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Tape No. I-4143Page
Delivered From This Present Evil Age
I have the privilege of traveling very widely, as you’ve heard, meeting Christians from many, many different backgrounds, different nationalities. I’ve traveled and preached in almost all the states of the Union. I see God at work in many ways that are exciting and that bless me. I certainly don’t subscribe to the theology that God is dead, He’s very much alive. But, in a certain sense, I’m more and more disappointed. I’m not disappointed with God but I’m disappointed with the bottom line of what I see resulting from all that God is doing.
I think basically for the number of, quote, born again Christians in this country—and some people say it’s forty million, some people say it’s fifty million—I think we’re making a remarkably poor impression. It’s easy to say amen but it’s a grievous fact if it’s true. I’ve been exercised now for a good many months as to what is the root cause of the problem.
When John the Baptist introduced Jesus and the gospel, one of the things he said was, “Now also the axe is laid to the root of the tree.” I think that’s typical of God. Religion goes around chopping off a few branches and is very busy and sweats a lot, and basically leaves the situation unchanged. When God deals with the situation He doesn’t bother about the branches, He doesn’t even go for the trunk, He goes for the root. Because, when you’ve dealt with the root, you don’t have any more problems with the tree.
I’ve been exercised in my mind as to how God would deal with the root of our problem. Let me give you just a little illustration of the way the problem could be seen. Sometime last year somebody gave me a totally secular publication put out by a marketing research firm I believe in Washington, D.C. There was no spiritual overtones, there were no religious motives; it was purely concerned with dollars and cents. The subject for research was “How To Market To Born Again Christians.” What are the things you have to say and do, how can you persuade them to buy? After all a forty million person market is a very substantial market. I read this survey which was about four pages long and I saw that the person who wrote it had really come to very close quarters with born again Christians. He knew what he was talking about. He wasn’t theorizing about them from a distance. But, the bottom line of the whole survey was this, there really isn’t any difference between them and the rest. You may object to that, you may get angry about that, but that was the summation of a very highly qualified secular observer.
Personally, I think there’s a great deal of truth in that statement. There really isn’t a significant difference between the church and the world.
I have prepared and I trust God has given me a series of messages which I will be bringing. I believe I’m to preach three times, I have three messages. The overall title is “The World, The Cross and The Church.” I believe the missing factor is that little word, the cross.
When I was growing up and attending the Anglican Church in Britain I heard a certain amount of religious phraseology. I was familiar with the beautiful language of the prayer book. I knew just at a distance there were three things that really threatened Christians. This was standard language. The world, the flesh and the devil.
As I look back now over my own preaching and much preaching that I’ve heard in what has come to be known as the Charismatic movement or the Pentecostal movement or whatever you want to call it, I’ve heard a lot of preaching about the devil. I’ve done a lot of preaching about the devil myself. I’ve heard some about the flesh but I’ve heard almost nothing about the world. I think this is the missing factor which explains the church’s ineffectiveness.
There’s a little saying that I heard years back, a little parable. A ship in the sea is all right. The sea in a ship is all wrong. The church in the world is all right. The world in the church is all wrong. If there’s too much of the sea in the ship, you know what’ll happen to the ship? It’ll sink. I think the ship of the church is so near sinking these days that when we get somebody into the church we just set him to bailing with the rest to keep the ship afloat. That’s about our picture of committed Christianity is becoming a bailer.
I’m going to treat this in a rather basic way. I’m going to indulge myself—I don’t know how you would react—but when I find a theme in the Bible I like to study it thoroughly and get an overall view of it. I’m going to try and do this in these three messages.
Many of you have come here with needs. How do I know that? Well, because you’re Charismatic Christians. By definition you have needs. Let me share something with you out of personal experience and observation. If you focus on your needs you will never come to the end of your needs. You will live in them forever. Something has to happen that releases you from this whole context of “I need, I want, help me, pray for me, bless me.” As long as you live like that you’ll be a slave to your needs. I hope what I’m going to teach will have a liberating effect. I hope it will enlarge your vision, that you’ll see there’s more in the faith and more in the church and more in the knowledge of God than just your little circle of personal experience and personal need.
I heard a definition of wisdom some time back which is probably not new. I thought it was rather helpful. It was seeing things from God’s perspective. That’s what I’m going to try to do in these talks. I’m going to try to give you God’s perspective. I’ve said in a good many places that the Charismatic movement or whatever you want to call it, or contemporary Christianity, is like astronomy in the days before Galileo. There was a man named Copernicus whose theory held sway that the sun revolved around the earth. It took that daring experiment of Galileo to come out with the theory that it was wrong. The sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, the earth revolves around the sun. Typically enough, the church almost put him to death for saying that. He had to recant to save his life. That was the Catholic Church in those days.
