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This is the final four sessions in this series of teaching on the atonement. Today I’m going to seek, with God’s help, to try to give you some insight and instruction on how you can appropriate all that God has provided through the atonement. But I think it would be good first, and in line with the principles of teaching, to do a little brief recapitulation. Somebody who was in the teaching profession came out with this statement: “Remember, nothing has been taught until something has been learned.” So it isn’t a question of how much I’ve said, it’s a question of how much you have learned.
So, we’re going to recapitulate two things. First of all, the aspects of the exchange that took place when Jesus died on the cross. I’ll tell you the second one next. But let’s see if we can do this. This is always a test of my own memory. Let’s be simple and childlike, using our left hand for the bad things, our right hand for the good things. Okay. Are you ready? Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven. Jesus was wounded that we might be healed. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness. Jesus died our death that we might share His life. Jesus was made a curse that we might receive the blessing. Jesus endured our poverty that we might share His abundance. Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory. Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance. Our old man died in Jesus that the new man might live in us.
I saw some of you really saying it without looking at your note outline, so congratulations! I’m impressed.
Then yesterday in our sessions we looked at five different aspects of deliverance through the application of the cross in our lives. They’re all contained in Galatians. So, let’s see if we can do that. Through the cross we receive deliverance from this present evil age, from the law, from self, from the flesh and from the world. Again, I’m impressed. A lot of you have mastered it.
Now all that is what God has done. But it doesn’t avail us unless we know how to appropriate it. So that’s going to be my theme throughout the sessions today. Let me say by way of help that if anybody misses what God’s provided, it will not be because it’s too difficult, it will be because it’s too simple. There’s nothing complicated in God’s plan for appropriating His salvation.
I want to start with a little example from the Old Testament from the book of Joshua. Because, I believe this is a wonderful pattern for us. I’m just going to read Joshua 1:2–3, which were the words that the Lord spoke to Joshua when he was given the responsibility of bringing the Israelites into the land of Canaan after the death of Moses. I think you’ll agree that Moses was a hard person to fill the shoes of. So it was a tremendous responsibility that had come on Joshua. This is what the Lord said:
“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore, arise and go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them [the children of Israel]. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given you as I said to Moses.”
I want to point out two different tenses. In verse 2 the Lord says, “I am giving.” But in verse 3 He says, “I have given.” Now, the Lord is the disposer of everything in heaven and earth. The earth is the Lord’s, the fullness thereof. So when the Lord gives something, that settles it, there’s no arguing about it. The Lord said, “I am giving this territory that you see in front of you to you.” And then He said, “I have given it to you.” And as far as I understand, from that moment onwards, legally the entire land of Canaan belonged to the sons of Israel.
But they didn’t actually occupy anything more than they had before the Lord spoke. They could have had two wrong reactions. The first would have been discouragement. “Well, the Lord said He’d given it all to us and we don’t have anything more than we had before. We’re still in the same place!”
The other would be presumption which is the opposite of discouragement. And here we take a little picture of God’s people and we could apply it to the church. I don’t want to use any names but suppose you view the crossing of the Jordan that was to follow as receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. So, there’s two different ways the Israelites could have acted presumptuously. They could have lined up on the east bank of the Jordan, folded their arms, looked westward and said, “It’s all ours.” But they wouldn’t have any more than they had before they started. Or, they could have been a little more adventurous, crossed the Jordan, lined up on the west bank, look westward, folded their arms and said, “It’s all ours.” Legally they would have been right. Experientially they would have been wrong. The Canaanites still knew who possessed the land.
So I think sometimes the church can be like that. Whichever side of the Jordan you might happen to be on, you look across at the Promised Land and you say, “It’s all ours.” Legally you’re right, experientially you’re wrong. I’ve heard people say—you may have heard it—“I got it all when I was saved.” My answer to that is, “If you got it all, where is it all? Let’s see it.” But it’s perfectly true. Legally once you are saved and born again, you are an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. Everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to you. But, you don’t possess it. So you have to distinguish between the legal and the experiential.
This is true in what we’re talking about. Legally, everything that Jesus did on the cross is for us, it’s already ours. It’s already provided. But experientially, most of us haven’t entered into everything what He’s provided. In fact, I doubt whether there’s anybody who has actually appropriated in experience all that Jesus provided through His death on the cross.
