" She prepared her testimony, went out to a nearby park bench, and asked God to bring to the bench whomever He wished to hear her testimony. In her broken English, she shared with many what Christ had done in her life and encouraged them to turn their lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Success in witnessing is sharing the Gospel and leaving the results up to God.
During a Bible conference I lead on personal evangelism at the Old First Church, Cedar Grove, New Jersey June 7-10, 1982, I shared this message and urged those present to put into practice the truths taught by the Holy Spirit. I remember it as though it were yesterday. One of the leaders of the church, Bill Wang, came late the next evening with a radiance that caused me to ask for his story. He shared that the Holy Spirit told him to share his personal testimony, using the outline he had learned, with his elderly sister in her hospital room at Mountainside Hospital. Previously, he had found it difficult to express what was on his heart. Having his personal testimony developed gave him confidence to share with one he loved dearly. That night, his sister received Jesus Christ as her own personal Savior. Bill rejoiced even as those in the presence of God in heaven rejoiced.
Using a passage of scripture to bring someone to Christ
Every believer needs, in addition, to having a prepared personal testimony to share, to know how to use a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Christ. I want to teach you how to use Romans 10:1-3 and 8-13--one of the plainest presentations of the plan of salvation.
It is wise to sit down with the person whom you are seeking to win to the Lord with a Bible in hand. If you can, actually use a Bible belonging to the person to whom you are witnessing. I have found that a person always believes his own Bible more quickly than one someone carries into his house.
Turn to Romans 10:1-3 and let the person read with you, rather than your reading to him. Let him fix his eyes on the text. Begin with the burden Paul expressed in verse one: "my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." He had earlier expressed the deep burden he was carrying for his own people when he wrote in the previous chapter: "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1-3). Based on how his own people treated Paul, including using extreme physical abuse, one could question his veracity because what he was saying sounded like a lie. So he pointed out that the Holy Spirit knew he was telling the truth! Paul wanted his own people saved.
One striking difference between Christians today and in the early days of my pastoral ministry relates to a burden for the lost to be saved. When I started in 1953 as a seventeen-year old preacher, folks had a deep burden for unsaved loved ones and often wept for them. That burden is missing today, yet the Word says: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy; he that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall return rejoicing, bringing the sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:5-6). Television and prosperity have united to take away our burden. We need the burden back--otherwise we will not go out and sow the seed. Paul had a burden for his people in the flesh, the Jews, even to the point that he would be willing to be lost if they would be saved.
As you witness to an unsaved person, briefly note how important it is for each person to be saved and not lost. Point out that a person is either saved or lost. There is no third category.
As he continued to reflect on the situation, Paul said, "I give my people credit. They have a zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge. Instead of coming God's way, they are seeking to come their own way depending on their own righteousness" (vv 2-3). Paul concluded that their efforts reveal an ignorance of God's way. Simply, the Jews were practicing works to establish their own righteousness--which always leaves a person short!
Having a zeal for God is not enough. Many today are zealous, but what they are doing is not according to God's Word. If you travel into New York City from New Jersey today, you will be greeted at the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel or Holland Tunnel by individuals selling beautiful flowers. They are there in all types of weather--sunshine or rain; sleet or snow. These persons are Moonies who believe a part of their salvation is zealously performing these duties--but these acts are but zeal without knowledge.
But what is the true way to come to God? What does the Word say? Let the person to whom you are witnessing turn with you to verse eight and read: "But what does the Word say? The Word is nigh thee, even in thy heart and mouth, that is the word of faith which we preach."
Salvation is near
Point out, as the person reads with you verse eight, that a person does not have to take a long trip to be saved since the Word is near him. Isn't this good news? Note that the "heart" here does not refer to the blood pump in the body; rather "heart" is the word for inner man--the part of a person which thinks, loves, feels, and makes decisions. Through the mouth, a person expresses what has happened to him inside.
What does one do to be saved? Ask the person to read verse nine himself and tell you the two requirements stated to be saved. Give him time to answer. Many think ten minutes have passed after we ask for an unsaved person's response when only ten seconds have passed. Let the person think this through. Wait for his answer. A person must confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, rather than Caesar, and must believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
When he tells you the two things needed for salvation, ask him to read verse ten and tell you the proper order--one must believe first, and then confess that Jesus is his Lord. Continue reading verses eleven and twelve which speak for themselves.
