This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Ruth and I are going to make our final proclamation this evening for these meetings, taken from Titus 2:11–14, which are some of the most beautiful and powerful verses in the whole Bible.
“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men; teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
That’s a tremendous thought, isn’t it, that Jesus is purifying for Himself His own special people.
My theme tonight is “How to Live in a World Falling Apart.” I’m 78 years old, as you’ve heard. I’ve lived the early part of my life mainly in Britain. I’ve lived also in Kenya, Israel, the United States, I’ve lived in a good many parts of the world. My personal perspective out of scripture and the life that I’ve lived is that the world is falling apart. Every day you see evidence in the newspapers that the situation is out of control. Politicians cannot control it, the scientists cannot control it, the education specialists cannot control it.
I could spend the entire message just demonstrating that the world is falling apart. I don’t want to do that because I want to give you my answer which is how to live in a world falling apart. I will just mention briefly, and passing quickly through them, a few passages of scripture which all, I believe, focus on the present age in which we’re living. I want to come to my advice. After all, I’ve had a good life. It hasn’t been easy but I can say like the psalmist, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.” I’m deeply concerned for anybody from age 18 upwards who is facing life and has to make choices and doesn’t know exactly which way to go. I want to offer you some advice.
Let me just briefly run through a few of the scriptures that deal with the present age as I see it. Luke 17:26–30, Jesus gave a picture of what it would be like in the last days. He said in His picture:
“As it was in the days of Noah, and as it was in the days of Lot, so it will be in the days when the Son of man is about to return...”
I believe those are the days in which we are living. I want to give you, without turning to the scripture, six features of the days of Noah and Lot, just listing them. I could give you scripture references but I’m not going to do that. Here are four features of the days of Noah, and I believe the first one is the most important.
The human race was infiltrated from the kingdom of Satan by evil angels. Personally, I believe the same is happening in humanity today.
Second, every thought of man’s heart was evil.
Thirdly, the earth was filled with violence. And that I think describes exactly the earth we live in today.
And fourthly, there were sexual perversions rampant.
And then we add one special feature from the days of Lot which was blatant aggressive homosexuality.
When I was growing up the word homosexual hardly was ever mentioned, it was a thing you didn’t talk about. And one knew there were a few people like that. Oscar Wilde was perhaps the great example. But they were in hiding, they didn’t come out in the public. Today homosexuals are some of the most aggressive people in the world. Is that right? It’s amazing. So it was in the days of Lot. When Lot’s two visitors came, all the men of the city, all the men of the city gathered around and said, “Bring out the men, we want to have sex with them.” That’s basically where it’s at today and I don’t think it will be long before our homes are likely to be invaded by men who say, “Bring out your men, your boys, we want to have sex with them.” It’s come to that already in some places—in San Francisco, for instance.
Then one feature of the whole of that time was materialism. They were eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, building, planting, buying and selling. There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities but they were so deeply immersed in them that they didn’t know what was coming on earth. I believe the same is true of the majority of professing Christians in this nation. They are so taken up with materialism that they don’t understand the judgments of God that are coming upon this nation and other nations.
And then in Matthew 24:7 Jesus is speaking about the birth pangs, or the labor pains, that would introduce a new age. And not, quote, The New Age, but a new age when the kingdom of God will be established on earth. Speaking about those labor pains He says, amongst others, there will be war of nation against nation. Now, the interesting thing is that the Greek word for nation is ethnos from which we get the world ethnic. I think ethnic conflict is one of the great labor pains of the new age. It is spreading with unbelievable rapidity in the whole of Russian, Eastern Europe, Africa and many other places. Groups that have been able to live together in comparative peace are now at one another’s throats across the earth. I believe it will affect such nations as the United States, which has a great multiplicity of ethnic groups. I expect at some time they’ll be involved in civil war against one another. I don’t exclude the possibility from Britain. I think it’s one of the most distinctive characteristics of the age in which we live.
Then in 2 Timothy 3:1–5 Paul says:
It’s very emphatic. Be certain of this one thing.
“...that in the last days perilous times will come.”
