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This is the third and the final one in this series which I entitled “The World, the Cross and the Church.” I will briefly recapitulate what I taught this morning on the world. And I pointed out this morning that in the New Testament that phrase the world has a special application which you have to find out. I defined the world as a social world order in rebellion against God.
Through man’s fall, Satan has become the ruler of this world. Jesus calls him that three times.
Satan controls the world through deception.
Satan rules over all rebels, even Charismatic rebels. Did you know that? Denominations don’t affect Satan, it’s the attitude of the heart. If you’re not submitted to God, Satan is your ruler. Could you believe there are a lot of tongue speaking rebels? There’s some pastors talking there. They’re pastoring them, you see?
Satan claims to control the kingdoms or governments of the world.
Now here’s the good news. God loves the world and gave Jesus to die for it.
The cross was God’s judgment on Satan and the world. The cross resulted in Satan’s defeat. That’s the thing he’s regretted most in all history, is getting Jesus crucified. And he does his best to keep the church ignorant of what it did to him.
The world does not recognize Jesus or his disciples.
The world hates Jesus and his disciples.
The spirit of God and of the world are opposed to each other.
The Spirit of God in believers is greater than the spirit of the world.
I pointed out when you’ve studied all that the New Testament says about the world and the spirit of the world, what you’ve got is humanism. That’s exactly what humanism is.
I gave you these brief contrasts between the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. I did it on my hands, I’ll do it again. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. The opposite is the spirit of error.
The Spirit of God reveals the things of God. The spirit of the world ridicules the things of God.
The Spirit of God focuses on Jesus. The spirit of the world focuses on man and makes man his god.
The Spirit of the Lord focuses on the eternal and always makes us conscious of a world beyond time. The spirit of this world focuses on the temporary.
The Spirit of God convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment and tells man he’s accountable to God. The spirit of the world blinds men to those three eternal realities of sin, righteousness and judgment. The spirit of the world says all things continue as they were, it’s all going to go on. There’s never going to be any intervention of God in judgment.
The Spirit of God is a spirit of power over evil, of love, of a sound mind and self control. The spirit of the world is a spirit of subjection to evil. That’s what our brother quoted that I said this morning. In our schools today children are actually being taught to submit to evil. The spirit of the world is a spirit of strife, hatred and division. The spirit of the world is a spirit of rashness, self indulgence and arrogance.
The Spirit of God is the Spirit of supernatural grace and the spirit of the world is a spirit of fleshly effort.
Now I want to close this teaching tonight by continuing with this theme of what the New Testament has to say about the world as I’ve defined it and about believers in their relationship to the world. According to my observation, the truths I’m going to teach tonight on top of the ones I’ve taught, if believed and acted upon by the American church, would produce a total revolution. You wouldn’t recognize the church. Personally, I believe the church needs a total revolution. I thank God for all the benefits and the blessings we receive. I have to say I think God is amazingly patient that he doesn’t bring us to a day of reckoning.
I was blessed by the prophetic utterance we had. God remembers the faithfulness of the ancestors of the American people. I can’t say our ancestors because I’m British but I think this generation in America has just about spent all the capital that it inherited spiritually from previous generations. It’s about time God got a return on his investment.
I’m going to make a series of statements and just back them up by scriptures, some of which will hardly be necessary to quote. The next thing I want to say is believers are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14, the sermon on the mount. You remember what Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world.”
I believe that God and his people are the only source of light in a darkened world. There is no other source of light. Don’t confuse education with light. You can be educated and totally in the dark. And do you know how I know it? Because I was that way. I had the best education that Britain could offer, I had been, academically, totally successful, and I was totally in the dark.
There’s another scripture that we could look at in this context which I think is very important. Philippians 2, Paul says to the believers in verse 15:
“That you may be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation...”
How many of you would agree we’re living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation?
“...among whom you shine as lights in the world...”
Other translations make it a commandment, shine as lights in the world.
“...holding forth the word of life.”
I believe it’s important that we see that. We only shine insofar as we hold forth the word of life. That’s why I’m so passionately committed to my own radio program because it’s my way of holding forth the word of life. Whatever way God has given us, each one in some area and in some measure is responsible to hold forth the word of life. And that’s how we shine.