Prayer completes the transaction
Conclude sharing the Scripture with verse thirteen, which tells how to implement and complete the transaction. To bring the person to a point of decision either to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Savior--and there are not other alternatives, ask two basic questions related to "calling upon the name of the Lord: first, what does it mean to "call upon the name of the Lord" and second, what is His name?
To "call on the Lord" is to pray. The name Jesus means "He who saves." It is quite easy to understand that a lost person needs to pray asking Jesus to save him. No one will ever be saved without asking for salvation.
Ask for a decision
At this point, many witnesses fail to "draw the net" by asking for a decision now. Bring the matter to conclusion by asking the person to pray with you and invite Jesus to become His Savior now. Many will gladly do this as the Holy Spirit moves, and the person is born anew into God's family. When the person accepts Jesus, let him either write what he has done in his Bible and date the statement or tell someone in the house what he has done. I have found that it is helpful for him to call someone on the phone and share his decision.
A word of caution
Some believe developing a strategy to use in witnessing is too simplistic and too mechanical. This is true only when a person makes the "right sounds" and goes through the "right motions" without relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Keep in mind that you, personally, can never convert anyone, but the Holy Spirit has promised to be the power needed to share Christ and His Word to bring forth fruit (Acts 1:8).
I believe it is imperative that every believer develop skill in using a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Jesus and be ready to share a personal testimony. God will honor your preparation by giving you opportunities to use the Scriptures and to see folks saved. With this background, are you ready to get started?
Success is sharing
Think this through! Make your preparation to share your faith by developing your own personal testimony and by learning how to use a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Jesus. Prepare yourself.
Success in witnessing is simply sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Remember you are a success in God's eyes when you share His Word regardless of the response. Be assured that the Lord would never have instructed us to spread His Word if He did not intend for us to obey Him. Where God guides, He provides. This is our task and our opportunity.
The message that follows was used numerous times in the revival meetings. Of the twenty-three times I preached it (from July 13, 1967 until October 31, 1983), sixteen were saved and scores of believers came forward to rededicate their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Seldom has a sermon spoken to my own heart more than this one. Frankly, everyone including preachers and teachers need to be reminded that there is an eternity. Not only will everyone who hears our message be in eternity, we ourselves will soon be there.
As you read this sermon, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring its truths alive for you personally and that He will use it to let you see yourself as God sees you IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY and that you will draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ in your daily walk.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15
Today, I have just one proposition to make and it is this:
- after your spirit wings its way out of your body,
- after the casket lid has been closed
- after the pallbearers have borne your body in their solemn process
- after you have been taken to the cemetery
- after you have been lowered into the confines of the grave
- after the clods have rumbled ominously upon the coffin top
- after the last tear has fallen and the last muffled sob heard
- after the last mourner has turned aside from the graveside and your body lies alone
Where will you be in eternity?
Where will you be in eternity? This is the most pertinent and powerful question that presses upon the human soul. Let's consider it because of the nature of life--transitory and temporary. Let's us consider it because of the nature of eternity--permanent and unending. Notice the question is not "Where will you spend eternity?" Eternity never ends and you cannot spend it ever. The question is "Where will you be in eternity?"
From long ago comes the story of the first Christian missionaries who came to England. He penetrated as far as Northumberland where Ethelbert was king. The king heard of the missionaries and wasn't quite sure they should be allowed to preach to his people. So, he called together a great number of lords and nobles to debate the issue. They met by night around a long oak table in a great baronial hall under the flames of torches that played weirdly upon the massive beams that held up the roof. As they discussed the subject, suddenly from the open window at one end of the hall, out of darkness, a swallow flew into the light. It flashed across the long room, paused for a second in its flight, then darted out an open window at the other end of the hall into the darkness. Then one of the nobles rose and said, "My Lord, life is like the flight of that swallow. We come out of the darkness into the light of life for a few moments and then fly into the darkness again. If the Christian missionaries can tell us anything to settle the mystery of whence we came and whither we goest, they should be permitted to preach."
The GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST has the answer to the question from whence we came and whither we goeth. It has the answer of the mystery of eternity past, to the riddle of life present, and the mystery of eternity. In the light of the Word of God, let's explore the answer. There are several points I wish to make as you pray for me and as the Holy Spirit leads.
