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“Blessed is the man whom you instruct, O Lord, and teach out of your law, that you may give him relief from the days of adversity until the pit is dug for the wicked.”
If you don’t see the appropriateness of that, I trust you will a little more clearly after this evening is over.
Now I want to begin by reading the passage that was assigned to me. I staggered because I thought, How could I possibly deal with so vast a theme as is contained in these words which are found in Hebrews 12:25–29.
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For as they did not escape when they refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven. Whose voice then shook the earth, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”
And then we need to turn briefly to the passage from which those words were quoted, which was in Haggai 2:6. And I read them for a special reason. That’s Haggai 2:6, and the beginning of verse 7:
“For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more it is a little while, I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land.’”
And, he adds what is not stated exactly in Hebrews:
“I will shake all nations.”
So God says, “I will shake heaven and earth, the sea, the dry land and I will shake all nations.”
That’s a tremendous theme to contemplate. Our imagination can scarcely take in what is involved in the outworking of that statement, that heaven and earth, the sea, the dry land and all nations are to be shaken by the power of God.
Before I go into the theme I want to ask you a question which is based on scripture. The question is this, and you don’t have to give me an out loud answer. Do you believe in the judgment of God? Because, in my experience as I travel around and meet a lot of Christians in different places, and attend a lot of different conferences and meetings, very, very little is said today in most places about the judgment of God. The attitude almost seems to be, “Well, it’s not nice to talk about God’s judgment. Let’s stay away from that painful subject.” In fact, I think a lot of Christians really almost have reservations about presenting God as a judge. It’s almost as if that will offend people or frighten people. We won’t be able to get them to listen about the gospel if we talk about the judgment of God.
In John 16:8 Jesus said:
“When He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will convict the world of [three things, of] sin, of righteousness and of judgment.”
As I see it, those are the three eternal, unchanging realities on which all true religion is based. Sin, righteousness and judgment. And if we ask what sin is, the scripture says all unrighteousness is sin. So there are just two possibilities in every action and every life, sin or righteousness. And if a thing is not righteous it is sinful.
It is, in a way, easy to define what sin is. As if I were asked what is crooked, all I would have to do is hold up a straight line and say that anything that departs from that, whether by a little or by much, is crooked.
And the same is true with righteousness and sin. God has held up a line of righteousness, it is Jesus. And anything that departs from that, little or much, is sin.
And, on the basis of how we have lived, whether by sin or by righteousness, we will face the judgment of God. There is one appointment that every one of us here will inevitably keep, it’s the judgment of God. Not one of us can escape.
There are two different judgments. There’s the judgment of condemnation and there’s a judgment for those who have received Jesus and lived for Him, which is an assessment of reward. But, every one of us will stand before the judgment of God. I think it’s foolish to live as if that were not so. I think, in a way, it’s unjust to the unconverted not to confront them with the reality of God’s judgment.
In what I’m going to say this evening, if I succeed I will paint a picture of some very terrible and frightening things that are going to come quite soon over the whole earth and all humanity. I could wonder if when these things begin to happen the unconverted will not say to you and me, “Why didn’t you ever warn us that this was going to happen?”
You see, the same person who is the savior is also the judge. His name is Jesus. It’s interesting that when the apostles presented the gospel to people from a non Jewish background, they always presented Jesus as both savior and judge. For instance, in Acts 10 when Peter went to the house of Cornelius and began to tell them about Jesus, he said in verse 42 and 43:
“And he commanded us to preach to the people and testify that it is He, that is Jesus, who was ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that through His name whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”
In actual fact, Peter put judgment before forgiveness. He said the same one through whom you can receive forgiveness of sins is also the one who’s ordained by God to be the judge of all.
And then when Paul was preaching in Athens, again he was preaching to people who were not mainly from a Jewish background. He said in Acts 17:30 and following:
“Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”
There are no omissions and no exceptions. God requires all men everywhere to repent.
And then he gives a reason:
“Because God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So the man whom God raised from the dead, Jesus, is the one who is God’s appointed judge over all men.
