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Deliverance from Self-Centeredness, Part 2
We’re dealing with the statement of Paul in Galatians 2:20. It would probably be good if you had your Bibles open to that passage. I think I’ll read it again.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God [I prefer to say ‘the faith of the Son of God’], who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
I consider that to be what I would call an explosive verse. If you embrace that and begin to receive its real implication, it will create an eternal explosion in you. If the Church embraces it, it will create an explosion in the Church. It’s a dangerous verse. If you don’t want danger, stay away from Galatians 2:20, because it has to be handled with care.
We’ve been speaking about some of the manifestations of the uncrucified ego. I’ll just review them quickly and then we’ll move on. Pride, egotism, personal ambition, sectarianism, nationalism and racism. I state these corrupt many ministries and churches. I think we looked at the way in which the Church has been corrupted by some of those things; like racism, nationalism. I think perhaps it would be appropriate just to take a little longer to consider the effect of those things in ministries.
I have a ministry to which my name is attached. Everything I say, potentially, can be and should be applied to me. Obviously the area of ministries is an extremely important one. In many ways it has a decisive influence on the course that the Church takes. I want to speak from personal experience and personal observation.
I think I briefly gave you the example of Abraham and Isaac earlier in this series. This is one of the remarkable facts of the Bible. God gave to Abraham this miracle son, Isaac, on whom all the fulfillment of the promises of God depended. He was God’s gift to Abraham. Yet there came a point when God said to Abraham, “I want you to offer your son, (He was very specific) Isaac, whom you love as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of Moriah.” The New Testament indicates, especially in the epistle of James that this was the climax of the whole walk of Abraham in faith, that he was willing to offer this son up. At the last moment the Lord intervened, restrained his hand, and provided an alternative sacrifice, a ram caught by its horns in a thicket.
Then after Abraham had passed that test, God said to him, “Because you’ve done this in blessing I will bless you. [That’s Hebraism—the duplication of the word ‘bless’ is extremely emphatic.] In blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your seed [that is Isaac].”
The very thing that God had demanded from him, and he had been willing to offer back to God, when he offered it back to God, God said, “Now I can multiply it. Now I can release My full blessing upon it. Now My full purposes can be worked out through it.”
I just want to say that over the years I’ve come to the conclusion, partly out of my personal experience, partly out of observing other men and other ministries, that every time God gives us an Isaac there will come a point in our walk with Him where He will ask for Isaac back. That is perhaps the most critical point in any ministry. A ministry is an Isaac for the man who has it. It’s God’s gift. It’s supernatural. He can’t do it by his own efforts. And all the purposes of God, in a sense, depend on that ministry. But, in His inscrutable wisdom it seems to me invariably, at some point God will subject a man and a ministry to that test. “Give it back to Me. Put it on the altar. Take your hands off it. It’s true I gave it to you, but in the last resort it’s not yours, it’s Mine. And I am the One who determines what will happen to it.”
I think the destiny of every ministry is determined by the way in which a man responds to that challenge. The person who responds in faith and says, “God, I give it back to You,” and I think a person who does that feels as Abraham must have felt, “This is my future. This is the most precious thing that God has given me. This is the thing that makes me specifically what I am, it’s my future, it’s my continuance.” It’s terribly hard to say, “Lord, it’s yours, not mine. I’ll give it back to you and whatever happens to it from now on, it’s Your decision not mine. I’m not going to fight for it, I’m not going to promote it, I’m not going to do everything I can to make it successful. God, it’s Yours. As far as I’m concerned, it’s dead.” The man who will do that will experience what Abraham experienced. In his own way, when the test is complete, God will give it back and say, “Now, I’m free to multiply it. I can release my blessing through it. And I can do in it and through it and for it what you could never do by your own efforts.”
But the other side of the picture is the man who says, “God, this is my ministry. You gave it to me and I’m holding onto it. I’m in charge. My name is on it whatever.” Something happens to that ministry. It’s hard to describe, but I would say it becomes corrupt. There’s a new stream that’s injected into it, which is a stream of pride, arrogance, self-assertiveness, self-promotion, self-ambition, and that whole ministry becomes corrupt. It doesn’t mean that it ceases. It doesn’t that it doesn’t produce results. It will go on producing fruit, but Jesus said in Matthew 7:17–18, “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” The fruit that it brings forth will be corrupt.