There is an eternity
The psalmist caught a glimpse of the nature of eternity when he said, "For everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." (Psalm 91:2b). The exegesis of this is simply, "From vanishing point to vanishing point, there is eternity." The vastness of the subject overwhelms our finite minds and we cannot comprehend it. Think on this fact, THERE IS AN ETERNITY!
We live our lives on a little island which we call time which is bounded by two vast seas of eternity. Let your mind go back into the unending recesses of time past. Then let your mind move into the future as far as you can imagine. When you mind can go no further, there is still eternity.
You must be in eternity somewhere
It is plainly stated in the Scripture: "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Not only do we know this is true from the Bible's declaration, we know it is true as we look around us each day.
Solomon caught a glimpse and said, "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7). The wise woman of Tekoa said, "We must die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." The psalmist observed, "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?"
Death means separation. When death comes, the real person (spirit-soul) leaves the body and moves into eternity. You and I will be alive forever in eternity. There will never be a time when the soul is not alive. Man, once born, is indestructible. This body may be destroyed, but one million years from this day, you will be alive somewhere.
After the stars have burned out and turned to smoldering ashes, after the mountains have crumbled to dust, after the sun and moon have fallen from their sprockets, you and I will be alive in eternity.
We contemplate on what happens when the shadows lengthen and life's sun is set and its short days have passed and we enter eternity.
You can know where you will be in eternity
God, in His goodness, has given us the Bible to provide information we need about eternity. The aged John wrote, "These things have I written unto you that ye might know ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).
The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, knew: "I go to my Father."
The thief on the cross who cried for mercy knew: "This day," Jesus said, "thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
Paul, the Apostle, knew, and said, "If this earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a home, not made with human hands, eternal in the Heavens . . . to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:1,8). He shared with the Philippian believers writing from his prison cell in Rome, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain . . .I have a desire to depart to be with Christ which is far better" (Philippians 1:21, 23).
Christmas Evans, the great Welsh evangelist, came to the end. His eyes fluttered wearily open. He smiled and said, "Drive on!"
Dwight L. Moody knew. He said, "Someday you will read in the newspapers that D. L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Do not believe it. I shall be alive more than ever before. I shall have gone up higher. That's all. I was born in the flesh in 1836, of the Spirit 1857. That which is born of the flesh must die, but that which is born of the spirit shall never die." In 1899, he was preaching in Kansas City in late November. He became ill and was returned to his Northfield home in Massachusetts. On December 23, he drew his last breath and said his last words: "My coronation day is here." He knew.
A pastor related how he stood as one of his faithful saints made her exodus. She said to her husband, "Do you see Him? He's come."
The call to eternity will come soon
Men pamper their bodies as if they were the permanent aspect of life. But twenty-five years from now, many of us will be gone. Fifty years from now, few will be here. Time is passing. It is fleeting.
You will be in eternity in one of two places
You will be in eternity in hell, or optionally, in heaven. If you choose God's way of salvation, it will be heaven; otherwise, automatically, in hell.
There are only two roads to travel--each leading in different directions.
1. Hell. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "The wicked shall be turned into hell" (Psalm 9:17).
Most of what we know about the nature and characteristics of both heaven and hell come directly from Jesus Himself. Let us look first at the characteristics of hell:
A. A place of separation from God. Death is the separation of spirit-soul from the body. Hell is the separation of the spirit-soul from Jesus. To the rich man, Abraham explained, "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us" (Luke 16:26). Someone has suggested that over the entry door to hell is fixed a sign: ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. So it is.
B. A place of a gnawing, biting, blighting, blasting, driving memory. The rich man who â€œlifted up his eyesâ€ in hell, and who wanted Abraham to â€œsend Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water [literally, a little moisture, a little wet stuff] and cool my tongueâ€ (Luke 16:23-24) took his memory to hell with him. When he made requests, Abraham said, â€œSon, rememberâ€ (Luke 16:25). In a sense, the rich man only took one thing with himâ€”his memory. As he looked back, there was no peace, no good, no hope.
C. A place of torment. The rich man declared "for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24). And so he was. When Jesus explained about hell, He noted that it is a place "where the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth not" (Mark 9:43-44). Actually, He used the term "Gehenna" to describe what hell is like. This word, very familiar to His listeners, referred to the city dump outside the southeast wall of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnon, where fires burned day and night to consume the garbage, a place frequented by snapping, snarling, wild dogs and scavengerous birds fighting each other for scraps of food. Since there was moist food particles in the dump, maggots formed. Carcasses of dead animals and unclaimed bodies of criminals were deposited there. "Gehenna" was a place of horror for every person in the city. The description in the last book of the Bible is vivid as those going into hell were "tormented with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 14:10).
