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I want to talk about how to make the best out of life. That sounds good. There’s some things involved that don’t sound so good, but I would have to say I really enjoy life more now than I’ve ever enjoyed life. I’m somewhat over sixty and I’ve had a really a good life, an exciting life, an adventurous life. I’ve lived in many different countries, associated with many different races and kinds of people. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dull life, it’s not always been easy, but I really think it’s better now than it ever has been. And I think I can share with you in part what’s helping me to have a good life. I believe it should be that way. Scripture says in the book of Proverbs:
“But the path of the just [righteous] is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”(KJV)
So if we’re walking in the pathway of righteousness, it should be getting brighter every day. Not easier, but brighter. I don’t believe it’s easy to be a Christian these days. I don’t find it easy. I find it challenging and exciting and rewarding. I’m sure that most of you young people, I don’t think you can conceive the privilege you have of hearing the truth that you hear. You have no idea what it cost to get to that truth. Young people in their teens converted and baptized in the Spirit, and becoming members of some committed fellowship can learn in two years what it took me thirty years to learn. And I’m not slow when it comes to learning. You have no idea of how truth is being restored with unbelievable rapidity to the people of God. How would it be to try to minister to people and know nothing about demons or deliverance? I did that for many years, went out in the streets of London, pulled in people off the street, got them saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit and never knew how to help them out of their demon problems. And I can look back on scores of people who could have been helped but never got where they should have got because we didn’t understand how to help them. And so on with many other areas of truth. The areas of submission and commitment; we didn’t really know anything about that. Even the responsibilities of family life really basically, we were kind of trained to believe that if you neglected your family and were out preaching every night, you were really serving God in a very wonderful way. And how many preachers from that time ended up with bruised and injured wives and broken homes because they were misled. So you thank God for the truth that’s being made available to you. But remember this: to whom much is given, of him shall much also be required. So, you’re going to be answerable for what you know.
I’d like to turn to Colossians 3 and read the first few verses. This first verse of Colossians has been in my mind for months and I never preached about it till this morning. Colossians 3, beginning at verse 1:
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”(KJV)
Paul says, “If ye be risen with Christ”. He had been teaching them that they are risen with Christ. He said if you accept that fact, that you are risen with Christ, act according to it. Don’t look for your life on the earthly plane, set your affection on things above. That’s the next verse.
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”(KJV)
That, to me, indicates a decision. It’s a decision as to where you’re going to find your pleasure. Where you’re going to look for happiness. Where you’re going to invest your time and your interests. Is it going to be in things on earth or are you going to set your affection on things which are above? There are the two realms. Verse 3:
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”(KJV)
That’s not the most literal translation. The Greek language has amongst others, two tenses. One is the perfect tense, one is the historic past. The King James translation has the perfect tense, but the Greek is the historic past. It says you died. When did you die? Or did you die? When did you die? When Christ died. In Romans 6: “Our old man was crucified with him.” When he died, that old rebellious nature in me died. That’s a historic fact. It’s not a theory, it’s not theology. It’s a fact of history. Our old man was crucified with Christ.
So Paul says you died. Bear that in mind. And your life is hid with Christ in God. You have a hidden life that the people of this world don’t understand. That passage always reminds me of a quotation that I made this morning and I’ll repeat—from Lenin. And I don’t normally going around quoting Lenin but this says it so very, very vividly.
Incidentally, just let me say this in parenthesis; talking about Lenin. I had the privilege of hearing Eldridge Cleaver give his testimony in January. It was a very beautiful testimony. How many of you have heard it? Good. It reminded me because the crisis came when he was looking at the shadows on the face of the moon, sitting there in an apartment on the Riviera, the south of France, far from God, not having the answer. And as he looked at the shadows on the face of the moon they took on the features of men. One was Lenin, another was Marx, another was Castro. Men whom he admired and determined to follow. And then it turned to the face of Jesus Christ. And he began to sob uncontrollably. And the only thing he could think to do to stop sobbing was to pray. And he only knew two prayers. One was the Lord’s Prayer and the other was the 23rd Psalm. So he repeated them over and over again. But that was really the turning point in his life.
