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Our theme in this session and in the following session is focused on one of the simplest commandments that Jesus ever gave. Simple, that is, in words, not so simple to carry out. It can be stated in two words, “Be Perfect.” That’s all. Jesus didn’t say try to be perfect, He said be perfect. He never told us to try to obey any of His commandments. He never said try to love your enemies; He said love your enemies. You see, if we were to rely on our own ability we should just as well give up right now. But the requirements of the New Testament are all based on the grace of God which is made available to us through Jesus Christ. I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again, grace begins where human ability ends. When we can do it on our own strength or our own wisdom or our own righteousness, we don’t need God’s grace. But when we’ve come to the end of the best we can do, we’ve come to the beginning of God’s grace. And God says my grace is sufficient. Do you believe that? You really believe His grace is sufficient, that it will enable us to do anything He’s told us to do?
These words are found, actually, in the sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48:
“Therefore, you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Now I’ve heard a lot of people explain the word perfect in such a way that it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. But the standard that is set for us here eliminates any kind of explaining it away. Because, we are to be as perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
And if you look at the context it indicates two things. First of all, perfection in this sense means dealing rightly with everybody, not just with some people. And secondly, it’s summed up in the one word love. Perfection and love cannot be separated.
Let me read some of the words that proceed. Jesus said:
“You’ve heard that it was said in the Old Testament you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you...”
Let me ask you, do you take that seriously?
“...that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
You see, God is perfect in His dealings with everybody, with the good and with the not good. He’s perfect in every attitude and relationship.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
I find it helpful to take the example of a circle. You can have circles of all sizes, all dimensions, all diameters. And no matter how small a circle is it can be a perfect circle. I see God in this picture as the great circle that encompasses the universe, a perfect circle. We cannot encompass the universe but each of us in our own particular allotted place can be a small perfect circle. You understand? You don’t have to be big to be perfect.
The word perfect contains two related thoughts. First of all, mature. And secondly, complete. To be perfect you have to combine both. You can picture a little green apple on the branch. It’s small, round, green and hard. It’s perfect in the sense there’s nothing wrong with the apple but it’s not perfect in the sense that it has not come to maturity. Or, you can take a boy of twelve who is completely well and whole physically. So in that sense he’s perfect but he’s not yet mature. Or, you can take a grown man of forty but he’s lost one of his fingers. So he’s mature but he’s not complete. So to be perfect you have to be both mature and complete. Obviously this involves a process.
Now, I’m going to speak for the rest of this session and the next on the process that the scripture reveals leads to perfection. I think a good place to begin is in Romans 5:5, which makes one of those amazing statements that we read and scarcely absorb. But in that verse Paul says:
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
That’s really an amazing statement. Not some of God’s love but the love of God, the total love of God. Not is being poured out but has been poured out by the Holy Spirit. And I believe in a sense every person who is baptized in the Spirit receives an outpouring of God’s love. I’ve seen people behave in the strangest way. I remember years ago there was a Presbyterian elder in a congregation which my first wife Lydia and I were ministering. And he was what you might consider the standard Presbyterian, very fine gentleman, very stiff, very dignified, very self-possessed. But he was hungry for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Lydia and I ministered to him and Lydia put her hand on him and he received the baptism. He just enjoyed God for a little while and then he jumped to his feet and he embraced my wife! I don’t think he ever got over it. But the love of God had suddenly gushed up inside him and he did the first thing that came to his mind.
I believe that’s true of everybody baptized in the Holy Spirit. Potentially we have the love of God poured out into us by the Holy Spirit. But it’s one thing to have it poured out, it’s another thing to have it worked out. The initial experience is glorious. Sometimes those of us who’ve received it couldn’t imagine that we’d ever have any problems again. But my friend Bob Mumford says when somebody asked him what’s the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he said trouble! So, if you’re just in the early stages, let’s warn you that’s not the last stage.
So, something that’s poured into you, divine, complete, perfect, has to be worked out. There’s a scripture there in Philippians which I think is very helpful. Philippians 2:12–13:
“Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Notice the two phrases work out, work in. They go together. God works in then we have to work out what God has worked in. If God didn’t work it in we’d have nothing to work out. But if we don’t work it out, God can’t work any more in. You understand? The limit of what God can work in us is that which we work out. So if we cease to work out God has to stop working in. But if we go on working out then God goes on working in. The initiative comes from God, as always does. But, the outworking is our responsibility.
And then going back to Romans 8:9, Paul says in the second part of the verse:
“...now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he is not His.”
