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We’re going to continue now with the steps that we need to take to appropriate what God has already provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. In the previous sessions I gave you the example of Joshua and the children of Israel. In Joshua 1:2, God said, “I am giving them the land.” In verse 3 He said, “I have given them the land.” From then on, legally the land belonged to them but they didn’t occupy it. Their task was to make the legal experiential. What was legally theirs had to become theirs in experience.
I believe exactly the same is true for us in respect of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus has done it all, it’s perfect, it’s complete, it’s all inclusive. God has given it to us. But we have to move from the legal to the experiential. It has to become real in our experience. I think if you understand that you’ll possibly avoid feeling condemned when you look at what’s available and maybe realize that you don’t possess it. That’s all right, that’s part of the process. It’s not something out of order. So we are discussing how to make the legal experiential.
In the previous session I suggested that the one word salvation is the Biblical word to describe all that has been provided for us by the sacrifice of Jesus. So we’re talking about how to enter into salvation. In these closing few sessions I’m going to deal with that. But you need to lay hold of the fact that I’m talking about salvation. Not just having your sins forgiven but appropriating all that Jesus has made available to us.
There are, I believe, four decisive steps and I’m going to put them up on the board and then we’re going to consider what’s implied by each of them. Number one, repent. Number two, believe. Number three, confess. Number four, act. They’re very simple. As I said before, if we miss it it’s not because it’s too difficult but because it’s too simple. God has made it so simple that a little child can do it all. As a matter of fact, Jesus said unless you become like a little child, you won’t qualify to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s talk now about repentance. We’ll turn to Mark 1:15, these are the words of Jesus Himself:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel.”
What’s the first thing we have to do? Repent. See, a great deal of teaching today almost completely omits repentance. I’d like you to look just in Matthew 4:17, also.
“From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
I think repentance today is a neglected teaching. I was in Southeast Asia a couple of years ago in a big meeting of which I was not the preacher. There was an American preacher who gave a very good teaching on how to be healed, that was the essence of it, through the Word of God. I was familiar with all the scriptures he quoted and the message really blessed me. I’m not criticizing the message. But, most of the people there were from a Chinese background and I think very few of them were familiar with the Bible. And having described how wonderful all this was, the preacher said, “Now, if you want this, come forward and pray.” Well, scores and scores of people came forward but the word repentance was not used once.
Then Ruth and I found ourselves trying to minister to some of the people that had come forward. Well, they were from a background of ancestor worship and all sorts of occult practices and idolatry. They wanted to get Jesus on top of all that. Well, Jesus doesn’t agree to that. The result, I would have to say, was confusion.
Now, he was a good preacher and I think an ethical man. I don’t suppose he went back to the States and said 250 people got saved. Because I think very few people got saved, if any, because they hadn’t met the first requirement which was repentance. Turn from your wicked ways, turn from the occult, give up your ancestor worship and all the things you’ve lived with for generations, and make a clean break and come to Jesus. I don’t pick on that preacher at all because I admire him, I mean, he’s a good teacher. But it was just a clear example of the failure to lay down the first condition.
I think you could go to a good many churches and meetings of various kinds, and people would make, quote, invitations and say, “Here’s a wonderful experience. If you want to be free of all your problems, just come and receive Jesus.” How many of you know that receiving Jesus doesn’t resolve all your problems? In fact, as somebody said, it increases them!
A friend of mine who is well known to all of you was asked, “What’s the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” He said, “Trouble.” That’s a simplistic presentation of the gospel.
So, the first requirement is repentance. Repentance is not an emotion, it is a decision. It is deliberately turning your back on the past, turning around 180 degrees, facing up to the Lord and saying, “Lord, here I am. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” That’s repentance. That’s what’s required to start.
I want to point out to you very quickly that the whole New Testament always puts repenting before believing. There is no such thing in the New Testament as believing without repenting. Let’s look very quickly for a moment in Luke 24:46–47. Now, the resurrected Christ is explaining to His disciples the necessity of His death. In verse 46:
“He said to them, ‘It is written in the scriptures, and thus it was necessary for the Christ, the Messiah, to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission [or forgiveness] of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’”
What is the message? What is it? In the name of Jesus it’s repentance and forgiveness of sins—not just forgiveness of sins.