Then, and this is very closely parallel, believers represent Jesus in the world. I heard the testimony of a man who was in the British navy in World War II. He was a total unbeliever. But he was in a small naval ship in which there was a very small personnel and one of the other personnel on the ship was a committed Christian. And this unbeliever didn’t like the Christian, he wanted to get away from the Christian, but there was no way to get away from him in that small ship. And he said, I would have never have read my Bible but he said, I had to read that man’s life. And he said that man’s life convinced me that there is a God. And he said this: Remember you are the only Bible somebody is ever going to read. There is somebody where you work, somebody in your neighborhood, somebody who knows where? They’ll never open a Bible but they’ll look at your life.
Look at 1John 4:17. Just the last part of that verse, it’s such a short sentence we could almost miss it out.
“As he is [that’s Jesus] so are we in this world.”
The world doesn’t see Jesus but the world see us. And they should see us as being Jesus is.
The next one is my theme song, believers are obligated to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the whole world. There are some scriptures that I include in every sermon nowadays and this is one of them. Matthew 24, start in verse 3 for a moment.
The disciples came to Jesus and said, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Notice they said what will be the sign. Not the signs but the sign. Now in the verses that follow, Jesus gave them a whole list of signs: worldwide wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, false prophets, lawlessness, a whole series of things, most of which are very conspicuous in the world today. But he hadn’t answered the question. But in verse 14 he answered the question.
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come.”
That’s a specific answer to a specific question. What will be the sign of the end of the age? This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations. And when that’s happened, the end will come.
Who is responsible to proclaim the gospel? We are. Understand, the destiny of the world hinges on us. It isn’t in the hand of the military leaders or the political leaders or the scientists. They can’t bring the end of the age. We’re responsible.
Remember what I told you? Satan is the god of this age. He doesn’t want the age to end because when it ends he’ll cease to be god. He does everything in his power to delay the end of the age. We are the ones who are responsible for seeing that the age is brought to God’s appointed climax. How do we do that? Not by sitting in church and singing hymns. I don’t think the devil really objects to most churches. You may think I’m cynical but I think he views them as a good way of keeping most Christians harmlessly occupied.
I heard a young man who was rather arrogant say a little while back about a certain situation. “I opened a new church.” I thought to myself, I wonder if opening a new church is necessarily the same as building the church. I think some churches would be better not opened. Have you ever considered that? We don’t have too few churches, we have too many churches—with the wrong kind of people in them.
Jesus didn’t say go and make church members of all nations. What did he say to make? To make disciples of all nations. Our big problem is our churches are full of members who are not disciples. Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, these signs will follow them that believe. They’ll lay hands on the sick, they’ll cast out demons, they’ll raise the dead, et cetera.
I’ve heard people say the signs don’t follow. I’ll tell you why they don’t follow. Because people don’t go. I want to tell you this, the signs do follow those who go. And they’ve never been promised to any other group. You’ve heard this saying I’m sure. It’s hard to follow a parked car. Do you know what the church is? It’s a whole lot of cars parked in the church parking lot.
I just want to tell you, last September Ruth and I and five other people were in Pakistan for nine days. A 98 percent Moslem country. Christians are a tiny, oppressed, despised minority. God supernaturally opened the door for us to hold public meetings. And in nine days the local Christians estimated 8,500 people prayed for salvation. Of them at least one third were Moslems. If you have any knowledge of Moslems, that is a miracle. We saw the most outstanding specific miracles I’ve ever seen in my ministry. Ruth and I continually see people healed but we said to one another we really don’t see the totally blind healed. Very rarely do we see the totally deaf. Not many crippled. But I’ll tell you, in Pakistan we saw all of that. I think the most outstanding miracle of our experience was an old Pakistani lady of about 60 who was born blind and received perfect sight. We didn’t lay hands on her, we simply prayed a collective prayer. You couldn’t lay hands on all those people.
I tell you that because I want to say to you on the basis of personal experience the signs do follow those that believe and those that go. You’d be surprised, some of you young men and women what you could achieve from God if you’d get out of where you are into some difficult place where nobody else goes. You know the best place for a miracle is the worst place. When there’s no other way of getting results, God will come out with a miracle.