I understand that that is what we receive when we are born again. We receive the Spirit of Christ, the nature of Christ is born into us by the new birth. But then it has to be worked out.
See, there are two things. Through the new birth I believe every one of us receives the nature of Christ. But then it’s got to become character. And that is a process of development. The interesting thing is this was the experience of Jesus Himself. There’s a very remarkable scripture in Hebrews 5. Hebrews 5:8–9, speaking about Jesus:
“Though He was a son [the Son of God], yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
So even Jesus had to be perfected. He was never imperfect but the beautiful nature of Jesus had to be worked out in his character. And it was worked out by one thing which is the same for all of us. What is the key word there? Obedience, that’s right. Let’s compromise and say suffering leading to obedience or obedience leading to suffering. And basically there is no other way. I’m glad you said suffering because otherwise I could have given you a too easy picture. You see, Jesus learned obedience. There’s only one way to learn obedience, do you know what that is? It’s by obeying. And even Jesus had to learn it. He never disobeyed, He never was prone to disobey. But you can’t learn obedience without obeying. How many of you would accept that as true? That’s right. And if you’re going through something difficult at the present time, just remember you’re learning obedience. There’s no way to learn obedience but to obey.
As Ruth and I have discovered, there’s no way to learn endurance but to endure. It’s all very well to have it in theory but it has to be worked out in your character.
Years ago, I mean many years ago before some of you were even thought of—a few of you at least, looking around—when some of you were only just a blush on your mother’s cheek I was confronted by this truth of love, perfection and obedience. I happen to have been an only child. I had no brothers or sisters and one of my friends said of me once many years later that I was the most self-sufficient person he had ever met. I wasn’t used to catering for others. I made my own way in life and I was successful, academically and in other respects. I was successful. But I had never learned to give way to others. I’d never learned to share my toys because I had no one to share them with. I went through the old traditional British system of education which is compete, compete, compete. Pass your exams, get to the top of the class, pass your examinations and go ahead. And so, when I came to know the Lord Jesus and I was confronted by these truths which I’m sharing with you, I realized that I started a long way behind a lot of people when it comes to love and unselfishness and things like that. So I really sought God and I said, “God, what do I do about this?” And I felt that the Lord gave me a very simple answer which I want to share with you. It’s in 1 John 2:5:
“But whoever keeps his word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
And I saw that there are two sides. You know, the Bible says the word of God is a two-edged sword. This scripture has got two edges to it. First of all, the evidence that you love God is that you keep His word. Jesus said he that loves me keeps my word. Don’t deceive yourself. You don’t love God more than you obey His word. The point at which you disobey His word is the point at which you stop loving God. So, the proof that you’re loving God is obeying His word.
But, it’s also the means by which God’s love is perfected in you. See, love in the New Testament, this word agape which we hear so often these days, is not an emotion. You don’t have to feel loving. It’s something that’s deep in your character that expresses itself in the way you live. And so, I said to myself I can’t feel loving but I can obey the word of God. And that’s been my principle ever since for nearly 50 years. I’ll have to leave other people to judge how far I’ve been successful. But at least that’s my way of seeking the love of God. It’s to obey His word.
I made up my mind when I was converted. I’d been a professional philosopher and I’d studied many, many books and various languages. Then I said to myself the Bible is the book with the answer, it’s the only one that really has the answer. Why should I waste my time on all those other subjects. I’m going to read the Bible, believe it and do what it says. And as long as I follow that principle I’ve been successful. The only times I’m not successful are the times when I depart from the word of God. So, my suggestion to you is don’t try to feel loving, don’t be sloppy and sentimental. You’ve heard somebody talk about sloppy agape. There’s a lot of that around. Be obedient. Obey the word of God, do what it says.
I think Ruth will bear me witness. We were in Malaysia a few years ago and of all the strange places, I had just got on to this subject. I mean, I didn’t plan it but it just came out what I was talking about. At the end a lady walked up to me and she said in effect, you’ve come a long way. I used to know you 20 years ago and you’re a lot better than you were then! So, at least that should encourage you. People tell Ruth that she’s done a lot for me. I’m more approachable than I used to be. Well, we’ll leave others to make their determination about that.
Now, the Bible is a very practical book and it not merely tells us to be perfect but it gives us a program for becoming perfect. And that’s what I want to speak about now. We turn to 2 Peter 1 and we’re going to read right from the first verse. We’ll take it verse by verse until we get to the process.