I think this is one of the great tragedies that happens in the Church. I can think of two specific instances which I could name all the persons involved, and I will not even contemplate doing that. Both of them happen to focus in Israel and anything that touches Israel is a special concern to me. In each case I’ve seen a ministry that had tremendous potential, had a special anointing of God upon it. There came a point where a leader asserted his personal claims and his personal ambition and the right to keep his name on it and have it imprinted with his stamp, and I would have to say according to my interpretation, in each case that ministry has become corrupt. It still goes on. It still brings forth fruit, but it’s corrupt fruit.
You see the problem in the Church really is not that ministries don’t continue. The problem is that they do. The big problem of the Church is ministries and movements and groups that once were anointed, once were blessed, once were fruitful, have moved out of the line of God’s blessing but still continue. I think it’s a mark of spirituality when people are willing to close something down. Say “All right, we’ve done what God called us to do, that’s the end. We’re not going on just for the sake of promoting.” I would say that basically most movements that come into being in the Church, at the end of ten years their supreme objective is to keep the institution going. Regardless of whether it’s accomplishing what it came into being to accomplish. Self-perpetuation. An almost irresistible law that you cannot set aside accept by the cross. I would have to say also, and this is right in line with Galatians, in each of those ministries that I am talking about, the Holy Spirit has been replaced by witchcraft. The dominating forces at work are manipulation, intimidation and domination. If it were appropriate I could give specific examples of each. I’m not going to. But I just say that because I want to make it very clear that I am not theorizing.
I talked about Israel because it’s quite a long way away from most of you. I would think whatever is true in Israel is probably ten times truer in America. I think it’s perhaps the greatest single tragedy that we’re confronted with regularly in the Church. I say my spirit weeps from men who’ve taken the wrong route. For men who’ve held onto Isaac. “He’s mine. My name is on him. Don’t ask for him back. I’m the only one that controls him.” I hope you can see it. It is something very, very real. It’s not remote.
I’ve been exercised about this for perhaps twenty years in my own life. What is my ministry bringing forth. Has it become a corrupt tree. That’s not for me to answer nor is it really for you to answer. But I just point out that it’s not something that’s abstract or theoretical or applies somewhere else. I have to consider its application in my own life. To me, as I say, this is a problem that I have seen increasing for twenty years at least.
One of the great releases from God came to me when I saw that Galatians states the problem and supplies the answer. Because I had been groping around. I don’t want to be critical in a negative way, I don’t want to say that this is wrong and that is wrong, and that’s not working, and that’s not producing good fruit. What I want to know is, what’s the solution? What’s the remedy? What’s the safeguard? The answer, I believe, is the cross and there is no other. Any work or ministry or group that does not submit in due time to the principle of the cross is going to become corrupted. It’s not for me to estimate the proportion of ministries to which that has happened. That’s not my job, but I would say it’s not a little. I would say it is a common problem.
It really blesses me to think that Galatians wasn’t written as a theological treatise. Paul didn’t sit down and say, “I’m going to establish six points of doctrine.” He wrote a letter out of a burning heart and deep concern. He probably wrote it in a rather inconvenient place. He probably didn’t have a good desk. He didn’t have a library. He didn’t have a concordance. He just wrote. But when you analyze the structure of Galatians it’s perfect. Because right in the middle of Galatians 3:1 it states the problem—witchcraft. And preceding that and following that is the answer to that problem. The answer is the cross. And I would go so far as to be so simple as to say we either submit to the application of the cross in our lives or we become the victims of witchcraft.
You see I pointed out in the natural order, witchcraft is the “old man” reasserting his illegal dominion. It’s his way of getting what he wants without submitting to God’s authority. It’s always the assertion of the ego. The wife wants her way. She doesn’t want to submit to the authority of the husband. She doesn’t flat rebel, she just knows how to manipulate him. So he thinks it’s what he wants. He doesn’t even realize it’s what she wants.
Let me observe one easy way to manipulate men and it’s through their stomachs. Quite a lot of wives regularly use the way they feed their husbands to get what they want out of their husbands. Furthermore, let me say this and this is just by the way but I make no extra charge, a lot of wives don’t want their husbands to be totally committed to Christ, because that would mean they would be totally committed. That they don’t want so they have a dozen different ways of frustrating the commitment of their husband to Christ.