He’s just as efficient, just as thorough and just as faithful as a judge as He is as a savior. As a savior He omits nothing, and as a judge, likewise, He omits nothing.
There’s a parable in Luke 19, it’s called the parable of the pounds or minas. It’s about a wealthy ruler who took a journey and committed to his servants certain money to handle on his behalf. He gave to each of them a mina which they say is about three month’s salary. And then he came back after a long while and reckoned with them. He said, “What have you done with my mina?” And the first one said, “I’ve made ten more minas.” The lord said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have authority over ten cities in my kingdom.” The second servant, he said, “What have you done with my mina?” And he said, “I’ve made five minas.” And he said, “Well done,” but he didn’t say good and faithful. He said, “Have authority over five cities.”
So, it’s very clear the principle is, according to the faithfulness with which we serve the Lord in this age we will be apportioned our sphere of authority in the coming age. There will be no favoritism.
But then there was one other servant who made nothing. He said, “I was afraid of you so I just went and hid your mina and here it is, I’m giving it back to you.” And the lord said, “You wicked and lazy servant!”
How many of you realize that laziness is also wickedness? We have such an unbalanced scale of values in the church. If a man gets drunk we think that’s awful—and certainly it’s not good. We wouldn’t have a drunkard in church. But, how many lazy people do we have in church, people who never really take time to study the Bible or get down in prayer? People maybe who you can’t even rely on to do a thorough job anywhere. And the Bible calls them wicked.
But I want you to see the end of this parable because when this man went away to get his kingdom in return, his citizens sent a message after him saying, “We don’t want this man to rule over us.” And when he returned at the end of the parable, the final words are these:
“But bring here those enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.”
I was shocked when I felt the impact of those words because the man is a picture of Jesus. He says, “Those who have rejected my rule, bring them here and slay them before me.” He is just as thorough and faithful as judge as He is as savior. He’s both. The same one whom God has made as savior He has also made a judge.
Now let me come back more closely to the scripture that we began with, the prophecy that God was going to shake all things that can be shaken. Nothing that can be shaken will eventually be left unshaken.
Some years ago, not very long ago, the Lord, I think, spoke to Ruth and me about His judgments at the close of this age. He said—I believe, this is my understanding of what He said—His judgments will come in three phases: preliminary, intermediate and final. Now, my personal reading of the situation of the world today is the preliminary judgments have already begun. I don’t believe we’ve come to the intermediate, certainly we have not yet come to the final judgments of God.
Now let’s ask ourselves for a little while, if you will follow with me, what are some of the things that can be shaken? Because, if they can be shaken they will be shaken. I’d like to turn, first of all, to the famous parable of the two different houses, one built on sand and the other built on the rock, the version that’s given in Luke 6:47–49.
“Whoever comes to me [Jesus is speaking] and hears my sayings, and does them, I will show you whom he is like. He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like the man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently and immediately it fell. The ruin of that house was great.”
Notice there’s no difference to the tests to which each house was subjected. Each of them was subjected to the storm. Don’t imagine that being a believer will give you a storm-free passage through life. If anything, rather the opposite. There’s a kind of presentation of truth today which is only half truth, which is if you come to the Lord and get saved, everything will go well, you’ll never have any problems, et cetera. Most of us know by experience, if not by scripture, that that is not true.
A friend of mine who is a preacher was once asked, “What is the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit?” He replied, “Trouble.”
There was only one difference. It was not in what the houses went through, it was that one was built on a solid foundation, a rock; the other was not. And Jesus said building on the rock is very simple, it’s hearing what He says and doing it. I believe that is the only foundation that will give us a building that cannot be shaken. Anything that is not built on the hearing and doing of the teaching of Jesus will be shaken.
So, I would like to think over with you briefly some things that will be shaken. This is not a passionate, emotional appeal. I’m trying to be objected and, in a sense, analytical. I’m trying to say things which everybody will agree to. The problem is not to tell people something they don’t know, it’s to remind them of what they know and maybe don’t want to remember.