I told people, I said, Never did I feel the anointing of God in those meetings. Never was I blessed. Never did I enjoy myself. It was odd, hot, dusty work. God saw fit to honor us with the miraculous. My heart grieves for multitudes of healthy, strong young men and women who are just eking their lives out in conventional Christianity when the world is crying out for what we’ve got. You don’t have to go to most places and persuade them to listen, they’re waiting to listen. It wasn’t that way 40 years ago, this is harvest hour. The Lord said pray the Lord of the harvest that he would thrust forth laborers into the harvest. You know that word thrust in Greek is the same word that’s used for driving out demons. People have got to be driven out into the harvest by divine pressures. I pray that some of you will never be happy again until you’re in the harvest. That’s a challenge. If you leave this meeting feeling miserable you can blame me! I’ll accept the blame. I’ll go on praying for you until you find a solution to your misery which is hear the call of God. God’s calling, the problem is people aren’t listening.
We’ve got to go on. Believers must use but not abuse the world. That’s a delicate shade of meaning, isn’t it. 1Corinthians 7:31. There’s a lot of different translations of this scripture. Isn’t it remarkable? We have who knows how many different translations to choose from. Most of the world doesn’t have a Bible. I’m not so sure that I’m so excited about New English translation. I think what the English need to do is believe and obey the translations they already have. Reading a new translation isn’t going to make you more obedient. 1Corinthians 7:31:
“And those who use this world, as not misusing it: for the form of this world is passing away.”
The NIV says as not engrossed with the world. I forget what the NASB says but it says something else. Anybody got an NASB? And those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it... In other words, don’t let the world grab you. Stay at arm’s length, have transactions with it but never get mastered by it. Never let it possess you.
Believers must not be contaminated by the world. The world is a very contaminating place. Spiritually contaminating. James 1. In most translations you have to read right through to the epistle of James to find the word religion in the Bible. Did you know that? The Bible does not have much to say about religion but it has a whole lot to say about salvation. The difference is religion is what people do for God, salvation is what God does for people. And when it comes to religion, if people would read James 1:26–27, our churches would be different tomorrow morning. We could not be the same if we took these words seriously. Verse 26 says:
“If any among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”
So, if you can’t control your tongue, your religion is useless. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Baptist or a Catholic or a Jehovah’s Witness if it comes to that. Your religion is useless if you do not control your tongue. Some of you have never thought about that before. Then it goes on to define God’s view of wisdom.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their troubles...”
How many of the religious people in the United States are doing that? Brothers and sisters, there’s no shortage of orphans and widows. The third world is full of them. You can reach them, there are many wonderful organizations that are just dedicated to reaching orphans and widows. My first wife and I and my present wife and I, we have consistently for at least 20 years supported two orphans in India and one in Korea. I don’t think that’s something tremendous, it doesn’t cost us much. I think that’s minimal.
You know what the Bible says in James 4:17? Some of us should take a course in James. It says:
“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin.”
I doubt whether God will charge you mainly with your sins of commission. It’ll be your sins of omission that he’ll check on. IF every Christian family that had got it together—and there aren’t that many—but if every Christian family that did have it together would adopt one unwanted child, that would change a whole lot of misery in this world. Just that one thing. But, you’d have to give up a little of your convenience. You’d have to give up a little of your time. Every now and then you’d have to think more about somebody else than yourself. What a revolution. But we haven’t finished the verse.
“To visit the orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
The world is dirty. Every time you touch it you need to wash yourself. Don’t let any of those dirty, greasy marks of the world come on your beautiful white robe. And if you’ve got a dirty, greasy mark, you know what to do? You know there’s one detergent that cleans. You know what it is? The blood of Jesus.
Have you ever thought of what it would be like to be guilty and defiled and not know where to go and not know what to do? To carry on your conscious the fact that you’ve done things you’re ashamed of, things you wish had never happened? Well, it’s bad enough when you’re a Christian. But after all, we can go straight to Jesus, confess, repent, be forgiven and just be as where we’d never done those things. Think of the agony of countless millions in this world who are in that condition and don’t know where to go!
