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I want to give you just one proclamation which is in Psalm 118 verse 17. The Psalmist says:
“I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the LORD.”
And that can save you from death. Do you know that? It’s a decision you can make. And I’d like to suggest that you say that with me tonight. And if there’s a dark spirit of death hovering over you, dispel it. Why should you die when you can live? Ruth and I will say it the first time, and then we’ll give you the privilege of sharing it with us.
“I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the LORD.”
Now I think if you are going to say that you should stand up. You cannot really say it effectively in a sitting position. Now say it with real conviction.
“I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the LORD.”
Now do one more thing. Find some suitable person standing near you, look them right in the face, and say it again. “I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the LORD.”
You may be seated if you can. Now I want to say a big thank you to all of you who’ve made us welcome and responded so wonderfully to the teaching the Lord has given me, especially the leadership of Barnabas Camp has been so gracious and so loving and so respectful. Also to Julian and his worship team. I think they’ve done a wonderful job. I’m grateful to them. And then for the many unnamed heroes who’ve done all the dull and probably dirty jobs that have to be done. We want to say whether we know you by name or not, we honor you and we thank God for you. May God bless you!
This coming week I’m due to be Exmouth with a group of primarily Christian workers, and the theme the Lord has put in my heart is one we’ve just been touching on here—it’s Holiness. And I’m going to spend a whole week if the Lord permits, dealing with this theme of Holiness, which I’ve never dealt with in depth before. But I felt the Lord, I should be reserving this for next week but I can say it again... The motto of our ministry is Reaching the Unreached and Teaching the Untaught. And that is the passion that has motivated us and in the space of the years that Ruth and I’ve been married, we started from very little and basically we’ve reached the globe. I’m not saying that to boast. I’m just saying that as an objective fact. My radio broadcast which you hear in Ireland and other places, is now in at least twelve languages, four Chinese dialects or four languages of China, Russian, Arabic, Spanish and a lot of other languages. So basically, potentially we reach more than a billion people every day. Our printed material and our cassettes reach every continent. I used to have to say there's one continent that we don’t reach, that is Antarctica. But some little while back, South Africa sent a geological exploratory expedition to Antarctica and the people on the expedition asked if they could have some of my video tapes to watch. So now we’re reaching Antarctica. So that’s all just by way of introduction.
Now I want to tell you that my theme tonight is The Last Days or The End Time. Both phrases are widely used in the Scripture. I suppose that at least half of the books in the Bible have something to say about this special period, the Last Days or the End Time. And I personally believe we’re living in the end time. I know a lot of other preachers believe the same. I wouldn’t try to say how close we are to the end, but I think we’re in the end time. And Paul has something to say about this in 2 Timothy chapter 3. I want to read the first five verses. 1 Timothy chapter 3 beginning at verse 1.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
The Bible always goes to the root of things. Paul is very emphatic first of all. I don’t think in any other place he uses such emphasis, “Know this... you can be absolutely certain of this one thing that in the last days perilous times will come.” The word that’s translated perilous only occurs one other place in the Greek New Testament, in Matthew 8:28 it’s used to describe two demonized men who came against Jesus. And the translation there in this version is fierce. And I think fierce in a good word. “In the last days there will be fierce times...” And much of the power that makes them fierce will be demonic power. And Paul says you’ve just got to accept this fact. There’s no doubting or disputing, that’s what you’re going to have in the last days. The word is not getting better.
And then the Bible reveals to us the root problem and this is so important because all sorts of political theories could be evolved, but they wouldn’t touch the root. The root of the decline is the decline in human character. That is the root problem, that human character is declining. The decline in human character is a matter of corruption. Since man fell into sin he has been corrupt. His character has been corrupt. But corruption is something that progresses.