First of all, individual lives can be shaken. In the ministry I’ve dealt with hundreds of people over the years whose lives have been totally shaken by sickness, by poverty, by broken marriage, in various ways. People who say, “I give up. I can’t go any further. Nothing helps. Nothing works. I might as well be dead.” They were people whose lives were not built on the teaching of Jesus. It doesn’t mean that if we build on the teaching of Jesus we’ll have no problems, but we’ll have the strength to withstand the problems.
And then Jesus said in Matthew 12:25:
“Every house [or household] that is divided against itself cannot stand.”
So, any household that is divided, in which there is not unity and love and peace, can be shaken and will be shaken. We see every day reports in the paper of households that are being shaken. In fact, I think it’s probably the main cause of the problems that confront us in society today. It’s the breakup of the family. And what it’s resulted in is hordes of unparented children. Parents can run away from their responsibilities for their children, but they’ll catch up. Maybe not in that generation but in the next. And one of the major social features of the world today is the activities of unparented children.
I’ll mention just three areas. One is South Africa in the black townships where there are hordes of children who owe no allegiance to anybody, have no respect for anything, have no concern for human life, they have just abandoned themselves because they’ve been abandoned. I’ve said many times there’s no such thing as a juvenile delinquent. The delinquents are the adults. And, there’s no one really that can control them.
See, police can keep order in a society if the majority of society are on the side of the police and in favor of law and order. But when the majority of a society turns the other way, the police cannot possibly maintain order. It’s not their job.
Another place where this is true is in Israel amongst the younger Arabs growing up as a result of the so called Intafada. I’m familiar with the Arab culture, I lived amongst it. Normally the young have great respect for the old, and children have great respect for their parents. But, the Intafada has broken all that down. Now society is being taken over by teenagers who have no loyalty, no commitment, no respect whatever. And, in a sense, their society is no longer manageable.
Then a third place which is an example of that is Los Angeles. Again the root problem is children who’ve grown up without the love, the discipline and the care of parents.
There is no social answer to this problem. I personally believe it will multiply and increase. I can’t believe that here in Britain there will be whole areas which will be taken over by young rebels and the police will simply stay clear of those areas. In fact, there are some areas in the country now.
But we need to come to the root of the problem which is the parents who failed to train their children.
Then let’s think about institutions. Any institution that is not founded on the teaching of Jesus can be shaken. Banks can be shaken. Do you believe that? Believe me, in America we are seeing a shaking of the banks. There’s a personal debt of five hundred dollars today on every American citizen because of the savings and loan banks which failed, and for which the government had accepted responsibility. Actually, my personal opinion is there is no way that the United States can escape bankruptcy. I’m not going to go into that but it’s just, I believe, a fact. I believe that whole nation is going to be shaken.
Then, businesses can be shaken. And there are many businesses in this country and other countries closing down and going bankrupt because businesses can be shaken.
Governments can be shaken. We saw that in what used to be the Soviet Union. The whole of that government collapsed like a house of cards. And, no one has been able to put it together.
We need to take note of these things because we tend to look to some of these institutions for stability. People used to say “as safe as the bank of England.” That’s not very safe. We tend to look to big corporations and firms and think, “Well, they’ve got it made.” But, they don’t have.
There’s another kind of institution which can be shaken, and that is religious institutions. They have no guarantee of stability whatever unless they’re built on the teaching of Jesus. I believe many, many so called Christian institutions are going to be thrown down in the shaking that’s ahead.
I would say to you don’t look to a bank, don’t look to a business, don’t look to a government and don’t look to a religious institution for security because they cannot provide it. They are all amongst the things which will be shaken.
And then material structures can be shaken. Structures like this church building in which we’re meeting. I’ll read you just a couple of passages from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 2, beginning at verse 12. Now, as I read some of these passages where God is speaking about things that are being shaken, I suggest that you make a little mental register of what is the one thing that God hates the most, the one thing that ultimately will always bring disaster. I don’t want to tell you the answer, I just want you to follow with me and see if you can pick out what I believe is the one salient feature. In Isaiah 2, beginning at verse 12:
“For the day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up, and it shall be brought low; upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the beautiful sloops. The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of man shall be brought low. The Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
And just one verse from Isaiah 30, verse 25. Isaiah 30:25:
“There will be on every high mountain and on every high hill rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.”