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ...”
You know the word servant in Greek is slave. And you’ll notice that all the apostles always called them first a slave and then an apostle. And when you meet anybody who calls themselves first an apostle and then a servant, you could question whether he really is an apostle.
I was friendly for years with a minister who grew up in the Apostolic Church of Wales and became rather disillusioned by things that he saw. In fact, he thought that some of the people who called themselves weren’t apostles. And he felt that they were kind of dominating the people. I’m not saying whether this is true or false but that was his. But then he said, “I realized something. That in the new Jerusalem the apostles are the foundation. So they’re not people on the top holding you down, they’re people on the bottom holding you up.” That makes a lot of difference, doesn’t it?
I know we have some Ghanaians here tonight and when I meet Ghanaians I move into a new kind of orbit. Ruth and I were in Ghana about two years ago and I was teaching on the main ministry gifts of Ephesians 4 and I intended just to go briefly through apostles and then go on with the rest. But I got stuck in the rut, I just couldn’t get away from apostles. I mean, I spent probably an hour and a half—Ghanaian time—teaching about apostles. And I can see the young men there getting more and more excited. They were all envisaging themselves as apostles. So, I thought we better do something about this. I said how many of you would like to be an apostle? A lot of people put their hands up. So I said hold on a moment, let me read you the job description. Does anybody have a New International Version here? With a good large print? Could you bring it up for me. The New International Version is so vivid in this. Turn to 1 Corinthians, if you want to, chapter 4, beginning at verse 8. Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christians. He said:
“Already you have all you want, already you have become rich...”
This reminds me of some teaching in the church today.
“...you have become kings, and that without us; how I wish you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena; we have become a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honored, we are dishonored. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, and we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless; we work hard with our own hands; when we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly; up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world...”
Now how many people want to be an apostle? God is so good, He gives us the job description before we fill in the form, you see? Thank you for that. That’s just by the way, it isn’t in the outline. But I think it was on God’s heart.
So, going back to the first verse:
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
That is all of us who are true believers in Jesus. This epistle is addressed to us. Then verse 2:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord...”
Notice the first word is grace. And that immediately lifts us out of the level of our own ability. He’s not talking about what we can do without God, he’s talking about something that’s possible only through the supernatural enabling of God. Remember what I said before, I want to say it again. Grace begins where human ability ends. As long as you can do it, why should God give you His grace? But God deliberately confronts us with many things we cannot do in order that we may open up to His grace. And really, the church is usually left with two alternatives. Either we do the right thing and open up to the grace of God or we reduce the level of God’s requirements down to something we can do by our own efforts. But that is dishonest, it’s misrepresenting God.
So, it’s grace and peace. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is directly related to the word for complete. Really, you don’t have true peace until you’re complete. So, it’s grace and completeness be multiplied to you. The Christian life is a life of multiplication. It’s not a static condition, it’s a process of multiplication.
“...in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord...”
Everything is wrapped up in knowing God and Jesus. Jesus said in John 17, “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” So, we don’t need anything outside of God and Jesus Christ. Everything we need is in God and Jesus.
And then it says in verse 3:
“...seeing His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness...”
Notice the tense. It’s not will give, it’s has given. That’s a breathtaking statement. But if you bypass it you will miss what God has for you. God has already given us everything we’re ever going to need for time and eternity. I’d like you to say those words after me.
“God has already given us everything we’re ever going to need for time and eternity.”
See, if you keep asking God to give you something He’s already given you, you’re operating on a misunderstanding. So, let’s explore this. Again, the second part of verse 3:
“...through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and virtue.”
Notice again it’s all in knowing Jesus. Not knowing theology but knowing God. Those of you who have ever struggled with the French language—and I did at school. And, I used to get very good marks for French but when I went to France I wondered what language it was they taught there! Anyhow, one of the things they drilled into me was French has two words for “to know.” Savoir, to know a fact; connev, to know a person. Well, the kind of knowledge we’re talking about is not savoir, it’s connev, it’s knowing God.
So, it’s through the knowledge of Him who calls by glory and virtue. Now, you may be wondering how has God given me everything I ever need? I don’t think I have it. And the next verse makes it very clear.
“By which these [His glory and virtue] have been given to us [notice have been given] exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
So, what is God’s provision in one word? Where is the provision? The provision is in the promises. Say that.
“The provision is in the promises.”
Let’s say it once more.
“The provision is in the promises.”