Do you remember the scripture that we were saying at the beginning—which we could well say again, Hebrews 10:14:
“For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
So that’s the one sacrifice. It’s like God saying, “I have given it.” But the being sanctified in like crossing the river and going into the land and taking possession of it. And it’s an interesting fact if you study the history of Joshua, God did two tremendous miracles to bring the Israelites into the land. The crossing of the Jordan and the destruction of Jericho. But from that time onward they had to fight for everything they got. I personally believe this is true in the Christian life. God will do certain miracles to bring you in. After that you only get what you fight for. And if you don’t fight for it, you don’t get it.
Historically, the Israelites at that time never really took over the whole land. They coexisted with the alien forces, which was a disaster for them. I think that perhaps is a picture of the church, trying to move in and coexisting with a lot of enemy forces which shouldn’t be there.
Anyhow, I just want to encourage you that Joshua and the Israelites entering into the inheritance is, in a certain sense, a pattern for us. So, don’t be discouraged if you find yourself involved in tremendous battles. It’s part of the whole process. Don’t just fold your arms and say, “It’s all ours,” because you’ll be disappointed.
There’s a scripture, too, in the prophet Obadiah. Some of you don’t really know much about Obadiah. He’s the shortest of all the prophets but he’s got a message. If you want to know where to look for him, he’s between Amos and Jonah. If you don’t know where to find Amos, well then you have a problem. I just want to read one verse from Obadiah, verse 17. This is a picture of the restoration of Israel to their inheritance at the close of this age, which is at present as I believe, under way—although it’s got a lot further to go.
“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
Now there are various different translations, I’ve looked at two or three. But the essence is there. Three things: deliverance, holiness, and God’s people possessing their possessions. You see, we can have possessions that we never possess. And I personally believe that these are the steps in very simple outline by which God’s people will get back into their inheritance.
I am intimately involved in Israel and in the Middle East. I’m not Jewish but my view of history is that the Jews, because of disobedience, were exiled from their God-given inheritance for something like 19 centuries. At the present moment they’re on their way back. This you may not agree with but as one of my friends says, “How can I help it if I’m right!” What I want to suggest to you is this is not only true of Israel, it’s equally true of God’s covenant people, the church. For almost the same period of time, I believe the church has been in exile from it’s God-given inheritance in Christ. If you look at the church portrayed in the New Testament and in the book of Acts, and look at the church as it has been through the centuries, you’d have to say there’s very little correspondence between them. So in a sense, Israel returning into their geographical inheritance is a pattern and a challenge for the church returning into its spiritual inheritance in Christ. I believe the steps are the same. Deliverance, holiness and then possessing our possessions.
We spoke yesterday about five forms of deliverance in the book of Galatians. Deliverance from this present evil age, from the law, from self, from the flesh, from the world. I believe those deliverances are essential if God’s people are to get back into their inheritance. But I also believe that we will not really enter into our inheritance without holiness. You remember Hebrews 10:14, how can you ever forget it from now on?
“By one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified [or made holy].”
In other words, as we progress in holiness we qualify to get back into our inheritance. So there’s just a little picture from Obadiah.
Now, I want to come to what you call the practical aspect. How can we appropriate the provision that’s made for us by the cross? The first thing which has to be established, it’s not new but it’s true—and incidentally, I’m not interested in people preaching something new. I’m interested in people preaching what is true. Some Christians always want to hear something new. Very often, what is new is not true. So, let’s come back to the old truism, faith is essential. Hebrews 11:6:
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God]...”
So it’s no use trying to please God without faith because it’s impossible.
“...for the one who comes to God must believe...”
Must do what? Believe, that’s right. And must believe two things:
“...that God is [that He exists] and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Now most people believe that God exists. But it’s not enough, you’ve got to believe that if you diligently seek God, He will reward you. And so, faith is essential but something else is essential, too. What’s that? Diligence. You look carefully through the Bible and find if you can ever see anything in it that speaks well of laziness. If you do, well, I could give you a big reward but I’m not going to offer it. I don’t believe there’s one good word for laziness anywhere in the Bible. The Bible condemns drunkenness but it condemns laziness far more severely than drunkenness. And you see, some of our values in the church are distorted because we’re down on the people who are drunk and we tolerate lots of people who are lazy. Is that right? Are there any lazy people in our churches? The question is, are there any people who are not lazy?