Someone said that he did not want to go to hell because the climate was terrible--always hot and dry. Further, he would have the worst people in the world as his neighbors. The noise decibels are high and constant.
Hell is at the end of a godless life. Men do go to hell. Hell is a place of punishment.
2. Heaven. The Bible does not tell us everything we might want to know about Heaven's contents; rather, we are told what is not there in that land where pilgrims exchange their cross for a crown.
A. No night. Night speaks of mystery, dread, fear. Often, emotions become exaggerated at night. It is when the fever often rises and we wish for the day. Those things which night suggests will be gone.
B. No more sea. Sea separated John, the Beloved Disciple, from home and friends. In Heaven, there be no more separation. There will be a glad, glorious reunion day once we cross over and the day will never end as spirit-soul moves into a new home. Eyes will never grow dim.
C. No more pain, death, or tears. "God Himself shall wipe away the tears" (Revelation ). There shall be no more death, neither sorrowing or crying. Neither shall there be any more pain for the former things have passed away. Simply, the things that cause tears and heartaches will be gone forever.
One last thing about Heaven is wrapped up in the term which Jesus used to comfort His disciples just hours before He left them--"In My Father's house" (John 14:1). Heaven is home. Look! Let your mind run back along Reminiscent Trail. Stand once again with familiar faces--father, mother, brothers, sisters--at the childhood home. Mine was in the bend of the river in East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. How comforting it was when strangers came into the bend of the river to wrap arms around Dad's legs or stand behind Mom. Permeating the atmosphere was safety and security. GOING TO HEAVEN IS LIKE GOING HOME.
What you do with Jesus will determine where you will be in eternity
The issue is not what you do with the church, not what you do with the preacher's invitation. The issue is not your good works. The issue is what you do with God's provision, His only way, His only road. You can go to Heaven without health, wealth, friends, influence, but not without Christ. The greatest sin in the world is the sin of unbelief--which is the failure to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. He offers the gift of salvation to you. When you accept the gift, the Holy Spirit moves into your spirit. That which was dead to God will come alive to God. You will have been born again. Your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. You will go to heaven when you die. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).
Paul cried out to the Roman believers, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). If you choose God's way of salvation, you can be in eternity in Heaven.
But you must seek Him in life, for in death heads do not think, hearts do not love, hands do not work. The one purpose in life is to get ready to meet God. There is no intermediate state for you to enter and then get ready. You must get ready here.
A preacher became lost in a rugged area of West Texas. Finally, he came to a farmhouse and knocked on the door. A freckled-faced lad came to the door and the man asked him how to get to his destination. "Mister," said the boy, "Go right down the road two miles. The road will be pretty rough and sandy, but you'll get through all right. Then you will come to a cemetery. Just go right through the cemetery and on the other side you'll find a smooth, paved road which will lead you to your destination. It's a pretty rough road between here and the cemetery, but when you get to the cemetery, your troubles will be over." So it is for the believer.
The late Dr. Len Broughton, pastor Baptist Tabernacle, Atlanta, used to tell the story of a young man out west who bet some other boys he could stop a train in a novel way. Taking his handkerchief in his hand, he jumped upon the tracks and as the train came around the bend, waved it, and shouted, "Stop!" The engineer saw him and called for brakes to be applied. The mighty train came to a stop. The young man ran off into the woods, saying not a word.
The next day, he did the same thing. Then the third day came and some challenged him to do it again and he accepted. This time an elderly man came up and said, "Young man, you better stop playing the fool." "Well," said the lad, "I'm going to stop after this time."
So out he went. He did as before, but this time the engineer failed to get the train stopped and he was pitched twenty feet down an embankment. When the spectators gathered around and as he died, his last words uttered in a low, struggling voice, "I'm going to stop after this time."
You have heard the message. The Holy Spirit is speaking. What are you going to do with Jesus? What you do with Jesus determines where you will be in eternity. You should settle today because tomorrow may be too late.
Text: Psalm 32:1-2
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
The biblical text for the message today is composed of Psalm 51 and Psalm 32. These are companion psalms that have to do with the effects of sin in David's life and his renewal. In one psalm, the consequences of his triple sin are accounted and, in the other psalm, the result of restored joy.