I think Charismatics are like that. We’re still living in the days of Copernicus spiritually. We still view God as revolving around us. Jesus Christ the Son rises and sets around us. We’re earth centered. I believe we have to go through a revolution spiritually that is just as great a revolution as the transition from Copernicus to Galileo in which we understand that the Son doesn’t revolve around us. We revolve around the Son. The ultimate purpose of everything is not related to us, it’s related to God. God is the beginning, God is the ending.
I’m going to deal with the meaning of two words that occur frequently in the New Testament. If you have the Old King James Version, these two Greek words are both translated world. If you have newer translations, one of the words is translated age, the other is still translated world. Without giving you a lesson in Greek, the word that’s translated age in Greek is ion from which we get the English word eon—which basically is just a transliteration and gives you the main meaning. The word that is still translated world is cosmosfrom which we get such English words as cosmogony, cosmology, cosmonaut and so on. Not that they give you an accurate understanding of what the word means in the New Testament but you understand there is that word there.
So tonight I’m going to speak to you about the word for age, ion, eon. Really, what I’m going to do is give you a list of the different things that the Bible, the New Testament, says about ages. The next two meetings, which I believe will be on Saturday, I’m going to do the same with the name cosmosor world, which occurs probably more than twice as many times as the word for age.
Now, as you heard, I was really converted from philosophy to faith in Jesus through reading the Bible. The Bible changed me. God immediately gave me a desire to teach other people the Bible and though I was still a soldier in the British Army for four and a half more years after that, wherever I went I would start to teach people the Bible—sometimes just two or three people. I learned something in those early years, if you can get people actually finding out for themselves what the Bible says it will change them. It doesn’t need a lot of emotion, it doesn’t need a lot of high powered salesmanship, the Word of God will do it. I have total faith in the power of God’s Word received and believed to transform people.
I’d like to begin then in the study of the age, or ages, with a text in Galatians 1. This interests me because it’s a text I’ve never preached from before. You know, most preachers have their favorite texts and they normally start from them. Galatians 1:3–4:
Grace to you and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself [on the cross as a sacrifice] for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
So one main purpose for which Jesus died was to deliver us from this present evil age. I wonder whether you’ve ever thought about that? I wonder whether you’ve ever asked yourself, “Have I been delivered from this present evil age?” I don’t think the majority of Christians I meet would think in those terms at all. We live in this age, that’s when we’re living, how could we be delivered from it? But the purpose of the death of Jesus was to deliver us, to rescue us, from this present evil age.
Now I’m going to give you a little picture of what the New Testament says about ages, starting way back at creation. I’ll give you the scripture references, Hebrews 1:2. This is the glorious introduction of Jesus Christ in Hebrews. The thing about this, the problem with this is that when I get into it I find it hard to get out of it again. But, I’ll do my best not to stay there too long. It says:
God, who at various times and in different ways, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son...
Notice there’s a different between all the prophets of the Old Testament and the Son. The Greek does not say “by His Son,” it says “in a Son.” That’s to say it’s a totally different way of speaking. It’s one thing to speak by prophets, it’s another thing for God to be in a Son and speak to us through the Son.
And then it goes on to tell us seven things about the Son of God, one of which I’m going to focus on but let me point out all seven. We’re in the middle of verse 2:
...whom He appointed heir of all things...
Fact number one, He’s the heir of all things. Everything is going to come to its conclusion in Him. It’s typical of Hebrews that it puts the end before the beginning because the theme of Hebrews is going on to perfection. Hebrews was addressed to Jewish believers who had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures but were not moving on in God. I think the same kind of teaching is desperately needed today by Gentile believers for the same reason. So, the whole thrust of Hebrews is let us go unto perfection into our inheritance, into our rest. Those are the three key words: perfection, rest and inheritance.
So the first thing it says about Jesus is He’s the heir of all things. Then it says:
.. .through whom also God made the ages...
There’s the word, you understand? Now you’ve got translations that say worlds but the Greek word is ages. That’s the second thing. The third fact is:
...He was the brightness of the Father’s glory...
The fourth fact was:
...the express image of God’s person [or substance]...
The fifth fact is:
...He upholds all things by the word of His power...
Now those are five eternal facts about His divine nature. The last two facts are about His redemptive work.
.. .when He had by Himself purged our sins...
Fact number six. Fact number seven:
...He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.
Now you could spend a week profitably examining those seven statements about Jesus. It’s a pity we don’t have a week to do it. I want to focus on the second statement, the end of verse 2:
...through Him [Jesus] God made the ages...
