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We’re going to make our proclamation. This time it’s taken from Titus 2:11–14, which has become one of our favorites.
“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age; looking toward the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
In this message I’m going to seek to answer a question which has been in my mind over a good many years. I’ll give you the answer which I feel has come to me, I’m not sure that it’s a complete answer. I believe the question is one that in some form or another has come to many of you. The question is this, Why has God tolerated for so many, many centuries all the evil, the wickedness, the suffering, the blasphemy, the immorality, all the inexpressibly evil things that have taken place in human history, and which are increasing and multiplying today? Why has God not intervened? He could speak a word and the whole thing would fall apart. Why has He not done so? What is He waiting for?
The answer which has come to me is found in that passage which Ruth and I quoted. He’s waiting for a special people for Himself. And everything that He does in history is directed toward producing His own special people, zealous for good works. A people that will belong to Him unreservedly, holy, separated, sanctified to Him, serving Him and glorifying Him.
In 2 Corinthians 6 we hear a little bit more about that people. Not only is God looking for a people but He’s looking for a dwelling place, a temple. The word for temple in the Greek New Testament means a dwelling place, a place where God can dwell. And in 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul says to the believers:
“For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.’”
Not only are we to be God’s people but we are to be God’s temple.
God has in the scripture revealed three main successive dwelling places for Himself. The first was the tabernacle of Moses which was outwardly not a very impressive building. It was covered with goat’s hair, it was a small tent. Inside it had wonderfully precious workmanship, jewels and so on, but looking at it from the outside it didn’t make much impression. And that continued until Israel entered the land of Canaan and for quite a long while afterwards.
Then under King Solomon God ordained a temple, the temple of Solomon, which is probably the most expensive and glorious building that man has ever constructed. I don’t believe there exists in the world today the resources or the craftsmanship that could reproduce that building. It must have cost the equivalent of billions of dollars. It was lined inside from the ceiling to the roof with gold, and the workmanship demanded incredible skill. I don’t believe there are workmen in the world today that could produce that. It was a glorious building, a magnificent building. And yet, it only stood for a few hundred years and eventually it was totally destroyed and left in ruins by Nebuchadnezzar.
And then there was another temple built through Ezra after the return of the Jews from exile, but it never attained to the glory of the temple of Solomon. And in the time preceding Jesus a very wicked king, Herod, did a lot to ornament it and extend it. But it was the work of a wicked man and within less than a generation from the time the extensions were completed, that whole building was totally destroyed by the Roman army. Not one stone was left upon another, as Jesus had predicted.
So, what is there left to be a building for God? What is the most precious thing out of which God can make a building? My answer is people. I believe that human beings are the most precious thing on earth. Jesus said in Mark 8:36:
“What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lost his own soul?”
I understand that to mean that one human soul is worth more than the whole world. And the building that Paul speaks about and Peter speaks about also, it was quoted in the prophecy given to be a building of living stones, human beings. That I believe is the most expensive building that history will ever recall.
First of all, expensive because of the price that was paid. The price was the precious blood of Jesus. He redeemed us with His own precious blood.
Secondly, the material. It’s built of human beings. I find that humanity in general, most of us, have failed to appreciate the real value of a human being. We act towards ourselves and towards one another as if we weren’t really of much value. I believe this is partly due to erroneous teaching which has come in through science and through other sources. In fact, I believe it’s the devil’s object to belittle the value of a human life, to make it seem cheap and worthless. And unfortunately, many of us and many of you have to some extent been deceived by the devil. You have not come to realize your own incredible value.
