This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
We’re going to make a proclamation, as we always do, God helping us. This proclamation is taken from 1 John 4:7–11 and verse 16. You might be interested to research that from the beginning of chapter 4, verse 7, to the end of the chapter, the word love as an adjective, noun or a verb occurs twenty-eight times in those verses. We’re not going to quote them all but we’re going to quote some of them.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
I’m sorry, but I tend to get emotional. It’s not through desire because I was brought up not to be emotional. If ever anybody was trained in the school of the stiff upper lip, it was I. I won’t go into all my background but I’m from a military family and I was educated in boarding schools in this country from the age of 9 through the age of 25. And, emotion had very little place in our lives. Indeed, it was a good family but love was something we never discussed.
I came to know the Lord Jesus on the last Thursday night in July 1941. In an Army barrack room in the middle of the night I had a dramatic personal encounter with Jesus Christ which totally and permanently changed my life. I am not perfect but I am different from what I was before I met Jesus.
Twelve years later in 1953 when I was pastoring a small assembly in Bayswater, in London, about 2:00 am one night the Lord woke me up and spoke to me audibly. It’s the only time in my life that I actually heard God speak to me. I’ve never forgotten one word that He spoke at that time. I will quote a little of it but not all of it. There was no preamble, no introduction, no explanation, He simply said this:
“There shall be a great revival in the United States and Great Britain.”
Then He told me something about may personal ministry which I will not quote, and He ended with these words:
“But the condition is obedience in small things and in great things; for the small things are as great as the great things.”
I have never doubted God spoke those words to me and 40 years have no passed and I was reminded in the prayer room before we came in of Caleb. I told the brother who reminded me it was unusually appropriate because Caleb said, “Forty years have passed but I intend to go into the inheritance.” And that’s my intention, too.
I believe God is going to send a great revival. He’s not going to revive the whole of Britain but He’s going to revive the church in Britain. And that will impact the whole nation. It’s easy to prophesy revival. I’ve heard one or two prophecies given that really were self defeating because just to say there is a revival or there will be revival tends to leave people feeling “I don’t have to do much about it.” But that’s not true. I believe there will be revival when God’s people meet His conditions. It’s not an unconditional promise.
In the messages that I hope to bring to you this week I propose to deal with seven issues that we have to face if we really expect revival. Since about 1991 God spoke to Ruth and me and said, “I don’t want you to go anywhere except when I send you.” Before that we would accept invitations and go, we were always prayerful, but God has limited us now to go only where He sends us. I believe He has sent us here.
So tonight I’m going to deal with the first of what I call the seven issues. I’m not going to give a title to it. I was asked to give a title by the man who does the recording but I’m not going to make the title public, I’ll let you discover it. I want to turn, to start with, to Romans 8:3–4.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God id by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
As I understand that, what Paul is saying is God has never expected us to achieve righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was perfect, it was God given. The fault is not in the law, the fault is in us. But because we could not achieve righteousness by keeping the law, God provided an alternative way through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus Himself was the only Jew, I believe, who ever perfectly kept the Law of Moses. And ultimately, He gave His life as an atonement for the sins of all those who had broken the law and also for the sins of those who had never been under the law. So, we are not required to achieve righteousness by obeying the Law of Moses. Can you say thank God? Because, the Law of Moses was pretty tough. And yet God says it’s perfectly possible to do it but none of us did.
So, what is the alternative? This is the issue that I want to raise tonight, what is the alternative? If we’re not required to keep the Law of Moses, how can we achieve righteousness with God? The theme of Romans is righteousness. In Job 9:3 Job asked a question out of his perplexity and misery:
“How can a man be righteous before God?”
And Job’s friends, if you can call them friends, ridiculed the idea that anybody could ever be righteous with God. But many hundreds of years later God gave His answer. How can a man be righteous with God? The answer is found in the epistle to the Romans. The righteousness of God which is revealed by faith to faith is described and fully unfolded in the epistle to the Romans. So, God says you’re not required to observe the law but Paul says “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not work according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” We are not required to observe the law but we are required to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law.