But that word that’s translated perilous is only used in one other place in the Greek New Testament and that is to describe two demon possessed men coming out of the tombs exceedingly fierce. That’s the same word. So in the last days fierce times are going to come. It’s become very real at least to me.
Paul gives the reason. It’s not scientific development or the development of nuclear fission, it’s the corruption of human nature. Paul says, “Men will be...” and he lists eighteen moral and ethical defects which will characterize humanity near the close of this age. And if you look at the world today, basically all of them are conspicuous. One thing I saw through studying scripture some years back is this: Corruption is irreversible.
Let me take a simple example. You have a beautiful peach. It’s all ripe and ready to eat but if you just leave it, it begins to wither and rot because there is the force of corruption in it and nothing can reverse that force. You can put the peach in the refrigerator and the refrigerator will slow down the process of corruption but it will not reverse it. I hope you will forgive me if I say it but I think some churches are like refrigerators. They do slow down the process but they don’t reverse it. God doesn’t begin with all of that, He says you’ve got to be born again. You’ve got to have a totally new start, a new nature free from the corruption of sin.
And interestingly, out of the eighteen features that Paul lists, the first one is men will be lovers of self, then lovers of money and, at the end of the list, lovers of pleasure. Can you think of three words that better describe the culture in which we live today? Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure.
But the key word is love of self. I believe that’s the root out of which all the rest grow. When we begin to love ourselves more than anyone or anything else, society breaks down. It’s self love that breaks up the family, that breaks up marriages. The man says to his wife, “If you don’t like the way I live I can find another wife.” The wife says the same to her husband. Then parents say, “We want to lead our own life, we don’t want to be tied down with the responsibility of children.” Self-love. And it goes beyond, it goes further. In the political situation in the United States today, basically politics are dominated by various pressure groups, all of them seeking their own objectives. Very few of them have any real concern for the welfare of the United States. What is the problem? Self-love. I believe out of that comes the breakdown of the family, and out of the breakdown of the family comes the breakdown of society, and out of the breakdown of society comes anarchy. And, if I’m right, out of anarchy comes tyranny, despotism, dictatorship. I believe many democracies that are crumbling and cannot hold together will ultimately give way to dictatorships. And there will be one final dictatorship, the worst of all, the rule of the antichrist. I believe that’s where we’re headed and it could all happen before this century closes. I’m not saying it will but I think it’s perfectly possible. I think the time is later than most of us are willing to admit.
You might say well, history is full of examples of the things you’ve been talking about. That’s true but I think none of them on the same scale and the same worldwide manifestation as we have today. Let me point out to you there’s one absolutely unique feature of this age which is without any prior occurrence since the first century. Since the first century to the 20th century there’s one thing that happened this century that had never happened before. And it is the regathering of the Jews in their own country, the restoration of the state of Israel. There is no parallel to that in any previous century. I believe it is the decisive indication of how near we are to the close of the age. Somebody said the Jews are the minute hand on God’s prophetic clock. And by my reading of the clock, the minute hand stands at about two minutes to midnight.
Let me read just a passage from Jeremiah to substantiate what I’ve said. In Jeremiah 30:3 God says:
“For behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will bring back from captivity [or from exile] my people Israel and Judah, says the Lord. And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.”
Now anybody that has any knowledge of the Bible whatever knows without question there’s only one land that God gave to the forefathers of the Jewish people, that is the land which today is called Israel. And let me say the mere restoration of the name Israel is one of the most significant features of our age.
My first wife Lydia and I were living in Jerusalem when the state of Israel was born. Right up to almost the last moment they were debating what name to give it. They were very much in favor of the name of Judea. But you see, it was contrary to scripture because God says when they come back they will no longer be two kingdoms, the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel, they will be one kingdom. And at the last moment the name Israel was chosen. God was in all of that.
Now in connection with that, at the end of Jeremiah 30 the Lord says:
“In the latter days you will consider it.”
So the restoration of the Jewish people to their own land is something that indicates we’re in the latter days.