So, we have to have faith. Praise God, if you remember, I told you how you can get faith. I think it was the second session, I gave my personal testimony of how I’d been sick for a year on end in hospital, desperately seeking faith. And God gave me this wonderful scripture in Romans 10:17. Oh, how I thank God for Romans 10:17! It was a ray of light in my darkness.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
This scripture is very real to me. I mean, it was my lifeline out of hospital. So I want to say to you don’t over-simplify it. Some people say faith comes by hearing the Word of God. That isn’t exactly what Paul says. He says what comes from the Word of God is hearing, and what comes from hearing is faith. In other words, they’re two stages. When you expose yourself to the Word of God with an open heart and mind, what first comes is hearing, the ability to hear what God is saying. It becomes real to you. And out of hearing there develops faith. The problem is that a lot of people don’t allow the time that’s needed for hearing to produce faith. You have to expose yourself to the Word of God without setting time limits. Ruth and I have discovered one thing in our walk with the Lord, that we shouldn’t set time limits to God. If we begin to pray with the attitude we’ve got half an hour, well, we get what we can get in half an hour. But if we have the attitude we’re here to hear from God, no time limits; it’s totally different. And almost invariably, sooner or later we hear from God. What I’m suggesting is that you’ve got to be prepared to give more time than most Christians presently give to hearing what God is saying to you through His Word. Hearing comes first, then faith. If you don’t take time for hearing, all you’ll do is read the Bible. But it doesn’t say faith comes by reading the Bible, does it? A lot of people interpret it that way. It says faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God.
And the Word there is that famous word which has gone around the world now, rhema. It’s not the established Word of God in heaven, it’s the word that God is speaking to you at that moment. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4:
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word [rhema] that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
We don’t live by the Bible, if I can put it that way. We live by the Word made real to us personally by the Holy Spirit. See, what is the Bible? It’s white sheets of paper with black marks on them. That’s not going to do you any good. What transforms those black marks into something that produces faith? My answer is the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes the Word of God live, makes it a living word. For about nine months when I first went in the British Army, I studied the Bible as a philosopher. Because, I felt it was my philosophic duty to know what the Bible had to say. I didn’t want to know, I just felt that I really couldn’t speak with authority about the Bible if I didn’t know what it said. And, it was wearisome. I mean, only determination kept me going. I said, “No book is going to beat me, I started at the beginning and I’m going to read it through to the end.” After nine months I had a supernatural encounter with Jesus in the middle of the night. No intellectual decision, but an experience. The next day when I picked up the Bible to read it, it was totally different. It was the voice of God speaking to me personally. It was just as if there were only two persons in the universe: God and me. And the Bible was God speaking to me. That’s it, you see. That’s where we have to come. Whatever it takes, don’t stop short of a relationship with God where His Word speaks personally to you. I believe that’s what faith comes from. First we have to have hearing, and then out of hearing there develops faith.
God does not offer instant faith. We’re so used to instant everything now that we think God deals that way. As a matter of fact, frankly there are a lot of people in the church that think that God is a kind of heavenly automatic vending machine. So, if you find the right coin and put it in the right slot, you’ll get the right kind of soft drink. God is not like that. He’s not a machine, He’s a person. You have to relate to Him in a very personal way to get the results.
Anyhow, I just want to offer some suggestions in closing this session on how to receive the scriptures. First of all, in 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul was really proud of the Thessalonian Christians. He said, “You’ve been an example to all the other Christians around.” One reason for their success is stated in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
So if you will receive this not as a word of men, not on the same level with human writings and human wisdom, but as God Himself speaking to you, then it will do its work in you. It works effectively in those who believe. When you open your heart by faith to God’s Word, it will do in you what God has said it will do. I’d like to emphasize that but I must move on.
Now there’s another requirement in the epistle of James, chapter 1 and verse 21:
“Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”
How are we to receive it? With meekness. What does that mean? Humility. God is the teacher, we are the pupils. God is teaching us. We don’t tell God how He should run the universe, how He should have managed our lives. We let Him teach us. That’s meekness.
