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I’d like to begin in Romans 5. What I want to talk about this morning is Christian love. And that’s a subject I’ve always found rather difficult to talk about for one very practical reason; I didn’t feel that I displayed enough of the subject myself. But I felt if I went on waiting until I was the perfect example of love, I might have to wait forever. So I’m working at it from the view of an ideal that we’re striving after. Now in Romans 5 we find these words. We’ll start at the beginning of the verse and just read through the first five verses.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy ghost which is given unto us.” (KJV)
The other evening I also gave you the New American Standard Version of verses 3 and 4. And I want to go back to that because I think it brings out my point.
“Knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance produces proven character.”
Where the King James says experience, the New American Standard says proven character. The word means something that has passed the test. It’s a word that’s translated approved in many places. There’s another word, the opposite of it in Greek, the Greek word is ?dotemos?, the opposite is ?adotemos? which means rejected or that which fails to pass the test. Paul says in 1Corinthians 9,
“I keep my body under and bring it into subjection lest after I have preached to others I myself should be [the King James says] a castaway.”
But it means one who has failed to pass the test. Rejected. You know they have what they call seconds in big factories. For instance, in China factories, porcelain factories they have seconds. What are those? Things that didn’t pass the test. They were almost good enough, but they had some little blemish or failure that did not enable them to pass the test. And here we have what we could translate testedness. Or proven character. Something that has passed the test.
And proven character, in turn, produces hope. Now hope in the New Testament I would define as a strong, serene, confident expectation of good. When you’ve been through the test you have a serenity, a confidence, an assurance that cannot be shaken. No matter what happens you know it’s going to work out all right. There’s no way to achieve that but by going through the test. I used to say “even if the roof falls in, you remain calm.” But I said that three times and each time the roof fell in in the house that I owned. So I’ve given up saying that. I mean, three times I think I’ve passed the test. But no matter what happens, a person who has been through the test who has emerged with proven character remains calm, at ease, at rest, no matter what the pressure or what the seeming disaster is. He’s been through it, he knows God.
And then it says hope does not cause us to be disappointed. Our hope is not put to shame because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Now this is what I want to speak about, the love of God, divine love. And what I want to say is this: that when you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, I believe the whole of God’s love is poured out into your heart. God doesn’t give you a portion of his love, he doesn’t give it by installment, he just dumps out his entire divine love into your heart. And many of us when we were baptized in the Holy Spirit, we had absolutely breathtaking, overwhelming experiences of the love of God. You could love anything. You prayed for the dog walking down the street. You were in love with the world. But, the truth of the matter is that does not last. I have come to mistrust my own emotions. Some people think I’m an unemotional person. Many, many people have told me that I’m cold and aloof. That really isn’t the whole truth. There may be a truth in it, but I’ve learned that I can have very strong feelings, give expressions of them, and be acutely embarrassed a few days later when I’m not living according to those feelings. I have known what it was when I was unconverted to have very strong passionate love, and yet I harmed the person I loved. And I think this built in me a mistrust of my own emotions because I discovered they were fickle, unstable, unreliable. And any Christian who just lives by emotion is going to be just that: unstable, unreliable and a disappointment to others as well as to himself.