That word in Greek is dikaoma. The Greek word for righteousness is dikaosune. So dikaosune, righteousness, is a kind of general concept. Dikaoma is a specific outworking of it. The same word is translated or used in Revelation 19 when it says “the fine linen of the saints if the righteous acts of the saints.” So, the word we’re talking about is righteousness in action, righteousness worked out, righteousness made practical. And this we are required to observe. Let me read those words again.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
That raises a question of vital importance for every Christian, which is what is the righteous requirement of the law? What is it that we are required to fulfill? We’re not required to keep the Law of Moses but we are required to keep the righteous requirement of the law. And the theme of my message is simply the answer to the question what is the righteous requirement of the law? I am simpleminded enough to believe that it can be answered in one word of four letters. How many of you know the word? Love, that’s right. Love is the righteous requirement of the law. We are expected to observe that. We are not required to keep the entire Law of Moses but we are required to observe the righteous requirement of the law.
Let me give you just a number of scriptures that confirm what I’ve said. We’ll turn, first of all, to Matthew 22:35 and following. This is a conversation between Jesus and the teacher of the Law of Moses.
“Then one of them, a lawyer [or a teacher], asked Jesus a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Notice He did not hedge, He did not compromise, He was absolutely clear. The two great commandments are love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.
And then He went on to say:
“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”
The Law and the prophets represent what we today call the Old Testament. So, suppose that I wanted to take my jacket off, which I don’t, and I wanted to hang it up on a peg somewhere. One simple fact stands out, the peg would have to be there before I could hang the jacket on it. Jesus said all the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. The primary commandments that was there before the Law and the prophets are the commandments to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Then in Romans 13:8–10 Paul writes this:
“Owe no one anything...”
I’m not going to preach on that but it’s rather a demanding statement, isn’t it? Owe no one anything. Don’t be in debt.
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Love is the righteous requirement of the law.
And then one further scripture, and we could choose many others, but in Galatians 5:14 Paul says:
“For all the law if fulfilled in one word, even in this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Notice, the whole law is fulfilled in one word. What is the word? I didn’t hear you. Say it again. That’s better.
Now, in John 13 Jesus, I would say, related His teaching to what had gone before, to the Law of Moses and the Old Testament. And in John 13:34–35 Jesus said to His disciples:
“A new commandment I give you...”
Moses had given them ten commandments plus a whole set of regulations. Contemporary Judaism has 613 commandments, if you want to know. Jesus said, “I’ll only give you one commandment. That’s all. If you fulfill this that’s all I ask.”
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
What is the commandment? To love one another the way Jesus has loved us.
And then He goes on to say:
“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
One thing I like about Good News Crusade is they have a powerful vision for evangelism. I share that vision. I have evangelized many ways in many places to many people. But I recognize one thing: that no evangelist and no evangelism will ever reach the whole human race. There’s only one thing that will reach the whole human race.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”
That is the testimony that will reach the entire world, it is the love of Christians for one another.
And then I want to turn to one of my favorite scriptures which isn’t often quoted in 1 Timothy 1:5–6.
“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned as die to idle talk...”
So Paul says the commandment, whether you take it’s the Law of Moses or you take it’s the one commandment Jesus gave, the purpose of the commandment is summed up in one word, love. And three conditions are given for having that kind of love: a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.
I like the New American Standard Version of that verse, it says:
“The goal of our instruction is love...”
And when I first read that it caused me to pause and think. I’ve been a preacher for goodness knows how long, 50 years probably, at least. I asked myself what has been the goal of my instruction? What have I aimed to produce in the people that listen to me? I had to say if it has been love I have often failed.