But let me go back to what I was saying about Lenin. Lenin said about Communists: “Communists are dead men on furlough.” And that was a kind of gripping statement and I said to myself, “Why did he say that, what did he mean by it?” And this is how I interpret it. When you become a Communist, that’s your death warrant. Essentially you’ve chosen to die. You can be sure you will die. You may die on the street barricade, you may die in a jail, you may die in a swamp in Southeast Asia, but you’re dead. And until you actually do die you’re a dead man on furlough. Well what really grips me about that is that I really believe that Christians should think that way. We’re dead men on furlough. We’re here, but we don’t belong here. Our life isn’t here. This isn’t where our ambitions are. You die and now your life is hid with Christ in God.
The Bible says that all men through fear of death are subject to bondage. I really believe as long as we’re afraid to die, the devil has the last word in our lives. Because he’s always got a threat that will stop us doing anything effective. You’re going to die, you’ll be killed. But when you’re dead, what can he do to you? He’s got nothing more to frighten you with. It really is true. Once you have met and conquered the fear of death, you’re a free man. And until you have, you’re not free. Paul says you died, just face the fact. Your life is hid with Christ in God. Verse 4:
“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear...”(KJV)
There’s three or four beautiful words there. Christ is our life. Do you know that? My life is Christ. He is my life. I don’t just get life from him, he is my life. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” I think if you’re seeking healing, there comes a time when we have to go beyond just claiming it by faith. Or even being anointed by the elders. I know when I lay in the hospital in 1942 to ’43 for twelve months, one of the Scriptures that really helped me was “Christ is my life.” What can conquer Christ in me?
“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”(KJV)
Meanwhile, the world doesn’t know who we are, it doesn’t know what we are, it doesn’t understand us. It doesn’t recognize us because it didn’t recognize him. But that’s all right because we’re living somewhere else. Our life is hid with Christ in God. When you’re hid with Christ in God what can touch you? There’s nothing can reach you. Then it goes on, verse 5:
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth...”(KJV)
In essence, Paul is saying you can’t live in two different places at the same time. If your life is in heaven then you’ve got to be prepared to die to life on earth. Now you can get scared about this but I’m not going to suggest that you go away to a monastery or a convent. I’m not interpreting it that way. Put your life on earth to death and then Paul says mortify these things:
“...fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry...”(KJV)
It’s really the emphasis on where you put your affections. What are the things that really move you? What are the things that you really desire? Paul says if you’re really desirous of money, money is your god and you’re an idolater. There can be strong desires in us which bind us. For instance, I believe it’s right for every child to honor his parents. But I’ve known children who’ve placed their mother or their grandmother in the place of God—and made an idol out of a parent. I’ve known parents who made idols out of their children. And worshiped and served the creature more than the creator. I remember once some years ago I was in a city and some woman had a child, a boy of about nine or ten in the hospital with a kidney problem that the doctors couldn’t deal with. She said, “Brother Prince, would you come and pray for him?” And without really even thinking about what I said, I said, “Sister, have you ever surrendered your son to the Lord?” And she became hysterical. She said, “You mean he’s going to die?” I didn’t say that. I said, “Have you ever taken your soulish grasp off that child and told God that he belongs to him?” There’s a kind of way of clinging onto things that destroys them. If you make your child an idol, God has to break that idol. If you make money your idol, God has to break that idol.
So the question is, Where do we set our affections? What are we deeply committed to? Where is our life? Paul says you died to the life of this world. Your life now is on another plane. Set your affections there.
Let’s look at another passage, I’m just going to go through some passages in the New Testament. Turn to Philippians 3:17.
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. [or patterns] For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ...”(KJV)
Do you think those people are professing Christians or not? Seems to be obvious from the way Paul speaks. He’s talking about people who claim to be Christians. And he says they’re not the enemies of Christ, but they’re the enemies of his cross. Why? What happens at the cross? A death. And then he describes these people. If you think he’s talking about unbelievers, people who make no profession of being Christians, you’re free to hold that opinion but to me it’s very clear he isn’t.