As I understand it, the most valuable thing on earth today is a human being. I want to take a little while to turn back to the creation of man. I believe man is a unique creation. He was created in a way that no other creature was created. The others were created by the Word of God. God spoke the Word and they came into being. We’re told that about the heavenly hosts, the heavenly bodies and much else. But when it comes to the creation of man, and his name was Adam—and you need to bear in mind that when the Bible speaks about the sons of man it’s saying the sons of Adam. His name had a double meaning. The Hebrew word for earth is adama so he’s out of earth, and then the word dam means blood so he was made out of earth but blood flowed in his veins. One of the things that impresses me about the Bible is it says so much in such a short space. The whole creation of man is described in one verse, Genesis 2:7. It says:
“And the Lord God [Jehovah God] formed man [Adam] of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
I don’t know whether you’ve ever pictured this but it’s become very vivid to me. The great Creator—and we are told that God the Father created everything through Jesus Christ the Son. So, the Son of God, the eternal Son, the second person of the Godhead, must have kneeled down and taken the clay and molded it and formed it into a human body, the body of a man. I suppose that was the most perfect piece of art work that earth has ever seen—more beautiful than anything that Michelangelo or the other great sculptors or painters have ever produced. It was a perfect work formed by the hands of God. But all it was was clay. You see, every time God deals with man He stoops. The Creator stooped and put His lips against the lips of clay, His nostrils against the nostrils of clay, and it says He breathed into him the breath of life.
The Hebrew language is one of those languages in which the words by their sounds indicate in a way the meaning. The Hebrew word for “he breathed” is viapach, it’s a very forceful word. If you’ve studied phonetics, the letter P is a plosive, it’s a letter that indicates an explosion. When you say a P you have to make an explosion. I don’t know whether I can demonstrate this but I’ll say the word pip and you watch the paper. Pip. Can you see the explosion moves the paper. And then the next main letter is the letter hech which English speaking people can’t make. Scots can make it, Irish can make it but English can’t. Hech. It’s a guttural, prolonged sound. So, it’s viapach. And that word indicates a tremendous inbreathing of the Spirit of life from God. And think of what it did. It produced a living human being with all the wonderful organs and functions of humanity: eyes, lips, heart, blood system, nervous system, all sorts of things that I don’t even understand. Just think how it came into being, by the inbreathed breath of God. That form of clay was changed into I think the apex of God’s creation—the thing He’d given the most attention to, more attention than to the angels or the stars or the mountains. Man became a living soul.
God breathed a little bit of Himself into humanity. God has been seeking that which He breathed into man ever since because through Satan’s cunning and man’s rebellion that inbreathed soul was cut off from God. Jesus said in Luke 16:10:
“The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
God sent Jesus to recover what He had breathed into humanity and the devil had stolen.
And there’s a verse in James 4, verse 5, which is translated in various ways in various translations. I happen to have learned Greek since I was ten years old and that doesn’t make me an expert but it entitles me to my opinion. One translation, the New American Standard, I believe correctly translates this verse and it makes sense. It says:
“He [that’s God] jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell within us.”
So God has a jealous longing for that Spirit that He breathed into man at creation. He sent Jesus to seek and to save that which was lost.
I think that the number one problem of humanity—and if I were to leave you opportunity to guess you’d probably give me a lot of different answers—I think the number one problem of humanity, the root of all our problems is we do not appreciate our own value. We don’t realize that we are the most valuable thing that God produced. It’s tragic. And you see, God’s enemy the devil takes a special delight in disfiguring the likeness of God which was in man. He takes a special delight in dragging man down to the gutter and making him behave in a way that is lower than that of the animals. Because, Satan has an inexhaustible hatred for God. He cannot touch God but he can touch God’s image in man.
I remember many years back one of my daughters who is not here, let me say, was engaged to a certain man and she carried his photograph around with her. Then she got a letter from him breaking off the engagement. I’m not saying this was the spiritual reaction but she tore his photo. I think in a way that’s what the devil wants to do, is tear the photo up. Destroy the likeness of God in man.
I think many of us, perhaps all of us in a way, could be compared to a person who holds in his hand an inexpressibly beautiful diamond. And he trades it in for a package of cigarettes or for a ticket to a movie. See, that’s what we’ve all done. We’ve sold ourselves for things infinitely less valuable than what God has put in us. But Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, to get back God’s stolen property. That’s what you and I are. We’re God’s property but the devil stole us, the devil tricked us. He made us despise the diamond and just trade it for something so cheap and valueless that we could be ashamed and astonished at what we had done, each of us. I’m not talking just about alcoholics or drug addicts, I’m talking about humanity as a whole. All of us at one time or another have made ourselves very cheap. We’ve let go of the most precious thing for something of relatively no value at all.