To those of you who are preachers, teachers, Sunday School teachers or whatever you are that in some way has an active ministry, I want to ask you this question: What is the goal of your instruction? What is it that you are aiming to produce in the people who listen to you? If you’re a pastor, what are you aiming to produce in your church? Because if you’re not aiming to produce love, Paul says everything else is idle talk or vain discussion, the NASB says. That’s a very searching thought. I suggest to you that a great deal of contemporary Christian activity is misdirected because it is not aimed at producing the one thing that has to be our objective. And if it is aimed, frequently it’s missing the mark. If you were to talk to the people who were not Christians in this country and say, “What is the attitude of people who call themselves Christians to one another?” very few people would answer love. Very few. The unsaved, in many ways, are more observant than the saved. We get so used to a kind of religious procedure that we call Christianity that we take it for granted this must be the right thing. This is the way everything is done, this is how people do it; how could we do it differently? I want to say it to you, and I say it first and foremost to myself as a preacher, if I am not producing love in the people who listen to my teaching, hear my tapes, read my books, whatever it may be, it’s all idle talk, it’s vain discussion, it’s empty words, it’s wasted time. I think it’s a shocking consideration. How much time is wasted in churches because it doesn’t produce the one thing that is required of us? The righteous requirement of the law is summed up in one word, love.
In 1 Peter 1, Peter gives us the primary evidence of being born again. Now many of you here this evening would claim to be born again. I have to confess I’m almost tired of hearing the phrase born again. My citizenships, one in Britain, one in America—I have a third, too, in heaven. But, I’ve lived most of my past thirty years or so in the United States. It is frequently claimed in America today there are 40 million born again Christians in America. My response is where are they and what are they doing? Because the country is going downhill with incredible rapidity. I think the words “born again” have become a cliché that have been used by people that want to be respectful but don’t want to change their lifestyle, don’t want to undergo any radical transformation but want to think of themselves as nice people who are headed for heaven. But this is what Peter says about the new birth:
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”
What is the evidence that we have been born again in one word? I didn’t hear you. Thank you. Peter says you couldn’t love the way you love if you’ve been born again. But that’s not enough, he says go on and purify your hearts till you love one another with a pure heart fervently. And that is directly associated with the new birth. A whole lot of teaching about the new birth absolutely misses the mark and deceives people. I’m afraid that there are a lot of well meaning people who think they will get to heaven who will be disappointed. They use the term born again as a sort of passport.
Being saved is more than a change of a label. You used to sit in the church and you had on the label “sinner.” Now you sit there and you’ve got on the label “saved” or “born again.” Salvation is not just going forward in a church, shaking the pastor by the hand, going forward in a crusade, signing a decision card, or going through any other kind of religious rigmarole. Being saved is a total life transformation which takes you from darkness to light and makes you no longer a slave of Satan but a slave of God. If there’s one truth that needs to be emphasized today in Britain and in the United States and in other countries with a long Christian heritage, it is that salvation isn’t what a lot of people call it. And some of you here tonight who call yourselves saved, frankly, you are not saved. You’re mildly religious, you’re a little better than some of your neighbors but your relationship with God is very insecure and shaky.
Then in 1 John 4, the passage that Ruth and I quoted, we have the evidence that a person knows God. We’ll just read two verses, 7 and 8:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
If you plumb that statement to its depths, it’s remarkable because it means there is a kind of love that a person cannot have unless he’s been born again. Only those who have been born again can have that kind of love. If all you have or I have is the kind of love that is known around the world, it’s no evidence that we’ve been born again.
Then John goes on to say:
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
What’s the evidence that you know God in one word? I didn’t hear you. That’s right. A lot of people that I know, and I deal with a whole lot of people from different backgrounds, different denominations, different nationalities; I would say if they’re saved they’re saved by a stranger. Let me give you a little example. There you are in a river sinking for the third time. Somebody plunges in from the bank, rescues you, fishes you out, puts you wet and dripping as you are in the seat of his beautifully upholstered car, drives you off to his home, takes off your dripping clothes, gives you a new set of clothes to wear, takes care of your needs, then says, “From now on, let’s be friends. You know where I live, here’s my phone number, you can phone me any time you like. Come see me.” That person never goes back to the one who saved him from drowning. I would say saved by a stranger, saved but you never come to know the person who saved you.