“For many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”(KJV)
In other words, the whole level of their interests is on earth. Their god is their stomach. Their glory is in their shame. Let’s look two verses on in that chapter and I think you’ll see. That’s verse 20 and 21.
“For our conversation is in heaven...”
Our citizenship Paul says is in heaven. Again, where do we belong? Where’s our home? Where’s our life? In heaven, that’s right. You know, if you become a citizen of a nation, you’re entitled to a passport. And you don’t have to have a visa. Do you have your passport? I’m a citizen of three countries. Isn’t that beautiful? I’m a citizen of Britain. I’m a citizen of the United States. And praise God, I’m a citizen of heaven. And I can go to Britain, America or heaven without a visa. All right.
“...from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body...”(KJV)
That’s the King James. And what it says literally, and I don’t know whether this comes out in the New American Standard. It says, “Who shall change the body of our humiliation into the likeness of the body of his glory.” So what are we living in now? A body of humiliation. This body is designed to humiliate us. Why are we humiliated? Because we rebelled against God. God says you can live in a body that will keep you humble. You can live on the finest and the fattest food, but you’ll just have to go to the bathroom. There’s no one who can stop his food from going corrupted. You can wear the finest clothes, but when you run and get hot your body will perspire. And you’ll need deodorant. Every day this body is telling you you’re in a condition of humiliation. It’s the result of the fall. You better remember why you’re in it. I’m not saying that the body isn’t a glorious piece of mechanism, it is. But nevertheless, it’s a body of humiliation. Now if you make your glory out of that which God intended to humiliate you, then you’re going against God. So when your glory is in your shame and you mind earthly things and your god is your belly, the Bible says your end is destruction. So we need to know where our affections are set.
The Lord Jesus is going to be able to change this body into the likeness of his glorious body, that’s wonderful, isn’t it? Do you believe that? I believe it literally. I don’t know any other way to believe it. I believe it’s going to happen. The Bible says it’s going to happen in a moment. In the twinkling of an eye. One moment I’ll look at you and the way you are right now. I’ll blink my eyes and I’ll open them again and you’re looking like the Lord Jesus. It just takes that long when God’s moment comes. But meanwhile, remember this is a body of humiliation. And don’t make it your glory.
All right. Let’s go back to 2Corinthians 4. It’s rather strange, I didn’t realize it, but we read part of this chapter the other night about life and death. And it’s really along the same line again. But we’ll move on a little further down. I like verse 15.
“For all things are for your sakes...”(KJV)
Did you know that? Did you realize that everything that goes on is for your sakes? The sun rises for your sake. The stars shine for your sake. Jetliners fly for your sake. Governments govern for your sake. Fish swim in the sea for your sake. Birds fly in the air—all for your sakes. Why? Because you’re God’s children. And the whole of his universe centers around you. All things are for your sakes, all right? Verse 16:
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”(KJV)
Again, what do we have? The outward man, the inward man. The outward man is my physical body. It’s perishing whether you like to admit it or not. You may be only sixteen years old but your body has already started to die. The processes of death are already at work in the body of every person in this room. And there’s not one of us who has the power to arrest it. We can delay them, we cannot change them. So our outward man is perishing. The Bible is the most realistic book in the world. Do you know it is my impression that most people actually never face the fact they’re going to die? I really believe the majority of people never come fact to face with the plain simple fact we are going to die. You’re going to die, I’m going to die. Our outward man perishes.
But, our inward man is renewed day by day. Because our inward man is in direct personal contact with the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our life. And I get enough life from him every day within, I believe, to keep at bay the processes of corruption, sickness and death as long as God wants me alive. That’s not forever and I don’t want to live one moment longer than God wants me to live. So every day my outward man is perishing, but my inward man is being renewed. And I really believe again this is mainly the secret of divine health. It’s being renewed from within every day. I believe there’s enough resurrection life available to us now to keep our bodies strong and active as long as God wants us alive. But the secret of it is not so much being concerned about your body as being related to the Lord. Christ is our life.
