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Our theme tonight which will be in two sessions is “The Headship of Jesus.” Those words may be not very familiar to you. I personally believe that in the years that lie ahead there’s going to be an increasing emphasis in the body of Christ on the headship of Jesus. I’d like to give a little background to what I’m going to be saying tonight about God’s plan for winding up this age. There is a passage in Acts 3 which seems to me to give a very clear outline of God’s program to close the age. It doesn’t mean that we know everything but it does give us a kind of outline. These words were spoken by the apostle Peter to a crowd of Jewish people in Jerusalem. But in a sense they’re addressed to all God’s covenant people. This is what he said, Acts 3:19–21:
“Repent, therefore, and be converted [or turn back to God], that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. And that he may send Jesus the Messiah, who was before appointed for you: whom heaven must receive [and I add and must retain] until the times [or the period] of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began [or since time began].”
You see, this is a theme of all God’s prophets. It’s the climax of the age, it’s the climax of all God’s purposes of redemption. Peter, I don’t know whether he was conscious of it, but he outlined the steps that will lead up to this climax. I’ve often said you can summarize them in four English words, all of which begin with the letters RE. So if you have your Bible in front of you you can look at it and we’ll see how many theologians we have here this evening. The first one is staring you right in the face. What is it? Repent. Repentance. You see, whenever God’s people get away from Him and lose out and miss God’s blessing, there is one essential move back to God which you cannot omit. There’s no other way back to God but repentance.
When we repent and meet God’s conditions, God blesses us with refreshing, that’s right. That’s a stimulation, it’s a new upsurge of life. A lot of people have been refreshed in the last two decades but many of them haven’t realized that refreshing is not the end purpose of God, it’s just a step on the way.
And so we go on to verse 21 where we get the next word that begins with RE which is restoration, that’s right. Restoration of all things.
And then by implication, it’s not there, it says heaven must receive Jesus the Messiah until the period of restoration of all things. And in that period of restoration of all things the implication is He’s going to leave heaven and come back to earth as king to reign in glory. So the key word there is return.
Let’s say them together, shall we? Repentance, refreshing, restoration and return. You don’t have so many bumper stickers here in this country but in the United States people are kind of bumper sticker crazy. One of the ones that some Christians put is “Guess who’s coming back?” Which is quite good, it’s stimulates people to think. I’m sure a lot of people haven’t the faintest idea who’s coming back. But I think we know.
Over the years I think I’ve been privileged, together with some of you, to witness phases of restoration. I think very clearly there has been a restoration of spiritual gifts which has given rise to what has become known as the Charismatic movement. Charisma is the standard Greek word for spiritual gifts. So, the Charismatic movement is the movement in which spiritual gifts have come forth. It’s not the first movement, the Pentecostal movement went before it. I had the privilege, sometimes a rather doubtful privilege, to be part of that movement, too.
One thing that is being restored is the spiritual gifts, the supernatural gifts of the spirit. I think that’s important because I don’t believe anything can really fulfill God’s purpose until we have the supernatural restored. God doesn’t operate just on the natural plane. I once read through the book of Acts, which has 28 chapters, and which I consider to be the inspired picture of what the church should be like. I asked myself this question. What would it be like if every reference to the manifested supernatural were to be removed? When I say manifested supernatural I’m not talking about things like the new birth which is supernatural but it’s not manifest, it’s internal, it’s invisible. But things that can be perceived by the senses. So I read through the book of Acts asking myself what would have to be left out. Do you know what I discovered? Not one of the 28 chapters would be left intact, not one. So, in a sense it is not accurate to talk about New Testament Christianity without the supernatural element.
And then I believe also being restored are what we call the ministry gifts which are listed in Ephesians 4:11. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers. Also being restored, and in the same category and yet a little different, is the ministry of elders who are the leaders of the local congregation. About 15 years ago I started teaching about elders because I saw it there in the pages of the New Testament and I thought if it’s in the New Testament it ought to be taught. Generally speaking, the reaction of people at that time was, “Elders! What are elders?” There’s been a tremendous change because today you can go to almost any city where the word of God has come, at least in the western world, and people talk about the elders, the elders of the city, the elders of the church. So, things are developing.