And every time I walk through a major city such as this, and I look at all the skyscrapers and all these tremendously tall buildings, I ask myself what will it be like in the day when the towers fall? I always think particularly of the ones that have glass walls. And it’s hard to imagine the kind of scene that would confront us if all of them collapsed. But the Bible says they will all fall. You may feel uncertain about that. Let me say for my part, I believe it will happen exactly the way it says.
And then the whole earth will be shaken. In Revelation 6, this is part of the unfolding of the prophetic vision of Revelation. Beginning at verse 12:
“And I looked when he opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, and the moon became like blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.”
I don’t think our minds can fully conceive what will happen when every mountain and every island, including the British Isles, will be shaken.
And finally in this list, the heavenly bodies will be shaken. And you remember that the Lord said, “I will shake not only earth but also the heavens.” In Matthew 24:29, this is part of the prophetic discourse of Jesus on the Mount of Olives leading up to his return. Matthew 24:29:
“And immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
I don’t believe any of us fully understand, but apparently everything that we associate with the heavens will be shaken—which is exactly what God said in Haggai, “I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The writer of Hebrews says everything that can be shaken will be shaken. Why? Because God wants to reveal and demonstrate a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And one way to prove it is to let everything that can be shaken be shaken.
And the writer of Hebrews says we have such a kingdom. We have something that cannot be shaken. But, it’s not in any of the things that I’ve listed. So you need to ask yourself and I need to ask myself where is my kingdom? What is my kingdom. What am I putting my trust in that cannot be shaken?
I’d like to go on a little further. Go back to Isaiah for a moment, Isaiah 24. This is a staggering chapter. I’ll read the first six verses and then I’ll read a little further on in a minute.
“Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the peoples, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with their mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor.”
God is very specific. There will be nobody exempted from this. Often we tend to think that wealth and social position can provide security. But here Isaiah tells us neither. The master will be in the same position as the servant, the mistress with the maid, the creditor with the lender. No form of financial security will be effective.
Then he goes on in verse 3:
“The earth shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.”
God gives three reasons why this will happen concerning the inhabitants of the earth. They have transgressed the laws, they have changed the ordinance, they have broken the everlasting covenant. Now, those might be interpreted in various ways but in my thinking there are certain laws which God has instituted for humanity which will never be broken with His permission. And when God made a covenant with Noah and all those who descended from him, one thing He said was whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. That’s an eternal edict of the Lord. No human government, no human legal system can set aside that law.
And then it says they changed the ordinance. In other words, I believe it means they changed the pattern of living which God has instituted for humanity. And primarily, that is the family. The structure of the family in the Bible is not based on culture, it’s based on the eternal nature of God Himself. God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the man, the man is the head of the woman. It starts with God Himself.
And those women who feel it’s unfair to be placed in a position of subordination need to remember that Jesus is in a position of subordination to the Father. And I said earlier, the changing of that ordinance ultimately has taken away the whole stability of society. And there are professional sociologists and others who have seriously questioned whether society can survive when the institution of the family has been broken down.
And then the third charge against humanity is that we have broken the everlasting covenant. That could be interpreted in various ways but for me the everlasting covenant is the covenant that God has made with men and women through Jesus Christ. And when we break that covenant and depart from its requirements we must inevitably be subject to the judgment of God.
As I look at the world around me, and at Britain, and I grew up in this country between the two world wars, and I’ve had longer to observe the world than most of you, though not all of you, I’ve seen every one of these things happen before my eyes. I’ve seen the whole structure and nature of society totally change. If things that are done today and are taken for granted had been done sixty years ago, there would have been an uproar. The kind of thing that’s presented on television, some of the kinds of things, would have created a demonstration sixty years ago.