Now I’m going to come to the practical question, and this is addressed to everybody here, even those who are older than I am. Primarily I have in mind the younger people, age 15 and upwards. I have a tremendous concern for you because you’re moving out into a world that’s in a state of chaos and there’s really nothing permanent or totally reliable that you can look to. I grew up in this country between World War I and World War II and there were many problems; there was poverty, there was oppression of the poor by the rich, there was a whole lot of snobbery, there were political crises. But basically Britain was a very secure country. You knew where you belonged, you knew what to expect, you knew you could rely on the police. And basically there was not very much political corruption. All that has totally changed, changed in a very short while. So those of you that are age 15 and upwards, you’re stepping out into uncharted territory, there isn’t any real human map that can tell you which way to go or what to expect. I believe there is counsel in the Bible that will enable you to make a success of your life. In the truest sense of the world I believe God intends every believer to be successful. I’m not talking about being conspicuously wealthy or even highly educated but I believe every child of God is born to overcome, born to meet the challenge of life and overcome it, born to lead a life that ultimately will leave behind consequences of eternal importance. That’s my estimate of what it is to be a child of God.
But, you’re going to have to follow the counsel of the Word of God. You know, one of the most important things is where you get your counsel from. The first verse of the first psalm, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.” And that really sets the whole tone for the book of Psalms. I’m asking you tonight, where do you get your counsel from? Where do you get your advice? Who directs your thinking? What is the source of your counsel? Is it some form of secular thinking, some form of higher education? I was in higher education. I had achieved a place in the world of higher education in Britain. I’ll tell you something about universities, they’re very closed places. They’re little islands of their own and in many ways they’re cut off from the realities of life. Also, there are a whole lot of fashions in intellectual thinking. When I was studying philosophy in the 1930s the great philosophy was linguistic philosophy. I was a pupil of the great leader of that, Ludwig Lichenstein. Since then the fashion has changed completely. Nowadays people are not interested in that, there are other fads and fancies. But believe me, if you rely on human wisdom to guide you, you’ll end up in a muddle. There is only one reliable source of guidance and that is the Bible.
I want to offer you tonight some words of counsel out of the Bible. First of all, as I studied this message I realized that I didn’t have anything new to say, that the Bible has already said it all. All I have to do is underline what the Bible has already said. The Bible is a timeless book, it applies in any age, in any culture, to any group of people. I’ve had the privilege of teaching the Bible amongst many different types of nationality and culture and language. It’s the only book I know that reaches every human being wherever he is from whatever background he is.
Let’s look at Matthew 6:10. My first counsel is align your life with God’s priorities. Make God’s priorities your priorities. Then you’ll be in line for the blessing, protection and provision of God. God has stated His priorities very clearly in a passage of the New Testament which is perhaps the most familiar of all passages, that which we call the Lord’s prayer. And after the introduction to our Father, the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, the one that takes precedence over all others is:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
And that is priority number one for God. It is the coming of His kingdom on earth in the person of His chosen King, Jesus. So, if you’re not lined up with that as your priority, you’ll find yourself out of harmony with God. You’ll find yourself in situations where you don’t have the answer, where you don’t know how to respond. The first thing you have to make your mind up is the thing that’s most important in my life is that the kingdom of God should come on earth through Jesus Christ.
Listen, if you don’t believe that, don’t pray the Lord’s prayer because you’re a hypocrite. That’s the first specific petition of the Lord’s prayer. How many millions of people pray it and never realize what they’re praying for. But that’s it, that’s His priority number one. Everything that’s happening in human history is being directed by God to that one conclusion, the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.
I would have to say to you earth has no other hope. If we had to depend on what the politicians could do, God help us. They’ve had a long while and I think the world is in a worse mess today than it’s ever been. And yet there are people foolish enough to believe that somehow politicians will get us out of the mess. I don’t believe that. I believe we have an obligation to pray for our political leaders but I don’t expect salvation from the Conservatives, from the Labor Party, from the Democrats, from the Republicans. None of them has the answer. Maybe some of them are a little less far away from the answer than others but it’s hard to know. Most of the conservative Christians in the United States were very disappointed when—what’s his name—Clinton was elected president. When Ruth and I arrived back a little later to talk to the members of our staff they were all sitting there looking so gloomy. I said, “What are you worrying about? Clinton can’t make America any worse than it already is.” Personally, and this is entirely personal, I could not vote for Bush because his whole program was anti-Semitic. He was in total opposition to the well being of the state of Israel. He didn’t say that publicly.