In the natural if you think of, say a piece of fruit, a pear, something like that, a peach. You have this beautiful fresh-looking lovely tasty piece of fruit. You don’t have to do anything with it. Just leave it. Because beneath the surface corruption is already at work. And it will gradually work out until that piece of fruit is totally rotten. That’s how it is with human behavior. The corruption is already at work. And it’s going to go on until the whole thing is totally rotten. Corruption is irreversible. There is no way to turn back the process of corruption. Whether it be in character, or whether it be in fruit, or whether it be in some other thing.
So God does not try to reverse the process of corruption. God’s answer is not to improve or clean up or reform. God has one simply answer—it’s a new creation. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation.” God is not going to patch up the old creation. He’s not going to reform it. He’s not going to send it to church or teach it the Golden Rule, because you cannot change corruption. You can delay corruption. You take that piece of fruit, whatever it is, and put it inside the refrigerator, corruption will be delayed, but it will still ultimately work out.
Sometimes I think some churches are like that. They’re refrigerated. They’re pretty cold. They’re pretty nice, but they don’t change the process of corruption. The only thing that can do that is the new creation. I wonder how many of you tonight can say, “I am a new creation in Jesus Christ.” If you can’t, you’re still the slave of corruption at work in you.
Now associated with this revelation is an understanding of the main evil forces that are at work, and there are three of them, and each of them begins with the word love. Now I have to say the NIV which in some ways is a good translation, unfortunately does not translate the first word self-love. It translates it egotism which is all right. If you know Latin it means the same thing. But a lot of people don’t know Latin. And in the Greek original text there are three phrases that are just exactly parallel, self-love, love of money, love of pleasure. There are three loves that are the corrupting force at work. Let me give you them again. Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure.
When Paul gives the list he starts with, “...men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money...” And he ends the list with “...lovers of pleasure.” And altogether there are eighteen different forms of moral corruption listed, but the source of them is the first two, love of self and love of money. And the love of self and money ultimately expresses itself in the love of pleasure. I’ll give myself a good time. I’ll get as much as I can. I’ll enjoy myself. I won’t worry about other people. I’ll just care for Number One. Those are the three corrupting forces that are at work.
In 1 Timothy chapter 6 and verse 10, Paul says,
“The love of money is the root of all evils...”
So all the other evils that are listed here, these moral blemishes, proceed out of the love of money. And let me say this about love of money, it’s very common in the Church and if you love money, you’re a slave of money. You cannot love money without becoming its slave.
And so we have the exposure from the word of God of the three corruption primary forces: love of self, love of money, love of pleasure. And you look at our culture today in this country and many other countries and what you see is love of self, love of money, love of pleasure. And that is the root problem. And nothing can resolve that but a new creation.
You could say this, Paul says it, “The love of money is a root of all evils...” But the soil in which that root grows is love of self. That’s the real basic problem, is the love of self. And that is very little dealt with in the contemporary Church. In fact, much of the activities of the contemporary Church are designed to increase our love of self, to feed the love of self, to nourish the love of self.
Now the shocking thing and what I am saying is this. These terrible moral blemishes, beginning with the love of self, the love of money and ending with the love of pleasure, with all these horrible other things in the middle of it like unforgiving, unloving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers pleasure, etc... Now listen, these same people have a form of godliness but deny its power. So Paul is not talking about irreligious people. In fact, I don’t think he’s talking about non-Christian people. Because as far as I understand Paul, he would never use the word godliness of anything that rejected Jesus Christ. So these are professing Christians. They have a form of godliness. But what do they do with it. They deny its power.
What is the power? Some of you will tell me it’s speaking in tongues. I thank God for speaking in tongues. Some will say well it’s miracles and healings. I thank God for all of them. I’ve seen them all myself. But listen, all of those can happily coexist with the love of self.