But the theme that I want to deal with tonight I believe is another major aspect of restoration. And that is the headship of Jesus. Let’s consider for a moment what the New Testament has to say about this. In Ephesians 1, that glorious prayer there of the apostle Paul, he closes with a declaration of what God did in demonstrating His power in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Let’s just take the last three verses of Ephesians 1. God exalted Jesus:
“...far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. He put all things under his feet...”
It’s important to know that everything is under the feet of Jesus at this time. And then it says:
“...he [God] gave him [Jesus] to be head over all things to the church, which is his body...”
The language is so accurate. God put all things under the feet of Jesus. But when it comes to the headship of Jesus over the church He gave Him, He’s God’s gracious gift to the church as head. And He is head not over some things but over all things.
Now, I have to say that I don’t believe this revelation has penetrated to most of the body of Christ at all. I’m going to try to explain some of what’s involved in it.
Then in Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the purpose of the ministry gifts. We’ll begin in verse 14:
“That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every word of doctrine, by the trickery of men, and the cunning craftiness, by which they lie and wait to deceive.”
Do you know some people who are tossed to and fro and carried about with every word of doctrine? I’m afraid there are many of them. What’s interesting is that Paul says God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers that we should no longer be tossed to and fro. In other words, until these ministries are operating in the church I think people are going to be tossed to and fro.
And then it says, going on in verse 15:
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.”
So again, the headship of Jesus over the body is affirmed and our spiritual development is to grow up in all things into Him. And notice the phrase “all things” twice. He’s head over all things to the church and we are to grow up in all things to Him as our head.
And then in Colossians, Paul returns to this theme. There’s a very close parallel in many ways between Ephesians and Colossians. Let me say to you just in parenthesis, if you are in touch with people who have been involved in cults or are involved in cults, people who’ve been involved in yoga, for instance, and can recognize Jesus as a guru but find it hard to recognize Him as Son of God. I can understand that because I was in that condition myself before I was saved. I’d been deeply involved in yoga. And when I was challenged with the gospel and the presentation of Jesus Christ, I simply was not able to acknowledge Him as Son of God and Messiah until I had a tremendous deliverance. That was the first deliverance I was ever in, it was the middle of the night, it was in an army barrack room. I was flat on my back on the floor and I have no idea how many demons came out of me. But many. And the moment that yoga demon left I knew that Jesus is the Son of God, I didn’t have any more doubt. But there are multitudes of people involved in all sorts of cults today. And why I’m saying this is because if you want to help them I think the best book in the New Testament is Colossians. Colossians was written to people who were in danger of becoming involved in cults. And when you’ve grasped the presentation of Jesus in Colossians, you can no longer thing about Him as a guru. He’s the great Creator, He’s the sovereign Lord.
So let me just look at what Paul says in Colossians 1:18.
“He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church...”
That’s exactly parallel with what he says in Ephesians 1.
“...who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he may have the preeminence [first place].”
There’s a very beautiful analogy there which some of you may not have noticed. Jesus is the head of the body and He’s the first-born from the dead. So the resurrection is viewed as a birth out of death. Now, in a natural human birth what’s the first part of the body that normally emerges? The head. And so in this birth out of death, which is the resurrection, the first part of the body to emerge was the head. And when the head emerges, that’s the guarantee that the body’s going to follow, see? So He’s the head, the first-born from the dead.
And then in Colossians 2:18–19, Paul says:
“Let no one defraud you of your reward...”
You see, this is the problem with cults. They defraud people.
“Let no one defraud you of your reward taking delight in false humility...”
You know, only eating vegetables and things like that. I mean, if you want to be a vegetarian, that’s fine but don’t make a religious issue of it.
“...taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly [but religious] mind, and not holding fast to the head...”
Having lost connection with the head. See?
“...from which the whole body fitly joined together, grows.”
So, one of the things we have to bear in mind is every member of the body has to have a direct personal connection with the head. Never let any human minister come in between you and the head. Human ministers can help you, they can guide you, they can inspire you, they can warn you but you have to have your personal connection with the head. Let no one ever cheat you out of that.
So that’s a little of what Paul says about the headship of Jesus.
Since the head is taken from the physical body and, believe me, I’m no physiologist. My only claim is in World War II I was a Nursing Orderly Class 2. That’s not very high. I could have become a Nursing Orderly Class 1 but because I was a corporal my rate of pay was higher than a Nursing Orderly Class 1 so they never arranged promotion. They promoted people who weren’t corporals, you understand. If you don’t know the way the British Army thinks, I can empathize with you, it’s strange.