You know the little parable about the frog, which I heard from somebody. If you put a frog in a basin and pour in boiling water, the frog will jump out. But if you put the frog in a basin with cool water and gradually heat it, then the frog will stay there till it dies. And that’s how the devil has been treating us. He didn’t pour the boiling water in immediately but he has steadily and gradually heated the water until we’re ready to die.
Now I want to go on in Isaiah 24. I hope you take time to study this passage for yourself. We’ll go on to verse 17 of Isaiah 24:
“Fear, and the pit, and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth! And it shall be that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he who comes out from the midst of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For the windows from on high are opened, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall falter like a hut; its transgressions shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall and not rise again.”
I don’t know that language could be more vivid. In half a dozen different phrases it presents exactly what the writer of Hebrews says, all things that can be shaken will be shaken. There are no exceptions.
Then I want to read the close of this 24th chapter because it indicates the climax which God has appointed. And, God has His own climax, His own plan, His own program. Beginning in verse 21:
“It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will punish on high the host and exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in a pit [or a dungeon]; and will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished [or dealt with]. Then the moon will be disgraced, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders gloriously.”
What is the climax? It’s the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom on earth with Jerusalem as its capitol. And, it’s going to take all that Isaiah has described to bring us to that place. So when we pray as we should pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” whether we realize it or not, we’re releasing the events that are described in Isaiah 24.
It says the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed. As I understand it, the glory of Jesus in His kingdom will be so awesome that the moon and the sun will look pale by comparison. Jesus said in Luke 9:26:
“When the Son of man comes in His own glory, the Father’s glory and the glory of the holy angels.”
There’ll be a triple glory: the glory of Jesus, the glory of the Father and the glory of the angels. Any kind of light that most of us have ever even imagined will be totally insignificant by comparison with the brightness of that light. I have spoken to friends, more than one, who had a brief visitation in heaven and they all said the same thing. The light was as bright as a million suns but it never hurt the eyes. So, I am not preaching a negative message, I’m just describing what will happen for the kingdom of God to be established on earth.
So, the next time you feel like praying the Lord’s prayer, just stop and say do I really mean what I’m saying.
I want to look also in Revelation 6 for a moment again, which is the end of this same passage that we read. Revelation 6, I’ll go on from where we finished reading, verse 14:
“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.”
I have to tell you that staggers me. I mean, I sit back and I gasp to think what that will mean.
“And the kings of the earth, the great men and the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”
There was one thing that sinful man could not bear, it was to be exposed to the light of God’s countenance. And there’s one phrase there which has impacted me in the last year or so, it says, “hide us from the wrath of the Lamb.” None of us has ever seen an angry lamb. I don’t believe there ever has been an angry lamb in the history of humanity. But one day something totally without parallel or without precedence will happen, the Lamb will become angry. Ultimately, the rebellion an the wickedness of man will provoke even the Lamb to wrath. And that sight will be so terrible that men would rather be crushed under rocks or mountains than have to look at it.
Now, what is the root cause of all this? Why does God have to deal this way with the earth and with the human race? Many answers could be given and I’ve read books that explain why we’re facing disaster. Some trace social causes, some trace economic causes. I’ve just been reading a book that deals with the United States called, The Coming Economic Earthquake, which I have to say I think it inevitable. I don’t think there’s any way the United States can avoid the earthquake that lies ahead. But that’s not the root cause. It’s not economic, it’s not social, it’s not political. The one root cause, and the Bible so unerringly exposes it, is the general degeneration of human character.
So we look in closing at 2 Timothy 3. We’ll read, first of all, the first five verses.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.”
Let me stop for a moment and see if you can pass your examination. Don’t be frightened. If you don’t agree with me you can still go to heaven. But, what is the one particular word or aspect of conduct or character that is singled out all the way through as that which ultimately provokes God’s wrath? Pride, that’s right. God has been dealing with me personally on the subject of pride for nearly two years. I think maybe I should share this personally before we go any further.