There's joy in the presence of the angels of Godâ€”not when a person gives an offering, or when a believer moves into a new community and moves his membershipâ€”but when sinners are converted.
David said he would witness and sinners would be converted if the joy of God's salvation was restored in his life: "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee" (Psalm 51:12-13). He then goes on to tell us what God is looking for here in the church this morning as we gather for worship: "For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:16-17). Here is what God is looking for--a broken spirit.
Do any of us qualify? We are not broken. We come to church strutting like peacocks so very often. God is looking for broken spirits, old-time conviction. "A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."
Now, I see you are with me. I'm watching you. Let's pray.
"Father, bless us through Your word. And may Heaven rejoice because of the decisions made here this morning. In Jesus' name. Amen."
Be seated, please, and turn to Psalm 32.
There is something unusual and powerful in Psalm 32 for every Christian. A man in history, who lived long ago, was known as St. Augustine. He was converted out a life of deep sin. God used him in very unusual ways. In his early life, he ran from God. His mother prayed for him long and hard and faithfully. One day he was gloriously saved.
It was said that when Augustine, after his conversion read Psalm 32, he wept. There is something amazing about this Psalm. Then when he was lying on what proved to be his death bed, he had the psalm written on the wall opposite his bed so that he could read it at will and derive strength from it. There is something powerful about this psalm which will strengthen you as a Christian.
You need a grasp of the teaching of this psalm.
It is generally accepted that David wrote the psalm after he was rebuked by Nathan the Prophet for the sin he had committed.
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no iniquity and in whose spirit is no guile" (vv 1-2).
The first word you need to understand is the word "blessed"--which could be an English translation of one of two Hebrew words. One is the bestowing of a benefit as in "he blessed him." The other is the very opposite of this. It deals with being the recipient of the bestowing of the benefit as "he was blessed." The latter is used in our text. Something had happened outside David which resulted in his having the joy of God's salvation returned.
David had a benefit bestowed which caused him to make some expressions to describe his joy. "Blessed" actually is best translated with "O, the happiness of!" It is not enough to just say happy. That is not strong enough. It needs to be said, "O, the happiness of" the person is.
You read the passage and sense thrill and jubilation. David, who was so miserable for almost one year after his sins and heavily weighed down by the guilt, has the guilt and heaviness lifted and removed. David was demonstrative in nature. You can almost see him leaping and shouting for joy.
There is a gushing forth here that cannot be captured in a simple declarative statement. He is too full to empty himself with a simple statement. Instead, David uses a remarkable accumulation of phrases to describe what happened to him.
If you will listen carefully and prayerfully, you, will see what he was talking about and understand what is needed for one's joy to be full.
Four nouns for sin
A. The first noun is TRANSGRESSION. The word "transgression" is often found in the Bible. Do you know what it means? It means to break deliberately the known law of God. To transgress is to break deliberately a known law. David was guilty of a triple sin--coveteousness related to Bathsheba, adultery, and perpetrating the murder of Uriah, the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba. David knew God's teachings in each of these areas and he deliberately broke the known law of God. When God sets a line and a person deliberately crosses over the line, he is guilty of transgression.
B. The second noun is SIN, a New Testament word which is most commonly used. You are aware of Romans 3:22-23 which says there is no difference in people for "all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God." The word "sin" means to miss the mark. It is to aim sincerely at an object intending to hit it, but missing the mark. In Judges 20:16, there is a similar use of this word when one hits the mark. Among the Benjamites were seven-hundred left-handed men. Each could sling stones at a hair-breath and not miss. But sin is aiming and missing the mark. This is the nature of us all.
C. The third noun is INIQUITY. It is descriptive of men and women because of Adam's sin. That word is suggesting a crookedness, a perversity, twisted, distorted. Let me illustrate. Suppose you have a straight yard stick and then you have a crooked stick. You lay the crooked stick along beside the yard stick. The crooked stick will hit the yard stick at some points, but not at every point because it is crooked. Because of Adam's fall, every person who has ever lived is crooked. He has iniquity because of that.
D. The fourth noun is GUILE which provides a cap for the other nouns. It means a spirit of deceit. It is in this sense that a person says, "I am going to do it"--when all along he knows he is not going to do it. I don't have trouble understanding this after having been a pastor many, many years--over 1400 Sundays as well as an educator. There are countless individuals who come to church on Sunday with the attitude: "Pastor, tell us exactly what God wants us to hear and we will do it" when they know they are not going to it. How pervasive guile is. It is in us all. We really are guilty before God.