So we’ve got to relate the pouring out of divine love into our heart with this phrase “proven character.” What I want to say to you this morning essentially is that love is not a gift the Holy Spirit has given to us. Divine love is made available to us in the Holy Spirit in its totality. Many people criticize the Charismatic movement and speaking in tongues, they say, “Don’t you know that love is the greatest of the gifts?” There is nowhere in the New Testament that I know of where love is called a gift. You don’t get love that easily. Love is expressed in character. So we have to relate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our heart which is a gift, which just comes as a fruit, there is it, with the outworking of love in our character. That’s where the problems arise. I don’t know how many of you have ever viewed Niagara Falls, but I’ve been there several times and when you look at that tremendous volume of water coming over that cliff, you say that all the power you’ll ever need is there. You couldn’t want more water or more power than that. That’s like the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It’s Niagara Falls. But that water and that power is used to provide electricity for the city of Toronto which is a city of over two million persons. A lot has got to happen between Niagara Falls and the electrical supply in the city of Toronto. That power has got to be harnessed. It’s got to be brought under control. It’s got to be directed and channeled to the purposes for which we want to use it. And this is where our character enters in. You receive God’s love through the Holy Spirit. The Bible says in the gospel of John, “God does not give the Spirit by measure.” The King James puts in the words “unto him” meaning unto Jesus, but they’re not there. God doesn’t give the Holy Spirit by measure to anybody. The measure is in our receiving. We receive as much as we can contain and just a little bit more.
But the question is how do I receive this love, channel it, direct it and use it in a way that makes it a blessing and effective of God’s purposes? And the answer, I believe, is proven character. It has to be worked out in our character. Love is a matter of character. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as Christian love without self denial. My experience is that if I let self have his way, love is not manifest. Every time Christian love is manifested it’s on the basis of my denial of myself. If I do not practice self denial I cannot manifest divine love. The two are at loggerheads. Where one prevails the other is kept back.
So I have, over many years, kind of meditated on and studied this question of love. And I would have to say without being bitter in any way I’ve been disappointed in many people who told me that they loved me and almost immediately betrayed me. And carried tales against me and criticized me. And I’m not the only one. Most of us have been through experiences like that. And it didn’t overthrow my faith but it caused me to consider what really is love. Not everybody who says he has love has love. He may really think he has love. So over the years I’ve tried to find out what the reality of Christian love is. And I’ve discovered one thing: it is indissolubly linked with the word of God. You cannot have true Christian love apart from God’s word. And one of the scriptures that has carried me through is in 1John 2, and I just want to read about three verses, verses 3–5.
“And hereby we do know that we know him, [Jesus Christ] if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (KJV)
That’s a very clear and a very solemn statement. The person who says that he knows Jesus Christ but walks in disobedience to his commandments is deceiving himself and is a liar. The truth is not in him. That’s a very clear, very important statement. “Let each one of us” applies to ourselves rather than to other people. If I say that I know Jesus Christ and I walk in disobedience to his commandments, I am a liar. Verse 5:
“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (KJV)
How do we know that we are in Jesus Christ? By keeping his word. And it says whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. The scripture says about itself that it is a sharp two-edged sword. And there are many scriptures that have two edges. This is one of them. It has two meanings, each of which is valid. First of all, in keeping the word of God I am demonstrating my love toward God. If I say I love him and don’t keep his word, I’m not telling the truth. So the first application of that scripture is in keeping the word of God I am demonstrating my love for God. I heard somebody say in a meeting years ago, in America our love for God isn’t tested.
Now if we’re in a Communist country where we were being persecuted, our love would be tested. I was the next speaker and I almost wanted to deny what the previous speaker had said but it wouldn’t have done any good so I kept quiet. But the truth of the matter is in America our love for God is tested. And it’s tested on the basis of obedience. Just as much as it is in Communist Russia or China. In fact, in some ways it might be easier to obey in Russia than in America. Sometimes our tests might be more subtle but more dangerous than those of a country where Christianity is persecuted because every day our love for God is being tested on the basis of our obedience to his word. Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. It’s brought to perfection. I do not fully obey the word of God the first day I’m saved. Or the first year I’m saved. Obedience is a continual achievement. The more I obey him the more he reveals to me of his word. The more he reveals the more I have to obey. It’s a continuing progression.
There are things that I see in the word of God in these last two years that I never saw for thirty years. There’s a new challenge to my obedience. The whole area of relationships is something really that was closed to me for thirty years. Now I am challenged in areas of obedience that were never exposed to me before that. So I have to go on keeping his word. And as I do, I know more of his word, and as I know more, there’s more to keep. And that’s not burdensome. That’s a blessing.