And then on the day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit had fallen, the great many of the crowd present were convicted of their sins. So they cried out in real distress to the apostles in Acts 2:37:
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
What have we got to do about it? And Peter stood up, and he was the spokesman of the church and the spokesman of God, and he laid down a requirement which has never changed.
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
So actually there there are three specific requirements: repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, that’s still the same today. God has never changed. And they’re not three stages that are supposed to happen in intervals of six months, they’re all supposed to happen together. They didn’t wait for a baptismal service, they didn’t put their name down on the church register to be baptized next time there was a service. They got baptized the same day. Now you think about three thousand people being baptized. I mean, if you take even two minute, that’s 6,000 minutes. I’m not going to do the mathematics because it’s not my strong point. But you take, let’s say, the twelve apostles did the baptizing. Divide twelve into 6,000 and you get what, 500, don’t you? 500 minutes is what? Nearly ten hours! Say eight hours. You see, that made an impact on Jerusalem which people never forgot.
It’s very interesting that they have excavated now at the south end of the temple where the people went in, a whole series of what they call in Jewish ?mick vay?; that is, places where people do ceremonial washing. It’s still a part of Judaism. So people say where was the water, how did they get baptized? There was plenty of places for the people to get baptized.
But I’m just pointing out to you that the first requirement was repent. You’ve rejected your Messiah, you’re responsible for His crucifixion, you’ve got to repent, you’ve got to turn around, say, “God, we’ve done the wrong thing. Now we’re willing to do the right thing.” That’s repentance.
And then in Acts 20, Paul is describing his ministry in Ephesus. He says in verses 20–21:
“How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So Paul there outlines very simply the message he preached to everybody—Jews or Greeks, in public or in people’s homes—repentance and faith toward God.
Then if you want to, we won’t look into the book of Revelation, but in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus gives messages to seven churches. And to five of those churches His first requirement was repent. If you want the churches, they were Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea. There were only two churches that were exempted from the requirement to repent. Repent means you are a rebel. You remember we’ve seen that all the way through. Now you lay down your rebellion.
At the end of World War II the Allies had won demand of the Axis forces, which was unconditional surrender. They said we will not make peace on any other basis. God lays down the same terms. He will not make peace with the sinner on any other basis but unconditional surrender. No arguments, no demands, no excuses, no reservations. “Here I am, God. Tell me what to do.” And when you’ve done that, then you submit yourself and commit yourself to the Lordship of Jesus. That’s repentance. It’s the first requirement, it’s an unvarying requirement.
In the years when I did a lot of personal counseling—which I don’t do very much today—I counseled people with all the typical problems. I eventually came to this conclusion that the basic problem of most of them was they had never really repented. I concluded that if we could teach and obtain repentance, 50% of the problems that we deal with in counseling wouldn’t be there. And I’m convinced it’s still the same.
When I’ve described repentance, I think you’ll see. It removes a whole lot of obstacles. I don’t say there are no problems left, but I would say it’s the root cause of 50% of problems, it’s the lack of true repentance.
After repent we have believe and confess. Now, I was in two minds as to what order to put those in. Do I put confess and believe or do I put believe and confess. In the end, I put them together. It’s very significant how close believing and confessing go together.
I’d like to turn now to Romans 10:8–10, which is, as I understand it, the basic New Testament teaching on how to enter into salvation. I want to suggest to you that it applies to every provision that God made through the death of Jesus. Not just the forgiveness of sins but the healing of your body, the sanctifying of your soul, the provision of your material needs, right relationships in the church; they are all obtained on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus. So, salvation is the all inclusive word and the principle stated by Paul here apply in every instance, as I understand it. So this is an extremely important passage. Let’s read verses 8–10:
“What does it say? [We won’t go back to that.] The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach; that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus [I prefer to say Jesus as Lord] and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”
Notice that it begins with the word. What does it say? The word, the basis of all that we do is the word of God. Without the word, you have nothing to act on. The word is near you.