Going on with James. How many of you can say praise God for James? You know what Luther said about James? He said it was an epistle of straw. He changed the order of the German Bible to put it right at the end. It didn’t agree with his doctrine of salvation by faith. But you see, there’s two sides to that. Faith without works is what? Dead, that’s right. We need James, we need him desperately. He was a real, typical Jew. Down to earth. Earthy. You couldn’t get away with any high falutin’ religious language with James. He’d bring you right down to the place where you’re living. As they say, where the rubber hits the road.
James 4:4 uses very unpolite language.
“Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
You cannot be friendly with the world system. Oh, you can be friendly with your neighbors and love them but do not fall in love with the system because it’s wicked. It’s controlled by the prince of darkness.
Now here’s one where we all say hallelujah. Believers must expect tribulation in the world. Is that in your promise box? It’s there in the Bible. John 16:33:
“These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have [or some translations say you have] tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
So in the world you will have tribulation. You might as well say praise the Lord because it won’t be any less if you don’t say praise the Lord. You see, there’s a very dangerous kind of teaching going around that if you get into trouble and difficulties and pressures you’re out of the will of God. It is not necessarily true. When Paul and Barnabas spoke to a group of new converts in the cities they had visited they said, Brethren, we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God. If you follow any route that’s signposted no tribulation, I tell you one thing, it won’t get you into the kingdom of God. That’s just one of the hard facts of the Christian life.
The next thing is another of these pieces of good news. Through faith believers are victorious over the world. 1John 5:4–5.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith [or your faith]. Who is he that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
You understand? The very use of the phrase overcome the world indicates there’s a conflict with the world. You don’t overcome something unless it’s opposing you. But we do overcome the world by our faith if we exercise our faith. If we’re realists, if we don’t cop out.
I was saying something to some people, I’ve said it to two people recently. It’s not quite in line with my message but I feel God wants me to say it. I’ve been a Christian well over 40 years and in the course of those years I have met many men and women who had the call of God on their lives without any doubt. But when I look back and think what’s happened to most of them, my conclusion is most of them got diverted. Very few of them went through. And I find that’s what Jesus said. Many are called but few are chosen.
There are endless different ways that the devil can divert you from God’s purpose for your life. It’s not my purpose to go into them. He doesn’t mind what means he has to use provided he just gets you out of line with God’s purpose for your life. You won’t be a lost soul but you’ll have a much smaller reward in glory than you could have. Paul said this one thing I do, I press toward the mark. I’ve got one primary objective, it’s to finish my course. It’s to do the job for which God called me.
I’ve made a study of the requirements for fulfilling your calling and I think they can be summed up on one single phrase. Single-mindedness. If you become double minded and diverted in your thinking, you will not make it.
The next statement about the world. The world is corrupt through lust. 2Peter 1:3–4. This is in the middle of one of Peter’s long sentences but we’ll skip the introduction, good though it is.
“God’s divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
That may be news to some of you. You’re not going to have to ask God to give you anything, he’s given it already.
“Through the knowledge of him who called us by glory and virtue...”
Everything is concluded in the knowledge of Jesus.
“...by which have been given to us exceeding great and precious promises...”
Let me make the comment the provision is in the promises. You don’t have to ask God to give you any more. What you have to do is discover the promises and claim them because it’s all there already. But now listen:
“...but through these [the promises of God’s word] you may be partakers of the divine nature [the nature of God himself], having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
So that’s our divine destiny. It’s to become increasingly partakers of the nature of God. The more you take in of the word of God the more you take in of the nature of God, the more you become partakers of his nature. The more you become partakers of his nature the less room there is for corruption in you because the divine nature is incompatible with corruption.
The corruption is in the world through lust. Now lust is one of the words in the New Testament that has a specific meaning. Lust is perverted desires. Inordinate desires. Man was created with only good desires. But when he turned against his creator and rebelled, those good desires became perverted. And satisfying those desires led him into corruption. And if you look at the world today it is so manifestly corrupt through perverted desires. Isn’t that right? Look around you anywhere, there are people doing the most senseless things that destroy their own bodies through perverted desires. To take a very simple religious example—smoking. That’s a lust. I don’t condemn people who smoke, I’m sorry for them. But everybody who smokes is destroying himself. Why would anybody want to smoke? It’s a perverted desire. It brings what? Corruption. A very practical corruption, lung cancer, cancer of the tongue, emphysema, see how real the Bible is? It never offers us just far out theories. It’s talking about the way things really are. So the world is corrupt through lusts.