You see, I’ve been through this because I was living in what was then Palestine during the closing years of the British mandate. I’m British and I was part of the British army so I’m speaking from the inside. Without saying it publicly, the British officials did everything in their power short of open war to prevent the birth of the state of Israel. I mean, I could go on with examples all night. You know what happened? Israel was born and the British Empire fell apart. Have you ever thought about the connection between those two events? The British Empire had survived two major world wars. In fact, you could hardly find a time when Britain was every defeated in war, there are one or two. But the taking of a stand against God’s purpose for Israel terminated the power of the British Empire. And the same thing is probably going to happen to the United States. I’ve told American Christians that. You cannot align yourself against God’s purposes and prosper. Ultimately you will not prosper.
So that’s priority number one.
Let’s look at another passage about the last days which I see being fulfilled before our eyes. Again, you may have a different understanding. Hebrews 12, the end of the chapter, beginning at verse 25, which is comparing us as New Testament believers with Israel when they received the Law of Moses. It says:
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks [that’s God], for if they did not escape who refused him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven [that’s God speaking from heaven through His Son Jesus Christ]; whose voice then shook the earth. But now He has promised, saying, yet once more I shake not only the earth but also heaven.”
Do you believe that? I do. I believe that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Now, the writer goes on:
“This yet once more indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.”
See, God’s purpose in permitting a worldwide shaking of everything is to demonstrate the things that cannot be shaken. And then the writer goes on:
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
There’s only one kingdom that cannot be shaken. It’s not the kingdom of Great Britain or Northern Ireland. It is no earthly kingdom, it’s the kingdom of God, it’s the kingdom that’s founded on Jesus Christ. Jesus said if you build on this foundation, no storm will overthrow what you build.
But, everything else that can be shaken will be shaken—and most of it is being shaken. Ask yourself what are some of the things that can be shaken? Well, first of all, governments. There’s scarcely a government on earth that isn’t being shaken or hasn’t been shaken at the moment. Then what about banks? Can banks be shaken? They certainly can and some of them are being shaken. What about church denominations? Can they be shaken? Yes or no? I would have to say the Anglican Church at the moment is being shaken to its foundation. Can families be shaken? They can and they are being shaken. And the only families that will survive are those that are built on the Rock, Jesus Christ. God is sorting out everything into one or other of two categories: those things that can be shaken and those things that cannot be shaken. You and I need to know where we are. Are we truly in the kingdom that cannot be shaken? If not, we are going to suffer. there will be a shaking of everything but the kingdom of God will pass through the shaking unmoved.
Believe me, we will not be exempt from the shaking but the result will be different in our lives. We shall stand when everything else collapses all around us.
In Haggai 2:7, which is quoted in Hebrews 12, the Lord says one thing which isn’t actually quoted in Hebrews. He says:
“I will shake all nations.”
Let me say that again.
“I will shake all nations.”
Does that include Britain? Does that include the United States? Does that include the nations of Europe? It certainly does. God is going to shake all nations. You better be prepared.
There’s one kind of person who cannot be shaken and you find him described in 1 John 2. 1 John 2, and we’ll begin at verse 15:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world...”
Now the word “the world” here in the Greek New Testament means a social system. The present world system is the world. John says don’t love it. Young people especially, don’t love the world. And then he goes on with a very serious statement:
“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
In other words, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot love the world and love God. You remember I preached earlier this week about God’s love is a jealous love. He will not share your loyalty with the world. You have to make your mind up.
“For all that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away...”
Bear that in mind, it’s on its way out.
“...and the lust of it.”
“But he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Who is the only unshakable person on earth today? The one who is totally committed to the will of God. And if you want to have a successful future in today’s world, my counsel to you is from this night forward, if you’ve never done it before, commit yourself without reservation to the will of God in your life. You will abide, you will be unshakable. You will be unshakable as the will of God itself because you’ll be identified with God’s will.