But there’s another side to the sword there. Another edge to its blade. As I keep his word, his love is brought to perfection in me. So there’s a double blessing out of keeping the word of God. First of all, you’re demonstrating and proving your love to God. But secondly, God’s love is being worked out in you. Many years ago I decided if I’m ever to have divine love, that’s the only way I’ll ever get it. It’s not by looking for my feelings or being introspective and critical of myself and saying, “You weren’t very loving when you spoke to your wife at breakfast, or to your brother at supper.” I do not believe in going overboard on introspection. It’s very dangerous. The more you dig into yourself the less you’ll be pleased with the result. My advice is to stop digging. Let the Holy Spirit put his finger on things that need to be changed. Don’t try to play the part of the Holy Spirit in your own life. The introspective people are usually moody and unstable, is that right? That’s right. It’s not really a part of Christian discipline to keep digging into your own life to see whether things are going all right. God has got his ways of showing you when things are not going all right. So I set myself, years ago, thirty years ago, to keep the word of God. I said, “This is the only way I can see to acquiring divine love. I just have to trust God that I go on obeying him, the results he wants will be worked out in me.” And I know he wants me to have divine love. Well I can leave it to you to determine how far I’ve succeeded. I mean, I’m not the judge of that. But I know one thing. I’m a very different person than what I was thirty years ago. There have been some changes. I’m sure there haven’t been enough, but at least the fact that there have been some encourages me to believe there could be more.
Now I’ve only got one other passage of scripture that I want to turn to and this is what I believe to be the practical outworking of what I’ve already said. How the love of God that’s poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is transformed into proven character that demonstrates Christian love in behavior. And I would like you to turn with me to Peter 2, and we’ll read the first eight verses. And we’ll just go over them and take some time to see what they’re telling us. 2Peter 1:1–8. Peter’s language is terrific. This is not just an accident of translation, it’s true about the original Greek. It’s remarkable. Peter was a fisherman, Paul was essentially a theologian. But Peter has got far more grandiose language than Paul has. He must have been the real orator amongst the apostles. Paul said his critics said of him, his bodily presence is weak, his speech contemptible. He was not a great preacher. But I do believe that Peter must have been a tremendous orator. You read his epistles one day and see the piling up of word upon word upon word. And very compound words that you’d be amazed a fisherman would ever get through his lips. But it must have been the outworking of the Holy Spirit. All right.
“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ...” (KJV)
In Greek it says a slave. A slave and an apostle. You and I would have been tempted to put it the other way around, wouldn’t we? An apostle and a slave. But he says a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ:
“to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: [this epistle is addressed to all who have obtained the same faith, that’s people such as us here this morning.] Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in your and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, [he’s shortsighted] and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (KJV)
Now I’d like to take those words and just work through them with you. Verse 2,
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you...”
The Christian life is a life of multiplication. It’s a life of continual increase. Never be satisfied to say “I’m saved, that’s it.” The moment you become static, you’re missing what God is doing. The Christian life is a life of continual growth. Paul said, “In him [God] we live and move.” If you live, you move. If you don’t move it’s questionable whether you’re still living. Some people have been sitting so long in the same pew that really you wonder whether they know what it is to live. This is a very dangerous idea that you just get saved and that’s it. It’s not in line with scripture the least bit. It’s grace and peace being multiplied unto you.
“Through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”
In the last resort, everything depends on the knowledge of God. John 17:3, Jesus said:
“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.”(KJV)
Life eternal is knowing God. It’s a direct, intimate, personal relationship with God. There’s a translation of John 17:3 which I think is very beautiful, it’s a kind of paraphrase. It says,
“This is the purpose of eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God.”
What is the purpose of the whole Christian life? It’s to know God. The more you know him, the more life you have.
Going on to verse 3,
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness...”