1John 2:16, we’ve got to get there sometime in this study. We might as well read 15–17 while we’re about it.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
You cannot love the world and the Father. It’s either or. Remember what James said? Friendship with the world? Enmity with God. Now listen, verse 16:
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.”
Notice the Father and the world are incompatible.
“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it. But he who does the will of God abides for ever.”
Again you see there that 16th verse, the world is corrupt through lust. And John specifies three basic lusts: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life.
And if you analyze temptation through the Bible, it always takes those three forms. It started with Eve when the devil showed her the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:6. I could quote it but I want to read it exactly.
“So when the woman saw...”
Notice that was the beginning of her problem. She moved out of the faith realm into the sense realm. Instead of believing what God had said she went by what she saw. That’s the beginning of the downfall. The only way back is the opposite. Renouncing the sense world and believing the word of God. That’s the only way back.
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise...”
Those are the three basic temptations. Good for food; the lust of the flesh. Desirable to the eye; the lust of the eyes. Desirable to make one wise; that’s what John calls the pride of life. The desire to exalt self. You see, if you analyze the nature of the temptation, the initial temptation was not to do evil. What’s wrong with being like God? Everybody should want to be like God.
Do you know what the essence of the temptation was? This is very important. The desire to be independent of God. That’s the essence of sin. As long as you are desiring in your heart to be independent of God, you are in a dangerous position. Nothing in this universe has any right to be independent of the Creator. The way that they thought they could get independence was by knowledge. Understand? The desire to know wasn’t wrong but the desire to be independent of God was the essence of their problem. And I have to say I know many Christians who have not dealt with this root desire to be independent of God.
So that’s the pride of life. I can manage my life without God. If I’m in a real emergency I’ll pray but generally speaking I can handle the situation. For some people the Holy Spirit is like an emergency vehicle. When there’s nothing else they can do they pray. That’s not the way we were designed to live. We were designed to live in hour by hour and moment by moment dependence on the Spirit of God.
And then you come to the temptation of Jesus and you find that he was exposed to the same three temptations. First of all, make these stones into bread. What’s that? The lust of the flesh. Put your stomach before obedience to God. Have you ever been tested that way? Have you ever seen that’s the nature of the test? It’s a strange thing in our churches, alcoholism is frowned on, gluttony is tolerated. There isn’t any real difference. They’re each deadly. I’m inclined to think that overeating can probably kill you quicker than alcohol. It’s just amazing our traditions blind us to facts.
The second temptation in Luke 4, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment of time. What’s that? Lust of the eyes. Think of the sparkle. Think of the splendor. Think of the pearls, the diamonds and the diadems and the luxury. He said all you need to do is just fall down and worship me. You can have it all. Jesus was the true Messiah, the true Christ. My personal opinion is when the false christ comes, he’ll make the deal. He will fall down and worship Satan and Satan will give it to him all. That’s the way I view it. The difference between the true and the false christ is just that. One would bow to Satan, the other wouldn’t.
And then the third temptation, cast yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Perform a miracle to show just how much power you have. Have you ever been tempted that way? I tell you, in many ways that’s the subtlest of all temptations. Use your spiritual gifts to promote yourself. Does that happen in the church? You can answer. What’s the essence of it? Pride.
If there’s one thing I’m afraid of brothers and sisters, it is pride. What does pride go before? I don’t believe error ever comes into the church by any other door except by pride. All religious error is motivated by pride. If you want to get a following you can get a following by the silliest thing you can ever think of saying if you’ll tell people, If you believe this you’ll be the super people. There’s no other group like you. You are the “in” group. Let me tell you this as just a word of caution. If you ever meet up with a group who says if you want to be right you’ve got to join us, if you join them you can be sure of one thing. You’re wrong. Their attitude is wrong. No matter what else may go with it.