God created the ages. The Old King James says the world which seems to make better sense because ages to us implies the concept of time. Worlds implies the concept of matter, of space. One of the fascinating things about the Bible is that it anticipated the Theory of Relativity by nineteen centuries. I was, as you know, a professional philosopher. I was not a physicist but I had to be in some measure familiar with the main theories of physics and mathematics. The Theory of Relativity particularly associated with the name of Einstein is that you cannot specify time without space or space without time. The phrase that’s used is the space time continuum. Well, it’s exciting to me to discover that the writer of Hebrews was there nineteen centuries earlier because he talked about God creating the ages, time and space. Not separated but as one single continuum. So, God created the ages. He set all time in motion but with time also space. That’s the first fact. And notice it’s ages, not just one age, it’s ages.
You find also in Hebrews 11:3 a similar statement which we might as well look at. Hebrews 11:3:
By faith we understand that the ages were formed by the Word of God...
Your translation probably says world but it’s ion. The ages were formed by the Word of God:
...so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
Again, right in line with modern physics. If you ask a physicist what this pulpit is made of, what’s the underlying reality, he’ll give you an answer in terms of protons and neutrons, electrons and things like that—none of which have ever been seen by the human eye. And if he were to try to describe it he’s give it to us in terms of some mathematical formula. So, isn’t it remarkable that the unscientific writer of Hebrews was in perfect harmony with these conclusions. God brought the ages into being by something that’s not visible, the Word of God so that everything visible, everything material, everything that we consider truly real was made out of something that we can’t see. And that tells us that what cannot be seen is the ultimate reality. And everything that can be seen is only temporarily real.
Paul says in 2Corinthians 4 the things which are seen are temporary, the things which are not seen are eternal. You see, that in itself demands a total mental revolution in most of you. Most of you feel your chair, you feel your desk, you feel your body and you say that’s real. The Bible says only partly real, temporarily real. But, the realities that endures are invisible.
See, your whole attitude toward divine healing would be changed if you realize that the most real thing is the Word of God. It brought your body into being and suitably received it can change anything that needs to be changed anywhere in your body. I hope you see we’re going to get somewhere tonight. I don’t think any of you know where we’re going to get! I’m not sure I do.
The next thing I want to say is ages are made of generations, which is another biblical term. The Greek word for generation is geneafrom which we get the word genealogy and so on. Genealogy is a list of generations. In Ephesians 3:21 Paul says about God in words which are not really easy to translate literally:
To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.
That’s the kind of nice way of trying to say it but what it says literally is “through all generations of the age.” So an age is made up of generations.
Then even more exciting, there are ages made up of ages. I don’t know whether you can even begin to picture that. An age made up of generations staggers the human mind but think of an age in which each age is an age. The age of the ages. The longest single look into time that you get in the Bible is the phrase “unto the ages of the ages.” Just pause and meditate for a moment what that means. Ages of ages.
That phrase occurs seven times in the epistles and twelve times in the Book of Revelation. I thought it would be a blessing to give you just a few of the places in Revelation where this tremendous phrase is used “to the ages of the ages.” We turn to Revelation 1:18. I feel excited even when I think about this one. Revelation 1:18, Jesus appears to John on Patmos and He says:
“I am He who lives and was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore.”
But in the Greek it is “I am alive for the ages of the ages.” Glorious.
Revelation 7:12, there’s a beautiful seven-fold doxology. You know what a doxology is? A doxology is that which gives glory to God. The Greek word for glory is doxa. They say here:
Amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might [seven] be to our God forever and ever.
To the ages of the ages.
Don’t you think that takes you out of your little problems for a moment? That we’re going to be giving those seven forms of honor to God for the ages of the ages? You could endure a little pain if you could look forward to that. A lot of things that seem so important would begin to seem comparatively trivial.
Revelation 11:15, here’s another beautiful one:
Then the seventh angel sounded, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”
He shall reign for the ages of the ages.
And then there’s some very grim things, too. If you turn to Revelation 19:3 we read of God’s judgment on Babylon, the evil religious end time system. I call it the false church. It said:
The angel when Babylon was judged said, “Hallelujah.” And her smoke rises up forever and ever.
For the ages of the ages. The universe will never be without a reminder of what it means to rebel against God. That’s going to be a continuing reminder. You see that smoke? Just remember that’s what it means to rebel against God.
And then it said also of the devil and the antichrist in Revelation 20:10:
And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are...
The beast is the antichrist.
...and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
For the ages of the ages. You see, the issues are very solemn, aren’t they? There’s no one here who would wish to be tormented day and night for the ages of the ages. But, if you cast your lot in with Satan you’ll end where he ended or will end.
See, I can feel a kind of solemnity descending on this meeting because we’re getting out of this little narrow perspective, “me and my problems and my blessings.” We’re beginning to see things a little bit the way God sees them.
But wait, the best one is still to come. Revelation 22:5:
And there shall be no night there, they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.