In 1990, November, Ruth and I took what was to have been a six month sabbatical in Hawaii. We went to seek the Lord for His plan for our future. We envisaged a nice relaxed time in a beautiful setting, reading the Bible, praying and having fellowship with other Christians. It didn’t work out that way at all! It was an extremely difficult time for many reasons. I became seriously ill with a disease that could have killed me, and Ruth was left looking after a husband who had no strength at all. And apart from that, God persistently dealt with us. I mean, I’ve seen God deal with my wife, who is a real saintly woman, and I’ve seen God say and do things to her that I wouldn’t have dared to say. Not because I’m afraid of her but simply because I wouldn’t have the strength to do it. I’m not going to lay bare any of her secrets.
But, for about six months—in fact, we had to prolong our sabbatical because we hadn’t arrived at the conclusion at the end of six months. God relentlessly and remorselessly dealt with us. He was always kind and always patient, never condemnatory. But He laid bare one thing after another in our lives which He insisted that we change. And of all the things that He dealt with, the one that was central to everything was pride.
And you know, there’s various ways of dealing with pride. Let me tell you one good way that we learned. That is, to confess your sins. I think that’s become old fashioned, you know. The church today, we don’t confess our sins. But the Bible says confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another that you may be healed. The King James Version, for some reason, says “confess your faults.” I think maybe they were afraid of being too close to the Roman Catholics. But the word in Greek is sins, it’s just the same word that’s used for sin all through the New Testament. Confess your sins one to another.
And you know, it’s very hard to stay proud when you’re confessing your sins. You try it. Let me recommend it to you. Especially for a husband to confess his sins to his wife. I mean, if there’s one thing that a husband doesn’t want to do, that’s it. But I’m glad that I had a wife to confess my sins to. And I’m glad she listened so patiently. She confessed sins to me, too.
What I’m saying is, I have a totally different view of pride from what I had before. There’s one thing I’m afraid of, it’s being proud. I don’t claim that I’ve achieved that. And when I see Christians, especially ministers, who demonstrate manifest pride, I tremble. I really do.
See, it seems to me that in the church today you can get away with pride. It’s not considered sinful. In fact, it’s almost considered something to be emulated.
A lot of people say pride goes before a fall. That’s not true. It says pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. I don’t want to end up in destruction. I’m speaking to you out of personal experience. Please don’t imagine that I think I have achieved it. But I will say I’m a very different person from what I was two and a half years ago. And I am continually amazed that God has been so patient with me. I am literally amazed that He would tolerate things in me so long.
And let me say I’ve never been guilty of adultery, or immorality, or fornication, or drunkenness, or misuse of funds, or other things that people think about when a minister speaks about sin. That’s not where it was. I think God wants me to tell you this. The thing that God convicted me of most was carnality. I was lying there sick and I thought to myself, here I am. I’ve preached healing for fifty years and I’ve seen multitudes of people healed. I believe what the Bible says, by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. So my problem was not really I was afraid of death, my problem was intellectual. How can I relate my present condition to my belief in the Bible? And about 2:00 a.m. one morning on the day in which I ended up in hospital, though I didn’t know I was going to be there, the Lord woke me and very graciously and gently showed me how much He hated carnality.
You know that God has got strong feelings, you know that? God loves and He hates. He says in Malachi, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” And Esau is one of the Biblical types of carnality. God showed me that carnality is absolutely hateful to Him. He didn’t say I was hateful, He reaffirmed His love. He showed me certain scenes from my past, some of them in restaurants, let me say that. I wondered how I would explain to others what He showed me. Because I mean, lots of people do things I never did and I do things that they never did. And this is my definition of carnality as far as I’ve been able to see it. The writer of Hebrews said, “Here we have no continuing city, but we look for one to come.” And any time we begin to think and act and live as if this world was our home and we had something permanent here, that is carnality. It doesn’t need to express itself in any big or ugly sin, but once we lose the vision of eternity and are not living in the consciousness of eternal issues, that is carnality.