Just let me point out one other very simple interesting fact. Adam fell through eating. Jesus overcame by fasting. When you deal with your stomach you’ve dealt with the root. Fasting, in a certain sense, rightly practiced lays the axe to the root of the tree. It’s gone out of style with a lot of people, it’s coming back. When the Lord saved me in the British Army in the desert, nobody preached to me but I knew I had to fast. And I fasted every Wednesday for four and a half years. The soldiers around me used to call Wednesday Ramadan. You know why they called it Ramadan? Because that’s the Moslem month in the year when Moslems don’t eat in the daytime. I don’t believe I could ever have got into what God wanted me to be if I hadn’t learned the secret of fasting early. Jesus said to his disciples when you fast. He didn’t say if you fast. He took it for granted they would fast.
Now I’m going on and I’m getting near the end I hope. I want to say something else about corruption. This has come as a sort of revelation to me. I mean it’s just an obvious fact but I never saw it. Corruption is irreversible. When anything becomes corrupt you cannot get the corruption out of it. Whether it’s fruit or flesh or whatever. You take one of your beautiful Georgia peaches and you put it on a shelf and leave it a week and it begins to wither and turn yellow and lose its fragrance and its taste. You can’t change that. Now you can put it in the refrigerator and you can slow corruption but you can’t reverse it.
I think some churches are like refrigerators! The corruption doesn’t show so quickly but it’s still there. And that’s true of the world. There is no way of reversing the process of corruption in the world. My personal opinion is that the world has become so corrupt it cannot go on much longer. That you are entitled to question but in my lifetime I’ve seen such an acceleration of corruption in areas where you wouldn’t have even known there was corruption. It’s like the peach when it first comes into your hands, you think there’s nothing wrong with this peach. But it’s corrupt. It’s corruptible.
So it is with humanity. I don’t see any way that the world can get out of its corruption. So God is not going to change the world, he’s going to replace the world. That’s what he does in our lives, Through the corruption of sin he says you must be born again. You’ve got to have a new start. I’m not going to patch the old, I’m going to begin something totally new that has a totally new origin, a divine origin, that has divine incorruptible life. You’ll be born of an incorruptible seed of the word of God.
What many people don’t realize is the same is going to happen to this world. God isn’t going to improve this world, he’s going to replace this world. Just one scripture in Matthew 19:28. This is between Jesus and his disciples.
“Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration when the Son of man sits on the throne in his glory you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
When will that happen? In the regeneration. That’s the same word that’s used of being born again. There’s going to be a new world order born. You never get into the kingdom of God but by a birth. Whether you’re an individual or whether it’s the human race, it’s going to take a birth to bring the kingdom. What’s going to be born is a new age. The old age is passing. The present world is passing away. God is not going to patch it up. He’s not going to prolong it, he’s going to replace it. A new order is going to be born on earth. And Jesus said when you see certain things you’ll know these are the labor pains. I believe we’re living in the time of the labor pains. That’s my personal conviction.
Now when a young man marries a beautiful lady and in due course she becomes pregnant and nine months have elapsed and she says, Oh, I’m having cramps. He doesn’t say, Well, I just wish we could get rid of these cramps. He takes her to the hospital and he’s realistic enough to know the cramps have got to run their course. But what’s going to come? A birth. If I understand it rightly, you are not going to put this world together again, it’s in labor pains. It’s foolish to try to reverse the pains. All we can do is seek for the birth. See what I’m saying? But that’s all out of the fact that corruption is irreversible.
God is establishing a kingdom that’s not from this world. Turn to John 18. These are such simple facts but I find in many cases Christians have heard the complicated messages and never faced the simple facts. John 18:36. Pilate asked Jesus, Are you a king? He said, You’re right, I am a king. Well then Pilate said, I don’t understand why your people and the chief priests have betrayed you to me [or handed you over to me]. And Jesus said in verse 36:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my servants would fight so that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here.”
That’s very important. The kingdom of God is not from this world. I don’t believe Christians should fight to establish the kingdom of God. A Christian has obligations to his country of military duty but we are not fighting to establish the kingdom of God. That does not come by God’s servants fighting. Is that right? Not ever by fighting one another. It comes by a birth. And that’s where we’re headed.