Who’s they? I hope it’s we, don’t you? We shall reign for the ages of the ages. Would you like to say that? “We shall reign for the ages of the ages.” That was good, try it again. “We shall reign for the ages of the ages.” Amen.
Now I’m going to make some statements which may surprise you but they’re all taken directly from the New Testament. It tells us that when Jesus came as savior just about two millennia ago He came at the consummation of the ages. You wouldn’t think that but you’d think a long time has passed since Jesus came. But if you turn to Hebrews 9—it’s rather interesting, isn’t it, how many times we have to turn to Hebrews for this particular word. You’ll find there are certain words that certain writers use. Like when they come to the word world, cosmos, at least half our scriptures will be taken from the writings of John. Hebrews 9:26, pointing out that Jesus did not have to offer His sacrifice of Himself more than once:
He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world, but now once at the end of the ages He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
It says there the end but the best word is consummation. Does anybody have an NIV? Is that what it says? The end. What does the NASB say? Consummation, that’s right. It means the winding together of everything, the bringing of everything together to its close. So, when Jesus came it was to bring all the ages of God’s purposes to their consummation for the final, complete, resolution of all the purposes of God.
See, there’s much more in the coming of Jesus than just our personal salvation. It has cosmic implication. His death and resurrection changed everything throughout the universe. The universe has never been the same since that.
Not only does the New Testament say that but it says something about us, which is also startling, in 1Corinthians 10:11. Speaking about the experiences of Israel on their way from Egypt to the land of Canaan, all the troubles they ran into, all the sins they committed, Paul sums it up by saying:
Now all these things happened to them as an example, and they are written for our admonition [or for our warning] on whom the ends of the ages has come.
Who’s that? That’s right. See, that makes us extremely significant, doesn’t it? The ends of the ages have come on us. All the unfolding of God’s eternal purposes in some sense rest on us. See, never think of yourself as unimportant because all God’s eternal purposes focus on us in the times in which we’re living.
One of the worst things Christians can do is underestimate themselves. First of all, you’re God’s handiwork. So, every time you criticize yourself you’re criticizing God’s handiwork. You have no right to do that. Second, but by God’s grace we are the most significant factor in the universe. The purposes of God center in us. If you really grasp that you couldn’t lead an idle, trifle life. You couldn’t spend the hours you spend in front of the television set. You’re going to have to answer to God for what happens to His purposes. We’re going to have to answer to God. I don’t say that to others.
All right. Another simple fact but very important, the present age is coming to an end. Do you live that way? Or, do you live as if it were never coming to an end? There are countless scriptures in the New Testament that tell us this present age is coming to an end. It is not going to continue forever. I say thank God! Because, it’s a mess. And furthermore, the mess is getting worse.
Let’s look at just a few scriptures, we’ll turn to Matthew for this. Matthew 13:39, this is part of the parable of the wheat and the tares.
“The enemy who sowed them [the tares] is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age [the reapers of the age].”
“Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.”
“So it will be at the end of the age, the angels will come forth and separate the wicked from among the just.”
And in Matthew 24:3 the disciples ask Jesus:
“Tell us, what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus didn’t correct them and say, “This age isn’t going to end,” He answered their question very specifically.
And then the last verse of Matthew, Matthew 28:19–20:
“Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Spirit; teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
If you are living as though this age is never going to end then you need to adjust your lifestyle. You’re living in a false world. Your values are false, your priorities are wrong.
The next fact is an exciting one, the name of Jesus is supreme in this age and in the next. That’s one thing that isn’t going to change. Ephesians 1:20–21:
His mighty power which He worked in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come.
So again Paul is looking forward beyond the present age to the next age but he says nothing is going to change the position of Jesus. He’s there for the ages of the ages.
Here is a fact of great importance which I think is too little mentioned today in the church, that Satan is the god of this age. Paul speaks about 2Corinthians 4:3–4:
But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded.
Who is the god of this age? Satan, that’s right. You see, that’s one reason why Satan doesn’t want this age to end. He’s doing everything he can to prolong this present age because when this age ends he ceases to be god. Of course we realize he’s not the God, he’s a false god but humanity has made him god by rebelling against the true God and placing false Gods in place of the true. So this is an evil age. Why? Because Satan is the god of it.
We go back to Galatians 1 now. I hope you can begin to see the context. Galatians 1:
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
I wonder if you begin to see why it’s imperative that we be delivered from this present evil age. Why is the age evil? Because it has an evil god. It’s under evil power. God ultimately is not going to change this age, He’s going to bring it to an end. Personally I think Christians who direct all their efforts to changing this age are misguided. I believe there are many things we can change and we should change but every change we achieve in this age we need to bear in mind is not permanent because the whole age is coming to an end.