Then in this connection let me recommend that you maintain right priorities. Because, your priorities decide your life. The things that have top priority in your life are the things you find time for. Some people say, “I can’t find any time for the Bible.” But, they find time to eat. Whatever you give your time to indicates your priorities. I’m not saying it’s wrong to eat but I am saying actually the Bible is more important than food. So, here’s God’s counsel on priorities, it’s from the same 6th chapter of Matthew, verse 33, it’s familiar to many of you.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
All these things are all the things you need for daily life: food, clothing, housing, transportation, whatever it may be. God says if you’ll seek my kingdom first, I’ll take care of every other need in your life.
I’ve been a Christian 52 years and basically although I’ve had my moments of weakness and my temptations, I’ve lived according to that principle. I want to declare to all of you tonight God has been faithful. He has provided everything I need. My dear brothers and sisters, this is not a theory that I’m propounding, it’s a reality based on scripture and substantiated by experience. I’m looking at others here who could say the same. We’ve sought the kingdom of God first and He’s taken care of every other need in our lives. Is that right? How many of you can say amen to that from experience? Bless you.
That’s my first counsel. Get your priorities right, get lined up with the will of God from tonight forward. If you’ve never been confronted with this issue, you’re confronted with it tonight as clearly as I can confront you. If I could say it any more clearly I would.
Now, God’s second priority is directly related to the first. God is going to establish a kingdom on earth but He’s looking for a people who will share His kingdom. So, God’s second priority is a people for the kingdom of God. Ruth and I quoted that beautiful scripture. I think you better come up and say it again. This says it more clearly than I could ever try to say it.
“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
That’s God’s second priority, His own special people. And it says in that passage that Jesus will purify His people. But there’s another side to that, you turn to 1 John 3:1–3. This is another passage that we recite:
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and we are. Therefore, the world does not know us because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even just as He is pure.”
Did you hear those words? Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. So you can say as much as you like about your waiting for the coming of the Lord but if you are not purifying yourself you’re deceiving yourself. The mark of all who are truly waiting for the coming of the Lord is that they are purifying themselves just as He is pure. God has only one standard of purity and it’s Jesus.
I want to say tonight especially to you young people, especially to younger women, it’s very natural to want to look pretty and to have a pleasing appearance. That’s nothing wrong, it’s not sinful; it’s natural. But that’s external. I want to tell you there’s a different kind of prettiness which is internal and it is purity. When your external prettiness begins to fade there’s something in you that will never fade, the purity and holiness of God. The holiness of God is true spiritual beauty. So do all you can to be pretty but bear in mind the real prettiness is that which is within. And it shines out of the eyes of the people who have it. They look different, they act differently, they speak differently. They don’t have to be religious, they just have to be pure. And there is a hunger in the heart of multitudes of people for purity. You find it in all sorts of places. You find it amongst prostitutes, prisoners, amongst alcoholics, among hard-boiled businessmen. Somewhere deep down there is a longing for purity. We can tell people the way to purity, it’s to give your life unreservedly to Jesus Christ. He will purify you and you will purify yourself.
In closing this message let’s give you seven marks of preparation. If you have your Bible open at 1 John 3, turn back one page to 2 Peter 3 which deals with the coming of the Lord and the day of the Lord. We’ll read from verse 11 through verse 14:
“Therefore, since all these things [the entire material universe] will be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be, in holy conduct and godliness!”
Let me ask you that question, what kind of people ought you to be? And then he goes on:
“Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God—because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
If you analyze that passage there are seven requirements in the life of a Christian who is truly looking forward to the coming of the Lord, and I’ll give them to you briefly. It says in verse 11 “what manner of persons ought you to be, in holy conduct and godliness.” So those are the first two requirements: holy conduct, holy living and godliness. My definition of godliness is that it’s a temperament controlled by the Holy Spirit, a person whose reactions proceed from the Holy Spirit. You know, as a Christian what really tells us what you’re like is not your actions, it’s your reactions. Your actions you can premeditate but your reactions tell us what kind of person you really are. Godliness reacts in the way the Holy Spirit would react. When a godly person walks into a room the presence of God walks in with them. So those are the first two requirements: holy conduct and godliness.