Now, let’s close by considering the remedy. Here we are in this wicked world, we’re under its pressure, we’re exposed to its temptations, many of them are very subtle, they’re very seductive, the pressures are almost ceaseless. What is God’s answer? My reply to that is God’s answer is the cross and there is no other answer. The only answer to the evil and the pressures and the claims of this world is to apply the cross of Jesus in your life. I’ll turn to two scriptures in Galatians. Galatians 5:24:
“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Now that’s a definition of Christians. Those who are Christ’s. It doesn’t name a denomination, it doesn’t say Protestants, it doesn’t say Catholics, it doesn’t say Episcopalians or Presbyterians, it says those who are Christ’s. What’s the mark? They have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
You see, there’s always two sides to what God’s provision is. There’s that which God has done and there’s that which we have to do. Romans 6:6 says:
“Our old man was crucified with Jesus...”
That’s a historical fact. When Jesus died on the cross, our old man was judged. That’s why he died. He took the judgment of that criminal that’s inside you and me. It was the due reward of the criminal. When you look at the cross you say that’s where I ought to have been. But the judgment came upon Jesus. Our old man was crucified in him. That’s a historical fact whether you believe it or not it doesn’t make any difference to the fact. It will only make a difference to you. But that’s God’s provision, that happened 19 centuries ago. It has to be applied individually in the life of each one of us. Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. They have taken their position with Jesus on the cross. They have said as Paul says in Galatians 2:20:
“I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live I the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
That’s making it personal. That’s a confession. Do you understand what I mean? We gave you an example of a confession. That’s another confession. Romans says my old man was crucified. My confession is I am crucified. Do you understand? It doesn’t become mine until I make the right confession and believe it in my heart. You’ve got to do both. So that’s the point at which the cross does its work in our lives.
There’s many aspects to the cross. There’s that which God has done for us through the cross. We all rejoice in that but that’s not the end of the story. Another aspect is that which the cross has to do in us. My old nature has to die. God’s provided the means of death. But Jesus said if any man will come after me he has to do two things. What? Deny himself and take up his cross.
What’s your cross? Well, I’ll give you two definitions. Number one, it’s the place where your will and God’s will cross. And if you follow Jesus you will come to that place. Number two, it’s the place where you die. God doesn’t impose it on you, you pick it up if you want to. And you don’t have to. Jesus said you can’t follow me unless you do.
So, you’re having problems in following Jesus. May I suggest perhaps you haven’t taken up the cross. If anybody will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. See, you can regard the cross as an instrument of torture and execution or you can see it as the way of release. Thank God there is a way out. Paul said at the end of Romans 7, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? And then he said I thank my God there is a way out through Jesus Christ. You won’t take that way out until you see your need for it. Much of what you go through in your Christian life is God trying to convince you you need the cross. The earlier you get convinced, the more successful you’ll be as a Christian.
But that’s not all that was done by the cross. You turn to Galatians 6:14:
“God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul said I have nothing to boast about. I don’t boast about being a descendant of Abraham. I don’t boast about being a Pharisee. I don’t boast about having kept the law. I don’t boast about all the churches I’ve established. I’ve got nothing to boast about except one thing: The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. A most incredible statement because the most totally despicable thing in the Roman culture was the cross. Paul said that’s all I ever want to boast about from now on for eternity. I have nothing left to boast about. And he said God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom [or which, whichever you like to say] the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. Understand? That’s the dividing line. The world has no claim this side of the cross. Its territory ends at the cross. Its pressures end, its temptations end. And on the other side there is peace. At a price. The price is the end of me. But you go on living. How? Now it’s not you who are living, it’s Christ who is living in you.
I think just to close I’ll tell you a personal experience I had years ago which has been a great help to me. I want to close but I want to close in such a way I’ve given you something to lay hold of. This is perhaps the way I was first introduced to these truths which have been maturing in my life ever since and still are.
In the middle l950s I was pastoring a very small Pentecostal congregation in the center of London and three days a week we held street meetings right in the middle of London in a place called Speaker’s Corner Marble Arch. And I did that together with many. Johanna was one who was regularly there for, I think, eight years. So I know what it is to preach on the streets. I think it’s very good training because you really can’t rely on your notes. You have to extemporize. And you have to know how to deal with hecklers. And you have to come up with quick answers. But anyhow, that’s by the way.