And then I want you to notice an interesting thing. In the three verses, each one deals with the mouth and the heart. I would say, in a way, you cannot be saved apart from the right use of your mouth and your heart. But the interesting thing is that the first two times it’s the mouth first and then the heart. The third time it’s the heart first and then the mouth. Which, as I understand it, is the key to acquiring faith. It’s the right use of your mouth and the right response of your heart.
It’s rather interesting because we have in English the phrase “to learn by heart.” All of us know what that means. Which means we memorize something by saying it again and again. Have you noticed that? That’s how you learn by heart. Interestingly, in Hebrew they say “to learn by the mouth.” Which is typical of the Jews because they come to the down to earth, practical thing; what you have to do is say it again and again with your mouth. How does it get to your heart? Through your mouth. Look now and we’ll see, verse 8:
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ..”
Where does it start? In your mouth. How does it get to your heart? From your mouth, that’s right. Verse 9:
“...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Which do you do first there? Confess with your mouth, believe in your heart. Most of us wouldn’t put it in that order. I’m not making an absolute out of this, I’m just pointing out that in Paul’s description, the mouth plays a much more important and primary part than it would in what most of us would use if we were trying to describe salvation.
Then in the 10th verse it’s reversed.
“For with the heart one believes to righteousness, with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”
Now let me try and explain what confession is. Confession is from a Latin verb, ?confidio?, and it means literally “to say the same as” or “to say something with another.” So, confession in its essence is saying the same as. Now you’ve got to put in the rest. A lot of people, especially people from a Catholic background, think of confession merely as confessing sins. Well, the Bible says we’ve all sinned so when we say, “I have sinned,” we are making our confession agree with the word of God. That is confession. Saying the same thing with your mouth as God has said in His word.
But, thank God, confession doesn’t just stop at confessing your sins. If it does, it’s very questionable whether you’ve experienced salvation. It’s true but it’s not the whole truth. So, for us, confession is making the words of my mouth agree with the word of God in every respect. Whatever area of salvation I want to come into, I find out what God has said in His word and I say it with my mouth about myself. I make the words of my mouth agree with the word of God in respect of whatever particular need or situation I have. So of course, being a sinner I say, “I have sinned.” That’s confession. But it’s not the end of confession. In fact, it’s only the beginning. Then I say, “Christ died for our sins.” Then I say, “Christ died for my sins.” And then it says, “that we might be forgiven.” So I say that, “That I might be forgiven.” As I go through, I personalize everything that’s in the word of God in a general sense and apply it to me personally.
Now, I may not really feel forgiven. I’m sure some of you when you first came to the Lord you just said a prayer and really in a way you hoped. But, here you are today and probably one reason is because somebody taught you to keep saying “I have been forgiven. God has forgiven me all my sins.” I find in dealing with people it’s very important to make them go on saying that. God has forgiven all my sins. I’ve been saved 48 years but it still excites me when I say God has forgiven all my sins. It’s not dull, it’s important. I hope I’m communicating this. Confession is saying the same with your mouth about yourself as God in His word has said about you as a believer in Jesus Christ. I think that’s more complete.
So, we take some examples. I mean, the examples potentially are limitless. I’ve just chosen a few of the more obvious and the more common. You are in need of healing. That doesn’t apply to anybody here, I’m sure. But anyhow, it says in Matthew 8:16– 17:
“They brought the sick to Jesus, and he healed them all, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘He himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses.’”
How do I confess that? How do I personalize it? I say, “Jesus Himself took my infirmities and bore my sicknesses.”
I’m probably not going to spend much time saying that unless I’m sick, which is unwise, because it’s very important to say it when you’re not sick. It’s a good way to prevent becoming sick. But suppose I’m sick, suppose I have a pain in my back or something. I believe this is the word of God. No question, the Bible is the word of God. So I say, “Jesus Himself took my infirmities and bore my sicknesses.” It doesn’t follow the pain in my back leaves immediately. But, because it’s the word of God, it’s true. So I keep on saying it. I don’t stop, I hold fast my confession. We’ll see that in a few moments in our next session.