Now that’s a very important statement. I want you to notice the tense. It does not say God will give us all things, it says what? God has given us. God’s divine power has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Most important to understand that. God has already given us everything we’re ever going to need for time and eternity, for life and godliness, it is already given to us. So many times our prayers are frustrated because we’re asking God to give us something he has already given us. And God cannot really answer prayer on that basis because it would be a basis that’s not correct, it would not be the truth. And he is the God of truth.
All right. Now I want to explain to you in what sense and how God has already given us all that we’re ever going to need. It goes on in verse 3,
“Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
Again, we come back to the fact it’s all contained in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and of God revealing him. Everything that we’re ever going to need is in the knowledge of Christ.
But this is made practical and explicit in the next verse, verse 4,
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises...”
Where are the promises? In the word of God. Where is the provision? It’s in the promises. I’d like you to say that with me, or rather after me. “The provision is in the promises.” That’s right. Everything we’re ever going to need is already given to us. It’s in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it’s available through the promise. So you only have as much of God’s provision as you have claimed of his promises. Under the Old Covenant, under a leader named Joshua, God brought his people into a Promised Land. Under the New Covenant, under a leader named Jesus, [which is the same in Hebrew as Joshua] God brings his people into a land of promises. Our inheritance is the land of promise. And in that land every provision we will ever need is available. When God brought Israel into the Promised Land he explained at great length, everything you’re ever going to need is in the land. And it’s true with us. Everything we’re ever going to need is in the place that God is bringing us into. It’s not a Promised Land, it’s a land of promises. And then God said to Joshua, every place that you put the sole of your foot upon, becomes yours. And God says to you and me, every promise that you put the sole of your foot upon, becomes yours. It’s all that if you can find it in the promises. The provision is in the promises.
Now going on in verse 4, the second half of the verse,
“But by these [What are “these”? The promises.] ye might be partakers of the divine nature...”
I don’t know how to explain what a tremendous statement that is. Through the promises of God we are to become partakers of God’s own nature. We are to become not just like God, that’s too weak. God himself is to take his place in us. The more we appropriate the promises, the more we appropriate of God himself. We become partakers of the divine nature and look at the last part of the verse,
“having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
The word lust means strong misdirected, perverted desires. When man’s desires became misdirected, perverted and rebellious, corruption entered into him and into creation. The source of corruption is lust, perverted desires. But as we appropriate the promises of God, we’re delivered from lust and we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. And in place of corruption we become partakers of the divine nature. The two are absolutely opposite. The divine nature is opposite the corruption. Corruption is opposite to the divine nature. Whichever prevails, the other cannot be there. The more we take in of the divine nature, the less we have of corruption. And how do we do that? Through the promises. The more we appropriate the promises, the more we become partakers of God’s own nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.
How do we appropriate the promises? You could explain that in many different ways. But I once heard this explanation given. How many of you ladies cultivate indoor plants? That’s quite a lot of you. My wife is from Denmark and the Danes are tremendous on indoor plants. You go into a Danish home and you can hardly see the ceiling. And I remember in Palestine when we got married we lived in a house where my wife had a plant that the Arabs call a ?dahadia?. And it stood in a pot in one corner of the room, but it grew, it went right up the wall across the ceiling and down another wall. And one of the things that you do with those plants as they begin to reach up the wall, they’ll cling on to anything that they find. So as the plant grows, if you want to direct it, you know what you do? You just tack a little nail in the wall. And by some instinct which I don’t undertake to explain, the plant reaches out and curls around that nail. And then you want it to go a little higher so you put another nail in and it reaches around and curls around that. And you can direct approximately the course of the plant’s growth by the nails you put in the wall and the ceiling. Well I think that’s how God gets us growing. He puts a little promise in the wall just a little higher than we’ve reached before and we reach up to it, hold onto it, say we’ve arrived. And God says, oh no. There’s another nail just a little higher! And you reach out to that one. And our growth, in a certain sense, is like catching hold of the nails that are God’s promises. They draw us upward and upward and upward. And in every situation that you ever will find yourself, God’s provision is a promise.