I’ve been Pentecostal longer than most of you have been around, and I well know all about Pentecostals. I thank God for them. They led me to the Lord. In fact, I didn’t even know you could be a Christian without speaking in tongues. It was a shock to me when I discovered. And I’ve spoken in tongues I think every day from then until now. But the power that deals with self-love is not speaking in tongues, it’s not miracles, it’s not healings, it’s not prophecy. What is it? It’s the cross, and nothing else but the cross applied in our lives, can deal with self-love.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 18 Paul speaks about the cross. 1 Corinthians 1:18:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The cross is the power of God. Nothing else can deal with self-love in our lives except the cross of Jesus Christ applied. You can have a form of godliness and speak in tongues. You can believe in miracles and have a form of godliness. But one thing you cannot have is a form of godliness and the crucifixion of self. That’s the dividing line.
I have to say I mix mainly with Charismatics. That’s just the way my lot falls. I mix with Charismatics and Pentecostals for more than fifty years. I’ve ministered in about fifty different nations and I have to tell you, some Pentecostals and some Charismatics are the most self-centered people you could meet anywhere. And it’s the religiosity that makes them self-centered. It doesn’t save them. It entraps them.
I want to turn to two passages where Jesus speaks about the cross. Matthew 16 verses 24 and 25.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [but the Greek says soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his soul for My sake will find it.’”
So Jesus said, “If you want to follow me, that is be My disciple...” Because that was the specific phrase used of a disciple. A disciple was one who followed after Jesus. And Jesus said, “If you are going to follow after Me there are two essential preliminary steps, Number one you deny yourself.” What does it mean to deny yourself? It means to deal with that insistent self-pleasing, self-asserting ego in each one of us. The things that says, “I want, I think, I feel, I’m important, pay attention to me. I matter.” And you have to say, “You don’t matter. You’re not important. It’s God that’s important. I deny you. I will not listen to you. I will not succumb to you. I will not bow to your demands. You don’t dictate to me. You don’t control my life, you selfish creature.”
And then Jesus says, “Deny himself”—that’s the first step. The second one is “...take up the cross.” And after that He says, “follow Me.” You cannot follow Jesus unless you’ve taken those first two steps. It’s impossible. Some people think, “Well, it’s pretty difficult, but I believe I’ll manage it.” They’ll not. The first step is deny yourself. Say no to your insistent, demanding, self-centered ego.
And the second step is take up your cross. What is your cross? It’s the place where you died. God says, “You’ll have to take it up. I will not impose it on you.” But if you wish to take it up then that’s the place where you die, where the ego comes to an end. You don’t become a non-person, but you become a new person, a different person. This is your decision. Are you willing to follow Jesus? Will you deny yourself? Will you say “no?” Will you take up your cross? Somebody said, “Your cross is the place where you will and God’s will cross.” And every one of us comes to that place and that’s where we make a decision. Whose will? God’s will or my will? There’s so no other way. Jesus didn’t offer us a second alternative. He said, “If you want to follow Me, come after Me, you have to deny yourself. You have to take up your cross.” Once you’re willing God will arrange it, believe me. He has a special cross for each one of us. A special area of our lives where we have to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” After that you can follow Him.
Let me say that Jesus did not come to make church members. He said, “Go and make disciples.” And disciple is one who’s met these conditions. Denied himself, taken up his cross.
And then in Luke 14, we get a similar passage. Luke chapter 14 verses 25, 26, and 27. Luke 14:25.
“And great multitudes went with Him.”
I want you to notice as we read on. Jesus wasn’t really interested in those who went with Him. He was interested in those who came after Him. And there are lots of people in the Charismatic movement and in the whole Church that are going with Jesus, but they are not following Jesus. Great multitudes went with Him. It was exciting. It was enjoyable. It was no sacrifice to go with Jesus.
“Great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me, anyone, and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple.’”
Some of us think it’s pretty difficult but I’ve managed. Jesus said, “You can’t do it.” Now what does it mean to hate your father and mother? We have to understand it in the context. You have to hate your own soul. In other words, you have to hate anything that comes between you and whole-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ. Whatever it is, it is hateful. Not that the person himself is hateful. You may have the sweetest and most loving parents, but there comes a point in your life when you have to decide, “Am I going to do what my parents want, or am I going to do what Jesus wants.”