But anyhow, very, very simply, unprofessionally, what does the head do for the body? This is my simple answer. First of all, the head receives input from every member. As I understand it, every part of the body has a direct line to the head.
Secondly, and I think this is the vital issue, the head makes decisions. It acts on the input that’s received and it makes decisions. But its decisions are in the interest of the whole body, they’re not simply the response to the plea of one member. Like you may be hanging from a cliff with nothing below you, your fingers are aching and you want to let go and your fingers say, “Let me let go!” and the head says, “No, you can’t let go because the rest of the body will go with you.” See? So the head makes decisions but they’re not necessarily the decisions that every individual member would want.
Thirdly, having made the decision, the head initiates the action. It decides what to do.
And fourthly, having initiated action, and in a sense, turned the members loose, the fourth thing it does is it gives ongoing direction. It doesn’t back off totally from the situation and say that’s it but it just, as it were, supervises the members carrying out the decision that the head has made.
I believe that all those apply wherever the Bible speaks about headship. And furthermore, I believe actually headship is the principle of government that’s portrayed in the Bible. I hope I won’t shock you if I say that the kingdom of God is not a democracy. See, in the last 50 or 100 years democracy has become so fashionable in some parts of the world that everybody assumes it’s the right form of government. Let me offer you the comment of Plato on the five forms of government. I don’t often quote Plato but I think he’s so right here. And it’s so in line with the Bible. He says there are five possible forms of government.
Number one, monarchy. The rule of one good man. He says that’s the best.
Number two, aristocracy which is the rule of a few good men. Which is second best.
Number three is democracy which is the rule of the people. Which, he says, is the weakest of all forms of government. He also says about democracy if pastry cooks and doctors had to compete for the votes of children, who would get the most votes?
Then going further down there’s oligarchy which is the rule of a few bad men.
And right at the bottom is tyranny, the rule of one bad man.
Really, I personally feel that said it as far as that’s concerned. And what does the Bible present to us? Monarchy, isn’t it? But He’s a wonderful king because He’s going to share His rule with people He’s trained to rule with Him. So it’s monarchy and aristocracy. But it’s not democracy. I don’t believe any church should be run as a democracy. I don’t know how I got into this because I did specialize in Greek philosophy for years. But let me say democracy originates in Greece and Greece is the origin of humanism. If you want to trace humanism back, that’s where it started. I’ll make a prediction and I could easily be wrong, it’s happened before. I believe that the Bible indicates the age is going to end with monarchy restored—according to the book of Revelation. At least in a large measure. I believe one reason is the people are getting so lazy and so irresponsible they really don’t want the responsibility of making their decisions any longer. They just want somebody like the Roman emperor who provided bread and services. Fill our stomachs, keep us entertained and you do the worrying. That’s really the essence of it. Well, as I say, there’s no extra charge for that.
Now let’s consider the operation of headship. I want to turn to a passage that I think really says it all in one verse. 1Corinthians 11:3. Paul says:
“But I want you to know...”
Almost every time Paul says “I want you to know” or “You should not be ignorant,” my observation is most contemporary Christians are ignorant. In other words, the church hasn’t changed in that respect.
“I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman [or the wife] is man [or the husband], and the head of Christ is God.”
Now, change the order and go from the top downwards, you have a chain of authority that starts in heaven and ends in the family. God is the head of Jesus Christ, Christ is the head of the husband, the husband is the head of the wife. I believe that is the divine pattern of government. It’s government by headship.
There are, in the end of the Bible and in the book of Daniel, a number of strange creatures with more than one head. But not one of them is a creature that comes from God. God designs all creatures to have one head. A many headed creature is a monstrosity.