I came up with a new definition of faith just recently. There’s no limit to the definitions of faith and I understand that. This is a very simple one: Faith is taking God seriously. Reading the Bible with faith is taking seriously everything that God says. So when God says “do something,” you do it. Let me give you an example. If you will catch on to this, it will change your life—most of you. Some of you may have been changed already. 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
“In everything give thanks...”
In how many things? In everything. Do you believe that? Do you take it seriously? Do you do it? Praise God. All right. So when you get into the car, you thank God for your car. When you drive along the highway, you thank God for the highway. We don’t take the highway for granted. It took a lot of money and labor to build those highways. When you put on your clothes, you thank God for your clothes. And bear in mind there are a lot of people that don’t have enough to wear. I think most of the world doesn’t have shoes. What do you do when you put your shoes on? In other words, don’t just sporadically thank God when it comes to your mind, make it a habit to thank God in everything. It will change you. But that’s an example of what I mean. You receive with meekness the Word of God. You don’t say, “God, that doesn’t sound reasonable to me. After all, I paid for these shoes.” You say, “That’s right, Lord. I’ll thank you for them.”
Now we come to Matthew 6:33, which is just what I want to close with:
“Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness...”
So, you have to give God and His Word priority in your life over everything else.
Part 18 – All Inclusive Salvation
Our theme now is how to appropriate what God has provided through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We have seen, I believe, I trust we have, that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross provided everything that could ever be needed for time and eternity for every believer. That’s complete but our appropriation of it is progressive. It’s important to understand that. In our previous session I pointed out that the first essential requirement is faith. The one who comes to God must believe. There’s no options. You must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
I will warn you there will be times when you believe you’re diligently seeking God and you don’t seem to get any reward. I’m sure that I’m not the only person to whom that happened. That’s where you have to hold on in faith. The Bible says God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Whether you see it or feel it, whatever happens, you reward is sure. It may not come when you expect it, it may not come the way you expect it but it is sure. God does reward those who diligently seek Him. But not only is faith necessary, as I’ve pointed out, diligence is necessary. God has no rewards for laziness. And that requires adjusted priorities. Jesus said seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. That has to take priority over everything else in our lives. So, when our priorities are adjusted and we have that attitude to God and His Word which permits faith to come in, we are on the way to receiving what God has provided for us.
Now I want to take you further in this session. You remember in one of the earlier sessions I spoke about the Greek word sozo. How many of you remember that? Which is normally translated faith. But I pointed out from the gospels specifically that it’s used for healing the sick, delivering people from evil spirits, raising the dead and preserving and keeping God’s people. In other words, what I want to suggest to you is this is the one word that describes everything that was provided by the death of Jesus. Now the noun you all know, is salvation, isn’t it? My definition of salvation is that it is everything that was provided for us by the death of Jesus—spiritual, physical, emotional—for time and for eternity. Salvation is everything that was provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
With that in mind, let’s go to the Old Testament for a moment and look at a passage in Psalm 78:21–22. This describes God’s dealing with Israel primarily on their journey from Egypt to the land of Canaan. And it describes the many, many times in which Israel were unbelieving and disobedient and missed what God had for them. So it says here in verse 21:
“Therefore the LORD heard this [that was their unbelief that He heard], and He was furious...”
Notice, God gets angry at unbelief.
“...so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; [Now why? Notice this:] because they did not believe in God...”
What was their basic problem? Unbelief. You remember what we said? The one who comes to God must do what? Believe, that’s right.
“...they did not believe in God, and they did not trust in His salvation.”
Now, if you analyze that psalm you’ll find that God’s salvation covers everything He did for them from Egypt to the Promised Land. It includes every act of mercy and blessing and provision. Their deliverance out of Egypt, their passing through the Red Sea, the coming of the cloud upon them, the provision of the manna, the provision of water from the rock, the fact that their clothes never wore out and their shoes never wore out; all that and more is summed up in one word: salvation. Salvation is not just getting your sins forgiven—although, thank God that’s part of it—but salvation is the total provision of God for His people through the sacrifice of Jesus.