When I was sick, and in the hospital and the doctors were unable to heal me, I cried out to God, I wept, I got depressed, I complained, I murmured. But one day I discovered a promise. And God, in effect, said to me, “You could have just saved yourself all that murmuring and complaining. Why didn’t you find the promise? It’s there.” The provision is in the promises.
All right. Now we bring this message to a conclusion by applying this in the area of Christian love. And we notice that Peter immediately goes on to apply this to the development of our Christian character. In other words, he’s putting the nails up on the wall. And he actually puts up seven nails. And every time you reach up, there’s another nail. Let’s look at them, you’ll find them in verses 5–7. 2Peter 1:5–7.
“Beside this, giving all diligence.”
The Christian life demands diligence. It demands the application of your whole personality. You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It demands a total commitment to God’s objectives. And personally, and I see so many young people here which blesses me, I was young myself once. You might not believe it, but I was. And when I was young, when I was about sixteen, you know what I was looking for? I was looking for something that I could commit myself to. I wanted to give myself totally to something. I wasn’t interested in something that just made minor claim. I was interested in something that challenged me. I was looking for something to sacrifice for. And I have to say with regret, that Christianity as I knew it in those days in England, did not make that claim. I turned it down because it was too easy and too ineffective. And I didn’t see Christians who were really applying what they claimed to believe. I looked in all sorts of other directions. But when I really came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and was baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was able to give my whole being to that. And I’ve never regretted it. I’ve often failed and stumbled, but I’ve never regretted that decision to go all the way with the Lord Jesus Christ.
All right. Now then,
“Giving all diligence, add to your faith...”
The basis of the Christian life is faith. Without faith it is impossible to please him. He that cometh to God must believe. So we begin by believing. But believing is not the end. It’s the basis. Now I want you to see you have to add seven things. There are seven steps, there are seven nails up the wall to climb up to, one after the other. Let’s look at them. Add to your faith, number one, virtue. To virtue, number two, knowledge. To knowledge, number three, temperance. To temperance, number four, patience. To patience, number five, godliness. To godliness, number six, brotherly kindness. And to brotherly kindness, number seven, charity or divine love. That’s what we’re talking about. And I want you to see that the New Testament clearly indicates it’s the result of a growth process. It isn’t something that just happened. It’s something you achieve. You grow up to it.
Now I believe this is true in our experience. We deceive ourselves if we claim to have divine love without a process of character building and testing. I think this is very clear. The summit to which we attain is charity: divine love. Let me give you some alternate readings or translations, rather, for some of those words. You’ll find most of these agree with the New American Standard and other translations. The word virtue is normally translated excellence. Knowledge we have no problems about. Temperance is normally translated in modern English, self control. Patience was what we spoke about the other night, that’s perseverance or endurance. Godliness is probably just a good enough translation. Brotherly kindness should be brotherly love. It’s love of the brothers. And then charity is agape, divine love, Christian love. Distinctive. It’s the climax.
All right. Let’s just look at those for a moment and see what’s involved in each one.
“Add to your faith excellence.”
I think the New American Standard says moral excellence. But that’s not entirely correct. ?Aritay? which is the Greek word is a very distinctive Greek word. It’s one of the words that’s hard to translate accurately into any other language. ?Aritay? does mean excellence. But it means excellence in whatever particular thing your excellence should be expressed. For instance, the ?aritay? or excellence of a horse is to run fast. The ?aritay? or excellence of a slave is to work hard and serve his master. The ?aritay? of a ruler is to rule well. In other words, it’s excellence in whatever you ought to be doing. And I believe this is tremendously important. The first thing we add to our Christian faith is excellence in whatever we ought to be doing. We become the best in our lives. And here’s the big problem with Charismatics. Many Charismatics are so sloppy, undisciplined and ineffective in their own walk of life. Don’t tell me it isn’t true. You get the idea, “Well, now I’m saved, it doesn’t matter how I do my job.” It matters more than it ever mattered before. In fact, I just question how much salvation you have if you don’t get twice as good at your job.