Now, having been delivered from this present evil age—and that’s not in the future, you understand, that’s already taking place. We don’t belong to this age, we belong to the next age. If you turn to Hebrews 6:4–6 now. This is in a very solemn context but I don’t want to go into that too much. We have to read those verses. Hebrews 6:4–6:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away to renew them again to repentance since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.
Now this raises all sorts of theological issues but I just have to say I believe what it says. It is possible to come to a point where you have forfeited any further hope in Christ. I don’t believe that’s just for backsliders but for people who turn and actually deny Jesus Christ, having known Him and taken a step and treated Him irreverently.
I’m always careful when I deal with backsliders to steer them away from any kind of attitude. Most backsliders have the attitude, “Well, I’m really not so bad as other people think I am.” I mean, I have some in my family who are backslidden and I’m very concerned about them. But I do know one thing, but of the ones I know, they have never denied Christ. They might say, “We’re better than all you people who go to church,” but they never deny Him. That is the most crucial thing.
In fact, be very careful about how you talk. Really. Because we say so many foolish, empty, negative things about ourselves. Sometimes we’re setting our own destiny.
However, what I wanted to say was it speaks there of people who’ve had five experiences, if I’m right. Look in verses 4–5 and you’ll find them. They’ve been enlightened. The Holy Spirit has shown the truth. They’ve tasted the heavenly gift which is the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. They’ve become partakers of the Holy Spirit; through faith in Jesus they’ve received the Holy Spirit. They’ve tasted the good Word of God; they’ve known its truth, its reality, its power to nourish and sustain. And, the powers of the age to come. Notice? See, when you’re baptized in the Holy Spirit you’re beginning to taste just a little bit of what will be normal in the next age. What we call supernatural in this age will be natural in the next age. God gives us a little foretaste so that we have some kind of idea of what it’s going to be like.
I’ll share with you a theory. This is a Prince theory, you’re perfectly free to disagree with me. But, it says in verse 16:
The first body was natural, the resurrection body is spiritual.
Now, where it says natural the Greek word is psuchekos, which means the Greek word for soul is psuche, it’s soulish. So, our present body is a soulish body, whatever that may mean. We do know that our total personality is spirit, soul and body. I think we know from experience that if your spirit wants to do something it’s got to get the cooperation of the soul. That’s why David said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” David’s spirit knew what he ought to be doing but he had to get the cooperation of his soul to get it done. The soul, in a certain sense, is like the gear lever or gear box between the spirit and the body. So, when your spirit wants to go through the door it has to get your soul to motivate your body to go through the door.
This is my theory: You see—I never intended to get into this tonight but it just shows how dangerous it is when people pray! It says in Leviticus 17:11 the life of all flesh is in the blood. But the Hebrew word for life is nefeshwhich is the regular Hebrew word for soul. Your soul is in your blood. When your blood ceases to circulate your soul isn’t there. When Jesus gave His soul as an offering for the sin of the world it says in Isaiah 53 He poured out His soul unto death. How did He pour it out? In His blood. Every drop of blood was drained from His body and His soul given in his blood became the sin offering for the world.
Now, what happened when Jesus was resurrected? What happened to His blood? I’ve heard different theories but I don’t have one myself. But, He had a resurrection body and He said to His disciples, “Touch me and see because a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bone.” But he didn’t say flesh and blood. I’m inclined to think—this is my opinion and if I’m wrong it won’t keep me out of heaven—in fact, it might make heaven more interesting! I’m inclined to think that your resurrection body will be a body without blood. And, your spirit will have direct control over that body. Understand? It won’t have to go through the gear box of your soul. You’ll say, “I wish I were there,” and by the time you start your arm out you’ll be there. See? Or, “I think I’ll drop in on my friends in Carrolton and see how they’re doing,” and before you finish the sentence you’re in Carillon. But, your friends don’t know you’re there!
Well, as I say, there’s no extra charge for that.
We’re coming back now to the statement that when you’re baptized in the Holy Spirit you get a taste of the next age. So, you shouldn’t feel strange when you leave time and move out into eternity. I’ve just passed 70 and I realize God may give me many more years, I hope He will. But, I say to myself the fact of the matter is sooner or later I’m going to die and I’m going to pass out of time into eternity. Then I took stock of myself, this was maybe a couple of years ago, and I said I don’t really think I’m ready for the presence of God. I mean, I’m a saved soul, I don’t believe I’m going to perish. But, I don’t think I’m ready to make that transition. I have, to some extent, been working on it. I think that’s partly why I’m bringing the message that I’m bringing tonight. I think what I’m talking about tonight has got a lot to do with being ready for the presence of God.
It talks in 2Peter 1 about having an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God. I’d like that kind of entrance. I don’t want to just sneak through a crack and say, “I made it!” But you’ve got to be adjusted in your thinking. Your values have to change. One thing that’s happened to me, basically I don’t care any longer what people think. I don’t know that I’ve ever been unduly worried but I’ve come to the conclusion that time is too short to mess around with anything but the truth. I’m not interested in religious games.