He who does not love does not know God. You may not know a lot of scripture, you may have a lot of religious theory, you may be a member of a church, but if you don’t love you don’t know God—and you’re much the poorer for it. Because, if there’s one person who is really worthwhile getting to know, it’s God.
Now let’s turn for a moment to the connection between faith and works. We’ll turn to the epistle of James. Some people think there was a conflict between James and Paul. I don’t, I think they stated two opposite aspects of the same truth.
Before I was saved I was a professional philosopher and my subject was logic. I’d like to say just a word of personal testimony. The most logical book I have ever read is the Bible. The most logical book in the Bible is the epistle to the Romans. Their logic is absolutely flawless. There are no inconsistencies, they are correct all through.
Let’s look at James 2:26.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
So, what James is saying is you can say you have faith but if it doesn’t express itself in what you do it’s a dead faith. You can say to somebody, “Be warmed and fed, have a good time,” but if you don’t sacrifice and give them what they need it’s just empty words. What James is saying is merely professing faith is not enough. He doesn’t say it’s wrong, he says it’s insufficient. It has to be worked out by the things you do, what is called in the Bible works.
How is faith expressed in works? What is the Biblical way to express our faith in works? There is one scripture, let’s go back to Galatians, one of my favorite epistles. Galatians 5:6. Let me say this, if you’ve never been shocked by what you’ve read in the Bible, you’ve never read the Bible, because it is a shocking book. And, it’s most shocking for religious people. I think it was Mark Twain who said, “It isn’t the scriptures that I don’t understand that trouble me, it’s the one I do understand.” Galatians 5:6:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love.”
How does faith work? I didn’t hear you. Thank you.
So when we have faith but it doesn’t work through love, what kind of faith do we have? A dead faith. Faith without works is dead. Faith works through love. Therefore, faith without love is dead. Would you dare to say that after me?
“Faith without love is dead.”
Now turn and say it to your neighbor on the right or the left.
“Faith without love is dead.”
You’ve said a very significant and far reaching statement. You don’t know what you’ve put your foot in because what it means is you may have the most meticulously accurate doctrinal faith, dot every “i” and cross every “t,” and yet your faith may be totally dead if it isn’t expressed in love.
The problem is, and this is merely my personal observation, the majority of church activity in this nation today isn’t even aimed at producing love. It’s aimed at establishing certain doctrinal truths or commenting on the political situation or the situation in the Middle East.
I’ve said this many times to people. If you aim at nothing you can be sure you’ll hit it. I don’t want to seem critical but I am British, I mean, I grew up in this nation, I was christened, confirmed. And, you may be surprised to know, Ruth and I attend an Anglican church every week in Jerusalem, and we love it. I was a rebel against the Anglican church for many years, I said a lot of unkind things about it, from experience. They weren’t untrue but they were unkind. I think God wouldn’t let me finish my life’s career without putting it right with the Anglican church. Today all my complaints are laid down; all my criticisms, I no longer bother to make them. It is so easy to criticize the church, it doesn’t require any cleverness. But to change a church, that is a task.
So, faith without love is dead.
Let me give you just a little bit, for the Pentecostals, the Charismatics, people like myself who speak in tongues and believe in spiritual gifts. I never knew there was a way to be a Christian without speaking in tongues because when I got saved I spoke in tongues. It took me a long while to discover there was any other kind of Christian. So believe me, if there’s anybody here who believes in speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts, I’m one of them.
But listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels...”
That’s startling. Has it ever occurred to you that you may not be speaking in a human tongue but in the tongue of angels? When I was in the deserts of North Africa, after I had met the Lord, I had no Christian fellowship. I had to have fellowship with the Lord and I used to pray many, many time in tongues. I observed that I used one tongue which had “s” sounds in it and I’ve often wondered whether that was an angelic tongue. I don’t know but at least it’s perfectly possible according to scripture to talk not merely in the tongues of men but also of angels.