All right. Going on to verse 17:
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment...”(KJV)
You do realize that your affliction is light, don’t you? Or do you? Or did you think it was very heavy? Well, compare yourself with Paul. Shipwrecked twice, beaten thirty-nine times five times, twice beaten with rods, once stoned and left for dead, persecuted wherever he went. And he said our light affliction. So what have you got to complain about? Our light affliction is momentary, but it’s working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Affliction works for us, do you know that? It’s on our side. With one condition and this is very important. The condition is at the beginning of the next verse.
“While [as long as] we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal [temporary, earthly, impermanent] the things which are not seen are eternal [heavenly, spiritual, forever].”(KJV)
See? The two worlds.
Now how do we look at the things which are not seen? I’ll give you the Bible’s answer. Keep your finger in 2 Corinthians, we’ll come back there in a moment. Turn to Hebrews 11. What’s the theme of Hebrews 11. Faith, that’s right. Hebrews 11:27. This has become one of my favorite verses. It records the triumphs of faith of many of God’s servants in the Old Covenant and in this verse it’s talking about Moses. And it says:
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”(KJV)
We got the invisible realm. Now how do you see him who is invisible? The answer is by faith. Faith enables us to see that which our eyes cannot see. And while we look at the things which cannot be seen, our affliction works for us an exceeding weight of glory. But if you take your eyes off the things which cannot be seen and you come down to the realm of the temporal and you get wrapped up in that, your affliction just afflicts you, that’s all it does. The condition that affliction works for us is that we have our eyes fixed on the things that cannot be seen. I’m going to read those verses again because the truth is so real and so practical. Verse 17:
“For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”(KJV)
Now again, it’s good to have a few Israelis here. Because Israelis know that the Hebrew word for glory is ?kabot? which is directly related to the word for weight, ?kebit?. Did you realize Paul was a Jew and he was making a Jewish pun when he wrote. He says it’s a weight of glory. Why would you think of glory as being a weight? It is a weight. Few people can bear it. It says about the Lord Jesus, he shall bear the glory. If God put all that glory on you and me, it would crush us. But God is preparing a specific weight of glory that we’ll be able to bear in the resurrection. Not now, but in the resurrection. But our affliction is working it for us now. As long as what? We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. All through these passages we have the clear cut distinction between the seen and the unseen; the temporal and the eternal. The earthly and the heavenly.
We’re going on in chapter 5 of 2Corinthians.
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”(KJV)
There’s the contrast. We’ve got an earthly tent which is our house. What’s the earthly tent? Our bodies, that’s right. We live in an earthly tent. One day it’s going to be dissolved. How many of you know that? You really know that body of yours is going to be dissolved? Are you afraid of that? It’s really an important question. It really is. Because whether you’re afraid of it or not, it’s going to happen. And if your religion doesn’t take that into account it isn’t much good to you. It really isn’t. But he said, we have another house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. A body, a tent, a home. So even if this one goes, there’s another one waiting for it. And then he says:
“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven...”(KJV)
I think we groan not so much because we’re miserable as because we are aware of the contrast between the best that earth can offer and what’s awaiting us in heaven. There is a song that Pentecostals used to sing, and not everything Pentecostals did was wrong, believe me. And I remember one line. It says, “Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven.” In fact, I remember two lines. “Where all redeemed of all ages sing glory around a white throne.” Well, I really could say that, I get homesick for heaven. There are times when heaven is more real to me than earth. Especially when I’m alone and listening to the music of Bach. God bless Bach. I tell you, I feel sometimes I can take off through the ceiling and just leave. We won’t go into that now but—
All right. We’re going back to the situation with our home in heaven. My wife brought up, you know, a number of girls in Israel. Most of them were Jewish girls and one of them was called Rahama which is a very beautiful Jewish name. She was a very spiritual child, very, very spiritual. She quite often saw angels. One day my wife had a little sick baby boy that she took in and Rahama said to my wife, “Mama, I saw an angel come and take Joseph.” The next day the boy died. Rahama had seen it the day before. But one day she came to my wife and said, “Mama, [she was nine years old at the time] my house in heaven has fallen down.” And my wife said, “What do you mean, your house in heaven is fallen down?” She said, “My house in heaven has fallen down. I’ve got to pray and I’ve got to fast.” My wife said, “Well,” and then she realized she was talking about the 14th chapter of John: in my Father’s house, how many mansions. She said, “I’ve sinned, my house in heaven has fallen down. And I’m going to fast.” So my wife said, “If you’re going to fast, I’m going to fast too.” So they fasted all day. And my wife said by the end of that day the house was just filled with the glory of God. It was just like being in heaven. So remember you have a house in heaven. And if it falls down, that’s serious.