I came to that place when I came out of the British Army in 1945. I was in the Middle East. I’d been there four years in the Army. The British Army owed me a passage back to England. It wasn’t going to cost me anything, but God had told me to marry a lady in Jerusalem and I’d become the father of eight fatherless girls. And then I heard the news that my grandfather was dying of cancer. He was really the closest member of my family to me in many ways. And I could have a free passage home. I could have gone to see him. But not done that and obeyed the Lord. So in a way, rightly understood, I had to hate my grandfather. I thank God the hatred is not permanent. One day I’ll meet him in heaven. But Jesus has laid down certain condition which never vary.
Let’s go on with this passage.
“...great multitudes went with Him...”
I want you to notice those who go with Him and those who follow Him. They’re two completely different kinds of people.
“And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear His cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The conditions of discipleship are stated as clearly as anybody could ever see. We have not reason to doubt what they are. We have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, hate anything that comes between us and obedience to Jesus, and then we can follow Him. You may be trying to follow Jesus but aren’t meeting the conditions. You can’t do it. You’ll experience all sorts of frustrations and defeats and you may not even understand why. You say, “Well I’m sincerely trying to live the Christian life.” Well, that’s good but you haven’t met the conditions. There are no exceptions to these conditions. If you want to be a victorious Christian, these are the conditions. And they’re absolutely contrary to the spirit of this age. Because the spirit of this age is a spirit of self-love, of self-pleasing, and we have to decide.
I’ve been shocked because in a certain situation which I don’t need to describe, I came up against the effects of contemporary educational system in this country in a young person. And I discovered that the emphasis now is on cultivating yourself, pleasing yourself, becoming the right kind of individual. There is no emphasis now self-denial or even on discipline. You do what you fell like, do what feels good, be free, cultivate yourself. The trouble is the self you’re cultivating is a rebel. The more you cultivate yourself, the more rebellious you become.
I learned with shock... I read a secular magazine, and this was in the United States. A woman who was an educationist was saying that one of the things the Feminist Movement has done is to affirm that excellence is something men imposed upon us, therefore we don’t want excellence. If you don’t want excellence it’s pretty easy not to achieve it. And we are producing a generation of young people that don’t know what excellence is. There are some wonderful exceptions, but they’re coming into life lame because misguided as to what the real key to success is.
I want to go back to 2 Timothy now and just pinpoint a few further features of this present age in which we are living. 2 Timothy chapter 3. Incidentally it says about those who, “have a form of godliness but deny its power, from such people turn away.” My interpretation of that is don’t waste your time on people who are not willing to be serious with God. I’m not interested in ministering to people who are not willing to change. I mean, I may do it but I don’t do it intentionally. I think it’s a waste of time. I think what Paul was saying is, “Don’t waste your time on people who are not willing to change.” And I believe that applies to many ministers here today. You are wasting time on people who are only playing religion. And they’ll take as much of your time as you like. The more you counsel them the more time you give them, the more you feed the ego. But you’re not accomplishing anything. And it’s a subtle trap of Satan because there are others in whom it is worthwhile investing your time and you’re being sidetracked from them to the person with the perennial problems. You never have any of those in your church, I’m sure!
You know why the have perennial problems? Because they’re not willing to meet God’s conditions. Don’t waste time on them. That’s what Paul says in the “Prince version.”
Now, let’s notice some of the other features of this time. We go to 2 Timothy chapter 3 verses 8 and 9, and it speaks about the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres. You might not know who they were, but they were the magicians of Egypt. And it says:
“Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men or corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”
So there’s going to be opposition from the occult. The magicians were occult practitioners. And in Germany at least there are far more occult practitioners than there are Christian ministers today. It’s not an old thing that’s passed away. It’s very contemporary, it’s very up to date. And these magicians were not to be laughed. It staggers my mind, but of the first three miracles that Moses and Aaron could perform, they could do the same. Aaron threw down his rod and it became a serpent. Pharaoh said, “What about you boys? Can you do that?” They said, “Yes. Sure we can.” They threw down their rods and they became snakes. Now if that happened in a Charismatic church the people would pay a lot of attention. The exciting this is. You know what happened? Aaron’s rod ate up the snakes of the magicians. So picture those magicians leaving. They left empty handed, whereas Aaron left with a rod that was thicker and stronger than the one he ever had before. But don’t be under any misapprehension. The occult can produce various kinds of miracles. The ability to produce miracles is not a guarantee that a person is from God.