Let me point out there’s a difference between being born again and being saved. As I understand it, being born again is a one time experience. It happens once, you’re born again. And praise God, that’s it. But being saved is a progressive experience. Being born again, in a sense, brings you into salvation but salvation is something that you have to walk out. It’s something that you have to explore, it’s something that you have to possess. It’s like the land of Canaan for Israel.
So, the problem of Israel was they didn’t believe in God and they didn’t trust in His salvation. Could it be that that is sometimes true of the church? We don’t believe in God as He wants us to believe in Him and we don’t trust in His complete provision for every need.
All right. You see, let’s turn to the New Testament to confirm that. Romans 8:32. This is one of those verses, I say they’re like a blank check. God has signed the check, He’s put your name on it but He hasn’t written in the amount. It’s up to you to write in whatever you need. Romans 8:32:
“He [that is God] who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
Paul’s thought is if God was willing to give Jesus to die on the cross—the most precious thing in the universe, the thing that was closest to God’s own heart—if God was willing to give Jesus, then there’s nothing He will withhold. Is that logical? I believe it is. Notice the succession of words there. With Him, bearing in mind that without Him you have no claim on anything from God except judgment. But with Him He will also in addition to Jesus freely—we don’t have to do any more, we don’t have to pay any more, there’s no extra charge—give, it’s a gift, us means you and me, all things. It’s of tremendous worth, isn’t it? He will also with Him freely give us all things. That’s all inclusive salvation. It all comes through the gift of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
However, and now I want to introduce you to another stage in this process, there’s only one administrator of salvation. There’s only one who opens the treasure house of God and give us what we need. Now be careful and think before you answer. Who is it? It’s the Holy Spirit, that’s right. Here is one of the most neglected persons in the church, the Holy Spirit. Even Pentecostals and Charismatics, they talk a lot about the Holy Spirit but often they ignore Him. Let’s look at what Jesus said in John 16. My thought is that if you want to enter your inheritance, if you want to get what God has provided, you better make friends with the Holy Spirit. Because He has the key. John 16:7. Remember, Jesus is now getting ready to leave His disciples and is preparing them for what’s going to come. And he says:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away: for if I do not go away, the Helper [or the Comforter, the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will sent Him to you.”
You notice that Jesus is talking about an exchange of persons. He said, “I as a person will be going back to heaven. But if I go back to heaven, then in my place I’ll send another person,” who is? The Holy Spirit, that’s right. Then He said something amazing, He said, “What’s more, it’s to your advantage because you’ll be better off with me in heaven and the Holy Spirit on earth than you are now with me on earth and the Holy Spirit in heaven.” Most Christians have never seen that. They say, “Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be back in the days of Jesus when He was on earth with His disciples.” It would be wonderful, I agree, but actually, Jesus is saying, “That’s not the ultimate. That’s just a stage. The ultimate is me in heaven and the Holy Spirit on earth. It’s to your advantage.”
And then He speaks about what the Holy Spirit will do. Let me point out He does not say “it.” He says, “He.” I don’t want to go into this but in the Greek language there are three genders. Do you know what a gender is? Masculine, feminine and neuter, that’s right. Now, neuter is that which is neither he nor she. So there are three pronouns: he, she and it. In the Greek language, the word for spirit is pneuma: wind, breath or spirit. And it is neuter. So the correct pronoun would be it. But the law of grammar are broken in this passage because Jesus doesn’t use it, He says “He.” When He, the spirit of truth has come. What is He doing? He’s emphasizing that in spite of the words used in Greek, the Holy Spirit is not an it but a he. He’s a person. He’s just as much a person as God the Father and Jesus the Son. I believe one of the great keys to success in the Christian life is learning to relate to the Holy Spirit as a person. Believing that if we invite Him and fulfill the conditions, the Holy Spirit will come as a person into a meeting. In a certain sense, I sometimes feel after I’ve taught the Word of God or preached that I can step back and let the Holy Spirit as a person do what needs to be done. In a way, I find it’s better if I get out of the way. I made room for the Holy Spirit. That’s just one of countless possible examples. We have to learn that He’s a person, treat Him as a person. Make friends with Him, He’s a good one to be friendly with. I’ll show you one reason in a few moments.