I thank God that I speak as a person whose been married twice and each of my wives has been totally committed to the Lord. If it were not so I could never have come as far as I’ve come. I could never have overcome all the subtleties and the barriers of a scheming, manipulating wife who would use a lot of religious language, but she wouldn’t want to make the total sacrifice that’s demanded by the cross. She’s got a nice home and beautiful furniture. God calls her husband somewhere, but she doesn’t want to leave. She doesn’t say, “We won’t go. We’ll disobey God. She just manipulates and blocks every time he’s going to step out in faith.
Again, I could put names to what I am saying. I’m not interested in doing so. I just want to tell you it’s not a theory. That’s just one of many different examples. There’s the mother who when her daughter is married doesn’t want to release control. So she has her finger in that marriage, manipulating, scheming, writing letters, making suggestions and often undermining the husband’s legitimate authority to get her way.
But you see what the essence of it is? I want my way and I’m going to get it. It’s not legitimate. I can’t get it by legitimate means so I’ll get it by illegitimate.
The same is true in the matter of the ministry. I want my way. I want to do it my way. I want the results I want. I want the credit I want, I want the glory, I can’t do it by legitimate means, I want to hold on to my authority, I don’t want to be challenged, I don’t want to be questioned about the morality or the ethics of what I am doing. I can’t do that by legitimate means so I’ll use illegitimate. And that’s how witchcraft comes in. Witchcraft comes in on the uncrucified ego. The only protection against witchcraft is the cross. You can decide right now, “Do I want to be a victim of witchcraft or do I want to be preserved from it?” If you want to be preserved from it you are going to have to accept the application of the cross in your life.
Oh, it’s so beautiful when you see the cross sets a boundary to Satan’s territory. There is no way he can get beyond it. Once you have been through the cross and it’s done it’s work in your life, you live in territory where Satan just doesn’t know where to find you.
Ruth and I have a verse we say together because we travel so much and we are in such difficult or dangerous places. You wouldn’t normally apply this verse but it’s become very real to us. It’s in Job 28:7 and 8 and then verse 21. I’ll say it for you because to me this describes what it means to live beyond the cross.
There is a path that no fowl knoweth, which the vultures eye has not seen. The lions whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living and kept close from the fowls of the air.
The fowls of the air and the vulture and the lion all represent Satanic agents. But Job says there’s a path where Satan’s agents can’t even get. Where is that path? Beyond the cross. That’s the only safe place. I’ll give you the reference. It’s in the King James Version, as I said before, the one that Paul used. Verse 21 you might say doesn’t fit there, but I think it does. You see we’re talking about an area that’s out of this world as understood in the terminology of the Bible. We have been delivered from this present evil age.
I could go on on this theme because to me it is one of the critical issues of contemporary Christianity. But I think we’ll move on and consider the results of deliverance from the ego. The results are applied in Galatians 2:20. Now you will see it there at the bottom of page 4. I’m going to amplify it a little and you’ll need to keep your writing instrument handy because you may need to add a little. The first result is freedom from striving, from self-effort and from self-promotion. And oh what a freedom that is. Oh, what a freedom.
Let’s look at 2Corinthians 4:5. This is a very remarkable statement. Paul is writing to the Corinthian church and he reminds them in his epistles what kind of people they have been—pimps, prostitutes, homosexuals, drunkards, just about everything that was vile and unclean. And then remember he was a proud Jewish Rabbi. He’d been trained to regard all Gentiles as unclean. According to the traditions of his nation he wouldn’t even eat in a Gentile home. And here’s this product of the Rabbinical school talking to the ____________________? of a big port city. Corinth was a major port and like most port cities it abounded with vice. He says,
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
Now we read “servants,” but the Greek says “slaves.” You need to bear in mind that in most of the places in the New Testament where you read the word servant it is really slave. Now there are other words, but the word there is slave.
Picture this proud, intellectual, highly educated and extremely spiritual Rabbi with all his revelations, to whom was committed the revelation of the gospel to the Gentiles, saying to these people, “We are not preaching ourselves. The one we are preaching is Christ Jesus the Messiah Jesus as Lord. What’s our place? We’re your slaves. We’re here to serve you. We’re here to do the dirty job. The jobs that a freed man wouldn’t do.” What a transformation. Why was he able to say that? Because of Galatians 2:20,
I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me...