There are two ways we can look at this statement. We can look at the relationship between God and Christ, or we can look at the relationship between Christ and the man, or between the man and the wife. But I would like to begin by looking at the relationship between God and Christ because in that we find the perfect pattern. God the Father is the head of Christ. What does that mean? According to my explanation it means that the Father receives input from the Son. The Father makes the decisions, the Father initiates the actions and the Father gives ongoing direction. I believe if you look at the picture of Jesus’ ministry, that’s exactly how it was. Let’s look at two passages in John’s gospel. John 5:19–20 to start with. Remember, we’re looking at this as a pattern of what it means to be under headship because Jesus was under the headship of the Father. Jesus says in John 5:19:
“Most assuredly I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for whatever he [the Father] does, the son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the son and shows him all things that he himself does: and he will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”
Notice the Son initiates nothing. He does nothing of Himself. He only does what the Father initiates. And He follows the pattern that the Father has set. I invite you to study the ministry of Jesus and I believe you’ll find there’s not one exception anywhere. Jesus never initiated anything. Always the initiative came from the Father.
You see, this question of initiative is very, very important.
Then we look in John 5:30. Jesus is speaking again, He says:
“I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.”
So again He says I can of myself do nothing. I am not the one that initiates anything. And He said that’s not merely true in what I do but it’s true in the judgments I make. He says my judgment is righteous, it’s reliable, it’s accurate because I don’t judge anything myself. I only receive the Father’s judgment.
I have learned the hard way that it’s very unwise to make our own judgments. When I’m confronted with a situation I have to acknowledge that I’m one of those people, I immediately think of about three different ways to handle it. And only by long practice have I learned not to make my own judgments but to wait and hear what God has to say. Believe me, dear brothers and sisters, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache if you will not jump in and do the first thing you think of but wait to hear the Lord’s judgment. What does the Lord say? I’m quick to respond to people in a way. See, I think people think like I do. I say what I mean. I mean, I don’t have a double meaning in anything. So if I say something, I mean it. Well, I’ve discovered lots of people are not like that. I can’t adjust to them. Fortunately, I have a wife who helps me. She says do you think he really meant what he said? You didn’t know what was really in his mind. So it’s disastrous for me to make my own judgments. And it takes humility and patience, doesn’t it, to wait for the Lord’s judgment.
One thing I think I’m learning is I say I take nothing for granted any longer. Nothing. Nothing whatever. It’s got to be based on something specific. A scripture, a revelation, established facts.
So Jesus only judged as the Father revealed it to Him. The Father was His head, you see?
And then you go to John 14:10 and you find it really summed up there. Jesus is speaking to His disciples. John 14:10:
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority...”
But that’s not really a good translation. I do not speak of myself. I don’t know why in this translation the same phrase is translated differently in different places. Don’t let me get you involved in that!
“The words I speak to you I do not speak of myself, but the Father dwelling in me does His work.”
So who’s the source? The Father, that’s right. The words that Jesus speaks or spoke the Father gave him. The works He did, it was the Father dwelling in Him that did the work. What’s that? That’s headship. Perfect headship. That’s the pattern that Jesus set.
Let me just challenge you with something which is a little beside it but nevertheless very relevant. If you look in John 20:21, after the resurrection when Jesus appeared for the first time to His disciples in a group, John 20:21, He said to them:
“Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
Put that together with what we’ve been saying. Jesus said the words that I speak to you, the Father gave them to me. So if Jesus sent us as the Father sent him, we should say the words I speak to you, Jesus gave them to me. Jesus said it’s the Father dwelling in me that does the works. So we ought to be able to say it’s Jesus dwelling in me that does the works. Jesus said if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. We should be able to say if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen Jesus. See that? That again is headship. Once your eyes have opened to this truth, it’s really central to the success of the Christian life.
I want to take this a step further and talk about the headship of Jesus over the church. This is the crux of this subject. Look for a moment with me, if you will, in Ephesians 5:23. This whole passage is an unfolding of God’s plan for Christian marriage but it also unfolds Christian marriage as a pattern of the relationship between Christ and the church. It has a double application. Paul says here:
“For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.”
Notice the parallel which was there in 1Corinthians 11 also, verse 3? The parallel between the relationship between Christ and the husband, the husband and the wife, and Christ and the church. So, Christ is the head of the church.
Now, what does that mean? What should it mean? It should mean that Jesus receives input from the church. When we run into trouble, we don’t look for our own solution. We communicate with the head. All right? My right hand would get into a lot of trouble if it wasn’t directed by the head. That’s why some of you get into trouble! You’re not being directed by the head. You’re acting as if you were autonomous. You aren’t.
Secondly, Jesus makes the decisions for the church. The church shouldn’t make its own decisions.