Now let’s come to this in scripture. Verse 2, he says:
“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”(KJV)
Now I think the New American Standard translates it a little differently. And I have great respect for the New American Standard, but I really think the King James brings the meaning out better. So how could we be found naked? What is Paul talking about. I’ve wondered about that in the back of my mind for years and this morning, as I was preparing this message, the Lord, I believe, showed me. What would it be like to be naked in heaven? Well, keep your finger there and turn to Revelation 19 for a moment. Verse 7–8:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”(KJV)
That’s the wife’s business, isn’t it? The bride’s business is to make herself ready. And when this time comes it will be too late for us to be getting ready. We’ll have to be ready. How did she make herself ready? The next verse tell us, verse 8:
“To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.”(KJV)
That’s the King James translation. I imagine that the New American Standard says it’s the righteous acts of the saints, is that right? That’s correct. See, there are two words for righteousness in Greek. One is the general abstract word, just righteousness. The other is a very concrete specific word which means a righteous act, an act of righteousness. Well, when you receive Jesus Christ by faith as your personal savior, his righteousness is imputed to you. That’s what we call imputed righteousness. But as you live out your life, you work out his imputed righteousness in your acts of righteousness. It doesn’t just end up with you having a new label on you. You’ve got to lead a new life. So you go from imputed righteousness to outworked righteousness.
Now it says the fine linen that the saints are to wear is the righteous acts of the saints. So how could we ever be left naked? If we had no righteous acts, we’d have no fine linen. So Paul says, “I really want to be sure that when I get up there, there’s some material to make my dress of.” It would be a disappointment to get up there and find there was nothing to make your dress from. And if Paul took it seriously, I think we have to.
“If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle [this tent] do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality [that’s death] might be swallowed up of life.”(KJV)
We don’t want to die but we want to get rid of the mortal by exchanging it for the immortal. Verse 5:
“Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God...”(KJV)
It’s God that made us that way. That’s why we feel the way we do, that’s why we respond the way we do. Because God has made us for what he wants to do.
“...who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”(KJV)
It says in the New American Standard, the pledge of the Spirit. Is that right? The down payment, the guarantee. Let me tell you the same little story that I told this morning. My mind is right back in Jerusalem today. l946, my wife and I were living in Jerusalem, we moved into a new house and we needed to buy material for the drapes. So we went to the old city, to the little streets there where they have the cloth merchants and we looked at all the bales of cloth on the man’s counter. We saw something we thought was what we needed for our curtains. So we inquired the price and I don’t remember what it was, but say it was two dollars a yard. And we needed twenty yards so that was forty dollars and he only had just a little more than twenty yards on the bale.
So we said that’s what we want. He said the price would be forty dollars. I said, “Well, we don’t have it all with us now but I’ll give you five dollars now and I’ll come back tomorrow and pay for the rest and take the bale.” Meanwhile I said, “You take that bale off your counter because nobody else is free to buy it.” You know the word for the five dollars? The word that’s used here, arbonin Arabic, arbon in Hebrew.
So when Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, it’s the down payment. He says, “I’ll come back, collect the bale when I got the rest of the money!” Meanwhile he says you’re not for sale. You’re withdrawn from the counter. You’re set apart to him. So God has given us the down payment, and that’s the guarantee. That’s the way we know the rest is going to happen, because the Holy Spirit says, “That’s right, that’s how it’s going to be. Stay ready, he’s coming back.”