The nouns did not make you happy. I watched your faces. Neither did it make David happy. But when you put the verbs with the nouns, you can see why he is happy.
A. The first verb is with the noun transgression--forgiven. What does the word forgiven mean? It simply means to lift off and carry away. It is in the sense that a person is carrying a heavy load and all of a sudden, it is lifted off and taken away. Did you ever carry a load like that? Maybe even emotionally you were carrying a load. It just about had you down. All of a sudden you woke up one morning and that weight was lifted.
David knew about his transgression. It was weighing him down. Then all of a sudden it is lifted.
B. The second verb goes with the word sin. The thing that happened to the sin--it was covered.
In order to understand this passage, it will be helpful to review the rituals related to the annual Day of Atonement recorded in Leviticus 16. Two animals were used. One became known as the scape goat. That goat was brought to the priest who laid his hand on the head of that goat symbolizing that the sins of the people were placed upon the goat and then the goat was taken out into the wilderness. The picture was a carrying away of that which caused them to be unacceptable to God.
But there was a second goat which wasn't treated like the first goat. This second goat was a foreglimpse of Someone coming from Heaven one day known as the Lamb of God. The second goat was slain and the blood was taken into the tabernacle and sprinkled on the mercy seat in the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies. The picture was a covering of sins because the blood was covering. In Leviticus 17:11, it points out so plainly, "The life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls." The writer of the New Testament said, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).
We sing, "Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One." You see the thing that really cleanses us of our sins and makes us acceptable to God is the Blood of Jesus. Don't you like to hear that? That is the way it is. We don't sing, "There is a fountain filled with water drawn from the city main, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain." Instead, we sing and we preach and we teach, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." No wonder David is happy. His sins, which were weighing him down, were lifted and carried away. His sins were covered by the blood.
Are you a happy person today? Do you have the joy of the Lord?
Now, what happened to the iniquity?
C. Going with the third noun is a verb construction--"computeth not." The picture is a ledger with a sheet of paper for each of us. On the page are all our sins, properly recorded and accurately depicted. All of a sudden, the page is clean and there is nothing on the record any more.
When you come to the Cross, when you are born again, the record that was there was expunged, erased, eradicated. Although you look at yourself in the eyes of one who is still guilty--because you know what you've done and how displeasing you were with God--but in God's sight all is cleansed and cleared. Your record is erased. Isn't that wonderful?
Now, what happened to the sense of guile?
D. There is a double negative in the Hebrew participle here which simply means that even the sense of guile is gone. It is a strong expression that the sense of guile and deceit has gone away.
Now, how did David get like this? How did he get his joy back? I know, from my own experience and from working with others, it is so easy for believers to get to the place where there is no longer the joy of the Lord flowing. Therefore, a believer doesn't worship well, walk well, work well, witness well, or war well. His position is that of defeat because he doesn't understand what David knew by his experience.
A person is saved and excited. I was at Kearney NJ sometime ago. A keen, intellectual young man had gotten saved and was so excited he was bringing others to the church services. You see when you first come to Christ there is a joy. Then, so very frequently, we let things come into our lives which rob us of our joy. There are a lot of services where there is no joy.
Many are much like the service a little boy was in sitting with his mother on Sunday morning. The service was drab and he was doing his best to be still. He colored everything there was to color in the bulletin, but he became restless because it was boring. In that particular church, there were three flags on display. As he looked around, the little boy knew two of themâ€”the U. S. flag and the Christian flag. The third flag was small with stars in it and he didn't know what it was. Finally, he ventured to ask his mother, "Mom, what's that flag over there?" Admonishing him to be quiet and listen, she told him it was the service flag. He thought that over a moment and said, "What's a service flag?" Again, she whispered for him to pay attention to the sermon as she said, "That's in memory of those who died in the service." He couldn't refrain because his mind was active now as he quickly said, "Mom, was that the morning service or evening service?" Too many of our services begin at eleven o'clock sharp and end at twelve o'clock dull. There is no joy.
God doesn't want it like that! He wants it thrilling and exciting so that the very moment you get on the premises you can sense the power of God moving. I've come long to believe that everybody who comes to a service ought to get a charge or a shock depending on his need. But, how did David get the joy of the Lord.