Thirdly, Jesus initiates the actions of the church.
And fourthly, He gives ongoing direction. When He initiates action, the members should respond to His initiative.
Does that give you a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church? That’s the relationship of headship. When the scripture says Jesus is head over all things to the church, that’s the picture that we should form in our minds, that’s the relationship that should exist between Jesus and His church. Is that the relationship that actually now exists between Jesus and the church?
I heard second hand about a meeting of John Wimber somewhere in which he did what he sometimes does, gets people together to pray in little groups for one another. And a Catholic lady was asked what she wanted to pray and she said, “I want to have the same feeling for the church that Jesus has.” Bless her, that was a dangerous thing to say, wasn’t it? After that every time the word church was mentioned she burst into tears.
When John Wimber was in Britain about a year or two ago, his message was from Jesus, “I want my church back.” Can you identify with that? See, let me give you a little parable. Here’s this fine Christian family, a father, mother and three wonderful children. One day the father sees this old tramp sitting on a bench in the park, shivering, dirty, ragged, underfed, unshaved. He takes pity on him. So he brings him home, they find a room and a bed for him, they get him cleaned up, they buy him some new clothes and they say, “You can be a member of the family. You can join in with us.” And he begins to get well fed, respectable. But after a while he begins to take over the family. He begins to tell the wife how she ought to cook, to discipline the children, and in general to act as if he were the head of the house. You see the parable? We were the tramp sitting on a bench in the park. Jesus took us into His family, cleaned us up, fed us, cared for us. And after a little while we get so arrogant we say, “Jesus, I think you should do things a different way. If you want to know what I think, this is how you ought to bring up your children.” How many Christians are busy telling the Lord how to look after His children? You need to bear one thing in mind. When you criticize God’s children you make Him angry. See, a father can say what he likes to his children but let somebody else talk about those children, that’s different. You see my parable? Does it apply?
I want to come particularly to the area of taking the initiative, which I think is the crux of the whole issue. What I want to say is this. God is only committed to complete what He begins. If God hasn’t begun it He’s under no obligation to complete it. Let’s give you a number of scriptures. Revelation 21:6. We could read verse 5 because this comes from the throne. Revelation 21:5–6:
“Then he who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.”
And I think that must have been such an astonishing statement that John the revelator paused. And so He said:
“Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
You can trust me, it’s really going to be that way.
“And he said to me, It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Those are two titles that God reserves for Himself. Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. But what I want to say is this. If He’s not the Alpha, don’t expect Him to be the Omega. If He isn’t the beginning, don’t expect Him to be the end. God is not committed to complete anything that He hasn’t begun. Understand? If we take the initiative out of God’s hands and make our own decisions and our own plans, the end will be frustration because God will not endorse what He has not begun.
In Hebrews 12:2 we have the same truth again.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
And my margin says the originator and perfecter of our faith. It’s exactly the same truth again. If He hasn’t originated, He won’t perfect it. He’s only committed to perfect that which He has originated.
And then the same thought again in Philippians 1:6.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
See, my conviction is that if you are really sure God began it, you can be confident He’ll complete it. But if you don’t know for sure that He began it, you never have the confidence that He’ll complete it.
This has become extremely real for Ruth and me in our ministry. I think almost every time we pray about our ministry I end up by saying, “God, we’re confident that what you have begun you will complete.” I think Ruth would bear me witness, we are more and more cautious not to get involved in anything which God hasn’t initiated. And that has meant many changes in our attitudes and our reactions. I have to tell you honestly I am afraid of being involved in something that God hasn’t initiated.
In l983, if I remember rightly, right at the end of the year Ruth and I took a holiday on the west coast of Florida—which is a good place to take a holiday. We used to talk about vacations. You know, the American form of speech is vacation. Well, a vacation means when you don’t have anything to do, that’s the essential meaning and it’s from the same word as vacant. Which is all right. I mean, it’s good for people not to have anything to do sometimes. But we felt it was the wrong word for our times away so we call them holidays. You know what a holiday is, it’s a holy day, that’s right. And for us, we’re very particular about our holidays. God has shown us that it’s a sin never to take a holiday. It’s not virtue, it’s not spirituality, it’s slavery. You check Israel’s calendar as God ordained it and you see how many holidays they had to take. There were no options. We are usually in Israel about the beginning of the Jewish New Year. And for about the first half of that month it’s difficult to get anything done because people are all taking holidays. And they’re God ordained holidays. They’re not holidays because somebody wants to be lazy, they’re holidays because God has said you take a holiday.