All right. Going on in verse 6:
“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.”(KJV)
See that? If you feel too good in this world, you might not feel good in the next. Because these two worlds are in opposition to one another. And if we feel totally at home in this earthly body, there’s something wrong with our spiritual condition. Now I’m not preaching a message of misery. I think if you let me get to the end I’m really showing you how to be happy. That’s the truth of the matter. How to be a realist and be happy. All right. We are always confident knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight...”(KJV)
We do not depend on what our senses tell us. Is that right? Have you made your mind up about that? When God says one thing in his word and the senses tell you another, which are you going to believe? The word of God, that’s right. Because we don’t walk by the senses. We walk by faith. Verse 8:
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”(KJV)
Now, some of you are quite possibly young Christians. And most of you are younger than I am. And I’m not saying that twenty years ago I would have felt exactly the way I do tonight. So I don’t want you to be under condemnation, but just bear in mind there’s something more. This world is not the ultimate. It doesn’t have the answers, it never will fully satisfy and everything it offers is impermanent.
I’ll tell you another story about a Swedish girl that stayed in our home in London. A very, very talented beautiful young girl, a beautiful singer who lived in our home like one of our daughters for about three or four months, I believe. So we came to know her really well. She’s always been a friend of ours ever since. And she grew up—the Pentecostal people in Sweden are very strict. You didn’t go to the movie, you didn’t cut your hair, you didn’t wear lipstick. I mean, you were different. And it wasn’t all bad. Believe me, they commanded the respect of the nation. When they were right with God, the royal family of Sweden would go to their meetings. And that’s something. But it’s difficult for a young person, especially a rather unusually pretty and talented young girl to grow up in that kind of setting.
So Barbara told us this story herself. She said when she was fourteen years old she went to her father and she said, “Father, I want to thank you for all that you’ve done for me and the way you’ve brought me up and trained me. And I’ve always done what you’ve asked, I’ve gone to church. I’ve done all the things you’ve asked. But I just want to tell you from now on I want to find out what the world has to offer. I want to find out what my friends enjoy that I’m not enjoying. So I’m just telling you I want to try it.”
And her father was a very wise man. He didn’t argue, he said, “Thank you Barbara, that you’ve been willing to come along with us this far. And your momma and I will pray for you.” And I’ll never forget this. It’s as vivid to me as when she told it. She said in the course of that week before the next Sunday, she had the most vivid dream of her life. And she saw in this dream two beautiful, brightly lit, brilliant cities. And while she was looking at the two cities, a very attractive, educated, cultivated man came. And he pointed to one of the cities and said, “Let me show you around.” And he was so charming and so cultivated she thought, “I’ll go with him.” And he began to take her all through this city and it was full of neon lights just like a very large city in the world today. But as they were walking through the city, the lights began to go out one after the other. And as she looked at this man, his countenance began to change and she realized it was Satan himself. And she found herself there alone in that city, in the dark, with that man. And she looked across at the other city and it was still radiant. Not a light had gone out. And she knew God had shown her the choice. The one is temporary, the other is eternal. The one is very bright, very attractive, very exciting. But it doesn’t last. So Paul goes on to say, verse 9:
“Wherefore we labor, [our ambition is, I think the New American Standard says. It’s our ambition.] whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”(KJV)
We may please him. Is that your ambition tonight? To please God. Then verse 10:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ...”(KJV)
We. That means you and me. All of us, no exceptions. We’re all going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. And in Romans it says we’re all going to be made manifest. Everything that there is to be known about us is going to be revealed. Now this is not the judgment of sinners, that’s before a great white throne. This is the judgment of believers. When God starts to judge, whom does he judge first? The world or the church? The church. The time has come, scripture says, the judgment must begin at the house of God. So in the judgments of God at the close of this age, the first group to be judged will be the Christians.