Jesus goes on now in verse 13 of John 16:
“However when He [notice that, not when ‘it’], the spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth: for He will not speak on his own authority [but I prefer to say He will not speak of Himself], but whatever He hears He will speak: and He will tell you things to come.”
See, the Holy Spirit is the person in the universe who least attracts attention to Himself. He never attracts attention to Himself. That’s why, in a sense, we tend to ignore Him. So when He comes He’s not going to say anything from Himself, He’s going to say what He hears the Father and the Son say. He’s not going to draw attention to Himself. To whom is He going to draw attention? To Jesus. You’ll see in the next verse, verse 14:
“He will glorify me...”
One of the great tests of whether a thing is really from the Holy Spirit is not the amount of noise but the question does it glorify Jesus. If it glorifies a human personality or focuses on a doctrine or a denomination, it is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t glorify those things. He glorifies Jesus. And, if we want to attract the Holy Spirit—which is well worth doing—the thing to do is to start to glorify Jesus. When we start to praise Jesus and lift up the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit says to Himself, “Now that’s what I like to hear. I think I’m going to go and spend some time with those people.” See? It is well worth learning what the Holy Spirit likes and meeting His conditions.
So He will guide us into all the truth and He’s the only reliable guide. John wrote to the early Christians and said, “You have an anointing and you know what’s true and what’s false.” Would to God that God’s people today had that anointing. I must not get involved in controversy but I think Charismatics are the easiest people on earth to fool. I’m sorry to say it but I really think so. They have not learned to distinguish between the noisy, the fleshly, the ostentatious, and that which glorifies Jesus.
We haven’t come to the verse I was looking for. Verse 15 of John 16, still speaking about the Holy Spirit, but I need to finish verse 14:
“He will glorify me: for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.
Notice how modest Jesus is. He doesn’t want to leave us with the impression that it’s all His. He says, “Only mine because the Father gave it to me.” What a beautiful example of glorifying another. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, Jesus glorifies the Father. So He says when the Holy Spirit comes, He will take of what is mine and declare it or reveal it or impart it to you. And then He says:
“All things that the Father has are mine: therefore I say that He [the Holy Spirit] will take of mine and declare it to you.”
So, if you can accept this picture, the Holy Spirit holds the key to the storehouse of the treasures of God. All that the Father and the Son have are under the administration of the Holy Spirit. It’s worth making friends with the Holy Spirit, you understand? You see, lots of Christians have got all the doctrine and they know it all but they’ve never made friends with the Holy Spirit, it’s all doctrine. Here’s the Holy Spirit with the keys saying, “I’m the one that opens the treasure house.”
There’s a beautiful picture—we can’t go into detail—in Genesis 24. It’s a long chapter, it’s a true history but it’s a parable. It’s the story of how Abraham went about getting a bride for his son Isaac. You remember? And he said, “I’m not going to take a bride for my son from the daughters of Canaan. It’s got to be from my own people. [This is typical Middle East up to this day.] It’s got to be from my clan.” And so he got his steward, his servant, and said, “You go off and find the right girl and bring her back. Don’t you get any other kind of girl for my son.”
Let me say this, this is a parable. Abraham is a type of God the Father. Isaac the only begotten son is a type of Jesus Christ. Rebekah, the chosen bride, is a type of the church. There’s one more character. The servant, who is he a type of? The Holy Spirit. You see, Genesis 24 is the Holy Spirit’s self portrait and He never signs it. That’s typical. And the servant is never named, he’s just a servant.
Well, he sets out with ten camels laden with gifts. If you live in the Middle East, you’ll realize a camel can carry a great deal. So when the Holy Spirit comes, He does not come empty handed. He’s got ten camels with Him laden with gifts. You’re foolish if you don’t make friends with Him.