Then after that, Moses was told to draw water out of the Nile and turn it into blood. It turned into blood. Pharaoh said to his magicians, “Can you boys do that?” They said, “Sure we can do that.” And then Moses was told to call frogs out of the river and he did it. And Pharaoh said, “What about you boys? Can you do that.” They said, “Sure we can.” The frogs came up for them too. They got to a point where Moses could do something they couldn’t do, and then no magician said, “This is the finger of God.” And you need to know that we are in a conflict with occult powers in particular. And if you’re not prepared for that you’re going to run into trouble. And this battle is not being fought out on the fields of theology, but on the demonstration of spiritual power. Do you have that power? Is it demonstrated in your life and ministry? Can you outdo the magicians? Because that’s what it has to come to.
Then a little further on in 2 Timothy 3 verse 13, Paul says:
“But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
They deceive because they are deceived. Nobody is so good at deceiving as the one who is himself deceived. But let me offer a little comment from my studies in Greek. Evil men and imposters is not the right translation. The word in Greek means enchanters. People who practice incantation, which is one major form of exercising occult power. And so again we are dealing with occult practitioners.
Some years ago... I measure my life by who was my wife at the time, and it was when Lydia was still my wife. A man came to me and he announced that he was the most powerful wizard in the United States. Well, I didn’t necessarily believe him, but he came to me to apologize because he’d got angry with me without my even knowing anything about it, because I apparently hadn’t paid enough attention to him somewhere. And he told me that he’d put a curse on my family. Well that was useful information and I decided to deal with it but not deal with him.
But then, he went on. He was one of these people who liked to talk about himself, and he said he’d practiced various forms of the occult including telekinesis. Do you know what that is? Moving objects at a distance. You can’t get inside the room but you have somehow you exercise power that changes the place of something in the room. He said he’d succeeded at that. But he said he came to the conclusion that the most powerful tool he had was incantation, which is exactly like these two. And that really taught me something. I thought if Satanic incantation is so powerful, what about our incantation? What about when we sing in the Spirit. Isn’t that powerful too? But what I want to emphasize is don’t write the occult off as fantasy or... It is very, very real.
You go and tell some African a witchdoctor had no power he’ll laugh in your face because he knows full well he does. Isn’t that right? That’s right. All right.
Now we come down to the practical. What is our response to this situation, the deterioration of human character and the upsurge of the occult? And it’s challenging us. And I want to give you the answer from the Bible. In 2 Timothy chapter 3 verses 14, 15, 16, and 17. Now we are moving into another phase.
“But as for you continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures”
What is our resource? What can we turn to? The Holy Scriptures. That is the source of our victory and our success. Never get moved away from the Holy Scriptures. Paul said,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the Man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped in every good work.”
Now I want to say I’m glad that Paul chose to say, the scripture. He could have said the word of God, and later on her does. But you see The Scripture is a very special something. The Scripture means that which is put down in writing. God has spoken many, many words but they’re not put down in writing. But a certain selection of His words have been put down in writing and they are the Scriptures. And we can have absolute confidence in that. This is the source of our strength, our confidence, it’s our salvation, it’s our hope, it’s our victory...the Scriptures. Don’t ever get moved away from the Scriptures. There’s a lot of people today who are getting all sorts of revelations. I don’t know whether you have them here, but we have people with what’s called Extra Biblical Revelation. That’s outside the Scriptures.