In East Africa for five years I trained African teachers. I was teaching them to be teachers. But my real deepest, innermost motive was to win them for Christ. And by the grace of God I was successful in winning most of my students over five years. Getting them saved and baptized in the Spirit. But I noticed that they had this attitude when they made a profession of faith in Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they expected me to judge their work and their classroom teaching more leniently. “Well now I’m a Christian, you show me a little favor.” And I used to say, “On the contrary, it’s exactly the opposite. If you could be a teacher without Jesus Christ, you ought to be twice as good a teacher with Jesus Christ. I’m not going to expect less of you, I’m going to expect more of you.” And I want to say this to the glory of God, in the third or fourth year that I was the principal of that college, we established a record for the whole education system of Kenya. We graduated that year fifty-seven students. And every student passed in every subject. And it had never happened in the records of the education department of the whole land of Kenya. And the representative of the education department that I dealt with, the one responsible for teacher training in our are was a Roman Catholic lady. And she wrote me a letter of congratulation which I still possess. And I have to say that I think that was one of the most effective testimonies of my faith. I won the respect of the entire education department. They granted money and facilities they wouldn’t grant to others. I believe that’s the way it ought to be. I believe those students succeeded because I trained them to succeed. I imparted faith to them that if they became Christians, they were going to succeed.
We had one student, this is just a little story, she was girl whose name I can’t remember now, some fancy African name. And she came from a very remote, primitive district. I was always recruiting students from areas where they didn’t have many teachers because I wanted to get them saved and get the gospel back through them. And I went up to this area and found two girls. This was an area where the men were all polygamists, they all had many wives. And one of these girls fascinated me because she’d run away to school. You know, most people run away from school. But she ran away from her home and went to school. She was a real clever girl, a girl of character. Incidentally, after she had been one year in our college, she was from a Methodist congregation, the elders of the Methodist congregation sent me a letter thanking me for what I had done for their girl. And I was Pentecostal. That, you know, it took a little bit for them to do that!
But this other girl, she was not bright. I would have never taken her if it hadn’t been for the fact there just wasn’t anything else. But she became a real committed Christian. She really lived her life for the Lord. And at the end of the first year, there was a two year course, the African teachers said, “You might as well let her go.” I wish I could remember her name, but I can’t remember what it was. Let’s call her Margaret, it wasn’t that, but we’ll call her that. Most of my students had very fancy Biblical names, you know, like Ezekiel or Jehoshaphat or something like that. I had a class full of prophets. And the girls would find rather strange names that you didn’t even know were in the Bible. But anyhow I cannot think of her name. So at the end of the first year, the African staff members said, “Why don’t you let her go? She’ll never pass.” Well, that was not their usual attitude. They wanted everybody to go through. So I prayed about it and it seemed the Lord said to hold onto her. So I held onto her. So then it came to the point where the exams came up and the first and the most important exam was in practical teaching where the government education department sent its examiners out and we went to the schools where these students had been practicing teaching and we watched them teach lessons. So this Roman Catholic lady who was in charge of the teacher training in that area was with me and we went and watched this girl Margaret teach. And she really tried, I mean she perspired with effort. But it was not good. So in the end, this lady said to me, “Well, Mr. Prince, I’m really sorry but I don’t think I can pass Margaret.” So I said, “Well, you’ve been very fair, you’ve given her a real good chance and I agree with you.” So then I had to break the news to Margaret. Now if she did not pass in teaching she could not pass her exams. So I said, “I’m sorry to tell you you failed in teaching. But you can still take your written examinations. But it won’t make any difference because even if you pass in your written examinations you fail.” So she in her simplicity said, “Well, I’ll be praying.” I thought how silly can you be. When you’ve already failed, what’s the good of praying? But she prayed. So we came to the written examinations and she did remarkably well, much better than I would have ever believed her capable. So I had to take all the written papers, bundles of them, down to the office of this lady who was the education representative, and I had to go through them with her. So we spent well over half a day going through all these papers and the marks and everything. And as I say, every student had passed in every subject. And she was pretty critical. She said, “I want to see what questions you asked, I want to see what kind of answers they gave, whether you really justified in passing them.” And about the middle of the afternoon she said, “I accept your marking.” And then she said, “So everybody’s passed except Margaret.” So I didn’t say anything. And I could see a kind of inner struggle going on in the mind of this lady and she said, “Well, after all, they really don’t have any teachers in that area even if she’s not the best, they do need teachers. And she’s done quite well in her written papers.” So I didn’t say anything. I just sat there and waited. She said, “I’ll tell you what, Mr. Prince. I’ll leave it up to you. If you decide Margaret is to pass, she’ll pass.” I said, “Well, if you leave it up to me she’ll pass.” And she did! So that proves it’s never silly to pray. She had more faith than I did.