And so, Jesus came to get a people for Himself. To seek and to save that which was lost, to bring it back to Himself and to make a people who would be totally His own. I love that phrase that Ruth and I repeated. “He redeemed us from every lawless deed that He might purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
Pause for a moment and consider what it means that God wants you to be part of His own special people. Those whom God has redeemed are the most special people on earth. It’s for our sakes that God continues to tolerate all the evil, the agony, the suffering, because He’s going to get a people for Himself out of it all.
But, we have to respond. Jesus has done His part, we have to do our part to be part of that special people. I want to speak about two things that God requires of us. The first is purity. Purity even has an eternal perspective that can look beyond time and into eternity. You see, Christians were not designed to live for time, we were designed to live for eternity. We were designed to have eternity always in view. But I would say in this nation and many other western nations the majority of professing Christians have lost the view of eternity, they think only in terms of time.
Paul had something to say which I think applies to our contemporary generation. I was talking to one of the young ladies that is with us and she was saying she’s age 26, this is the X generation. There’s nothing more left for us to rebel against. We are a kind of hopeless people. What is there left for us in life? And as I meditated on that I saw that Paul had diagnosed the problem and he says in 1 Corinthians 15:19—if you have your Bibles it would be good to turn to that because it’s such a powerful verse.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men the most pitiable [the most miserable].”
In other words, if we claim to be Christians but all we are looking for is things in this life, we are the most miserable, the most pitiable of all peoples. And that’s why you meet so many miserable Christians because they have no expectation beyond what they can get in this life—food, clothing, money, success, a home, maybe even a family. But their eyes never go beyond the limits of time. We are not designed for that, we’re designed to be a people with eternity in our hearts.
Some years ago I became very sick when I was in Hawaii. I wasn’t afraid of dying, although it could have led to death, but I wanted to have an answer. “God, I’ve always believed in divine healing, I’ve always preached divine healing. I’ve seen countless people healed. What’s wrong? Why have I not been healed?” It was as if I had an interview with the Lord. I don’t know if this is what it will be like to be before the judgment seat of Christ but it says we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. I want to say he never condemned me, He was very impersonal in a way. He just took my mind back over scene after scene in my career as a minister, a full Gospel minister, a Charismatic minister. He showed me how carnal I had been. I want to say just to avoid misunderstanding, by the grace of God I’ve never been guilty of drunkenness, or immorality, or misappropriating funds, which are the things that people always expect when preachers confess sins. And so quite often they’re right, too! But the Lord Jesus showed me how carnal I had been. He took me to various scenes, quite a number of them were in restaurants, and he showed me the essence of carnality is to live at any time as if there’s nothing beyond this life. And the moment you live like that, you may not be committing obvious sins but you’re carnal, you’re living in the flesh, you’re missing the whole ultimate purpose of God for His redeemed people.
Remember that scripture that said that we quoted, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior.” Every one of us should be continually every day looking for the blessed hope. When you lose sight of that you’re carnal. You’ve lost sight of eternity. You can still use religious language and attend church and say prayers, but you’ve lost the joy of the Lord.
I’ve observed something that surprised me in my travels. Very often the Christians who have the least in this world, who were poor and persecuted, had the greatest joy—much greater joy than others who had much more in this life. And I came to realize it was because they were focused on eternity, they were looking for what lay ahead.
And so, dear brother or sister, if you’re not happy, you’re a Christian but you’re unfulfilled, you’re frustrated, you may even be angry with God because He hasn’t done the things you wanted Him to do for you; let me suggest to you your basic problem is you’ve lost the vision of eternity. You are only expecting things in this life. Of course, you believe you’ll go to heaven when you die but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about having a vision for eternity. If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men, Paul said, the most to be pitied. There’s nobody else quite so miserable as the Christian who’s lost the vision of eternity.