I marvel at this because, you know, I’ve been reading the Bible for fifty-seven years, studying it, preaching it. And I’ve only just touched the margin. I feel like a small child paddling in the margin of a vast ocean. There is so much more I don’t know, that I haven’t found, that’s still waiting for me. Why should I go to some harebrained preacher and get his extra-biblical revelation? I don’t want it. I don’t know whether that applies to anybody, but I’m just not interested.
And then having said that about the Scriptures and that’s very, very crucial Paul goes on in the next chapter beginning at the first verse.
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom”
That’s a very solemn charge isn’t it? We’re all going to face the judgment seat of Jesus. ”In the light of that I charge you,” and then He comes out with three words,
“Preach the word!”
And I say to you tonight, “Preach the word.” Don’t give people your second-hand theories, your half-baked revelations. Preach the word. That’s what people need. It’s what can build people up. It’s what can sanctify people and make them holy and convict them of sin and change their lives. Preach the word! Amen And then he goes on.
“Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
Tell me as a preacher or a pastor or whatever you are, do you expect to convince, to rebuke, to exhort? Is that part of your ministry. And if you’re a church-goer, do you go to church expecting to be convinced, rebuked and exhorted? Is that your idea of the Christian life? Because it’s right here.
Then Paul ends up his charge to Timothy in chapter 4 verse 5 and I want to say that to each of you individually. I believe this is a charge to every one who is in ministry here tonight.
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, [you’re going to have to] do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Whatever your job is assigned to you by the Lord, do it and do it well and do it thoroughly and do it with all your heart.
Paul says, “Do the work of an evangelist.” As I understand it Timothy’s calling was not to be an evangelist. He was an apostle and a pastor. But Paul said, “Do the work of an evangelist.” I know I’m not called to be an evangelist. I’m called to be a teacher of the Scriptures. It’s very clear. But when nobody else will do it, I’ll do it. I can do it. I’ve seen hundreds of people saved under my preaching, but it’s not my primary assignment. If somebody else will do it, I’ll step back. But I won’t let it go undone because people need to be saved. You know that? If they’re not saved, they’re lost. And the only thing that can save them is the gospel. So do the work of an evangelist. You may be the very, sort of quiet, inoffensive Bible teacher, but brothers and sisters, people need to be saved. People need to be saved. Do the work of an evangelist.
I remember the first time I listened to Billy Graham, because I had a very personal, individual introduction to the gospel and to the Lord. And I stood in amazement. You can explain the gospel to people. I never knew you could do that. I used to tell people what happened to me and it was all rather dramatic and I left them wondering, “Well could it happen to me too?” But listening to Billy Graham night after night, I said, “It can be explained.” And I learned to do it and I can still do it. And I’m happy doing it but it’s not my primary assignment. So let me give you back the words of Paul.
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Whatever you’re called to do, do it completely, do it thoroughly, do it with all your heart, do it as unto the Lord.
Now I just want to say one more thing on this text, “preach the word.” There have been in the last few years all sorts of strange things that have happened in churches. I’m not against strange things. I’ve been responsible for some of them myself. I’m not frightened of what’s strange, in fact I rather enjoy it to say the truth. I get a little tired of coming to church every week and just having the same menu. But we have to be very cautious because some of the strange things that have been happening are not from the Holy Spirit. There’s two sources of strange things; there’s the Holy Spirit and there’s evil spirits. And we have to know how to release the Holy Spirit and restrain the evil spirits. And the answer is “Preach the word!”
I want to point out to you and this I’m going to close with, is God has ordained that signs, miraculous signs, shall follow the preaching of the word. But if we don’t preach the word there’s nothing for them to follow. Your can have a wonderful evening feeling spiritual, getting a vision, a revelation, laying hands on people, seeing them go down under some power. But, if you don’t preach the word you really don’t know what’s going on. It’s very dangerous.
There’s a lot of people in the Charismatic movement just want experiences. They want something dramatic to happen. Well, I love the dramatic too, but I’m cautious because there’s more than one source of the dramatic. There’s a good source and an evil source. How can we protect ourselves and protect the people we minister to? The answer is preach the word. Never go into a thing without the word. Because that’s your safeguard.