Then we go on in verse 12, two more requirements: looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. Now, if you have the old authorized version it says hastening unto. The modern translations are more accurate and they’re much more exciting. We’re not hastening unto, we’re hastening the coming of the day of God. So there are two more requirements. Number one, looking for. Keep your finger in 2 Peter and turn to Hebrews 9:27–28:
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
Now notice, dear friends, there are two appointments you’ll never miss. You may miss every other appointment in life but those two appointments you’ll keep. To die and after that judgment.
“So, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time apart from sin for salvation.”
To whom will He appear? To those who eagerly wait for Him. So let me ask you, are you eagerly waiting for the appearing of the Lord? It may be that God will have to let you go through some unpleasant experiences and wean you from the love of this world until you come to the conclusion in a very practical way that there’s nothing really to look forward to but the coming of the Lord.
But, Jesus is not coming for church members, He’s coming for those who are eagerly awaiting His appearance.
Now going back to 2 Peter 3, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. That is a powerful thought, that we can hasten the coming of the day of God. We don’t need to sit passively and just wait for it to happen, we can hasten its coming. I’ll tell you one way, it’s very plain to me. I live by this way, this is the basis of the ministry of Derek Prince Ministries, it’s the motivation of Ruth and myself. It’s found in Matthew 24:14:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
So the end will not come until this gospel has been preached in all the world to all the nations.
So how can you hasten the coming of the day of God? That’s right, you heard what Don said, get on with the job. I believe every true Christian has a responsibility to be involved in the preaching of the gospel in every nation in all the world. You can’t all go, you can be involved in prayer, you can be involved in giving, you can be involved in other ways. But anyone who is not in any way involved in the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations is delaying the coming of the Lord. That’s a fearful responsibility. Think of all the agony and the suffering in the world. Just think of what’s going on in Bosnia today. Why is that going on? Because the kingdom of God has not yet been established. And the longer we have to wait the greater will be the toll of human suffering. And we who have responsibilities to hasten the coming of the day, if we do not do it, we’ll be held accountable for the suffering that results from our laziness. And brothers and sisters, just search the Bible from beginning to end and see if you can find one good word about laziness. We wouldn’t accept drunkards in most of our churches but the Bible is much kinder about drunkenness than it is about laziness. And how many lazy people do we tolerate in church? Week after week they sit there, they’re respectable, they sing the hymns, they say amen. But, laziness is wickedness. And the responsibility for laziness rests on us who are lazy. We are delaying the coming of the kingdom of God.
Going on, we’ve got three more requirements and they’re found in verse 14 of 2 Peter 3.
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
Those are the three final requirements. In peace. No ruptured relationships which you could mend in your family, in the church, even with your unsaved neighbors. Are you living, as far as lies in you, in peace? When Paul speaks about that he says keep peace with all men as far as lies in you. There are some situations where it’s not our responsibility but God says as far as lies in you, let there be no broken relationships, let there be no unresolved resentment, bitterness.
Ruth and I are planning to sell our home in Jerusalem and it’s a house in which there are four families living. There are two families on the ground floor that were there long before we were. Our house was built on top of the ground floor house. That’s very common in Israel because the Arabs who originally built built in stone and built on the bedrock. And so one single dwelling house can support three more stories, which is the truth in our house. Anyhow, I’m saying this—I hope this won’t get to Israel—I have to be careful. Our downstairs neighbors, both two families, are from Morocco and they’re different from the Jews that come from Europe. They have been in many ways permeated by Arab culture, they’re not Arabs by any means. There’s a saying in Arabic (speaking in Arabic), “Before you ask about the house, ask about the neighbors.” If you’ve ever lived in the Middle East you’ll know just how important that is. So we have had a difficult time with our downstairs neighbors. This is a little illustration of what I was talking about about witchcraft, because one of the wives—incidentally, out of two married couples, three ended up in psychiatric care, so you can have some idea of what we went through. One of the ladies downstairs has been a kind of split personality. At times she would show us real love. When Ruth was rushed off in an ambulance to hospital about six years ago she rushed out, embraced her and kissed her. And at other times she’s come to us secretly and said, “Pray for me, for my family.” But at other times, and more often than not, she’s been a very difficult person to deal with. If she didn’t get her way she would shout and scream. And I mean, she would go on a good half hour. She didn’t run out of breath! And many, many times she manipulated us. Just for the sake of peace we would let her have her way.