So it’s in the promises of God. As we believe them and obey them we find we have total provision for every need. And the result of believing and obeying the promises is staggering. I looked at this very carefully in the Greek text before I came this evening because I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t misrepresenting it. Actually, the English, in a way, almost understates it.
“That through these [these being the promises] you may be partakers [or share in] the divine nature.”
What is the divine nature mean? It means the nature of God, that’s right. So through believing and obeying the promises we can receive the nature of God within us. And in process or in proportion as we receive the nature of God we are delivered from the corruption which is in the world through lust. The nature of God and corruption are incompatible. Where one comes the other cannot be.
You remember probably the story of Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother Esau, and he had nothing in his hand but a staff and nothing to put his head on but a stone. He was sleeping out in the open, he had a dream. He had a dream of heaven. I remember hearing a preacher say once many years ago, “If I could have a dream of heaven I’d be willing to sleep on a stone.” And in this dream he saw a ladder. The foot was on the earth, the head was in heaven and the angels of God were descending and ascending. Well, in a sense the promises of God are like that ladder. Every rung is a promise. And as you put your foot on the promise you go one step higher. Promise by promise by promise by promise. You are progressively becoming a partaker of the nature of God. If that isn’t exciting I don’t know what is. If you don’t get excited about your faith from time to time I don’t know how much faith you really have.
There we are. Now we’re going to go to the process with verse 5:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence...”
And notice the word diligence. It’s a very important word. You’ll find it occurs several times in this chapter. What’s the opposite of diligence? Slothfulness or, in more contemporary English, laziness, that’s right. You search the Bible from cover to cover and see if you can ever find one good word spoken about laziness. Most Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin but I tell you, the Bible is much more severe in its condemnation of laziness than it is of drunkenness. And lots of churches that wouldn’t tolerate a drunkard tolerate a lot of lazy people. Is that right? You don’t have to answer.
“Also, for this very reason, giving all diligence...”
Now we come to a process of adding. This, in a certain sense, you could compare to the ladder. Or, you could compare it to a building. And what do you begin with? What is the foundation? Faith. There is no other starting point in your relationship with God. Without faith it is difficult to please God, is that right? It is impossible to please God. The one who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Notice that word. So, there is no other starting point in this process to perfection but faith. That’s the foundation block on which everything has to be built. See that? There’s no other foundation in the Christian life but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atonement on our behalf.
Now we’re going to look at the adding process. What’s the first thing we add, we’re in verse 5.
“...add to your faith virtue...”
I think almost all the translations say virtue. Some say moral excellence, goodness. I prefer the word excellence and I like to leave out the moral because I don’t think it’s purely religious. See, in the Greek language the Greek word which is arote is very widely used. For instance, the arote or the excellence of a horse is to run fast. So, the word means do well whatever you do. So, if you call it moral excellence, a lot of lazy people will say I’ll go to church and say my prayers and they will not cultivate excellence in their jobs. See? The way you do your job at work tells most people much more about you than what happens in church. Because, in church the only people who see you are basically other churchgoers.
God imprinted this on me very early when I was saved in the British Army. I didn’t like the British Army, believe me. And I thought now I’m saved, God will get me out. I mean, I should be doing something more spiritual. Well, He didn’t get me out. I spent another four and a half years in the army. I came to realize that the validity of my Christian testimony would be judged by how well I served in the army. I was a medical orderly. I was medical orderly because I volunteered for the medical corps because I didn’t want to kill people. I’m not recommending that attitude, that was just me. That was me before I was saved. I was a philosopher, I was a rebel, I was a hippie before my time. You can give me a lot of descriptive words. I understand hippies thoroughly. There just weren’t any hippies in my day, otherwise I’d have been one! I did have a blue teddy bear coat. I don’t imagine any of you can imagine what a blue teddy bear coat is like. But they were about that thick, sort of pseudo fur, it was a kind of electric blue! That was my way of protesting against society.
Anyhow, I ended up as a medical orderly and, I mean, I had a lot of qualifications but none of them did me any good in the medical corps. RAMC, Royal Army Medical Corps. I can even tell you my number, I will never forget that as long as I live. 7385778. So, God really dealt with me. See, the thing was that all the male members of my family I’ve ever known have been officers in the British Army. So I was totally used to mingling with officers. And now I was not mingling with officers and I learned something very significant. People look very different from underneath to what they look from when you’re on their level. And I was shocked when I saw some of the things that I saw in the officers. And I realized they were in me.