But let’s look at some of the others. 1 Peter 2:24. I could quote all these by heart because I’ve said them so many times. But 1 Peter 2:24, a wonderful scripture speaking about Jesus, it says:
“Who [that is, Jesus] himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins might live for righteousness, by whose stripes [or wounds] you were healed.”
So how do I personalize that? I say, “Jesus Himself bore my sins in his own body on the tree, that I, having died to sins might live for righteousness, by whose wounds I was healed.” I don’t say I am healed, I don’t say I will be healed, I say I was healed. Why? Because as far as God is concerned, it’s done. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it was finished.
Interestingly enough, you’ll find the New Testament with relationship to the atonement, healing is never put in the future. Isaiah 53:5 says “by his wounds we are healed” 700 years before it happened. And Peter says “by whose wounds you were healed.” You understand? We’re dealing with eternal, unchanging truth. Our need is to transfer this truth from the abstract, from the word of God in the general to our lives in particular.
You may not believe it or feel it much, but I promise you if you base it on the word of God and keep on saying it, it will become real.
We’ve got time for just one more, 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
So I say, “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of God in Him. Thank you, Lord, I have become the righteousness of God in Jesus.” That’s my confession.
Part 20 – Liberation Through Confession
In this session we’re going to continue with the theme of making the right confession. We’re going to go on immediately with some more examples from the scripture.
The next one is Galatians 3:13–14. Those of you that have been following will be familiar with a good many of these scriptures, they’ve already been referred to in the outline previously. Galatians 3:13–14:
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree’: [that is the cross] that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus; that we [both Jew and Gentiles] might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
We’ve seen already the exchange: the curse came upon Jesus that the blessing might be made available to me. I’m going to ask my wife Ruth to come forward because this is one of our said pieces. I think we’ve already done it, but we do this, I would say, at least every other day. And we need it. I mean to say, I tell you, we have been through a spiritual war and we’ve had to learn to use our weapons. We’re on the winning side. To give you another one that isn’t here, 1 Corinthians 15:57:
“But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that you labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
What are you to be? Steadfast, immovable.
All right. Now we’ll do the one that’s in Galatians 3:13–14. We’ve done it with you, I think, already. Some of you may remember it. We’ll give you a chance to do it with us the second time. All right.
“Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we have passed out from under the curse and entered into the blessing of Abraham, whom God blessed in all things.”
Okay. Would you like to do that? Remember this is not just a ceremony, this is something that’s affecting the spiritual world. I think we better do it phrase by phrase because there’s difficulty in remembering it. We’ll do it and you do it after us. “Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we have passed out from under the curse and entered into the blessing of Abraham, whom God blessed in all things.” What do you do next? “Thank you, Lord.” I got one student who is always with it, she’s the first one. See, if you don’t say “Thank you,” you don’t really believe it. I mean, otherwise you’re the most ungrateful person. But you’re not ungrateful, you’re slow to believe, that’s all.
Galatians 2:20, this we don’t have to change, it’s in the first person.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Then Philippians 4:13. You can turn to it if you like.
“I can do [a few things, I can do some things, I can do] all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Now you find your modern translations don’t have Christ because there’s different texts. I’ll give you the Prince version of that, which I’m not going to go into.
“I can do all things through the one who empowers me within.”
All right? I’ll let you do that. “I can do all things through the one who empowers me within.” That’s right. When it says “I can do all things,” it doesn’t mean you can do anything you choose or like, it means you can do anything that God says you can do.
2 Corinthians 12:10. Here’s a real test of maturity. Are you prepared to make this confession? I’ll tell you honestly, I always take a deep breath before I say this one. You need to read verse 9 first, 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord said to Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Have you ever pondered that? What’s the greatest demonstration of God’s strength? It’s what He does in us when we’re weak. Then everybody knows the strength comes from God and not from us. So the weaker you are, the better opportunity you are for God to display His strength. You see? Paul says—now I have to admit I’ve pondered a long while on verse 10:
“Therefore I take pleasure in [blessings, in victories? No. I take pleasure in] infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I’m not going to ask you to say the first part of the verse because that’s a real major decision. I mean, you have to come some way along the road of faith before you see that it’s worth saying it. But we can all say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Let’s say that. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Then we can go on, “For God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.” “For God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.”