But then there came a situation, and I don’t need to go into the details, when she was manipulating us again. She wanted us to do something that we felt we had no obligation to do. She became really difficult to deal with, strident, vocal, antagonistic. I said to Ruth, “Listen, I am not going to give way to witchcraft. Absolutely not! I refuse to do that.” So we prayed a very fervent agreement prayer driving witchcraft out of that situation. Now, we did not pray it for the sake of our neighbors, I want to make that clear. We prayed it out of purely selfish motives. But, something miraculous happened. A little while later we had to go down and talk to the neighbors and while the man and insurance assessor were talking, Ruth and this lady and I sat in their living room. She spoke Hebrew and it was difficult for us to understand everything. But what she meant was very clear. She said, “I want to tell you I’ve had asthma and when I have asthma I get very nervous and I shout and scream at people. Forgive me, I’m sorry.” I tell that story to Israelis and they could not believe that an Israeli would ever say that, it’s unheard of. But she said it and she has become a friend. You see, I saw in God’s wisdom He would not let us move out of that house until we had it right with our neighbors. God cares about living in peace. I’m not saying we were very righteous. I think really we were lacking in Christian grace many times. But God came to our help to save us from a wrong situation.
So I want to ask you, how is it between you and your neighbors? You know what the second commandment is? Love your neighbor as yourself. And that really means your neighbor. It’s not just a figure of speech. How are you getting on with the people you live closest to? How are you getting on with the people you work next to in the office or the factory? Because if you’re preparing for the Lord’s coming, you have to do something about it.
Let me just list those seven requirements from 2 Peter.
Number one, holy conduct.
Number two, godliness.
Number three, looking for the coming of the Lord.
Number four, hastening the coming of the Lord.
Number five, in peace.
Number six, without spot.
And number seven, blameless.
Let me just comment on the last two. I’ve commented on in peace. Without spot, what does that mean? Jesus was the Lamb of God without blemish and without spot. I understand that to mean He was without personal original sin. He also was without any sin that He ever committed. That was a spot. And any sin you’ve committed and have not repented of and confessed is a spot on your life. The Word of God says you have to be without spot. You have to keep short accounts with God. Never go to sleep with unconfessed sin in your life. Who knows if you’ll wake up? It might be your last night on earth.
And then it says blameless. I understand that to mean you have not neglected any legitimate duty. Whatever your duty is, you have done it.
The epistle of James says, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin.” If you know good things that you should do and can do and you do not do them, it is sin.
Let me read that list again, I want you to meditate on it. Holy conduct, godliness, looking for, hastening, in peace, without spot and blameless.
Now let me come to one closing passage which is primarily for the younger people here but actually there’s no age limit set to it. It deals partly with the subject of marriage. I’ll read the words but I want to say first of all to those of you who are not married, don’t be in a hurry to get married. I’ve seen many young ladies married. I have to be careful what I say because I don’t want to identify anybody. But basically, the ones who were eager to get married made a mess of their marriage. The ones who waited for God’s appointment have had successful marriages. Do not be in a hurry to get married. If you are you really have an idol. Marriage has become an idol that takes the place of Jesus in your life.
I am not saying it is wrong to get married. It would be ridiculous for me to say that because I’ve been married twice. I’m satisfied. But let me read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7, beginning at verse 29. And it’s remarkable that Paul wrote these about nineteen centuries ago and they are so true today. 1 Corinthians 7:29:
“But this I say, brethren, the time is short...”
If it was short then, how much shorter is it now?
“...so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they have none. Those who weep as though they did not weep. Those who rejoice as those who did not rejoice. Those who buy as though they did not possess. And those who use this world as not misusing it, for the form [or the fashion] of this world is passing away.”
In other words, don’t hold onto anything as if it were permanent, because it isn’t. Live with a sense of impermanence in every material thing that surrounds you and in ever human relationship. Then he goes on to say in verse 32:
“But I want you to be without care [without anxiety, without worry]. He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.”