I tell you and this is very appropriate for many of you who in due course are going to various nations with the message of the gospel, the attitude with which you come is going to make all the difference to your results. There is two different attitudes. They are each summed up in a very simple statement. The first one is you need what we’ve got. We have it, you need it. Come to us and we will tell you how to get it.
How many of you have ever heard somebody say to a person baptized in the Spirit, “You think you’re superior to other Christians.” Have you ever heard that criticism? Sometimes it’s correct. What we have is wonderful but the way we present it sometimes spoils it all.
The other is can we help you? Now you really have to have one attitude or the other. If the cross has not been applied in your life you will go there with an attitude of intellectual, spiritual religious superiority. “We’ve got the truth. We know about speaking in tongues. You don’t. We have the fullgospel.” Pentecostals used to say, “We’ve got it all.” I used to say to them if you’ve got it al where is it all? Let’s see it.
But they are not the only ones with that attitude. By no means. The other attitude is, is there anything we can do for you? Can we help you? Do you need some jobs done? Now I’m talking to a group, and I don’t want to name it because of the tapes that are being done. I’m talking to a group that I basically feel are wonderfully exemplifies that attitude. The one thing I like about this group is their attitude and I’ve met them in a lot of different places and parts of the world. I don’t say they all have it. But basically that’s what I’ve encountered.
I’ve been to a place where I was invited to a European nation. The people inviting us just didn’t produce. They didn’t have it organized, they didn’t have it together. What were we going to do? You know who came to our help? Youth With A Mission. They said, “Let us help you. Can we serve you?” I never forgot that. It was a lesson to me personally. That’s what impresses people. That’s what opens doors and opens hearts.
Listen let me read what Jesus said in Mark 10:35–45. I think the first part of this is just a wonderful illustration of the uncrucified ego.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” [Jesus was smarter than they thought.] And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” [What’s that express? Ego.] But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” [He said, ‘There’s a price attached. You have to drink the same cup that I drink at Gethsemane. You have to go through the baptism of death and resurrection.’] They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” [That always excites me because God knows already who’ll be sitting on the right hand and the left. I have to tell you I don’t. Now what was the reaction of the ten? Ego.] And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. [Why? Because they thought they ought to be there. So there’s the ego exposed in all the 12 disciples just a little while before Jesus went to the cross. And a little further on you read that even at the last supper they were disputing which would be the greatest. Then Jesus applied the lesson.] But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. [That’s a principle. That’s the same one we talked about before. The way up is down. Jesus’ language is very clear. He says whoever desires to be great shall become your servant and it’s not the word ‘slave’ there. But whoever desires to be first shall become your slave. The higher up you want to go, the lower down you have to start. The height to which you will to ascend is in direct proportion to the depth to which you are willing to go. And then He applies it to Himself.] For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
In our healing services—some of you were present last night—I’ve learned always to tell people—and I believe it is true—Ruth and I are here to serve you. Whatever we can do we will do for you we will do. We seek to make that good by every means in our power. I have learned that if I want the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon it, I had better take that attitude.
Also it opens peoples hearts. In Luke’s gospel and I can’t give you the reference, but I was reading it one day in the Hebrew version, the Hebrew translation of the New Testament, and it said, “Whoever is old among you, let him become as the younger.” I’m not sure that it will come out that way in English. I was in a situation where I was dealing with a group of men all of whom were at least ten or twenty years younger than me. They were asking something of me which I though was unreasonable and unfair. But how I praise God that I read that particular version at that particular moment. “Whoever is older among you, let him become like the younger.” And God gave me the grace to let them have their way. I really believe in a way that was a major turning point in my ministry. I believe I was faced with the option of becoming corrupt and having my own way, or renouncing something which I felt I had a right to and letting God bless and multiply. I look back on that moment and I want to tell you it was an agonizing moment. I felt real inner agony because I was preparing to give the thing that mattered to me most at that particular moment.
So I want to tell you this is real. Nobody says that the cross is enjoyable. But it’s worth it because of what lies beyond it.
Okay, let’s look at the other result. We could multiply these results or we could reduce the number. I mean it’s a subjective matter. I don’t want you to just accept what I say. I want you to use your own thought and prayer and see, “Does God want me to see this? Does God want to add to this? Is there something special God is saying to me as an individual?”
But the second result right at the bottom of the page there, is no need to prove myself right. What a relief. What a relief! Especially for preachers. I have a friend who is a preacher. A very successful pastor in one of the cities of the midwest and he’s from a Southern Baptist background and we all know that really Southern Baptists have all the answers. He received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and moved into a new dimension. But he didn’t leave all his Southern Baptist background behind. He was very opinionated, and he was often right. But he offended people.