Now, I said that Jesus requires certain things. The first was purity. It’s a two way operation because the passage that I quoted from Titus 2 says He gave Himself that He might purify His own special people. So the process of purifying begins on God’s end. But that’s not where it ends. We have to respond by purifying ourselves. I want to give you two scriptures that are very clear about that. The first is in 1 John 3, beautiful words that I’m sure are familiar to many of you. The first three verses:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God, and we are. Therefore, the world does not know us because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be; but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
That’s our eternal hope, that we will see Jesus and when we see Him we’ll be like Him.
But then John goes on to say in the next verse:
“And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as He is pure.”
So what is the evidence that you’re really hoping to meet Jesus? What will be the effect in your life? It’s very clear. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself. Jesus purifies us, we have to purify ourselves. God has only got one standard of purity: just as He is pure. That’s our responsibility. That’s the evidence that we really are looking for the return of the Lord. Everyone who has this hope on the return of the Lord purifies themselves as He is pure.
Brothers and sisters, I want to say to you very clearly, if you are not purifying yourself you may believe doctrinally in the return of the Lord but effectively you’re denying what you say you believe. The mark that you believe it is that you purify yourself just as He is pure.
And then going back to the passage in 2 Corinthians where we spoke about being the temple of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 6. I’ll go back to those verses and read on.
“For you [or we, some texts say] are the temple of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.’”
That’s glorious but it’s not the end. The next word is therefore. In other words, because of this how do we respond? Paul says:
“Come out from among them...”
That’s the people that are not living for God.
“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Notice there’s a condition upon which God will be our Father. It is that we come out from everything that is ungodly and we do not touch what is unclean.
There are many, many ways of touching what is unclean. I think the commonest way for American Christians is television. There is so much that is impure and unclean and you don’t have to watch it. When you do watch it you are touching what is unclean. It makes you unclean, it makes your thinking unclean. It gives you unclean suggestions, it gives you false standards. You begin to permit yourself to do things you would never do if you hadn’t seen somebody do them on television. I’m not as such against television, it has its benefits. Not many but some. I have to say I’m not totally in favor of preaching on television. Some of it we’d be better without. But, you need to be a guard.
In 1986, some people here will remember, Ruth remembers and some of the rest of you, we had a visitation in Good News Church when it was still in the old building. Believe it or not, we were up at 5 am and there for meeting with God for about six weeks. I can see some of you nodding your heads, you can remember. What was interesting was that the small children in the various families didn’t want to miss that meeting. If their parents went without them, when the parents got home they said, “Why didn’t you take us?” They would just curl up on a blanket and lie on the floor. I tell you, I got to know the smell of the carpet in Good News Church so well I’ll never forget it! Because, I had my nose into it for hours. There wasn’t a lot of praying, practically no prophesying. We were just in the presence of God. And then people began to confess their sins, that wasn’t immediate. There were sins of adultery, alcoholism and others amongst good church members. But I think the commonest sin that was confessed was idolatry. Many people confessed they had an idol in their homes and it was the TV set and they worshiped before that. They repented and I wonder how many of them are still repenting. But it’s touching the unclean.
Now there are many, many other ways we can touch the unclean thing but I think when you can deal with that you can deal with most of the rest.
I was preaching in Zambia in central west Africa and we were out in a really remote part where they just got their first telephone. I was preaching on addictions. I should have known better, usually I’m careful, I take my audience into account. But I said there’s a new addiction that’s come into the world lately and it’s television. Well, my interpreter had to spend five minutes explaining to them what television was, they had never seen it. But it is an addiction, do you know that? And they have tested in schools telling children for 24 hours not to watch the television and they are just like people coming off drugs.
So, you’ve heard it. Everyone that has this hope in him purifies himself just as He is pure.
What we’ve noticed in places where the gospel has not penetrated, there’s a degree of enthusiasm when it comes in that is not seen in most western churches. I will never forget the enthusiasm in Moscow last May. Tears come to my eyes when I think about it. Those people were excited. I want to tell you the gospel is exciting. If you cease to be excited by the gospel you don’t any longer realize what it is. You were lost, you were condemned to hell. You were going there where you deserved to go and you had no hope. Jesus intervened to save you. People don’t like to talk about hell today but there’s a lot about it in the Bible and most of what it said about hell is said by Jesus.