Now our judgment will not be a judgment of condemnation. Because there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. But it will be a judgment to assess the quality of our service. And to determine the measure of our reward. And Paul says in 1Corinthians 3, they’ll be some who have built wood and hay and stubble, and in that moment of judgment, everything they’ve ever labored for in their lives will just go up in fire and they’ll be saved like a naked soul. But others will have built gold and silver and precious stones and will be rewarded for their labor. So Paul says:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or [not so good, mediocre, fairly good—no] bad.”(KJV)
That’s a very important thing. What we do is either good or bad. There’s no half and half, there’s no gray. If it’s not done in the will of God, if it’s not done in obedience, if it’s not done by the glory of God; it’s bad.
And then Paul says, the 11th verse:
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord...”(KJV)
Do you believe it’s legitimate for a Christian to know the terror of the Lord? Apparently it is. I can preach this tonight because there’s not the faintest desire in my heart to bring anybody here under condemnation. But I just want to acquaint you with the facts. That’s how it’s got to be, for me, for everyone. We’re going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
All right. Let’s go to the last passage of scripture. Isaiah 40, beginning at verse 1.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”(KJV)
Praise God for that. I’d rather comfort God’s people than condemn them any day. Leave the devil to do the condemning, let us do the comforting.
“Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem...”(KJV)
Where it says speak ye comfortably, the Hebrew says speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Does it say that in the margin? Praise God for the margin. That’s really something. You know, you can read the simplest passages of scripture and they take on meaning. To me, it’s marvelous to be able to speak to people’s hearts. And I think God has given me a certain ability to do it in recent years. I’d like to bypass their heads and reach their hearts. Because when you touch people’s hearts you change their life. All right.
“Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem [and I hope one day God will give me that privilege. I mean that literally.] and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”(KJV)
There will come a day when Jerusalem’s final punishment is complete. Then we have this prophecy which was fulfilled in part, at least, in John the Baptist.
“The voice that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”(KJV)
I believe that if we want the glory of the Lord revealed, we have to prepare the way of the Lord. And I believe those are the four things that we have to do. The valleys have to be raised up. The mountains have to be brought down. Our pride and our arrogance and our self-righteousness has to come down. But our humility will be lifted up. The crooked things in our lives are to be made straight. The rough places have got to be made smooth. And then God says:
“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”(KJV)
And then the prophet gets his message, and this is what I want to speak about and here I want to close.
“The voice said, Cry. And he [the prophet] said, What shall I cry? [and this is the message] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: [the New American Standard says breath, but spirit is really there. The word is ruach] surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”(KJV)
You see again, what have you got? A contrast between the temporary and the permanent. Is that a message of comfort: all flesh is grass? How many of you would receive it as a message of comfort? Let’s state it, it’s a fact. Whether it’s a message of comfort of not, it’s true. Every thing that we see is withering and fading and dying. It’s extraordinary how the mind of intelligent men can refuse to face that fact. Paul said in Romans 8, the whole creation has been made subject to vanity. And in the book of Ecclesiastes, the first verse of that book contains the word vanity five times in one verse.
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”(KJV)
You need to understand that the key phrase in the book of Ecclesiastes is the phrase, things under the sun, which occurs twenty-seven times in that book. What are the things under the sun? They’re the temporal things, they’re the things that can be seen. And when you’re on the temporal realm, all is vanity. Everything is impermanent. Nothing endures. Shakespeare began one of his sonnets with these words: When I consider everything that grows holds in perfection but a little moment. That this huge stage presenteth naught but shows where on the stars in secret influence comment. That’s vanity. Everything that grows holds in perfection but a little moment. The rose blossoms, fills the air with its perfume and does what? Withers. It happens to the animal kingdom and it happens to human life too. You can have a happy, long life, but there’s the end. You’re going to die. You can live happily together as a married couple twenty years, thirty years, forty years, fifty years. One day, one of you is going to go. All is vanity. All flesh is grass. The people is grass. It’s all withering.
