Today Derek looks at our position in Christ that we justified. He gives instruction on how we are to purify ourselves by obedience to the truth, and then brings out the importance of our making Jesus central in our lives. In the book of Revelation He is in the middle of the lampstands which are the churches, and that is to be His position in us.
I was preaching in Zambia, central west Africa, and we were out in a really remote part where they just got their first telephone. I was preaching on addictions. I should have known better. Usually I’m careful, I take my audience into account. But I said there’s a new addiction that’s come into the world lately and it’s television. Well, my interpreter had to spend five minutes explaining to them what television was, they had never seen it. But it is an addiction, do you know that? And they have tested in schools telling children for 24 hours not to watch the television and they are just like people coming off drugs.
What we’ve noticed in places where the gospel has not penetrated, there’s a degree of enthusiasm when it comes there that is not seen in most Western churches. I will never forget the enthusiasm in Moscow last May. Tears come to my eyes when I think about it. Those people were excited. I want to tell you the gospel is exciting. If you cease to be excited by the gospel you haven’t really…you don’t any longer realize what it is. You were lost, you were condemned to hell. You were going there where you deserved to go and you had no hope. Jesus intervened to save you. People don’t like to talk about hell today but there’s a lot about it in the Bible and most of what is said about hell is said by Jesus.
I was preaching in Germany just recently last year and I spoke about being saved from hell. My interpreter who was a very good interpreter, and I understand German, said being saved from a lost eternity. I said, “Brother, I didn’t say that, I said hell.” I realized how reluctant people are to contemplate hell. But it is the destination of every person that does not live for God. And that’s where we all deserve to go. If you once realize that you’ve been saved from hell, you’ll get excited.
I have another little example about the word justified which sounds like such a theological word. People say, “I’m justified by faith.” But they don’t really know what it means. It means to be acquitted, to be found not guilty, to be reckoned righteous, to be made righteous. And I gave a little picture of a man in a court being tried for a crime which carried a mandatory death sentence. He was sitting there waiting for the judge to pronounce the verdict. The judge said, “Not guilty.” I said when he met his wife afterwards he didn’t say, “That was a nice meeting.” He said, “Honey! I don’t have to die! I’m free!” How many of you go out of a meeting like that? That’s the truth. That’s what justification is.
And furthermore, you were guilty, the truth of the matter is. But Jesus took your guilt upon Himself. That’s why the judge says “not guilty.” Not because of anything you’ve done but because of what He did.
Now, one more question, a very simple one. How do you purify yourself? We could spend hours on this, but I want to give you just one Scripture in 1 Peter 1:22. Speaking to believers he says:
“Since you have purified your soul in obeying the truth through the Spirit to sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”
So how do we purify our souls? By obeying the truth. Not by knowing the truth but by obeying the truth. And what is the result of obeying the truth? It’s fervent love for one another. Paul said to Timothy, “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and unfeigned faith.” Do we recognize that? What are we aiming at? Why do we hold meetings? What is the purpose of preaching? Do we ever score a goal? What would you think of a football team—and I mean, I have to think in terms of soccer because I don’t understand American football. But they’re running up and down across the field, backwards and forwards, passing the ball from one another but they never aim at the goal. That’s like a lot of churches because the goal of our instruction is love. And if we don’t achieve that, we haven’t scored.
So, purifying your heart comes through obeying the truth. Not just knowing the truth or quoting the truth but obeying the truth. And it leads to unfeigned love of the brethren, our fellow believers. And listen, I’ve been a believer 52 years and I know some of the believers are not easy to love. I mean, you might not be bold enough to say that but I am. God has got some strange children. You know what somebody said? You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. John said, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.” What’s the evidence? Love, that’s the result of a purified heart.
The other and the final recommendation I have, if you can call it a recommendation, that God requires of us to be His people, is to make Jesus central in your life. I was preaching on Revelation and I was preaching on the first seven chapters of Revelation. As I was preaching I got a revelation. It’s the position of Jesus in Revelation 1. John heard this voice like a trumpet speaking behind him and then in verse 12 it says:
“Having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of man.”
That was Jesus. What were the lampstands? It tells us—the churches. Where was Jesus? In the middle. And that’s the only place He belongs is in the middle.
And then you go on to Revelation 5 and John was weeping because no one could open the scroll that contained God’s plan for the close of the age. One of the elders said, “Don’t weep.” I’ll read it in verse 5:
“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll, to loose its seven seals.’”
Just let me point out to you that Jesus is still the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And do you know the word that comes from Judah is Jew. He didn’t become a Jew just for 33 years, He is eternally identified with the Jewish people. And you better be careful of your attitude to them.
So, John turned to see the Lion and he was shocked by what he saw.
“I looked and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.”
See, that’s the demonstration of God’s power. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Paul says the weakness of God is stronger than men. The foolishness of God is wiser than men. The weakness of God and the foolishness of God is the cross. Through the cross Jesus became the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In other words, if you fight for your rights you’ll lose them. If you lay them down God will restore them to you. Before honor is humility. It says in Philippians 2, it describes first of all the seven downward steps that Jesus took, culminating in the death of the cross. And the next word that follows is “therefore God has also highly exalted Him.” Don’t miss out the therefore. Why was Jesus exalted? Because He had humbled Himself. Jesus said Himself, “Everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” And because Jesus humbled Himself to the lowest, therefore God exalted Him to the highest. And so, the Lion is the Lamb that was slain.
But notice He’s in the midst of the lampstands, He’s in the midst of the throne and the others. There’s only one place that you can rightly give Jesus and that is the center of your life. If He’s out of the center, your life is out of balance.
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