I was preaching in Germany just recently last year and I spoke about being saved from hell. My interpreter who was a very good interpreter, and I understand German, said being saved from a lost eternity. I said, “Brother, I didn’t say that, I said hell.” I realized how reluctant how people are to contemplate hell. But it is the destination of every person that does not live for God. And that’s where we all deserve to go. If you once realize that you’ve been saved from hell, you’ll get excited.
I have another little example, I gave it in Moscow, about the word justified which sounds like such a theological word. People say, “I’m justified by faith.” But they don’t really know what it means. It means to be acquitted, to be found not guilty, to be reckoned righteous, to be made righteous. And I gave a little picture of a man in a court being tried for a crime which carried a mandatory death sentence. He was sitting there waiting for the judge to pronounce the verdict. The judge said, “Not guilty.” I said when he met his wife afterwards he didn’t say, “That was a nice meeting.” He said, “Honey! I don’t have to die! I’m free!” How many of you go out of a meeting like that? That’s the truth. That’s what justification is.
And furthermore, you were guilty, the truth of the matter is. But Jesus took your guilt upon Himself. That’s why the judge says not guilty, not because of anything you’ve done but because of what He did.
Now, one more question, a very simple one. How do you purify yourself? We could spend hours on this but I want to give you just one scripture in 1 Peter 1:22. Speaking to believers he says:
“Since you have purified your soul in obeying the truth to sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”
So how do we purify our soul? By obeying the truth. Not by knowing the truth but by obeying the truth. And what is the result of obeying the truth? It’s fervent love for one another. Paul said to Timothy, “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and unfeigned faith.” Do we recognize that? What are we aiming at? Why do we hold meetings? What is the purpose of preaching? Do we ever score a goal? What would you think of a football team—and I mean, I have to think in terms of soccer because I don’t understand American football. But they’re running up and down across the field, backwards and forwards, passing the ball from one another but they never aim at the goal. That’s like a lot of churches because the goal of our instruction is love. And if we don’t achieve that we haven’t scored.
So, purifying your heart comes through obeying the truth. Not just knowing the truth or quoting the truth but obeying the truth. And it leads to unfeigned love of the brethren, our fellow believers. And listen, I’ve been a believer 52 years and I know some of the believers are not easy to love. I mean, you might not be bold enough to say that but I am. God has got some strange children. You know what somebody said? You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. John said we know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. What’s the evidence? Love, that’s the result of a purified heart.
The other and the final recommendation I have, if you can call it a recommendation that God requires of us to be His people is to make Jesus central in your life. I was preaching on Revelation the Sunday before last and I was preaching on the first seven chapters of Revelation. As I was preaching I got a revelation. It’s the position of Jesus in Revelation 1. John heard this voice like a trumpet speaking behind him and then in verse 12 it says:
“Having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of man.”
That was Jesus. What were the lampstands? It tells us, the churches. Where was Jesus? In the middle. And that’s the only place He belongs is in the middle.
And then you go on to Revelation 5 and John was weeping because no one could open the scroll that contained God’s plan for the close of the age. One of the elders said, “Don’t weep.” I’ll read it in verse 5:
“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll, to loose its seven seals.’”
Just let me point out to you that Jesus is still the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And do you know the word that comes from Judah is Jew. He didn’t become a Jew just for 33 years, He is eternally identified with the Jewish people. And you better be careful of your attitude to them.
So, John turned to see the Lion and he was shocked by what he saw.
“I looked and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.”
See, that’s the demonstration of God’s power. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Paul says the weakness of God is stronger than men. The foolishness of God is wiser than men. The weakness of God and the foolishness of God is the cross. Through the cross Jesus became the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In other words, if you fight for your rights you’ll lose them. If you lay them down God will restore them to you. Before honor is humility. It says in Philippians 2, it describes first of all the seven downward steps that Jesus took, culminating in the death of the cross. And the next word that follows is “therefore God has also highly exalted Him.” Don’t miss out the therefore. Why was Jesus exalted? Because He had humbled Himself. Jesus said Himself, “Everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” And because Jesus humbled Himself to the lowest, therefore God exalted Him to the highest. And so, the Lion is the Lamb that was slain.