Anyhow, we’re coming back to our theme, add to your faith what? Excellence. If you’re a janitor, be an outstanding janitor. If you’re a teacher, be an outstanding teacher. If you’re a nurse, be an outstanding nurse. If you’re an accountant, be the best one. This is a very powerful testimony. Let me tell you that recently I read a book which was explaining the methods used by the Communists. And how they take over factories through few men in a factory. And in essence, one of their principles was “every man in his particular job will be the best at his job”. And I believe Christians should be the same.
So we add to our faith excellence. To excellence we add knowledge. Now what kind of knowledge? Essentially the knowledge of God’s word and God’s ways. But it would be very dangerous to add knowledge if you hadn’t started with excellence. Because knowledge puffs up. But if you’re building your character at the same time, God can trust you with knowledge. I said in my lab class yesterday, “Our big mistake in training for the ministry is that we’ve imparted knowledge to people in seminaries without seeing to their character.” And what we got out is a lot of puffed up unbelievers.
All right. We’re going on because we don’t have long. As a matter of fact, I’m really getting to the essence of my message. We’re in verse 6. When you’ve got knowledge, you add to that temperance. What’s that? Self control. See, you can’t use more than a certain amount of knowledge unless you learn self control. And self control, I think, is one of the hurdles we all have to get over. You’ve got to keep yourself under control, your emotions. You do not let your emotions run away with you. There’s this matter of young men and young women getting related to one another. The Bible warns us very strongly, as Christians, from marrying unbelievers. If you know that, you can control your emotions that you don’t turn yourself loose in your relationship to an unbeliever. But if you don’t control your emotions, you get to the point in your relationship with a young person where you can’t turn back. You see, that’s lack of self control. Another point about that is it’s good to have your fellowship with other believers because sooner or later if you get particularly interested in one of them, you’ve chosen a believer. But if you run around with unbelievers, sooner or later you’re going to get emotionally entangled with one of them.
That’s only one aspect of self control. One of the things we all have to learn to control and the hardest one is which? The tongue, that’s right. A lot of people lose their blessing by talking too much. My wife used to have a class of Arab women that came to her in Palestine, and God wonderfully blessed them. And my wife is a person with a great deal of authority. And she would say to those women when they left the meeting, “Now don’t talk a lot on the way home. Keep your blessing. Get home with it. Don’t spill it out on the way.” And I’ve seen so many people go out of a meeting and spill the blessing before they even got as far as the canteen. Excessive, unprofitable talking. In the multitude of words, the Bible says, there wanteth not sin. You can’t talk too much without saying the wrong thing. It also says, and don’t get angry with me because I didn’t say it. But it says, “A fool’s voice is known by the multitude of words.” In other words, if you hear someone talking all the time, he’s telling you he’s a fool. Or it might be she.