Anyhow, to round this part of the talk off, when you’re discharged from the British Army they give you an evaluation. I don’t say this to boast but it’s part of my testimony. When I was discharged, my conduct was evaluated with one word which was exemplary. I never concealed the fact that I was a Christian. I spoke to the commanding officers of others about the Lord. I lived the life for God but at the end the army had to give me its top grade. That’s excellence. Not at preaching or interpreting languages but doing things like emptying bedpans and taking temperatures. As a matter of fact, when they discovered that after I was saved I didn’t smoke or drink, the obvious place to put me was in the canteen because I was the only one who could be trusted not to steal! So I spent a lot of my time in the canteen.
As a matter of fact, this is by the way and I probably shouldn’t be going into it. But, I took part in the longest retreat in the history of the British Army which was in North Africa from a place called El Algellah to Al Alamein. Here I was on this lorry. Theoretically I was in charge of a squad of eight stretcher bearers. They were known throughout the unit as Prince’s Pioneers. And we carried the canteen on the lorry. I mean, beer, cigarettes, chocolate, all sorts of things. And most of the time we were hungry because we really didn’t get our rations as we should have done.
Well, we retreated so rapidly that we ran into one of our own mine fields, they didn’t have time to clear it away. But it was a vehicle mine field so it was all right, you could walk on foot through it. We had to evacuate our lorry and walk off on foot. I wrestled with this thing, should I leave the cigarettes and chocolate there for who knows, the Germans or who knows. I couldn’t do that. So I sold out the whole content of the canteen in the middle of the night in the mine field and I had to sell it on credit because nobody had any money. I tell you, I regretted that many times. I had an awful job getting that money back out of those people. But anyhow, I mean, I got a pay book still to this day to prove it. It’s exemplary. And I just want to suggest to you that you sometimes may need to examine how you deal in non religious matters.
You know, we purvey my books through bookstores. I have a lot of books and they’re sold in bookstores. What we learned was the Jesus bookstore is the most unlikely to pay its bills. Did you know that? I mean, my son-in-law who is director of our ministry was arranging something about cardboard cases for packing. And he said I found a firm but then he looked at me apologetically and said but they’re not Christians. I said thank God. I mean, I am sorry to say it but that’s the way it is.
See, at another time I was a trainer of teachers in East Africa. I was principal of a teacher training college for African teachers. My real aim, I was there to win them to the Lord. And I thank God that most years every student that graduated had been saved and baptized in the Spirit. And I would have to say this is really relevant. We established a record in the whole educational system of Kenya because one year we had every student who passed in every subject. I still have a letter somewhere from the representative of the education department thanking me for this unique achievement. And we were Pentecostal. Nobody believed that Pentecostals could do things like that. They expected us to be the bottom. You know what I’m talking about? And that’s a reproach to the Lord.
So, let’s put up number one, this is the first building block on the foundation. Excellence. Think about that for a moment. What are you? Are you a teacher? Then you ought to be an excellent teacher. My students would accept the Lord and get saved and the attitude was well, now you won’t expect so much of us because we’re Christians. I used to say to them you’re totally wrong. I expect a whole lot more of you. If you can be a teacher without being a Christian you ought to be a much better teacher when you can pray and seek God’s help and wisdom. So, what are you? Are a nurse? You ought to be an excellent nurse. Are you a bus driver? You ought to be an excellent bus driver. Are you a shop assistant? You ought to be an excellent shop assistant. That’s the first step in your upward process. I think it’s dropped out of a lot of people’s thinking. Let’s read what he says again.
“But, also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith excellence...”
Now, without faith you wouldn’t be able to achieve excellence in many cases. But faith opens the way for excellence. There’s a statement in the epistle of James that appeals to me. James 2:18. And James is pointing out to believers in Jesus that it’s not much use just saying you’re a believer, you have to demonstrate it by the way you live. And so he says:
“Someone will say to you, You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.”
In other words, I’ll show you what I believe by what I do. Is that fair? Ought we not be able to say that? I’ll show you what I believe by the way I live. Watch my life and you’ll see what faith can do. Is that fair?
So, after excellence what’s the next one? We go back to 2 Peter 1:
“...add to excellence knowledge...”
So the second step up is knowledge. What kind of knowledge? Well, not in essence scientific knowledge but the knowledge of God’s word and God’s will. So, the very first two things that you need to give attention to when you become a believer is, first of all, straightening out your life. Being efficient, being punctual. You know, if you are being paid for working eight hours a day and you work seven hours and fifty-five minutes, you’re stealing five minutes. That’s theft. Most employees today, I imagine, are thieves. But you can’t afford to be a thief.
