Derek focuses today on the need for Christians who have a vision for Christ’s return, to purify themselves. It begins on God’s end but we have the responsibility to look at our lives and take whatever steps are required to see that we are pure… clean before the Lord.
Some years ago I became very sick when I was in Hawaii. And I wasn’t afraid of dying, although it could have led to death, but I wanted to have an answer. “God, I’ve always believed in divine healing, I’ve always preached divine healing. I’ve seen countless people healed. What’s wrong? Why have I not been healed?” It was as if I had an interview with the Lord. I don’t know if this is what it will be like to be before the judgment seat of Christ, but it says we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. And I want to say He never condemned me, He was very impersonal in a way, but He just took my mind back over scene after scene in my career as a minister, and He showed me how carnal I had been.
Now I want to say, just to avoid misunderstanding, by the grace of God I’ve never been guilty of drunkenness, or immorality, or misappropriating funds, which are the things that people always expect when preachers confess sins. And so quite often they’re right, too! But God showed me, the Lord Jesus showed me, how carnal I had been. He took me to various scenes, quite a number of them were in restaurants, and he showed me the essence of carnality is to live at any time as if there’s nothing beyond this life. And the moment you live like that, you may not be committing obvious sins but you’re carnal, you’re living in the flesh, you’re missing the whole ultimate purpose of God for His redeemed people.
Because, you remember that Scripture that said...that we quoted, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior.” Every one of us should be continually every day looking for the blessed hope. When you lose sight of that you’re carnal. You’ve lost sight of eternity. You can still use religious language and attend church and say prayers, but you’ve lost the joy of the Lord.
I’ve observed something that surprised me in my travels. Very often the Christians who have the least in this world, who were poor and persecuted, had the greatest joy—much greater joy than others who had much more in this life. And I came to realize it was because they were focused on eternity, they were looking for what lay ahead.
And so, dear brother or sister, if you’re not happy, you’re a Christian but you’re unfulfilled, you’re frustrated, you may even be angry with God because He hasn’t done the things you wanted Him to do for you; let me suggest to you your basic problem is you’ve lost the vision of eternity. You are only expecting things in this life. Of course, you believe you’ll go to heaven when you die but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about having a vision for eternity. If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men, Paul said, the most to be pitied. There’s nobody else quite so miserable as the Christian who’s lost the vision of eternity.
Now, I said that Jesus requires certain things. The first was purity. It’s a two-way operation because the passage that I quoted from Titus chapter2 says, “He gave Himself that He might purify His own special people.” So the process of purifying begins on God’s end. But that’s not where it ends. We have to respond by purifying ourselves. I want to give you two Scriptures that are very clear about that. The first is in 1 John chapter 3, beautiful words that I’m sure are familiar to many of you. The first three verses:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God, and we are. Therefore, the world does not know us because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be; but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
That’s our eternal hope, that we will see Jesus and when we see Him we’ll be like Him.
But then John goes on to say in the next verse:
“And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as He is pure.”
So what is the evidence that you’re really hoping to meet Jesus? What will be the effect in your life? It’s very clear. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself. Jesus purifies us, we have to purify ourselves. God has only got one standard of purity: just as He is pure. That’s our responsibility. That’s the evidence that we really are looking for the return of the Lord. Everyone who has this hope on the return of the Lord purifies himself as He is pure.
Brothers and sisters, I want to say to you very clearly, if you are not purifying yourself you may believe doctrinally in the return of the Lord but effectively you’re denying what you say you believe. The mark that you believe it is that you purify yourself just as He is pure.
And then going back to the passage in 2 Corinthians where we spoke about being the temple of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 6. I’ll go back to those verses and read on.
“For you [or we, some texts say] are the temple of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.’”
That’s glorious but it’s not the end. The next word is therefore. In other words, because of this how do we respond? Paul says:
“Come out from among them...”
That’s the people that are not living for God.
“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Notice there’s a condition upon which God will be our Father. It is that we come out from everything that is ungodly and we do not touch what is unclean.
There are many, many ways of touching what is unclean. But I think the commonest way is television. There is so much that is impure and unclean and you don’t have to watch it. When you do watch it you are touching what is unclean. It makes you unclean, it makes your thinking unclean. It gives you unclean suggestions, it gives you false standards. You begin to permit yourself to do things you would never do if you hadn’t seen somebody do them on television. I’m not as such against television, it has its benefits. Not many but some.
In 1986, we had a visitation in Good News Church when it was still in the old building. Believe it or not, we were up at 5 a.m. and there, for meeting with God for about six weeks. What was interesting was that the small children in the various families didn’t want to miss that meeting. If their parents went without them, when the parents got home they said, “Why didn’t you take us?” They would just curl up on a blanket and lie on the floor. I tell you, I got to know the smell of the carpet in Good News Church so well I’ll never forget it! Because, I had my nose into it for hours. There wasn’t a lot of praying, practically no prophesying. We were just in the presence of God. And then people began to confess their sins, that wasn’t immediate. There were sins of adultery, alcoholism and others amongst good church members. But I think the commonest sin that was confessed was idolatry. Many people confessed they had an idol in their homes and it was the TV set and they worshiped before that.