All right. To self control we add godliness. What is godliness? I think godliness is a kind of way your relationship to God is real to the people round about you. Would you accept that definition? Where they know you know God. I noticed this in the Army. I’ve got to give personal examples because what’s the good of talking about somebody else? I was inducted into the British Army reluctantly as a conscientious objector in l940, and served in it till l946. And at the end of my first year in the Army the Lord saved me and baptized me in the Holy Spirit in an Army barrack room. I was too naive to know you had to go to church to get saved. Or baptized in the Spirit. So I got them both in a barrack. And before I got saved I was very much unsaved. And the Lord didn’t yank me out of that ungodly military atmosphere, put a dark suit on me and say go to seminary. He said you live like a Christian in the presence of the very people whom you’ve lived like an unbeliever. And I had to do that for five years. It was very good for me. But I discovered that after awhile my military comrades assessed the reality of my faith. And they were pretty proud of me, do you know that? It’s an amazing thing. They didn’t want to get converted, but they were proud of me. I remember one time I slipped and used a word I shouldn’t have used and they all got angry with me. “You shouldn’t have said that.” And they were right. Another time when we were really in danger, we were behind the enemy lines and cut off in a dust storm, those hard blaspheming soldiers would come to me and say, “I’m glad you’re with us, Corporal Prince.” They relied on me to protect them!
And I remember another occasion when I was in the office of a hospital admission office on the Mount of Olives, and a new soldier had come in to work with me. He had only been there about two weeks and I’d not said one word to him about the Lord. Not one word. But in the middle of some conversation with another soldier he used a swear word. And he stopped and looked at me and blushed bright red and he said, “I’m sorry, Corporal Prince, I didn’t know you were here.” Well, see, it wasn’t what I said, it was what he felt. He felt I had a relationship to God. I somehow conveyed the presence of God into that hospital office. That, I believe, is what the Bible calls godliness.
And then it says, beyond that, love of the brethren. Who are the brethren? Our fellow believers. Is it easy to love your fellow believers, be honest. Some of you may find it easy, I’ve often found it difficult. I mean, I think when I really love my fellow believers I’ve come a long way. You, if you haven’t found this in the Christian life, you’ll find it. The people who create the worst problems for you are your fellow believers. The world will never do things to you like other Christians will. This is a sober fact, I’m not saying it to be critical.
But remember, when you’ve got to love your fellow believers, you haven’t arrived at the top. There’s one more nail to coil around, what’s that? Charity, divine love. What’s the mark of divine love? What can you do beyond loving your fellow believers? Well, charity or divine love loves its enemies. And when you’re there and you live on that plane, in my opinion, you’re a mature believer. Your character has stood the test.
Let me say this and I’ll close. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the other systems that compete for the minds of men today. Judaism, Communism, Islam and so on. And you read their records, they all claim many, many martyrs. Judaism has many martyrs. People who died in agony and shame because they would not deny their Jewish faith. Communism has produced many martyrs. People who went to execution and rotted in prison because they believed in Communism. Islam has produced many martyrs who died for their faith. Died vainly, died willingly. I was thinking what has a Christian martyr got that goes beyond the martyrs of Communism, Judaism or Islam? And God showed me the Christian martyr loves those that kill him. And if we don’t do that, we don’t have any more than the Communists or the Jews. In fact, when it comes to dedication to their cause, they have a lot more than many of us. Now I don’t believe that you become a martyr by accident. I don’t believe most of us could become martyrs. God couldn’t trust us with it. And I’m not aiming at martyrdom, let me tell you that. That’s not my objective. It may be the consequence, but it’s not the objective. But I believe you will never be a martyr till you learn to lay your life down daily. Laying your life down for Jesus Christ at the stake, or before a firing squad is the expression of a life of a continuing practice of self denial day by day by day. There’s a process of character building that we have to go through to come to love. Amen.