After that we say knowledge. And I would say the knowledge of God’s word and God’s will because it’s God’s word that reveals God’s will. And one of the things that I notice particularly about the apostles is they were continually contesting ignorance. They had a running war with ignorance. I don’t think I fully appreciated this until we were in Pakistan about four years ago where about eighty percent of the women are illiterate, at least eighty percent. And the men, probably over fifty. One of the preachers that was with me told me in advance, “I’m going to preach about Israel coming out of Egypt.” I said, “Firs of all, you’ll have to explain to them that Israel ever were in Egypt because they have no ideas about that.” As I stood there and spoke I felt like a big thick wall of darkness, which was ignorance. I had never seen the negative power of ignorance as I saw it there.
And do you know what I’ve observed? This will shock some of you. I’m saying it primarily in relationship to the United States which is where we have one of our homes. Ignorance is increasing rapidly in our culture. People in the United States don’t know the main dates of American history. They don’t know the dates of the Civil War. All they do is listen to strange noises over the radio or on cassette. This isn’t part of my prepared message but I really believe if you’re continually blasting your brain with noise, your brain is going to atrophy. Intelligence has very little place in contemporary culture. There are the super-intelligent, there are the whiz kids, there are the people who design computers. And then there’s just a flat level of incompetents. It’s much harder to get a building properly built today than it was fifty years ago. How many of you would agree it’s hard to find workmen you can rely on? Is that right?
I came to realize after being in Pakistan this is a satanic strategy. Satan is deliberately blanketing people with ignorance so that they’ll be ready for the antichrist. Some of you were here the other night when I was speaking about him. It’s going to take ignorance to prepare the way for the antichrist.
Let’s look very quickly at some of the things the apostles contended against. I think you’ll see that most of them are true today. Romans 11:25–56:
“I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in: and so all Israel will be saved...”
A vast section of the church today is ignorant of that fact. Blindness or hardness has come to Israel only until the full number of the Gentiles has come in and then all Israel will be saved. And there is tremendous confusion in the church today because of ignorance of this mystery.
And then in 1 Corinthians 10:1–11, Paul talks to the believers in Corinth and he says you need to remember that everything that happened to Israel in the Old Testament were patterns or signs or examples. He says:
“...all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; all drank the same spiritual drink...”
All of them had five supernatural spiritual experiences and then he says with most of them God was not well pleased. Is that something we need to know? You can be baptized in the Spirit and be baptized in water and speak in tongues and yet God may not be well pleased with you.
And then he gives a list of the problems and every one of them is found in the church today. They should not lust after evil things, they should not commit sexual immorality, they should not tempt Christ, they should not murmur—that’s an old fashioned word. Let’s use the word complain. How many Christians know complaining is a sin? And you know what it does? It brings serpents that bite you. What’s the alternative to complaining? Praising, that’s right. If you’re praising all the time you can’t be complaining. And if you’re complaining you can be praising. So, you have to make your mind up.
And then it says in verse 11:
“These things happened to them as an example [or patterns], and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
All the experiences of Israel in the Old Covenant written for our admonition to warn us not to make the same mistakes. If we don’t know what happened to them how can we be warned?
And then in 1 Corinthians 12:1:
“Concerning spiritual gifts I would not have you ignorant...”
Well, there is a certain amount of light coming into the church in some parts on spiritual gifts but there’s still a whole lot missing. Dear mean, when I think when I came into the ministry, when I think of the ignorance in our lives I am embarrassed. I mean, you could have presented a demon to us on a plate and we wouldn’t have known what it was. And we wouldn’t have known how to deal with it.
And then in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul says:
“Don’t be ignorant about the believers who died, that you should be sorrowful of others who have no hope.”
We need to know what happens to believers after death, what is the ultimate destiny of those who die in Christ. It’s very important that we know that.
And then on final example in 2 Peter 3:8. You notice it’s not just one of the apostles, it’s all of the them.
“But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”
We must understand God’s measurement of time. A thousand years is like one day for God. So two thousand years have elapsed by our standards since Jesus died and rose from the dead. With God that’s two days. There are so many areas where God’s people today are ignorant. They are lacking the knowledge of the word of God. I would like to say to any who are called to the ministry, make it your aim to get people instructed in the great central truths of the Bible which every Christian needs to know. Lay a solid foundation in the lives of the people you minister to.