Paul says even if I do that:
“...and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”
I’m just an empty noise without love. Somebody said is it possible to misuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit? The answer is most definitely yes. Any use without love is a misuse.
And then Paul goes on:
“Although I have the gift of prophecy [now that’s very popular today], and understand all mysteries and all knowledge [I have the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge], and though I have all faith [which is another thing that is very popular today], so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
It’s easy for us to think of other people to whom that might apply but why don’t we see if it applies to us.
And then he goes on to say:
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
I thought about that. There are some ministers who’ve profited others but it has not profited them. You can help other people but be unhelped yourself without love.
And then in the next chapter, chapter 14, Paul says:
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts...”
So Paul is not against spiritual gifts but he says get your priorities right. Priority number one is not spiritual gifts, it’s love. I think whoever translated the New Testament recently, J.B. Philips, he translated this “make love your aim.” I think that’s a good translation. Make love your aim.
I want to say to you while you’re in this camp during this week, which is set apart, will you do that? Will you make love your aim? If you do you’ll leave here different from when you came. I want to make love my aim.
There are two ways, primarily, that God imparts His love to us. I just want to mention them without going into great detail. The first one is by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 says:
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
So the Holy Spirit pours out the love of God into our hearts. I don’t think there’s any limit on God’s side, He just pours out His love. The limit is on our side, how much do we receive? I have enjoyed that experience, I’ve had the love of God poured out in my heart in the Holy Spirit.
I’ll give you just one brief example. Serving as a soldier in North Africa, after I had come to know the Lord, I ended up in a very remote barren, inhospitable corner of what is now the Sudan. Before I got to my actual destination which was a small military hospital on the Red Sea Hills I was detained for a few weeks in what the British army calls a reception station. And, for the first time in three years of army life I didn’t have to sleep in my underwear because this reception station was equipped with three beds with nightgowns and with everything that could make you comfortable. I had no patients, I thought why not enjoy a bed which I hadn’t slept in, and wear a nightgown rather than sleep in my underwear, which is what I was used to sleeping in. Well, one night I began to pray for the people of the Sudan and the particular tribe I’m thinking of is called the Hundondewah. They are not attractive people, they are war-like, aggressive, they’ve known no religion but Islam all their lives. The men have a habit of fixing their hair with mutton fat so that it stands about eight inches above their head. There is nothing you would say would be outwardly attractive or appealing. But that night as I began to pray, God poured out His love in my heart for those people. I couldn’t even lie on the bed, I had to get up and pace up and down across the floor of the room, pouring my heart out for these people whom I didn’t know and whom I had no natural reason for loving whatever. If I can say this and I hope I will not be misunderstood, as I was doing that in the darkness I discovered that my white nightgown was gleaming. It was supernaturally illuminated. I glimpsed somehow that I had become identified with Jesus, the great intercessor, for a few brief moments. Later I had the privilege of leading to the Lord the first member of that tribe who had ever confessed Jesus Christ as Savior.
I say that because in a little measure I understand what it means when it says “the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” But I want to tell you at the end of that experience I was still a very imperfect, immature Christian. You might not believe it but I was often irritable, selfish, self centered, insensitive and I easily got angry—after all that.
I’m not belittling the experience but I want to point out to you it takes more than that to change your character. And God has another means to do it, His other instrument which is His Word. It is not the Spirit alone or the Word alone but it’s the Word and the Spirit working together—which has been God’s way ever since creation. Because if you read the account of creation in Genesis 1:2, “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:3, “God spoke...” And when the Word and the Spirit were combined, creation took place. And that’s how God works in our lives, by the Word and the Spirit combined.
Let’s look at what God says about the Word. 1 John 2:5:
“But whoever keeps His [God’s] Word, truly the love of God is perfected in Him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
So how is the love of God brought to perfection in us? By what? By keeping His Word. It’s not the Spirit alone, not the Word alone; but the Spirit working with the Word.