I heard this story about a Catholic woman who was in a meeting of John Wimber’s. He was teaching them to pray prophetic prayer for one another and he had this ministry of training people to minister to one another—a much needed ministry. Somebody prayed for this Catholic lady that she would see the church as Jesus sees it. After that any time anybody mentioned the word church she burst into tears. I think that man’s prayer was answered.
I drove into Carrolton today and I saw one church and another church and a third church. I thought to myself, “Dear God, is that what God intends?” I can’t believe that. Jesus is not a bigamist. He’s not coming back for more than one bride. He’s not coming back for a Catholic church or a Protestant church or a Charismatic church. The great dividing line between the true and the false church at the end of this age will not be whether you speak in tongues. It will be have you been faithful to the bridegroom or have you been unfaithful? Because, you’re either going to be the bride or you’re going to be the harlot. They’ll be nothing else.
I think if you belong to the bride there’ll be no way you can escape speaking in tongues by that time!
All right. Now, the next statement I want to make is taken from Matthew 13:22. This is the parable of the seed that was sown in four kinds of soil. In verse 22 it says:
He who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches choked the word and he becomes unfruitful.
So, one of the facts about this age is it impresses care or worries. There are certain worries that are characteristic of this present age. It’s not a little thing because it can keep you from being ready to meet the Lord. Jesus said in Luke 21, “Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, drunkenness and the cares of this life.” And, you’re not ready.
Let me tell you, dear brother and sister, if you are full of worries it’s because you’re living in the wrong age. This age has worries, the next age has no worries. Somebody has estimated that the Bible tells us 350 times not to worry. You think we’d get the message. The truth is you can’t help worrying if you’re living in the wrong age because this age is full of worry. And what’s more, computers and electronics don’t reduce our worry, have you discovered that? I think they just give us more to worry about.
I remember being in East Africa as a missionary many years ago in educational work and one of our fellow missionaries there had a girls school. Her name was Iris Sheehan. She was one of these modern people that believe in having the best equipment. She was a very hard working missionary. She had a washing machine, she had a dryer. Her African girls said to her, “Miss Sheehan, you must have such an easy life when you have a washing machine and a dryer.” They couldn’t picture that a person with those things would have any worries. How many of you know better?
Understand? Material things don’t reduce our worries. In fact, I think they tend to increase them. I’m not against them, I’m not preaching against washing machines but the truth of the matter is if you want to be free from worry you’ve got to be living in a different age. You’ve got to know what it is experientially to have been delivered from this present evil age.
Then the Bible teaches very clearly that we must not be conformed to the present age in Romans 12:2:
And do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
So, as long as we think like this age thinks we cannot find the will of God for our life. I run into countless Christians who are stumbling around wondering what God has for them. But they cannot find it because they’re thinking the way the world thinks. They’re thinking in terms of the world’s values, the world’s motives, the world’s standards. God does not reveal His will to that kind of mind. There are many of you here, honestly, you’re saved and if you die you’ll go to heaven but you’re not going to find God’s will in this life until you undergo a change in your thinking. The natural mind is self centered, “What will I get out of this? What will this do for me? What will people say about me?” The renewed mind is God centered. “Will this please God? Will this glorify God? Will this extend the Kingdom of God?” Totally different. As long as you’re self centered you’re a prisoner of yourself.
You know, in fact, in the past, I don’t do it much now, and counseled with people that needed deliverance by the hour. Do you know what I discovered? Anybody who has a lot of problems with demons is self centered. They’ll go on telling you about their problems and they don’t realize they’re just building the bars of their cage. See, their real problem is being self centered. That’s one reason why so many, quote, Christian marriages are breaking up. Because a Christian marriage doesn’t work with self centered people. As long as a man or a wife has the attitude, “What will I get out of this? What will this do for me?” they aren’t meeting the conditions for Christian marriage. Christian marriage begins with a life laid down for your mate. It’s mutual. And on that basis it works. Praise God I can say that from experience and give God the glory, but I know it works.
Why are so many Christian marriages and even minister’s marriages breaking down? The answer is simple, the world in the church. They go through all the formulas of religion, they know how to clap their hands, sing the choruses—which I’m all in favor of. They wouldn’t change their thinking, they’re still self centered. We cannot afford to be conformed to this age.
I’ve been through the Pentecostal tradition which did me a lot of good and I owe it much. But I knew all the Pentecostal rules, what you mustn’t wear, where you mustn’t go. The same people when something happens to upset them, they react just like the world. They’re outwardly changed in a few minor externals but their thinking hasn’t been changed at all. God doesn’t start with the outside, God doesn’t say take off your makeup or wear a long dress. God says change the way you think. Once I’ve changed your thinking I don’t have to bother about your conduct, it will fall into line.