Then God dealt with him. A lady came to him and said, “What do you think about such and such people? Are they right or wrong?” And he said, “I have no opinion.” And he commented afterwards, “That was one of the greatest reliefs I’ve ever had in my life.” I don’t have to have an opinion about everything. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to be right. What a relief for a preacher.
In 1963 I preached a very long winded message to the congregation to which I was supposed to be pastoring, explaining why there could be no more apostles in the church. I only have a simple comment to make on that. I can say it in three words. I WAS WRONG. But, oh, thank God He gave me grace to say I was wrong! Otherwise I would have been shut up for error in my own silly opinions. And let’s be frank. There are a lot of men that shut themselves up forever. They preach something wrong and they’ve never been willing to say, “I was wrong.” What a release when you don’t have to prove yourself right.
Let’s look at just a couple of scriptures. 1Corinthians 4:3–4.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. [Paul says it really doesn’t matter an awful lot to me what you think about me. Now that can be arrogant or it can be humble, but it’s realistic.] In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself [I’ve got nothing on my conscience] yet I am not justified by this; [by the fact I’ve got nothing against myself] but He who judges me is the Lord.
Let’s come to that point. It’s the Lord who decides. We don’t have to make all the decisions. We’re going to have a time, God helping us and everything going according to plan, a question and answer before we close this period of teaching. I want to tell you in advance it’s very possible you’ll ask questions that I can’t answer. That doesn’t embarrass me the least bit. I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to be right all the time.
I go back many times in my mind in my experiences training teachers in East Africa because I learned so much. I used to say to my teachers, “Now there will come a time when a pupil in your class will ask you a question you don’t know the answer to. Don’t bluff! Don’t try to pretend that you know. Say, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t know, but I’ll find out.’ But if you bluff, sooner or later your bluff will be exposed and people will see you as talking about something you didn’t know about.”
The school on the mission compound where I was, was a long building with four classrooms end to end with mud walls between them. But the mud walls didn’t go up to the ceiling, so there was a large gap at the top of each wall. Now the African picture of the teacher with authority is one who carries a big stick and shouts. Well you can imagine what it’s like in that kind of a building when all four teachers are shouting at once, because you can hear every one of them. I used to say to them, “Listen, you’ve got the picture wrong. Having authority is not carrying a big stick and shouting. In fact, if you have to do that it’s a pretty sure sign you don’t really authority.”
You know the secret to having authority? It’s being under authority. Once you’re under authority you have authority. You don’t need to lift your voice. You don’t need to show your strength. You know what they call the “macho” attitude? You know what that’s the product of? Insecurity. A man who is secure doesn’t have to be “macho.” The people who have to shout and demonstrate themselves are insecure people and they are insecure because they aren’t really under authority.
Let’s look at one other statement of Paul before we go on to the next—2 Timothy 2:24–25. It’s interesting I’ve found there are certain epistles that I go to again and again in this study. I’ve found that if you take any theme and treat it seriously, you will find there are certain books in the Bible or certain authors that particularly deal with that theme. If you ever deal with the theme of Truthwhat’s the writer that you’ll go to? John always. If you ever deal with the theme of Lovebasically it will be John and Paul. So it’s something significant I think in the fact that we go—I think we’ve been to 2Timothy a whole lot of times. You see, 2Timothy was his last epistle. It was written in prison. He was aging. He’d been deserted by some of his closest friends. He was awaiting execution. He was urging Timothy to bring the cloak before winter because he didn’t have sufficient clothing to keep him warm. And out of that he wrote this masterpiece. To me by any literary standards, 2Timothy is a masterpiece. Some of Paul’s writings you couldn’t call them literary masterpieces by any means. There is something about this that is the ultimate triumph of the cross where all worldly success has been stripped away. By worldly standards Paul was a failure, but there’s not one note of sadness or depression or defeat. It’s total victory! Through what? Application of the cross. So he says here in 2Timothy 2:24–25.
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel...