Note, verses three and four deals with steps taken by David. The value in learning what he did is to be able to emulate his steps when we need to have the joy of God's salvation restored.
David faced himself and admitted four things which helped him.
A. He admitted, first, that he had kept silent about his sins. One of the tendencies all of us have is to keep silent about our sins. There is no doubt that David, the sweet singer of Israel and the man after God's own heart, went on to the tabernacle, played his harp artistically, and sang beautifully. One can almost hear the worshipers saying, "Listen to our King sing. No one sings or plays his harp like David." But all along, David was miserable. He knew he wasn't right with God. He just kept silent about it.
B. Second, he admitted that his body hurt--which is universally true. When God's child walks out of fellowship with God, he doesn't feel well. In the area of psychology and counseling, frequently the results of guilt are manifested physically. Some even become physically ill with no organic cause.
C. Then, third, David admitted that God's hand was heavy on him day and night. If you are a Christian and you get in a shape like David, God will not let you be satisfied. He chastises us as he did David
D. Fourth, the moisture dried up in his mouth. His mouth felt like cotton.
There is little possibility of having joy restored until we are willing to face our condition head on. It is then that we can do something about our sins.
We can ask, "David, what did you do to get your joy back?" and the answer is in verse five.
We are now ready to deal with the action David took, which is quite clear, which brought him joy with the heavy load of guilt lifted. Let's look at what he said very carefully: "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee; mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I would confess my transgressions unto the Lord. Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
Do you see what David did? He acknowledged his sin. That is very, very important. This came after he faced himself and admitted the four things. He acknowledged his sin unto the Lord--He is the one we have to do business with. David confessed.
Now what does the word confessed mean? Listen carefully, because many can quote 1 John 1:9 who do not know what it means to confess. "If we confess our sins." Confess means literally to say the same thing that God has said about our sins, to agree with God. If there is something in your life and your personality which is not right and you confess--you say, "God I agree that this should not be in my life"
What about gossiping? One lady came to Uncle Bud Robinson's service--the old Nazarene preacher of bygone days whom God used to build that denomination. Uncle Bud had preached and God has blessed his message and people were responding. She came to say to Uncle Bud" "I've come to put my tongue on the altar." Those present said that he didn't say anything immediately, but looked to the right and to the left in deep thought. He had a little speech impediment and did not talk too plain. He said, "Praise the Lord, Sister. You've done the right thing to bring your tongue to lay on the altar. Now the altar is only eighteen foot wide, but you put as much as you can on it." You see a lot of God's people are using their tongues wrongly. That's sin. Gossiping. Taking care of everyone else's business, but one's own.
What about habits? What you see, what you do, what you put into your body. I always tell people that I know God did not intend for anybody to smoke cigarettes, cigars, pot, pipe. If He had wanted our nostrils to have been stovepipes, He would have turned them up the other way. That's plain, isn't it? The old mountain preacher down in East Tennessee told his folks, "When you come into the meeting house, leave your tobacco and snuff on the steps. I guarantee you neither hogs nor dogs will bother it."
Now some of you felt good because you don't have a tobacco problem, but what about overeating? What about failing to witness, to pray, to read the Bible, and to give?
One by one--as the Holy Spirit brings things you are doing and things you are not doing that you should be doing--confession takes place. Confession means that you agree with God. Repentance means you change your mind and do the opposite. You turn and go in another direction. That is what David did.
Now, what were the consequences of this? David tells us in verses seven and eleven.
Evidences of Joy
David shared that he was surrounded with songs of deliverance and that he shouted for joy. The joy bells were ringing in his soul. "Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." Let me ask you about your walk with the Lord. If you want to whistle a song, what do you whistle. David said, "You surrounded me with songs of deliverance." Songs of salvation! Then in verse eleven, he said, "Be glad in the Lord. Rejoice you righteous and shout for joy." David had the joy of the Lord.
Then, God said, "David, now that you are clean and have the joy of the Lord, I am going to do some things for you. I'm going to do three things for you." This is in verse eight.
1. The first thing God said was, "I will instruct thee." Now that word instruct means simply this--"I will enable you to behave yourself wisely." The Hebrew word instruct is in the sense of giving the information you need to behave yourself wisely. Do you ever need to know how to behave yourself wisely--mothers, fathers, young people, children?