In this period I had a vivid dream and in this dream I saw a typical street meeting, a circle of people standing around listening, and a man in the middle of the ring preaching. And he was preaching good, it was with fire. But as I looked at him I didn’t like what I saw. He was crooked, he had a club foot and he was sort of hunchbacked. I said to myself, What he is saying is good enough but I don’t like the way he looks. Well, I woke up and thought no more about it but about two weeks later I had exactly the same dream again. So I said to myself, God must be trying to tell me something. So I began to pray and I described the scene to the Lord and I said, Now, about that man in the middle. What he was saying was good enough but I didn’t like the way he looked. Who is the man? You can guess the answer. The same answer that Nathan gave David. Thou art the man. And I realized that God wasn’t criticizing my preaching but he was looking at me. And he didn’t approve of what he saw. And let me tell you, I was saved, I was baptized in the Spirit, I spoke in tongues.
Well, I began to think very seriously about this and about that time it happened to be the Easter season. And in my mind I had this mental picture of three crosses on the hill of Golgotha. The middle cross was taller than the other two. As I was turning this over in my mind it was like the Holy Spirit was talking to me and you have to know by background I’m a logician. And the Holy Spirit takes people where they are. So he said to me, Now about that middle cross, for whom was it made? And then he said, Be careful before you answer. So I thought for a moment or two and I said it was made for Barabbas. And he said, That’s right. And I realized something that I hadn’t fully realized before. The cross was there for Barabbas, it was waiting for him. But at the last moment the Holy Spirit said, Jesus took the place of Barabbas. I said yes. Then the Holy Spirit said, But I thought Jesus took your place? I said yes. So he said you must be Barabbas. And I saw it. I saw it. I never argue, I never try to convince people what I saw. I was the criminal for whom the cross was made. It was made to my measure. It was where I deserved to be. My old man deserved nothing less than the cross. But Jesus took my place. My old man was crucified in him.
Now I haven’t become perfect but that understanding when I began to act on it opened the door to a way of life which is endless. And one thing I can say from that time to this, I have been pressing on the upward way. I am moving forward. I am not static, I’m not in a rut, I’m not the slave of traditions, I don’t care what the world says or thinks. It’s not much important to me. What matters to me is what God thinks. I have been delivered from the slavery of the opinions of this world.
Paul said through the cross the world is crucified to me, I am crucified to the world. In other words, Paul said whenever the world looks at me, all it sees is a corpse hanging on the cross. That’s okay, I don’t mind, think of me that way. But when I look at the world, what do I see? I see a corpse hanging on a cross, that’s what I think of the world. It holds no charms for me. I’m not impressed by it. Its wealth, its education, its influence, its power, they’re all passing away. They are impermanent. A new kingdom is coming not of this world. That’s what I’m waiting for. That’s where I belong. That’s where my citizenship is.
What about you? Do you want to be released from the slavery of the flesh and of the world. There’s only one way out, it’s the cross. My flesh was crucified. Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. And the world is crucified to me and I to the world. Thank God for the cross. If it weren’t for the cross we would be slaves forever. It’s the way out. It’s a painful way out. I’m not saying it will be without pain but the Bible says one amazing thing. He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. You can come to the point where you are so sick of your flesh that it cannot tempt you to sin any longer.
Now, how are we going to close this meeting? I’ve come to the point where I almost don’t like making appeals. You know why? Because it’s a cop out. People can raise their hands and say a little prayer and walk away and just go on living the way they were before. I’d almost rather leave you hanging. Okay, you act on it. You decide how the cross is going to affect your life from this night forward. You make a decision. You’re of age, you can choose for yourself. Don’t let me dictate to you. I’ve made my choice. We sang that song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” The world behind me, the cross before me. Should no one join me, still I will follow. I have seen the reality of it. That doesn’t mean I can’t stumble and I can’t fall. But it means I’ve made my mind up. What about you? Why don’t we just sit in silence for a few moments. I’m not going to ask you to make any visible response. I’m just going to suggest that you think over for a moment what the cross is in your life.
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