All right. We come to one more searching statement. I want to tell you there are many statements about this age that I haven’t given you. Let’s turn to 2Timothy for a moment, chapter 4 and verse 10. Let’s read verse 9 to get a complete sentence:
Be diligent to come to me quickly [that’s spoken to Timothy] for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present age, and has departed for Thessalonica.
What was Demas’ problem? He loved the present age. Now, we know from other epistles, it’s mentioned in two other epistles, that he was a trusted coworker of the apostle Paul, a man who’d been with him through much. Paul obviously was not aware of this fatal flaw in his character. What a shock it must have been to Paul. You can almost hear the grief with which he says “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present age.” Demas could have given a lot of reasons, do you know that? Paul wasn’t that much of a success. He was getting old, he wasn’t very strong, he was in jail, the days when he’d been able to stir whole cities with his ministry had passed. One of his closest coworkers, Trophemus, he’d left sick in Milletum, he couldn’t even pray him well. All the main influential officials of the (unintelligible) of Asia who had been his friends had turned away from him. By worldly standards, brothers and sisters, he was a failure. Demas was measuring by worldly standards, “This is a sinking ship, I better get off it while I can.”
I don’t suppose that Demas went into a life of sin. He wasn’t going out after prostitutes or going to bars. He just wanted a more secure, reasonable kind of life. Maybe he bought a condominium somewhere. There’s nothing wrong against condominiums, I own one. What I’m pointing out here is his was not the kind of mistake or fault that we normally would preach against. If he’d had that kind of mistake or fault Paul wouldn’t have had him as a coworker. He had one fatal flaw, he was in love with the present age. It didn’t show up for years. Brothers and sisters, could it be that some of you have the same flaw? You’ve got by in a religious world and you can go on getting by. It’s remarkable what you can get by with in the church today. You can divorce your wife, go off and start a church somewhere. It’s quite fashionable. There’s very few limits in contemporary America as to what people can do. You can get by but not with God. And there’ll come some point in your life a test that you won’t be ready to face because you’ve got this fatal weakness: you’re in love with the present age.
When I listen to young Christian people talk, and I meet many, so often I am left asking myself, “Are they in love with the age?” I think it’s very significant that there was a popularity poll of the most popular Americans sometime back. I think out of eleven people President Reagan was one. I think all the other people except Mother Theresa were performing artists. What does that tell you? It tells you that the people of today can’t distinguish between reality and acting. They’ve been so brainwashed by television that they don’t have any power to distinguish between what’s real and what’s make believe.
I believe that is largely true in our religion. I have to be careful how I say this but I was involved with a dear brother who fell into sin, had to resign his pastorate. He’d been a very successful pastor, very successful. But when that happened I have to tell you that the facade fell off that whole religious act and it was rotten. Not just one pastor but the amount of hypocrisy and phoniness and immorality and adultery—but oh they had wonderful Sunday services all on television. You know, it’s getting very hard to find out what is real in the church today.
Suppose you’d been there with Paul. He’s in prison, he’s manacled, it’s getting wintry, it’s pretty chilly. You know there’s a nice place down in Florida—I live in Florida—you can be comfortable, you’ll get your Social Security, why make these foolish sacrifices? How would you have decided? Don’t criticize Demas unless you’re absolutely sure you wouldn’t have done the same. I’m not sure, brothers, I tell you. I’m continually asking myself if that kind of a test comes where will Brother Prince be? I don’t take it for granted. One thing I do believe is if you don’t practice laying your life down daily you’ll not lay it down when the big moment comes. The people who are leading self-pleasing, self-centered lives now will not be able to make the right decision when the real crunch comes.
Let me give you my diagnosis. You remember we talked about the axe being laid to the root of the tree? I’d like to turn to Philippians in closing. Philippians 3:17 and following:
Brethren, join in following my example and note those who so walk as you have us for a pattern. For many walk of whom I’ve told you often and now tell you even weaken, 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 set their mind on earthly thing. For our citizenship is in heaven...
We’ve been delivered from this present evil age. I have three citizenships, I’m an unusual person. I’m a British citizen by birth, I’m a naturalized American citizen but I’m a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. And you know what? You have to have a passport for every country that you’re a citizen of. You have your heavenly passport. It makes a lot of difference what country you’re a citizen of. If you’ve been born an American citizen you wouldn’t know the difference but those who are just aliens permitted to reside have just a little green card they have to produce every time they come in and go out of the state. They have to register their address with the Department of Justice. I tell you, I appreciate my American citizenship. When I walk through the alleyway that says U.S. Citizen, it’s a great privilege to be a U.S. citizen. There are countless millions of people all over the world that will give everything they have if they could get a U.S. citizenship. What are you doing?