There are endless other scriptures that we can turn to, but those are just a few examples. Remember what I said? You have to be led by the Holy Spirit. You can’t follow the example of someone else necessarily. The Holy Spirit will show you which are the important confessions for you to make at any given time.
I wrote here, which got a little bit incomplete in the outline, “Confessing strengthens believing, believing strengthens confessing.” The more you confess it, the more you believe it. The more you believe it, the more you will confess it. See? But if you get out of the cycle, then you’re in trouble. If you stop confessing, very soon your faith will grow weak. When your faith grows weak, it’s much harder to confess. Do you understand? There’s really no neutrality. You’re either on the winning side or on the losing side.
Some people would say, “Well, that’s too easy. You mean all I have to do is just say it and keep on saying it?” People say that because they don’t realize how decisive our words are. I could take two hours to preach out of the scripture on nothing but the importance of our words. But let me just show you what Jesus said in Matthew 12:37:
“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In other words, your words will either take you into righteousness or into condemnation. One or the other, it’ll be determined by the words you use.
And then James 3:4–5, which is not on your outline but it important. James 3:4–5, talking about the tongue:
“Look also at ships, although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so, the tongue is a little member...”
So the tongue corresponds to what in the ship? The rudder. What determines where the ship will go? The rudder. What determines where we will go? Our tongue, that’s right. We settle our destiny with our tongue. Use your tongue aright, you’ll get safely into harbor. Use your tongue awrong, you’ll make shipwreck. The tongue is the rudder that determines. To use your tongue aright is to make your tongue agree with the word of God.
Now let’s look in Hebrews for a moment, Hebrews 3:1:
“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus...”
Notice Jesus is the high priest of our confession. Do you want a high priest? You have to make the right confession. He’s the high priest of your confession. No confession, no high priest.
On the other hand, if you make the wrong confession, not Jesus but some dark, evil power begins to draw close to you and say, “I can get her” or “I can get him.” Understand? There’s a whole unseen world around us and our words determine what happens in that unseen world. You make the right confession and Jesus says to the Father, “There’s my brother or my sister. Listen to what he or she is saying. We’ve got to stand by them because they’re saying the right thing.” But if we persist in making negative confessions, confessing unbelief, first of all, we become prisoners of our unbelief. The more often you confess a thing, the more power it has over you. Secondly, instead of attracting the glorious high priest in heaven, we attract some nasty, dirty, dark, negative demon. For instance, this is very common. The people who say, “I wish I were dead, I wish I were dead, what’s the good of living?” They’re beckoning a demon called the spirit of death. And he doesn’t take many invitations. See? There’s no neutrality with the tongue. You either use it right or you use it wrong. It’s either righteousness, justification or condemnation. It’s either life or death.
One of the most powerful half verses in the Bible is Proverbs 18:21 which says:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Let’s go on in Hebrews, Hebrews 4:14:
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
First of all, you confess. Then what do you do? You hold fast your confession. You keep on saying the right things. That’s suggests that there might be forces opposed to you which will try to stop you from saying the right thing. Is that right?
But that’s not the end. You turn to Hebrews 10:21, and you’ll notice every time it speaks about confession it speaks about Jesus as high priest. Hebrews 10:21:
“Having a high priest over the house of God... [then go on to verse 21:] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.”
Why does it say without wavering? Well, why does it say on an airplane “fasten your seat belts”? Because you can expect turbulence. Why does it say without wavering? Because you can expect a lot of things which would make you waver. Because, here’s the battle. So you make the right confession, Jesus is your high priest. You hold fast your confession, that’s Hebrews 4. But when you get to Hebrews 10 and you’re advancing spiritually, it’s hold it fast without wavering. Don’t let the devil take away your confidence. Don’t let him discourage you. Don’t let him shut your mouth, keep on saying the right things.