But the most extraordinary statement is it withers because the spirit of the Lord blows upon it. In other words, it’s God that puts it to death. God passed a decree. Why? Now I can tell you why. I mean, I know why, I’ve learned why. I learned it through the death of my wife. I would say it’s amazing that I could live with her thirty years and never really grasp that she would die. But I think that’s the way most people live. And probably it’s the best way to live, in a way. But when the Lord took my wife, I had to face these facts. Age sixty, and be a realist. All right, and I look at married couples and something in me says to warn them, tell them. It’s not going to last. Is that true? Or am I exaggerating or am I unrealistic? No, I’m speaking the truth. See, the only one who can face us with the truth is the Holy Spirit. And I’m not afraid of the truth. Because it’s the spirit of God that blows. Why? What is God aiming at? Why does God let us see everything so beautiful? And I appreciate creation today more than I’ve ever appreciated it. I’m more interested, in a sense, in life today than I’ve ever remembered being. And I really enjoy life. Those that know me pretty well, I think they know it’s true. But I enjoy it because I think I’ve learned the lesson. I’ve learned the lesson that there isn’t anything permanent here. We’re going to lose it all. And God has arranged it that way. Why?
Let me try to explain it to you. I hope I can say it right. God gives us things that are beautiful and lovely and lovable, and people. And after all, the most beautiful thing in the world are people. They’re the biggest problems too. But you can take all the flowers and all the trees and all the birds. In the last resort, there’s nothing so beautiful as people. They’re the crown of God’s creation. And yet they’re on the way out. Why? Well my answer is and I hope I can get it across to you. It’s so simple that you can miss it. But my answer is God has to get us interested in those things to get us desiring what is good and beautiful. And then he says don’t set your affections there. Because there’s something better up here. And he weans us from the temporal to the eternal. God doesn’t disappoint us, he doesn’t mock us. He says to face the fact, the whole of this human life and race is corrupt. There’s a poison at work.
But there’s another one, another level of life, another kind of life that’s pure, incorruptible, immortal, eternal, never fades, never withers. Do you believe that? I mean, I do. I’m not hoping or wishing or thinking. I know it is. And so I don’t expect too much out of this. I don’t set my affections on the things on earth. My wife and I knew what it was twice to walk out of a fully furnished home and know we’d never walk back. Just right out into the streets in the night. Now, I have the most beautiful home with antiques and all sorts of things. But it doesn’t hold me. I’m not bound by it. If God said to walk out tomorrow, I’d walk out and never look back. But while I’m there, I enjoy it. I thank God for it every day. Every time I get back to my home I say, “Thank you God, for this beautiful home you have given me. I am really grateful.” I believe I make God happy by enjoying it.
I also—I have to say this. If there’s one message I would leave, it’s this: God is faithful. You can rely on it. He’ll never let you down. My wife, those of you who read her book, you know she went from a very elegant, high class home with everything she needed, and for many, many years she lived a very, very humble life. Very few luxuries or facilities of any kind. And between us, we both gave up everything we had. Career, family, home, money, everything. I don’t fare to boast, but it’s an absolute simple fact. I was fifty years old and I had never owned a house. I was forty-five years old, I didn’t own a car, I didn’t have any insurance. I didn’t have any money in the bank. I didn’t know where I was going to live next. And one day I got desperate. I said, “God, what’s the end going to be?” And I didn’t know what God did, but I’m pretty convinced now he said, “Just wait and I’ll show him.” And in the course of about five years, God gave me abundantly everything that anybody could ever materially wish for in this world. And when he called my wife home, he called her from the best home she’d ever lived in in all her life. That’s God’s faithfulness. I mean, it blesses me more than I can say. I don’t care about the home, but to see God’s faithfulness, that means more than I can ever express.
I tell you, the devil never has the last word. The Bible says he that sits in the heaven is going to laugh at the devil. Praise God. Hallelujah. All right. So what’s the lesson? First of all, don’t look for permanent happiness on the earthly level because it isn’t there. All right? Remember you died when Jesus died on the cross and your home is somewhere else. And that’s where you need to be at home. And when you’ve made that realization, you can enjoy life on earth as you’ve never enjoyed it before. And thank God for every blessed moment he gives to you. But you’re not living here. You’ve got another citizenship, I hope your passport is in order. It would be embarrassing when you got to heaven’s gate they said you don’t have the right visa!