I want to give you one of my favorite scriptures as we come to a close. I believe there is a progress in the Christian life, an upbuilding of character. The climax is love but there are six steps to get there. Love is the seventh step. If you have a Bible before you, turn to 2 Peter 1:5:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue...”
The basis of everything in the Christian life is faith but on that faith we are to add seven successive stages of character development. The first one is virtue. I prefer to translate that excellence because it’s a very broad word which has many meanings. For instance, the virtue of a horse is to run fast. I always like to emphasize that the first evidence that you have been saved is you should become excellent. If you were a teacher before you were saved you should become an excellent teacher. If you were a bus driver you should become an excellent bus driver. If you were a doctor or a dentist you should become excellent. Excellence should be the mark of Christians. The first thing we add is excellence.
“...to excellence knowledge...”
I don’t believe that means scientific or intellectual knowledge primarily but it means the knowledge of God’s will revealed through His Word. We need that knowledge to progress.
“...then to knowledge self-control...”
This is a virtue that is very little spoke of in contemporary Christianity. But if you do not add self control you’ll never progress any further because any time you’re about to progress you’ll lose control of yourself, you’ll lose your temper, you’ll lose to lust, you’ll yield to excessive appetites, you’ll yield to ungodly emotions, you’ll yield to such things as depression and unbelief, and that stops your progress. Self control is an essential step on the total progress.
And then it says:
“...to self-control perseverance [or endurance]...”
And again, this is essential because in the process of maturing you will encounter tests, trials and obstacles. If you haven’t acquired endurance you’ll give up. And when you give up your progress ceases.
There’s a scripture in James that Ruth and I recite but it really convicted Ruth at a certain time because she was going through a real struggle for her health. And every time one thing got better something else got worse. Then she read in James 1:
“We count it all joy when we fall into various trials...”
The Holy Spirit convicted her, “You’re sinning, you’re disobeying the Word of God. You’re not counting it all joy.”
And then it goes on:
“We count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. But we let endurance have its perfect work that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Do you want to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing? Then you have to cultivate endurance, there’s no other way. Otherwise, every time God puts you into a process that’s designed to make you perfect and complete, you give up and your progress ceases.
These two things, self-control and endurance, are what I call the bottleneck. If you can’t get through them you can’t make any further progress.
So, after self-control, now we get to the really good ones.
“...to endurance godliness...”
My definition of godliness is a temperament controlled by the Holy Spirit. All your reactions and responses are controlled by the Holy Spirit. The mark of a godly person is that when he enters the room God enters with him. He carries the presence of God with him. That’s godliness.
There’s still two more, we’ve only got to number five.
Number six, brotherly kindness. That means loving your fellow believers. Some of us haven’t got to stage six. I have to confess that not all Christians are always easy to love. I think I’m probably one of them. People have come to me years later and said, “Brother Prince, I have to forgive you.” Other people have said, “You’ve changed a lot!” I understood what they meant, I had to acknowledge it was true.
But brotherly kindness is not the end, there’s one more, a four letter word. Love. That in Greek is agape. That means the love that loves your enemies, that loves the people that persecute you, that means the people that don’t understand you, love the people that are different to you. That is the climax of the Christian life, that’s the pinnacle. But there’s a process and there are two agents that God uses, the Holy Spirit—and you can have these glorious spiritual experiences. I’ve read the lives of missionaries and others who had glorious spiritual experiences. I’m thinking of Hudson Taylor whose life I was reading recently. But even after that glorious experience when he was filled with the love of God, he had a lot of personal problems and he wasn’t always easy to live with. A great man of God. But, we have to go through the process. No one is exempt. You can’t get there by any other route than God’s appointed route.