I tell you, God hates it. He doesn’t hate you, He doesn’t hate me. He’s infinitely patient but He wants to deal with it.
Afterwards when I was recovering physically and getting better, the Lord told me that it would take time, that He was going to do it but it would take time. And then He said something so sweet, He said, “Be patient with me as I have been patient with you.” I couldn’t argue with that! I’m still being patient. I want to testify I’ve come a long, long, long way. I am really flourishing. I’m not totally as strong as I was before I became sick.
Now I say all that because I don’t want to just—well, I felt the Lord prompted me to say it. I don’t want to be just in the abstract. I want this to come down to the place where you live. It affects you. Your destiny is at stake. It’s not just theology, it’s how we live. There is no abstract theology in the New Testament, you cannot find it. Every time there’s a theological truth propounded in the New Testament it’s applied to the way we live. Without exception, you can look but you’ll never find just abstract theological truth.
We all agreed on one thing, the thing that God hates most is what? Right, let’s say that again. “The thing that God hates most is pride.” Amen.
So, we come down back to 2 Timothy 3, which is where we were before.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come...”
Dangerous times, tough times. The marginal reading in this version is “times of stress will come”. Why? Because men will be certain things. What is the root problem? It’s the decline of human character and behavior. And, it’s progressive. And, it cannot be reversed. This is something God showed me, corruption is irreversible once a thing becomes corrupt. You can halt corruption, you can slow corruption, but you cannot reverse it. Take a piece of fruit, any vegetable, anything like that. It’s corrupt. And if you leave it its corruption will become totally manifest. You can take the most beautiful, succulent looking peach, but leave it a week and it looks much less beautiful and tastes much less succulent.
Now, you can do something. You can put it in a refrigerator. A refrigerator will not reverse the process but it will slow it. Forgive me for saying this but I think the church is like a refrigerator. You put a person in the church, it doesn’t change his corruption but it does slow it down.
But God is so realistic. He doesn’t try to reverse corruption. He has only one solution, a new birth, a totally new start. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new, and all things are of God. The new creation is totally God originated. There’s not one element of corruption in it.
So, you can remain in your corruption. If you want to sit in your refrigerator, you can do it. But, the only thing that will change you is new birth, the new creation. And if you’ve never had that, you need it. Young or old, man or woman, it makes no difference. There’s no sex in the new birth.
Now let’s go on with this list of corruption. I’m running out of my time now. Verse 2:
“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.”
There are eighteen distinct moral blemishes in that list. We won’t take time to go into them all. But, in the time that I’ve lived in the western world in nations such as Britain, the United States, Scandinavia, Germany, nations which I’m familiar with, almost every one of these moral blemishes is much more manifest than it was fifty years ago. Many of you who are in the same sort of age bracket that I am will agree with that statement, I’m sure. We have witnessed a process of corruption in our society, and it’s continuing. And, it cannot be reversed. The only solution is a totally new beginning.
But I want to point out to you three things that are very significant. There are three loves that really are the root of all the problems. Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. I would say European culture and society, including Britain, is dominated by those three features: love of self, love of money, love of pleasure. And you see, love of self is what leads to the breakdown of society because, “I’m so important to myself, I can’t live with anybody. Nobody is good enough for me. Nobody does things the way I want.”
Statistics show that in the United States today the average number of people in a household is 1.7. Two people can’t live together any longer. What’s the cause? Love of self. “I want things my way. It’s my convenience that matters. I’m important. Cater to me. And if you don’t, take care of yourself, I’ll get on without you.”
Love of money, I think the one major spiritual power that dominates western society is mammon. Basically, in the contemporary culture today, if a thing makes money, that justifies it. No other argument is needed. Even pornography is called a billion dollar industry.
And you see, I think justice is impossible where the love of money prevails because rich people can get away with anything. They can buy their way out of anything. They’re just as guilty in most cases as the poor but their wealth is a protection, for the time being. But remember, not forever.