Paul is not speaking against marriage, he has a lot of good things to say about marriage. What he is saying is don’t give marriage a place of wrong importance in your thinking. Don’t make it your ambition. Don’t go out to find a wife or a husband. I’ve been married twice and each time God brought the woman of His choice to me. I never went out looking. And if you read the real romantic stories of the Bible, it’s nearly always true God brought the bride to the bridegroom. He brought Rebekah to Isaac, He brought Ruth to Boaz. Trust God. He can chose much better for you than you can choose for yourself.
I’ve said many times God never permitted me to choose my own wife. Each time He showed me supernaturally and clearly who I was to marry. I’m not saying that may be true of everybody but I recognize that I myself am rather a poor judge of human character. I deal in the realm of abstract. I also believe everything people say, and that’s a mistake. I’m an honest person myself, I say what I mean. I assume that other people are saying what they mean but it isn’t always true. So God protected me from myself and I thank Him for it. Each of my marriages has been happy and successful. But don’t put marriage before the Lord.
Don’t put anything before the Lord. Don’t hold on to anything in this world as if it were permanent because it is not. And if you do and it’s taken from you, you’ll suffer emotionally—maybe spiritually.
Now I’ve come to the end of my closing message but I want to close with a practical application. I want to go back to Matthew 24:14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
I believe that places an obligation on every sincere Christian to be totally committed in one way or another to the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all the world. There are many different ways you can be committed but I want to speak for a moment to people, primarily young people, who can give their lives to this time. Not necessarily to be missionaries or evangelists. The kingdom of God needs secretaries, administrators, cooks, air pilots, a lot of different people. And, each of them is as important as the other. So, if God is speaking to you tonight and you feel in a certain sense that you don’t really know what life is going to be like, you don’t really know what you’re living for, you’re not really wholeheartedly committed to something that demands your total loyalty, I want to ask you tonight would you put your life in the Lord’s hands and say, “Here I am, Lord, wholly available.” There’s a song that they sing in the Anglican church we attended in Jerusalem, and the first words of the chorus are “Here I am, wholly available.” I can say that tonight with a clear conscience. “Here I am, Lord, wholly available. Whatever you ask, by your grace I’ll do it.” I’m satisfied, I’m fulfilled. I’ve lived my life that way and it works.
So if there are those of you here tonight that have never really made that commitment, “Here I am, wholly available,” no matter what you ask. Send me to China, send me to Indonesia, join me to Don Double and his team. Or, there are lots of other things like if a nurse is needed somewhere, a secretary is needed somewhere, if a gardener is needed somewhere. Ruth and I received a letter from a man who said he’s a gardener and he wants to garden for the Lord. He’s making himself available to anybody who needs a gardener for God’s kingdom. So whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, if tonight you want the fulfillment of living according to Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” I want you to make a decision. If you make that decision, I want you to stand right where you are in your place, saying tonight “Here I am, wholly available.” There’s no age limit but I want to say if you’re one of a married couple you should not make the commitment apart from a spouse. Nothing would delight me more than to see married couples together committing themselves. Praise God, I’ve seen one.
Now, this is a very, very serious moment. There’s never going to be a more significant moment in your life. I want to ask you to do something which I haven’t asked on previous nights, I want you to come forward and kneel at the front. Quickly. The rest of you, will you be praying, will you be praying? Thank you, Lord Jesus. Those of you there up in the aisle, you can kneel in the aisle. I never anticipated anything like this response. I hope I’ve made it difficult enough. I hope I haven’t given you a wrong impression that it’s going to be easy. It’s not. You’re going to have a lot of opposition, the devil is going to fight you from the moment you walk out of this meeting. He’s going to start to attack your commitment. Is that right, brothers and sisters that have been in this way? You’re going to be a target as you’ve never been before for Satan’s arrows.
I want the musicians to be ready to come. I wish you knew “Here I Am, Wholly Available.” Do you know that? You know it, that is just wonderful! Tears come to my eyes every time I sing those words. You therein the front, I want you to say a very simple prayer after me—not praying to me, praying to the Lord Jesus. Would you say these words:
“Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you that you died for me on the cross that I might be saved from hell and have eternal life. And because of what you’ve done for me, Lord, I give myself back to you without reservation, unconditionally. Here I am, wholly available. Take me, Lord, and make me what you want me to be. For your glory, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Now let’s have the musicians. I love these musicians! Bless you.