Notice also that in Hebrews 10:23 it’s the confession of our hope. It starts with faith, goes on to hope. Because faith, Hebrews 11:1, is the substance of things hoped for. So, out of faith, Biblical faith, there develops hope. So out of your repeated confession of your faith, you have now come to have not only faith but also hope. But, you have to hold fast the confession. Keep your seat belt fastened.
That’s about believing and confessing. I think you understand now why I found it difficult to know which to put first. Believe and confess, confess and believe. Really, you can’t separate them, that’s the truth of the matter.
Now we come in the very brief closing period to the fourth requirement which is to act. James 2:26 says:
“Faith without works is [what] dead.”
Works, I would say, corresponding actions, appropriate actions. And James gives a number of examples in that chapter. It’s no good saying it if you don’t act according to what you say. If you say, “I believe God loves me,” then you’ve got to act as if God loves you. Don’t walk around saying, “Nobody loves me.” Don’t yield to depression because that’s contrary to the truth that God loves you.
There are an infinite number of possible actions, appropriate actions in any given situation, in any given need. How will you know the right action? Who will show you what’s the right thing to do? The Holy Spirit. See, we cannot leave the Holy Spirit out.
Earlier on in this series I gave my own testimony of how I came to believe that Jesus had borne my sicknesses, taken my infirmities, I could be healed. But I just sat there in bed and believed it. Then I began to confess it. I had to go to the doctor, that was the hardest thing, believe me. To go to the doctor and say, “I believe Jesus is going to heal me.” I won’t go into that but it was a battle. Actually, I’ll just tell you this. I’ve never said it before anywhere. I don’t think even my wife has heard this. I got this condition on my skin which eventually was called chronic eczema, and I prayed and God healed me. In the desert while I was still in my unit. Then my fellow soldiers said to me, “I see you’re wearing boots again. What happened?” And there’s where I made my big mistake. I was afraid to tell them Jesus healed me and so I said, “I got all right without medicine.” God, when I think about that. So what happened? One year in hospital. I didn’t get out until I was willing to tell the doctors that Jesus would heal me. Understand? God has his ways. You’re not going to get by without making the right confession. Sooner or later it’s got to come out.
Now, when I’d made the right confession, I still had to act. Faith without acts is dead. What was I to do? I was very inexperienced in the Christian faith. I didn’t have a lot of preachers talking to me—I didn’t have any preachers. But God showed me I was to take his word as medicine. So, for several months from that time onwards I took the Bible as my medicine, three times daily after meals. And I was perfectly healed. That was the appropriate act that the Holy Spirit gave to me. It does not follow that He will give you the same act. Do you understand? It depends on you, it depends on your situation. But in some way or other, you’re going to have to act it out.
Some people say, “Well, I’m trusting God, I’m not taking medicine.” That may be and may not be. But not taking medicine in itself is negative. You’ve got to have some kind of faith that expresses itself in positive action. Do you understand? People say, “Well, I’m trusting God, I’m not going to the doctor.” I’ve had a lot of people say that but I’ve discovered some people don’t go to the doctor not because they have faith but because they’re afraid. They don’t want to hear what the doctor might tell them. So you have to be very sensitive as to the kind of act that the Holy Spirit will lead you to. And it’s usually very simple. It is not complicated. There’s something between you and God. I’m glad. I have to step out of the way at this point, I can tell you what I think is the principle, you have to find out from the Holy Spirit how to apply the principle.
I’d say as a matter of interest that Ruth and I take the Bible daily as our medicine today. But you know, that’s because it’s so real to me. It doesn’t follow that it will be the same with you, although I would recommend that. When you read the Bible, say, “Thank you, God. These words are life to me and health to all my flesh.” You can’t really go wrong with that. The more you thank Him the more it works.
But what I want to point out to you is the simplest act is giving thanks. That’s one thing we can all do. I’ve already quoted—I think we better turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Otherwise you might not really believe it’s there. 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Some of the shortest verses in scripture, verse 16:
“Pray without ceasing.”