This is just by the way but, as I say, there’s no extra charge. Many, many committed Christians follow the practice of tithing, of giving God a tenth of their income. I don’t believe that it’s actually commanded in the New Testament but I think it’s a very good practice. Actually, I think for the Christian the tenth is only the foundation, it’s not the roof. What about God’s demands on Israel’s time? Did you ever stop to think about that? He demanded one day out of seven. A higher proportion than He demanded of their material possessions. How many people in the church today really give God one day out of seven? That’s one reason why there are so many nervous breakdowns, so many frustrated frantic people, so many busy people who never get the job done.
I would not claim that Ruth and I always do this but basically I would say we have learned if we take time for God we do much more in the remaining time than we would if we hadn’t taken time for God. God was the first one that rested. God worked and God rested. I have a friend who is a Palestinian Arab and the owner of many restaurants. He’s really good at getting people to work. He has a message on work. But he says God didn’t work because He had a family to support. And God didn’t rest because He was tired. It was on a much higher level than that. God worked because He’s a creator. And why did God rest? I’ll offer you my idea. I think God rested because He wanted to enjoy what He created. And if you never take time to enjoy what you’ve created, you are in a miserable condition.
Let me ask you this, too. This isn’t part of my outline, it’s just come in. Which takes more faith for a Christian? To work or to rest? Which? To rest, that’s right. Do you know why Israel didn’t enter into rest? Because of what? Unbelief, that’s right. Why can Christians not rest? Because of what? Unbelief, that’s right. You diagnosed your problem!
You see, relaxation comes when you know God initiated it. I was saying we went away for a holiday. And we take our holidays very seriously. We put them in our itinerary and they’re just as fixed as our commitments for meetings. We discipline ourselves to take holidays. So we went away and our ministry was in trouble financially. We weren’t in debt but our expenses were exceeding our income by about $20,000 a month. And you can’t go on for long like that. When we were away and waiting in God’s presence, God said, “I don’t want you to sell your materials so much, I want you to give it away. Because the people who really need that material can’t afford to buy it. They don’t have the money or they don’t have the exchange.” So we began very small scale, I think. We chose twenty-five leaders known to us in eight nations and we said we’re willing to give you this material, this teaching material, if you will promise to make good use of it. And we had various ways to check on the use that we made, we didn’t just throw it out.
Last year we gave material to 1400 leaders in 100 nations. And in that period we have given away 200,000 books, cassettes and videos. I say we. It’s not our personal income, it’s the people in the body that stand with us. Do you know what? We’re in a much sounder position financially now than we were then. It was a step of faith but what I’m trying to emphasize is God initiated it. When we went back and told our staff, they were shocked. It took awhile to convince them that we really heard from God.
I think that was a tremendous lesson for us. If God initiates, He’ll see it through.
On the other hand, look for a moment in Philippians 2:16. I’m only going to read the latter part of the verse. Paul says:
“...that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”
Dearly beloved, I want to suggest to you if you are doing your own thing and working on your own plans and your own projects, in that day I’m very sorry to tell you you’ll discover that you’ve labored in vain and run in vain. I’m probably nearer to eternity than most of you here. And for me this is a very serious matter. I’ve devoted nearly 50 years of my life to serving the Lord and I don’t want to end up with a zero when I stand in front of God. Paul warned us you can pile up material: wood, hay, stubble; but there’s coming a fire that will consume it in an instant. You’ll be saved. I think the New International Version says “like a soul escaping through the flames.” But all your works will be burned up. It is my personal conviction everything that God has not initiated will be burned up because it’s contrary to the principles that He’s laid down, the principle of headship.