Let’s say it again. To your faith you add excellence, to excellence you add knowledge, to knowledge you add self control, to self control you add perseverance or endurance, to perseverance you add godliness, to godliness you add brotherly kindness [love of your fellow believers], and to brotherly kindness you add love. And as far as I’m concerned, that is the pinnacle, that is the goal. That’s the destination for every Spirit filled believer.
Now, I have a wish for this camp, for all of us. I can say at the moment I love every one of you. I don’t know you but I have the love of God in my heart for you at this moment. My prayer, and I want to submit this to Don Double and the team, my prayer is that somehow the love of God will be poured out on us during this week, that not one of us will leave the same. I pray that a fountain of love will be opened in this camp that will flow out at the end of the week in little rivulets that reach every part of Great Britain in your lives. Can you say amen to that?
Now I want to make a confession because I have learned by experience that unconfessed sin is the barrier to God’s blessing. There are other barriers but that is number one and the most serious and most common. You see, a lot of Christians don’t realize God says “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” But there’s an if and you may read the Bible differently from me but I do not find that God has ever committed Himself to forgive a sin that has not been confessed. So, if we want our sins forgiven, what do we have to do? Confess. Are you sure? Are you willing? It could be painful. It may take you half the week to get through them.
Listen, don’t start to analyze yourself. Don’t probe into yourself because the further you probe the worse you’ll feel. Let the Holy Spirit do it. Jesus said in one gospel, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons,” and in another gospel He said, “If I by the finger of God cast out demons.” So what is God’s finger? The Holy Spirit. Let God put His finger on every area of your life that you need to confess.
I want to tell you, having preached this message, I have to confess many, many times I have not loved as I ought to have loved. Many times I’ve been critical, self-righteous, judgmental, self-centered and insensitive. When I think back of the children that I helped to raise, and between us Ruth and I are responsible for twelve children, I think the thing I regret most is insensitivity. I was an only child, I had no brothers or sisters, I grew up on my own, I learned to live my life my way. It’s taken me years to arrive at the point when I’m even aware if somebody else doesn’t feel good. I also learned this, that when people come up and ask me theological questions, usually it’s not a theological answer that they want, they want love, they want help, they want comfort. Theology is just a way of saying, “Help me, I need to be loved.”
I want to confess that before you all because I want to ask God to forgive me. If I don’t confess I know He will not forgive. If I do confess I believe He will forgive.
Now, I want to ask you if you would feel it appropriate tonight that those of us who have not been as loving as we ought to have been would stand up, confess it privately to God and ask God’s forgiveness. And then ask God to pour out His love on us in a new dimension. I’m not asking you to tell anybody else except God but if you say here tonight, “God, when I compare my love with your love and with the love of the early church, I am just an empty vessel.”
Now then, I’m going to pray a prayer and you say amen and then take off and pray your own prayer.
“Lord, we want to confess before you tonight, as your believing people, we have failed you. We have misrepresented you. We’ve given the world the wrong impression of the kind of people we are. We have not caused them to know we are your disciples because we have love one for another. We have often been self righteous, critical and condemnatory, and self centered. Lord, we’ve failed in many other ways but tonight you have spoken to our hearts and we want to acknowledge before you we have failed. We have sinned. We’ve broken the first and greatest of all commandments, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul and mind. We’ve broken the second commandment because we haven’t loved our neighbors as ourselves. All we can do tonight is say we’re sorry, forgive us. Forgive us. Forgive us. Change our hearts. Send your Holy Spirit to do in us and for us what only you can do.”
That’s your prayer. If you can identify with that just say amen. Amen.
“And now, Lord, I want to pray that on the basis of your forgiveness and our humbling ourselves before you, you will pour out your love on this camp this week in a new measure, in a new degree, that you’ll open a fountain of love in the midst of us that will flow out in the lives of the people that are here to all the corners of Britain where people are longing for love. They’re not wanting religion, they’re wanting love. You have chosen us to be your vessels and your channels. Tonight, Lord, start right where we are. Start with us and do whatever needs to be done to change us, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”