Let me give you just a few Scriptures on this theme. Mark 16, the end of the ministry of Jesus, verse 15.
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. [I’m committed to that. I don’t know about you.] he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. [And again it’s very simple. There’s no third category. You’re either saved or your condemned. Now listen,] and these sings will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”
What do the signs follow? The preaching of the word. But if we don’t preach the word how do we know what signs we’re getting? “These signs will follow the preaching of the gospel.” And brothers and sisters, people need the gospel. They need to know how to be saved. And then a little further on in Acts chapter 4 we remember there was a time when the apostles and their coworkers were forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus, and they came together and had a prayer meeting. And this is what they prayed about, in Acts 4 verse 29 they said this,
“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
So what was to bring the signs and the wonders? The preaching of the word. “Preach your word that signs and wonders may be done.” And then in Acts 14, this happened in Iconium when Paul and Barnabas were there on their first ministry, and it says in Acts 14 verse 3,
“Therefore they stayed there [that’s in Iconium] a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
Notice the signs and wonders were God’s witness to the word that was preached. They never had signs and wonders apart from the preaching of the word. And then in Hebrews chapter 2 verses 2 and following, Hebrews chapter 2 beginning at verse 2.
“For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which is the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also bearing witness [to what? to the word] God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit”
I would say that includes the whole realm of the supernatural; signs, wonders, gifts and healings. Why do they come? They were God’s testimony to the word of salvation. Let’s never get away from salvation. Everybody needs salvation. And we are called to minister to it. If we do it faithfully God will bear testimony to that word. And then just one final thought in Luke chapter 1. This came to me when I was preaching in France only recently. Because the French translation brings out something which is obscured really at least by the standard English translation. These are the first two verses of Luke’s gospel.
“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us.”
So Luke got his record from those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. Now unfortunately in our religious jargon the word minister has lost its real meaning. Because all it means is a servant. In Acts 13 it says, “John Mark was the servant of Paul and Barnabas.” You see the problem with many of us, when we think of the word minister we think about somebody standing behind a pulpit and preaching. That’s not what it means. It means a servant.
Some people say, “Do you believe in women’s ministry?” I certainly do. I believe in women’s service. But we’ve got such a false picture of what it is to be a minister. You know you have to wear a certain kind of suit, be in a certain kind of place on Sunday morning. That’s nothing to do with it.
Some years ago when I was married to Ruth, this helps me get the date approximate, we went to Pakistan to preach. Had a very exciting time. I’d like to tell you more about it but I can’t. But anyhow, just to say that we had about eight thousand people that responded to the gospel in Pakistan. God opened a little window of opportunity. You couldn’t go there and do that now. It would be impossible. But as we were immigrating through the immigration authorities, this man asked me what is your occupation. And I thought if I say a preacher that’s not going to sound good. If I say a Bible teacher that’s not going to sound good. So I said I’ll tell him I’m a minister and just leave it at that. Well after that I noticed that he was treating me with unusual deference. I thought what has happened. And then I realized he thought I was a minister of the United States. But that showed me how false the picture is we have of the word minister. A minister is a servant.
You see when I was preaching in France, this was translated minister of the word _____________ [in French]—“servants of the word.” And I said, “That’s it. That’s what a minister is. It’s a servant of the word.”
Now I would like to ask you and I’m coming to a close. What is your view of your function in the Body of Christ? Are you a servant or are you quote “a minister?” Are you a servant of the word? Because that’s what you’re called to be. That’s what you’re called to be. I want you to consider that question and I want to move on to something else.
I spoke about the conditions that Jesus laid down for being a disciple. “If any man will come after Me let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” It means saying “No” to you own selfish demanding ego. It means laying down your plans and ambitions. It means an unreserved commitment to follow Jesus, and that is what it is to be a disciple.