But notice He’s in the midst of the lampstands, He’s in the midst of the throne and the others. There’s only one place that you can rightly give Jesus and that is the center of your life. If He’s out of the center, your life is out of balance.
I’m very weak on the history of science but I do know enough to know that for many centuries men believed that the sun revolved around the earth because that’s the way it appeared. Then I think it was a man named Copernicus who said, “No, it isn’t the way it seems. Actually, the earth revolves around the sun. We’ve got things wrong.” And for that, Copernicus was almost put to death by the church, incidentally, that’s interesting. The church has not always been favorable to new discoveries. I want to use that as a little illustration. See, much contemporary preaching is this, “God will meet your needs.” If you’re sick, He’ll heal you; if you’re poor, He’ll give you money, et cetera. That’s a mistake because what it produces is self centered Christians. God is there to meet my needs. Now it is true that God does meet our needs but that is a totally wrong perspective. We are there to glorify God. God doesn’t revolve around us, we revolve around God. And if your life hasn’t got Jesus in the center, you’re off balance, you’re really not in line with the purposes of God in your life. And if there are those here this morning who cannot honestly say, “Jesus is the center of my life, my life revolves around Him before anyone else—before my husband, my wife, my children, my job, my finances—Jesus is the center,” then you’re off balance. And very likely, you’re amongst those whom Paul described “as of all men the most miserable.” You’ve lost your vision of eternity.
Now I want to close with just one more beautiful thought. In Revelation 5, just a little further, in verse 9 the elders sang a new song to the Lamb, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for you were slain and have redeemed men to God by your blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made them a kingdom and priest to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Notice that the redemption is out of every tribe, tongue [or language], people and nation. So, there has to be in the redeemed a representative from every tribe, people, language and nation. That’s one main reason why I am a firm supporter of the Wycliffe translators, because their aim is to get the scripture translated into every human language. They still have about 2,000 languages to go, did you know that? There’s still about 2,000 languages that have no scripture in them at all. I don’t work with them but I support them because they take God seriously. There has to be somebody there from every tribe, every language, every people, every nation.
I was wondering as I was sitting here how to explain the difference between a people and a nation. Let me give you an example, it’s very interesting, the Assyrians. They’re not living where Assyria was, that’s been taken over by Saddam Hussein who doesn’t belong there. But the Assyrians speak Aramaic and that was the first language that Jesus ever preached in, was Aramaic. It was the language used in the land of Israel in His day. There are three million Assyrians in the world but they’re not a nation, they’re a people. Until 1948 the Jews were a people but not a nation. So, there has to be at least one out of every people, nation, tribe and tongue.
So you know what God is waiting for? He’s waiting for that special people that’s taken from every single tribe, nation, people and tongue. And until that’s complete He’ll go on in spite of all the evil, in spite of all the wickedness, in spite of all the suffering, because His one supreme aim is a people for His Son. And because Jesus gave His life for every man, woman and child, there has to be at least one representative before the throne among the redeemed out of every kind and class of humanity.
Let me close by reading Peter’s own explanation of this. You’ll remember the question that I asked was, “Why does God tolerate for so many centuries the unbelievable evil that’s in the earth?” I have an experience now and then at night, I become aware of evil. Not some specific evil but just a general presence and power of evil. It is overpowering and I realize that’s what the world is like. I have one remedy which I’ll offer to you. When I realize that I say this, “I thank God I’m in Christ. No matter what evil there is, I’m in Christ.” But at times it has been almost overpowering to realize the evil in the world today. And it’s not going to decrease, it’s going to increase. Why is God waiting? Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9:
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
What is God waiting for? He’s waiting for the elect, the ones He’s chosen out of every tribe, people, tongue and nation. And until there’s one at least He will not close the age.