Our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He’s able to subdue all things to Himself.
See, Paul said we are not focusing on this age. We are expecting a Savior from heaven. Our citizenship is in the next age. But, he said, the problem with these people about whom I’m warning you is not that they’re not Christians, he wouldn’t warn them if they weren’t Christians. What was their problem? They were the enemy of the cross of Christ. They liked Jesus, they wanted all His blessings but they didn’t like the cross.
What was the evidence in their lives? Let’s look at this closely. Don’t think about the people in the next church. It says about them:
...their end is destruction, their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame...
And it’s summed up in the word:
...who set their mind on earthly things.
There’s no Christians like that in the United States. Are there any that aren’t like that? Of course there are, there are some wonderful Christians but I think they’re the minority. Honestly. I don’t think that’s a picture of the majority of Christians in this country. There are some places where I could go to church and say that’s true of most people. One place would be Hungary. If they’re going to be Christians there they have to count the cost. I mean, it is a total commitment. When that church worshiped, I mean, we’re in a different world. I thank God for the beautiful worship we’ve had here, for the worship leaders, I really appreciate them, I want to say that. But brothers and sisters, it’s different when you’re worshiping not from this present age, when you’re home with the one you worship, when you’re united with Him. Where that’s where your home is, you don’t have a home here on earth. The New Testament speaks countless times about those who live on the earth, it tells us, trouble is ahead for them. Where are you living? In which age are you living? What’s your attitude toward the cross? Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified to me and I unto the world.” You see, that’s the separating line. Here’s the world, here’s the church. What’s in between them? The cross. You’re on one side of the cross or the other. Either you can say like Paul, “I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live yet not I but Christ liveth in me. The life which I live now in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me.”
I don’t want to make things easy for you tonight. I’ve preached long enough to have a pretty good idea how to make an appeal that people will respond to. I’ve been shocked just lately by the tremendous proportion of people that have responded to appeals that I’ve made. Something like 90% in different churches. I’m almost embarrassed. I say to myself I don’t really believe they understood what I was saying. I want you to ponder just for a few moments on what I’ve said. Ask yourself this question, “Have I been delivered from this present evil age? What is my mind set on? What is my thought life like? What are the standards by which I live?” You see, if there really were forty million committed Christians in this nation they’d turn the nation upside down. But the few people who are trying to get things changed, their main complaint is the church (unintelligible). Brothers and sisters, I’m all in favor of pressuring the government to bring forth right legislation but I want to tell you legislation doesn’t change people’s hearts. What this nation needs is a major change of heart not amongst the drug addicts and the prostitutes but amongst the church believing people. The Bible says the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God. If it first begin with us where shall the ungodly and the sinner be found?
In the great move of the Holy Spirit that changed the whole nation of Wales in 1904 called the Welsh Revival the main instrument that God used was a young man named Evan Roberts. He had this slogan, “Bend the church and bow the world.” If you can get the church to bend the world will bow. But if the church will not bend the world will not bow. There’s only one way to reach the world, it’s through the church. If the church resists the Holy Spirit there is no way the Holy Spirit can reach the world.
Where do we stand? I’m honestly tempted just to stop preaching and let you think it over but I’m not sure that’s fair to you because I believe there’s a spirit of conviction on this congregation. I would like to ask that you do this, that you bow reverently in prayer in your seat. I’m not going to ask you to do anything dramatic or difficult but I’d like everybody shut in with God—not that I’m concerned whether you’re embarrassed, that’s not the point. Even if you’re here with your wife I want you to be shut in with God.
Now, I want you to respond this way. If you want to say to the Lord, “In the light of what Brother Prince has said I realize that I have not been delivered from this present evil age, that I haven’t had that inner transformation in my thinking, in my values, in my motives. God, I want you to change me. Whatever it takes, I want you to change me.” If you want to make that declaration tonight I’m asking you do only one thing, raise your hand. Don’t do it thoughtlessly because God is going to take you at your word. I’m going to pray that He will. God bless you. Once you’ve raised your hand you may put it down because it’s not for the sake of counting heads, it’s for the sake of your making a commitment to God.
Now I would like the worship leaders to come up if they’re available. I really appreciate the worship that we have. I would just like to pray for those of you that raised your hands and then close this night with some kind of song of dedication.
Heavenly Father, you’re here tonight by your Holy Spirit. We’ve sensed your presence, we’ve sensed your anointing. We know that many have been praying for these meetings. Lord, I want to just lift up to you all those who raised their hands here tonight. I want to ask you, Lord, to do everything in them and for them that will make their decision an eternal reality, that will change them so radically that they’ll never be the same again. For your glory, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.