And then love of pleasure. There was a slogan that went right through the United States that sums it up: “If it feels good, do it.” That’s the contemporary way of describing love of pleasure. But I’ve talked to many people who were in the Jesus movement in the 1960’s, 1970’s. They discovered that though it felt good it didn’t do good. And at the end of ten or fifteen years they were wrecks, physically, morally and spiritually.
Then the next phrase is the most frightening of all. That’s in verse 5. At the end of this list it says:
“...having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away.”
Now, I don’t believe the Bible would call anything that was unchristian godliness. So we’re talking about some form of Christianity, but it’s a form that denies its power. In the context, what is the power that is denied? The power to change people. So now we don’t call homosexuality sin, we call it a sickness. We don’t try to change them, we just arrange ways to live with them.
And incidentally, homosexuality is just one sin amongst countless others. I’m not singling them out by any means, just pointing out that basically the church has lost the faith to see people change. And so it invents ways to live with them the way they are.
And then it says, and this is even more impressive in a way:
“From such people, turn away.”
Leave them alone. Don’t waste your time on them. Paul was talking to Timothy as a minister. He says if people are not willing to change, leave them to themselves. How much time is wasted in contemporary Christianity by counseling people who will never change? I have a friend who was a minister in Australia, he’s retired now. A very successful minister with a large congregation. He had a number of young pastors working under him. One day he said to them, “All your books on psychology and counseling, I want you to throw them away. From now on we’re going to counsel people only out of the Bible.” And then a couple came to him whom he had been counseling for several years, with marriage problems, and he said to them, “From now on I’m not going to counsel you because you’re disobeying the word of God.” He said to the husband, “The Bible says love your wife. You don’t love your wife.” He said to the wife, “The Bible says be subject to your husband. You’re not subject to your husband.” So he said, “I’m not going to deal with you. Until you will obey the word of God I have no more time for you.” What a lot of time he saved himself!
I mean, I have spent hours in counseling in the past. I’ve counseled many people who wanted deliverance from demons but I learned to say something. If they had too many theological problems and too many questions, I used to say this, “Deliverance is for the desperate. You’re not desperate. Come back when you are.”
So, I believe that’s all part of what Paul said to Timothy. Leave them alone. Don’t waste time on people who will not change. If a person is willing to change, God will go to endless lengths to help them. But if they want to stay the way they are, God leaves them to themselves.
Well, we must go on. If you look at the rest of this chapter, and I won’t deal with it, you’ll find that the secret undermining force is the occult. We’ll look quickly in verse 8:
“As Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth.”
Jannes and Jambres were the two magicians who had a contest with Moses and Aaron. That’s the first witch’s covenant mentioned in the Bible, the magicians of Egypt in Exodus 4.
But behind the corruption of human nature is the subtle, deceiving, corrupting influence of the occult. And that’s the force that hastens the corruption.
And then in verse 13 Paul says:
“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Now where this translation says “impostors”—let me say I’ve learned Greek since I was ten years old. The Greek word is enchanters. Evil men and enchanters will grow worse and worse. In other words, incantation is one major form of occult practice. Again, it’s the occult. And I have come to the place in my own view where if there are prolonged problems that cannot be resolved in a church, in a life or in a home, somewhere behind it is the occult. And you will not really resolve those problems until you get to that root.
Now we come to the remedy, and with this I’m going to close for this afternoon. In 2 Timothy 3:16:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God...”
Can you say amen to that? Not some scripture but all scripture.
“...is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction and righteousness...”
A very well known minister in this country—if I mention his name, every one of you would know it—was arguing against the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He said the book of Acts is not given for doctrine. But the Bible says all scripture is profitable for doctrine, for instruction and righteousness.
“...that the man of God might be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
There’s only one thing that can thoroughly equip you, it’s the scripture.
And then we come on to the fourth chapter and there’s no chapter division in the original text.
“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...”
Notice the savior is also the judge. He will judge the living and the dead.
“...preach the word.”
What is the answer? The word, that’s right. There’s no other place of security, there’s no other place of strength, there’s no other place of real fruitfulness but in the word of God.
May God help us to be faithful to His word. Can you say amen?