Now I want to give an opportunity to any here who have been confronted for the first time maybe with this challenge and you really never have laid down your life. You’ve got quote “saved” which is wonderful, but you’re not a disciple. You’re still doing your own thing. You’re pleasing yourself, you’re making your own plans. But tonight you’ve been confronted with the reality of the demands of Jesus. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, the place where he’s to die, and follow Me.” And you cannot follow Jesus until you’ve done those two things.
So tonight, just pause for a moment, meditate on what I’ve said, and then if you are prompted to make this decision here tonight, “I want to take up my cross. I want to follow Jesus. I want to give my life unreservedly to Him.” And you’d like to make that decision here tonight then just stand to your feet wherever you are. Anybody who feels prompted to make this decision. “I want to lay down my life. I want to give up my ego, my self-will. I want to follow Jesus without reservation.” Let’s just wait a moment of two. I think there are more that need to make that decision. God bless you. God bless you. Stand right up and be counted. Amen. Amen.
Well, those of you that have stood, I’d like you to come out to the front, stand before me here. I can’t see you all because of the light is such that I can only see a small portion of the auditorium. Now please be praying for this because it’s a very, very important moment for the lives of people. All right. I want to lead you in a simple prayer addressed to Jesus. I want you to say the words after me. Then when you’ve said the prayer and said Amen, I just want you to communicate directly with Jesus. Say or do whatever He puts in your heart to do. So will you say these words after me:
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that You’re the Son of God, that You died on the cross for my sins, and rose again from the dead. I turn now from sin and pleasing myself and doing my own thing. And I come to You, Lord Jesus, and I lay down my life before You. I give myself unreservedly to You to become all that You want to make me. And I thank You that I believe You’ve received me because I come in simple faith based on Your word. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank You, thank You, thank You.
Now just continue to thank Him and pray anything that comes to your lips in your own language. Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord Jesus. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
Amen. If you want to kneel down, that’s perfectly in order. In fact it’s appropriate.
Lord let Your anointing, we pray, come down on these people who have come forward to give their lives to You. Thank You that they heard Your voice speaking through the Scripture. They’ve come to obey You, to submit themselves to You. We commit them to You, Lord. Will you lay Your hand on each one of them right now, in the name of Jesus, will you put your mighty nail-pierced hand upon them in Jesus name. Will you touch them, will you touch them Lord, will You anoint them, will You release them from every bondage, from every burden, from every fetter, set them free in the name of Jesus. In the name of Jesus, release them, deliver them, in Jesus name. Amen and Amen and Amen.
I think it would be good for most of you to kneel down. I’m not demanding that, but I think you’ll find that it’s more real. Thank you Lord Jesus for each one of these. Oh God will You bless them beyond their ability to understand. We give You the glory and the praise, Lord Jesus, for what You are doing here tonight in this place, in these lives. We commend them to You. Will you put Your hand on each one of them. May they never go out alone, by themselves from this night forward. May they know the good hand of our God upon them for good. May they become channels of blessing. May they make an impact wherever they go. An impact for the Lord Jesus. Hallelujah! May there be a sweet savor of His presence, Lord. Thank You Jesus. Thank You Lord.
Those of you that are in the seats would you just stretch your hand out and pray for these people quietly. Invoke God’s blessing upon them. Thank You Lord – [over and over and over.]
[Praying in tongues.]
Open your heart to Him. Pour out your heart to Him in submission, surrender, worship, worship Him, He’s worthy to be worshiped. Give Him your whole like and everything you have. In Jesus name. Amen, amen, amen, amen.
I just want to say are there some of you here who are ministers, but not servants? I mean, it’s your career. It’s the fulfillment of your ambition. But you’ve never died a death to your own self, to your own pleasure, to your own pride. And you would like to make that commitment. I’m not going to ask you to move out of your seat, but if you want to do that. If you say, “Here I am, I’m a minister but I’ve never been a servant. Tonight I want to take the place of a servant.” Would you just stand to your feet wherever you are. Anybody who wants to make that decision wherever you are. “I choose to be a servant.” Amen. The highest you can ever get is to be a servant. Thank You, Thank You. Amen.