Then he comes to the place where you meet the girl, the well where the young women go to draw water. And he says, “Now, God of my master Abraham, I’m going to ask the girl that comes not only for water for myself,” which anybody would give, “but for water for my camels.” Well, you’ve got to think again because a camel drinks 40 gallons of water. So you have ten camels, that’s 400 gallons of water. Any young woman that’s going to do that is not just a little religious waif, she’s got muscle. I always think of one of my students in Africa. I mustn’t get side-tracked. I worked for five years with Africans, a teacher trainer of students, and I was walking around one day with one of my students and I would ask them questions without warning. So I just said to him, “Tell me, what kind of a girl do you want to marry?” And he didn’t change step, he didn’t hesitate. He said, “She must be brown and muscular.” I don’t know what color Rebekah was. I guarantee she wasn’t white. And she certainly was muscular. So along comes Rebekah and he says, “Give me water, please. My camels.” She draws and he says, “This is the girl.” That’s a picture of the church, you understand? It’s not a nice delicate little lady that sits in the front seat and sings hymns, it’s a woman with muscles who is prepared to work, lay down her life.
So then they go through the procedure and make the arrangements. Then they put the question to Rebekah. “Will you go with this man?” And she decided her destiny, she said, “I will go.” That’s faith. She hadn’t met him more than 24 hours. So she set out on a long and dangerous journey but she had a wonderful guide and protector, the servant, the steward. That’s like the church, you see. We’ve got a long, dangerous journey before we meet the bridegroom but we’ve got a wonderful guide and protector who is the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, Rebekah had never seen the man she was going to marry until she was ready to marry him. All she knew about Isaac she learned from the servant, that’s right. And all we’ll ever know about Jesus till we meet him we learn from the Holy Spirit. You see? What I’m teaching you is it’s worth being friends with the Holy Spirit. You’re going to miss a whole lot if you don’t cultivate a deep, intimate, personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look in Romans 8:14. I think this is very important for those who are particularly interested in counseling. Romans 8:14:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Who are God’s sons? Those who—I put in regularly because it’s a continuing present tense—those who are regularly led by the Spirit are the sons of God. In other words, how can I live as a son of God? By being regularly led by the Spirit?
And then I put in you need to be led by God’s Spirit; not by rules, principles, techniques, procedures and all the rest. I say that particularly because I have the feeling that in the course of your training you may have been given various rules or principles or even techniques. I’m not saying those are wrong. What I’m saying is it’s totally wrong to rely on them. There’s only one person we can rely on, that’s the Holy Spirit. If we rely on the Holy Spirit, He will guide us to any rule, principle, procedure or technique which is appropriate. But if we rely only on the rule, the principle, the procedure or the technique, all we get is what that will do. And as Christians we should be able to offer the world more than that. That’s what the professional, secular psychologists will do. He’s got his rules, his principles, he’s got his statistics, he knows these signs and those signs and he comes up with a statistical diagnosis which may or may not be right. That is not what we are called to do because we have a wonderful friend whose name is the Holy Spirit. We don’t rely on those principles, we rely on the Holy Spirit.
Let me say something to you, I hope you can receive this. Please don’t become an amateur psychiatrist. I think psychiatrists are dangerous but amateur psychiatrists are extremely dangerous! All right. When somebody comes to you for counseling, don’t go down this little list. Rely on the Holy Spirit. He may guide you to the list, the list may be right. But you can’t rely on the list.
I’m sure you’ve encountered people who used this technique, they’ll take you all the way back from your present age to childhood, to infancy and then even the womb. I am somewhat skeptical of that method, myself. But, I don’t have all the answers. Let me point out that when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, He didn’t take her all the way back to childhood and infancy; He had a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. “You’ve had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband.” He didn’t need to say anything more; that exposed her whole heart and life to him instantly.
I think of my first wife who is with the Lord now. She was a very unusual lady by any standards. She was Danish, she was a real Viking. We were contemplating buying a house and two rather hard boiled real estate ladies had come to tell us about the house they wanted us to buy. They were really determined to sell. We were sitting there, we were sitting together on the sofa and Lydia suddenly looked at one of them and said, “I think your legs are unequal.” She said, “Are they? Would you like my husband to pray for you?” How could you say no to that! So I knelt in front of her, her legs were unequal, they grew out and, I mean, she was in a state of shock. So I moved quickly over to the next lady and said, “May I check your legs?” They grew out, too. And I said, “What about your arms?” “Oh, no,” she said, “that’s enough!”
But why I’m telling you that is because from that time onwards they were totally different persons. Instead of the hard boiled salesladies, we had real people with real problems that they wanted to share with us. You see? Who did that? The Holy Spirit. Amen. Bless the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Lord.