The old King James said “must not strive” which I think is so good. Don’t put a lot of effort into proving yourself right or to proving what you believe is right. Don’t become what Bob Mumford calls “one of God’s little defenders.” God doesn’t need to be defended. The truth doesn’t need to be defended. I will take care of itself. Don’t get worried about it. God’s in control. Release it. I have learned in my experience if I am really trying to make people believe something, I don’t succeed. If in a certain way—which I don’t know if I can explain—I back off, present the truth and stand aside and say, “Holy Spirit, you do the job.” The results are frightening. Any time that I preach a really what you would call a really severe message, I’m doing it against my own natural inclination. I don’t want to do it. But I’ve learned that if I’m to preach that kind of message the Holy Spirit moves in and takes control and causes me to say things that frighten me. I think that happened Thursday night. I said to Ruth afterwards, “I had no intention to be so solemn.” I didn’t plan that. But by the grace of God up to a certain point, and I know I have a lot more to learn, I have learned to back off and let the Holy Spirit have His way. You’ll find He does a much better job than we do.
The same in healing ministry. People sometime comment about our healing ministry, “You don’t shout. You don’t get excited.” Well I do get excited sometimes but what’s the good of shouting. It’s just a waste of strength. Now I know there are some people that when the Spirit of God comes over them they shout. That’s legitimate, it’s scriptural. But there’s a whole lot of fleshly, sweaty effort, and I’d have to say frankly among Pentecostals and Charismatics. That doesn’t help the Holy Spirit the least bit. In fact He’s just waiting for a chance.
There was a time when I was an associate pastor of a Pentecostal church in Minneapolis of all places. My introduction to the United States was Minneapolis in February. Anyhow, I was made responsible for the “morning prayer meeting.” Two mornings a week, I think, Tuesday and Friday—I forget now. We got together and we prayed from 10 a.m. until noon. And I mean, we prayed. You know Pentecostals, they know how to pray in a certain sense. I mean, we didn’t rest, we didn’t stop, we just kept telling God what He ought to be doing. After the prayer meeting was over, all sorts of exciting things happened. People got healed. Things happened. So one day I said to God, “Why is it the exciting only happen when we finish praying?” What I understood Him to say was, “That’s the first time you’ve given Me a chance to do something.” You see what I am talking about is not pushing yourself, your fleshly energy. Let the Holy Spirit do it. Back off. That doesn’t mean you’re not concerned. But there’s a difference between the concern the Holy Spirit gives and the concern of your own ego. I think it’s only experience that can teach us the difference. If I feel cast down at the end of a message, which I sometimes do, I have to ask myself, “Was I trying to succeed? Was I trying to impress people? Was I trying to get people to believe what I wanted them to believe?” And very often that’s the reason. Another thing I’ve learned for those of you who might ever be preachers, some of my most successful messages left me feeling a failure. In fact, only when you are in some sense a failure, can God become a success through you. All right, let’s go back to 2Timothy 2:24–25.
And a servant of the Lord [I must say strive, it seems to me so exactly right] must not strive but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.
That’s the attitude of the successful counselor or pastor. Don’t try to prove yourself right. Let me say this partly because of one or two people to whom Ruth and I ministered last night. It’s wonderful to have principles for counseling, but never trust in a system. That’s a snare. You can have a system for anything. You can have a system for leading people into the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. “I know what it’s like, I can do it.” And it’s perfectly all right to work systematically. But never put your faith in a system. Put your faith in the Holy Spirit. And sometimes you’ve got every move lined up and the Holy Spirit says, “You don’t need to do any of that. Just put your hand on them and pray for them.” Challenge them about a certain area of their life that they haven’t mentioned.”
You see, in counseling I’ll tell you one thing that is very useful—it’s the word of knowledge. It’s wonderful to have this principle by which you go back to a person’s infancy and childhood and so on, and it works and it produces results. Anything that works, I’m happy for. But when Jesus dealt with the woman at the well, He didn’t ask her if she had been rejected in childhood, or suffered in her marriages. He just said, “You have one problem. You’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with is not your husband.” Incidentally we had a lady rather like that last night who came to us. And that resolved everything. I don’t believe it’s always profitable to spend a whole lot of time listening to a persons life story. Let me say this also. To you both for yourselves and for people you minister to, if people focus on their problems they will live forever in their problems. You’ve got to get them to the place where they don’t look anymore at their problems. What do they look at? The cross. Because that’s the only solution.
Let me say also about our attitude in these matters. You can win an argument and lose a soul. Our aim is not to win arguments. It’s not to prove ourselves right. Our aim is to help people. Whatever helps them I’m happy for.
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