And then verse 18 begins:
“In everything give thanks...”
And then it says:
“...for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I’ve met Christians who said, “I don’t think I’m in the will of God, I’m not satisfied, I’m not happy.” And as I’ve examined their condition I’ve discovered that they were in the will of God, they were doing the right thing, they were doing what they were called to do. But you know why they were out of the will of God? They weren’t giving thanks. You can’t be in the will of God if you’re not giving thanks. Did you get that? Because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. What is this? Giving thanks in what? In all things, that’s right. That doesn’t leave out anything, does it?
I promise you that the lives of many of you would be changed if you just start to obey that. When you get into your car, thank God for the car. When you drive along the highway, thank God for the highway. When the speed cop catches up with you, thank God for the speed cop. I mean, in everything give thanks. All right? You’d be a different person. Basically, thankful people are happy people and the kind of people other people want to be with. Very few people want to be with complainers. So, if you want a lonely life, be a complainer. I wouldn’t recommend it.
I’m going to give you a couple of examples of the importance of giving thanks. The first is from the prophet Jonah. Jonah comes right after the prophet we were looking at recently, which was Obadiah. You remember that? Everybody knows in outline the story of Jonah. God called him, he turned his back on the call, God said go east, so he went west. It’s important to know he the money. The fact that you’ve got the money doesn’t always prove you’re doing the right thing. From the moment that he disobeyed, every step that he took was a step downwards, it’s interesting. He lived on the mountains of Galilee, he went down to the lowland plains. He went down from the plains to the harbor. And down from the harbor to the ship. And from the ship he went down into the sea. That’s right. So every step you take when you turn your back on God is a downward step. But God, as you know, dealt with him and he ended up inside the fish. Chapter 2 describes what he did inside the fish. You don’t have many options inside a fish. I doubt whether you can even clap your hands. You can’t get up and dance. Jonah began by praying, if you look here, chapter 2, verse 2. He says:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction.”
And he goes on crying out to the Lord for several verses. He gets as far as verse 8 and he says:
“Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy.”
But he’s still inside the fish. And in verse 9 he says:
“But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving.”
And what happened? The fish let him go, that’s right. What got him out? Not praying but giving thanks, that’s right.
And then you look in the ministry of Jesus, a remarkable example. John 6, the feeding of the 5,000, one of the great miracles of Jesus. One which is recorded, incidentally, in every gospel. John 6, how did it happen? Verse 11:
“Jesus took the five loaves... [and it says] when he had given thanks, He distributed them to the disciples...”
He didn’t pray, He only gave thanks. Giving thanks changed five loaves into enough food for 5,000 people: men plus women and children. And John must have been very impressed by that fact because a little later in the same chapter, describing things that are happening he said in verse 23:
“Other boats from Tiberius came there near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.”
So it really registered with John. He didn’t even pray! He just gave thanks and it changed five loaves into all that food. See the power of giving thanks?
Let me close quickly by pointing out that God has an arm that cannot be twisted. You don’t get God to do things by using techniques against him. Let’s look in Matthew 6, the Lord’s prayer, verses 9 and 10 very, very quickly.
“This is what Jesus taught us to pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.”
First of all, we approach God as Father. Second, we approach Him with reverence. That’s the approach. Then the first petition is:
“Your kingdom come.”
It’s not for anything we want, it’s not for our needs, it’s for what God wants. What’s God’s aim? What’s God’s great purpose? That His kingdom should come to earth. We have to align ourselves with God’s purpose. Then we say:
“Your will be done...”
That’s not asking for anything for ourselves. Only after that do we come to the petitions, forgive us our sins, give us our daily bread, et cetera. Understand? That’s the pattern prayer. If you want your prayers to be effective you have to first of all align yourself with God’s purpose and secondly with God’s will. Do you understand? Then you can pray effective prayers.
I give you this example and we have to close. You are praying for healing. What is your motive? Are you praying to be healed because you want to be healed or because God wants you to be healed? Understand? The first is self will, the second is faith. This applies in every area. We cannot twist God’s arm but we can align ourselves with God’s will.