If you want the age to close, do you know what you need to do? Commit yourself to reaching the unreached and teaching the untaught. That’s the most practical thing that any of us can do against the suffering that’s in the world today. God will not close the age until He has a special people for Jesus, redeemed by the blood, from every tribe, people, tongue and nation.
Now I’ve spoken about a problem that’s general but I think it would be right for me to come down to the individual. I want to suggest to you that there are some of you here this morning who are not living the way you ought to live. You’ve been touching the unclean things with your thoughts and maybe even in your actions. You cannot honestly say, “Jesus is the center of my life.” You’ve put other things before Him. Ruth and I love one another dearly, we work together continually, but Ruth is not number one in my life. Jesus is. I’m not number one in her life, Jesus is. That helps our marriage, it doesn’t hinder it. It helps it. Where people are self centered it tends to break down a marriage.
I want to give an opportunity to those of you who want to change. In old fashioned language, you want to repent, you want to change your mind. You’ve been living wrong. You haven’t had eternity in view. You haven’t had Jesus at the center. You’ve come to realize that this morning and you want to change. If that’s so, I would invite anybody that really wants to make a transaction with the Lord today on that basis to stand up, come out of their place and come down to the front. We’ll wait a little, we’re not in a hurry.
Let me just say—I hope I won’t embarrass this young man who came forward—some years ago he was delivered from the demon of alcohol through my prayers. Is that right? Now he’s let it come back. He’s come forward this morning to be delivered once again.
If the elders and the workers would come and be ready. I believe we need to pray for some of these people. Remember why I’m asking you to come. I’m not saying you’re a wicked person but I’m saying that your life is out of balance. Jesus isn’t at the center. Today you want to make Him the center. You’ve lost the vision of eternity, you’ve just been living for the things of this time. It doesn’t make you happy. As Paul says, you’ll be of all men the most miserable when you lose the vision of eternity. We’re going to wait a little longer. Just the fact that you’re right at the back of the building doesn’t make any difference. You can take a few extra steps.
You’re not coming to meet with Brother Prince, you’re coming for a fresh encounter with Jesus. Or, maybe a first encounter with Jesus. I want to say there are some old Christians here and your Christianity has got old and it needs to be revived. I could stop but I know that there are more. I’m particularly talking to people who have been Christians for 20 or 30 years but you’ve lost your first love. Remember what the Lord said to the church, “Repent. Remember from where you’ve fallen.” To lose your first love is a fall and it can only be remedied by repentance.
The Bible says the fear of man brings a snare. And some of you are snared by the fear of what other people will think. You better get rid of that snare.
When I was in Kenya the Africans used to snare birds by making a loop of grass and putting it in front of the place where they knew the bird would run. Then the bird would run into it and it would tighten around the bird’s throat. Some of you have got a snare around your throat, you’re afraid to speak, you’re afraid to witness, you’re afraid to take a public stand for the Lord. Even in your own families you don’t really let people know where you stand.
I would like the workers to come up on the platform if you can, the elders and people like that. Come up this side because I believe we need to lay hands on these people today. I don’t normally do this but I believe today that God wants us to lay hands, not to pray a long prayer but just to lay hands on those that have come forward. I know that some of you come with real, deep, longstanding problems. God can resolve those problems. If you’ll meet Jesus the way He really is, it doesn’t take Him a long time to solve those problems.
We’re going to minister to you, just each one wherever we happen to come. Don’t seek out some special person. Don’t fix your eyes on me because I’m not the deliverer, Jesus is. If you meet Jesus, that will solve your problem.
I would like you to just say a short prayer after me, those of you that have come forward. Just sentence by sentence after me.
“Lord Jesus, I thank you that you died for me to save me from hell and give me eternal life. Lord, I want to lay hold of that life. I want to make sure this morning that I’m not going to end in hell. Lord, only you can save me. I give myself to you. I put you right in the center of my life and I give you leave to do whatever you want with me. Here I am, Lord Jesus, I give myself to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Now each one of you just pray to yourself and we will come and pray with you.