In my loving and gracious way let me ask you a few probing questions to round this off. Let’s make some personal application. I think I mentioned before for five years I trained teachers in Africa for African primary and intermediate schools. They had to make a lesson plan on certain stages. But the end was application. Check that the children have really learned the lesson. I can remember so many of them. My poor student teachers, they failed on the application. Just forgive me for a moment, it’s so vivid to me. I remember a young man, he was teaching a lesson on sanitation—to give it a very respectable title. Or, as they call it, the Kenya long drop. And he had a beautiful lesson plan and wonderful diagrams on the board! When he finished he stood there with his arms folded waiting for me to approve. I tiptoed around the class and I looked at what the children had got in their exercise books, it didn’t have any relationship to what he had on the board. So I had to deflate him and say you taught all right but they learned nothing.
So, let’s have the application, shall we, for a little while. I’m going to ask you a series of questions. How much has God really initiated in your individual life? Just mentally run over the things you’re involved in right now, the things you’re giving your time and strength and ability to. And say has God initiated those?
Let me give you a thought from Psalm 1. Many of you are familiar with the beautiful words of Psalm 1.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, not sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in season; his leaf will not wither; and [listen] whatever he does will prosper.”
That’s a unconditional promise of success. You’ve got to measure success by Bible standards, not contemporary American culture. Success is not necessarily driving a Cadillac or a Mercedes. There’s a much higher level of success than that.
Rightly understood, God promises success to a person who meets certain conditions which are stated. There are three negative conditions and two positive. The negative conditions are not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, not stand in the way of sinners, and not sit in the seat of the scornful. The positive ones are delight in the law of the Lord, meditate in His law day and night. And God says the person who does that will succeed. In the deepest and truest sense, when he stands before Jesus in eternity he will not have a lot of wood, hay and straw to be burned up.
I want to point out to you the key, the thing where it all begins is where do you get your counsel from? Because you cannot get your counsel from the wrong source and prosper. So, where do you get your counsel, your advice, your direction from? You realize that you have right of access to your head who is called the wonderful counselor. Are you availing yourself? You know in the business world people pay very large sums of money for letters from, quote, experts telling you where to invest. Well, what about consulting the real expert? What about getting your counsel from the wonderful counselor? It’s going to demand, for most of you, some pretty radical changes. Some of you will have to stop doing some of the things you’re doing. I don’t mean you’ve got to go out and stop tomorrow but I mean that there will be a process of adjustment. And if you do it faithfully I want to tell you after about six months or a year, one day you’ll lean back and sigh, say, “Oh, thank God I’m free from a lot of pressures that never did me any good.”
What is it that motivates us? Is it keeping up with the Joneses? Is it doing what everybody else does? You look at the people around you. Most of them are not happy, the people that don’t know the Lord. In Israel, I’d have to say, you see very few happy people. When Ruth and I walk down the street in Jerusalem just looking ourselves, people turn around and look at us because they’re not used to seeing happy people. Why do I say that? What I mean is their counsel isn’t doing them much good. Don’t follow them. You’ve got access to a much better source.
How much has God really initiated in your home? Especially husbands and fathers. Who is the source of activity in your home? Who directs your program? Can you say I heard from God and He showed me?
Then in your church. How much has God really initiated? Or in the church? I may be, I don’t know. Of course, I’m British and British are prone to be critical. I have to admit that. I’ve tried to deal with it in myself for years. We have the impression it’s our job to go around and tell everybody else how to do things. I hope God has delivered me from that but I’d have to say that in most churches I don’t think people ever think in terms of hearing from God. They’ve got a program, this is the way it’s done. 11:00 o’clock on Sunday morning, et cetera. And, you know, whether God is in it or not is really almost irrelevant. Am I being cynical? Your church, praise God, may be different. There are churches that are very different. But you take the general spectrum of Christianity today, it’s exceptional that God has initiated something. Is that right?
Now let me point out to you that we’re talking about restoration. The restoration of the headship of Jesus. Let’s leave the whole church out for a while and let’s talk about our individual lives. Yours and mine. If we have gone wrong, what’s the first step to putting things right? Repentance. How many of you’d say, “Brother Prince, in the light of what you’ve been saying, I do need to repent.” Would you raise your hand if that’s true? You don’t have to do it, I’m not trying to get hands up.
Let’s pray together, shall we?
“Father, we come to you now in the name of Jesus and we have to acknowledge, all of us, in many ways have ignored the claims of Jesus’ headship over our lives and over His church. Lord, we want to say tonight give us grace to repent, to change our way of doing things. We’re sorry, Lord. Forgive us, we pray. In Jesus’ name.”
And everybody said amen.
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