2. Second, He said, "I'll teach thee in the way you ought to go." The word teach can mean, and I believe it means it here, POINT OUT WITH MY FINGER the way you ought to go. Do you ever come to a crossroads or a fork in the road and you want to know which direction to go? God says, "You keep your sins taken care of and I will point out with My finger the way you ought to go."
3. The third thing is really precious: "I'll guide you with My eye." In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says, "If My people--the ones who are called by My name--shall humble themselves and pray and SEEK MY FACE." You can be so close to the Lord that the Lord says, "I'll just guide you with my eye." You'll sense the direction that God wants you to go.
Down in the South is a family which enjoys having guests in their home. There are two teen-age daughters who wait on the table while their mother sits at the table. These girls are so good at waiting on the table that when hot rolls are needed, they are there with the hot rolls. When the beverage needs to be replenished, they are there. People marvel and wonder how they do it. The secret is simple. They just practiced following their mother's eyes and she guides them with her eyes. The Lord said, "Look, if you are in a position to have nothing between you and Me in the way of sin, I will even guide you with My eyes."
Well, then, there is a warning here in verse nine. Having come out of the mountains, I find that Christians I know need to have the warning. "Don't you be like the horse or like the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit or bridle."
If you belong to the Lord, don't be like the horse which rushes its own way impulsively or don't be like the mule and be stubborn with what God is wanting to do in your life. Don't force God to put the bit and bridle on you. Do the will of God.
What is the will of God? Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, and he uses the analogy of the horse and mule-the dumb animals. He tells us in verses sixteen and seventeen, that we can know what the will of God is. Then in verse eighteen, he tells us what the will of God is: "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit." The question is what is the filling of the Spirit.
There are some people who will tell you that you speak in tongues. That is not the teaching of the Word of God. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
The analogy is between a drunk person and a Spirit-filled person. What does the drink do to the person? It controls him. His speech changes. His walk changes. He is under the influence of the strong drink. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It means to be controlled by the Spirit.
How do you get into a position to be controlled by the Spirit? You have got to deal with the sins that are in your life. Let me suggest how to do that.
As soon as you have your sins forgiven and cleansed, put the Holy Spirit--who came in you the very moment you were saved--in the driver's seat of your life. That's the will of God--not to have the Holy Spirit merely resident, but to have Him president, on the control seat. Every life has a control seat. Doesn't the Holy Spirit sit there all the time? No, indeed He doesn't.
Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Bertha Smith and a host of godly leaders and speakers have concluded that ninety-five out of one hundred born-again Christians are carnal with self in control, not the Holy Spirit. Self is in control. How about you today? Do you have that joy of the Lord? Could it be that you have allowed self to dominate? Could it be that is your position today? Therefore, you don't have happiness. You don't have joy. But you would like to have the joy. You would like to go out of the house knowing that God has met with you today.
Just bow your heart and let me ask you two questions. Can you raise your hand and say to me that you understood the message? Is He dealing with you personally? Has He spoken to you directly? Will you commit yourself to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh?
I was on WFME Prayer Time this week. One of the saddest things I have ever seen was a 3 x 5 card. Someone had typed in red and put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. This is what the person said: "I hate life." Oh, how sad.
You see our Lord wants to make a change in us all. He said, "I have come that you might have abundant life." Why don't you just go to Him today. If the Holy Spirit has convicted you of things in your life that are not right, why don't you confess them to the Lord this morning and go out of this house letting the Holy Spirit sit in the driver's seat.
If you are here and you are not a Christian, you can't be happy--like I have been talking about--because there is a God-shaped vacuum in your personality that only God can fill. Why don't you let God come into your life today by acknowledging Jesus Christ as your Savior by an act of faith?
Make your decision today. Rededicate your life or receive Jesus as your Savior.
Let us pray.
"Now, Father, through Jesus, we come before you to ask you to move in such a way that this message can be meaningful to every reader. If there is someone who is unsaved, let him know that a person who is unsaved is in a dangerous position because You have said that we don't even have a promise of tomorrow. I know that this time could be the difference in Heaven or Hell for somebody. O God, please take this time and through the Holy Spirit's conviction, let those who need to be saved be conscious of You and what You have done. I pray that each will be willing to say, "Lord, I trust You as my Savior. I am accepting You and will share with someone else what I am doing. If someone asks me if I am a Christian, I can say, Yes, because I have accepted Jesus. Lord, whatever it is that needs to be done, may it be done. In Jesus' Name. Amen."