Trust & Obey

A car my have a tank full of gasoline, but unless the fuel is ignited it won’t move an inch. I know many Christians whose tanks are full but they are still stalled between the Red Sea and Jordan River. For years I was puzzled by members of my church who knew the Bible like scholars, could hear a sin drop a mile away, traveled hundreds of miles to attend Bible conferences, but those lives lacked the plus of Christ-likeness. In spite of all their knowledge and activity there was no sign of spiritual maturity; love, joy, peace, and the other characteristics of a spiritual life were conspicuously absent. They had plenty of fuel- Hi-test stuff at that-  but no spark to ignite it.

The purpose and timing of God constitute the fuel of victory in the Christian life. And the spark that ignites it, releasing it as a practical and powerful force in the life, is OBEDIENCE. God’s power flows in the stream of our obedience.

Obedience is our responsibility. Even though the ability to obey comes from God, we, and we alone, are accountable for obedience. When the time is right, God reveals to us His purpose, then says, “Now it’s your move.” And at that moment, everything hinges upon our obedience.

What motivates us to obey God –  what is its basis? The record of the Jordan crossing is a testimony to the unquestioning and unhesitating obedience of Joshua. Under such adverse and pessimistic circumstances, how was he able to obey so admirably? The answer is actually simple: he trusted God. Obedience is the evidence and expression of our faith in God. Obedience is faith turned inside out. Faith is the seed, and obedience is the flower that springs from it. Faith is the root; obedience is the fruit. There is a very interesting passage of Scripture in Hebrews three. The inspired author is recounting Israel’s failure to enter into Canaan.

“And to whom did He swear they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:18,19).

In verse 18 he says they couldn’t enter because of disobedience; in verse 19 he says unbelief was the cause. Well, which was it –  disobedience or unbelief? It was both. For obedience and faith are two sides of the same coin. You act on what you believe and you obey whom you trust. If you were to ask the Sunday morning worshipers if they believe the Bible from cover to cover, probably all would say they do. Yet, the truth is, you believe only as much of the Bible as you are obeying! What you don’t obey, you don’t believe.

Not long ago, a friend called on the phone and asked me, “Will you do me a favor?” What is it? I asked. “Hey come on,” he said. “Will you do me a favor?” “Tell me what it is first.” “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me?” I laughed and said, “Nope.”

Get the point? I was joking with him, of course, but if I really trusted him, I wouldn’t be afraid to commit myself to him. If we are reluctant to give unquestioning obedience to God, it is because we really don’t trust Him.

If obedience comes from trust, where does trust come from? And the answer is – knowledge. You won’t obey someone you don’t trust, and you can’t trust someone you don’t know. So here is the spiritual equation for obedience: KNOWLEDGE OF GOD EQUALS FAITH IN GOD EQUALS OBEDIENCE TO GOD.

When Joshua unfolded God’s plan to the people, a plan that called for bold and resolute obedience, he made several references to the character of the God who was commanding them. He was saying, “Don’t be afraid to do what God tells you; you can trust Him.”

HE IS THE LORD OF ALL THE EARTH. This title appears in verse eleven of chapter three: “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth…”. and again in verse thirteen:  “And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth..”  This phrase indicates the sovereign authority of God. He is the supreme ruler of the whole earth:  therefore, it is His right to command. He has the right to command not only me but also nature, for He is the Lord of all the EARTH. He is the Lord of the Jordan as well as Lord of the Jews. Praise God, if He commands you to walk across Jordan, He will command the Jordan to get out of your way!

HE IS THE LIVING GOD. “And Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite…” (Joshua 3:10). Because He is a living God, He is aware of our circumstances. He is not an unfeeling, uncaring God of wood or stone, but a living God who in all our affliction is afflicted too.

Not only is He aware of our circumstances; He is active in them. The evidence that He is living, Joshua said, is that He will make our enemies flee from us. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” James 4:7 declares. A beautiful picture of God’s activity on our behalf appears in chapter five of Joshua. Right before the battle of Jericho, Joshua meets a man standing in his path with a sword in his hand. Joshua goes up to him and asks, “Are you on our side or theirs?” And the man answers, “Neither. I have come as captain of the host of the Lord.’’ The man who I believe was the Lord Jesus in a pre-incarnation appearance, was actually saying, “I haven’t come to take sides- I have come to take over!”

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19b KJV).

HE IS A COVENANT GOD. The ark is described as the “ark of the covenant” seven times in chapter three. Obviously this phrase held a special significance to the Israelites. A covenant is an agreement, a binding contract. The Lord of the earth entered into a contract with Israel in which He committed Himself to them as their God to act in their behalf. The covenant was originally made with Abraham and sealed by blood. Since the covenant was a contract between two parties with mutual responsibilities, the law was given to spell out Israel’s covenant responsibilities.

The two tablets of stone containing the law were carried in the ark, so when Israel followed the ark, they followed the visible reminder that God loved them and had committed Himself to them. When Jesus ate the last supper with His disciples, He lifted the cup and declared that His blood was the blood of the new covenant. By His death on the cross, Jesus has bound Himself to us and has made Himself available to our needs.

A few years ago, several families from our church went to Colorado in early Spring. Winter was hanging on and the dozen trout lakes near our cabin were still frozen. One of my friends, who had lived in that area, suggested I walk out on one of the frozen lakes, commenting that it might be my only chance to walk on water. Where I came from, the ice never froze that solidly and I wasn’t too crazy about the idea. But they assured me all would be well; so I slowly ventured out, keeping close to the edge just in case I had to get back to safety in a hurry. It was a brief, nervous walk on the water.

Later as we drove past another of the lakes, I saw a fellow sitting on a wooden box right out in the middle. He was hunched over a hole in the ice fishing! It was quite a lesson for me. That man had enough faith in the ice to sit in the middle unafraid and fish. Why? He lived nearby and KNEW THE ICE! He knew it, he trusted it; therefore, he submitted himself to it.

Any Christian can live in victory; but in order to do so, every Christian must obey. An old hymn says it like this:

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, Than to trust and obey.”

The Desire Of My Heart

On October 12, 1952, I preached my first sermon in the city jail at Ft. Smith, Arkansas. I was on the outside looking in, by the way. So, this October marks my fortieth year in the ministry. Kaye has been with me for thirty-five of those forty years. I couldn’t have made the trip without her.

From the day I started preaching, I asked God to let me do two things: travel the country teaching the bible and write books. That has been the desire of my heart from the beginning. And God has satisfied that desire a thousand times over. He has not only let us travel this country sharing the Word, He has taken us around the world to places we never dreamed of going, opening doors that we could not have blasted open with an atom bomb.

Since leaving the pastorate in 1975, we have ministered in churches, colleges, seminaries, conventions and conferences in most of the fifty states, Europe, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. God has also blessed our tape ministry more than we could have imagined. Everywhere we go, somehow the tapes have preceded us. We’ve yet to travel in a foreign country where someone has not told of being blessed by the tape ministry.

Earlier this year I believe God gave me a promise that the last years of our ministry would be greater than all the others. And that’s the way I want it to be. Watching the Olympics last summer I noticed that the runners in every race didn’t slacken their speed when they caught sight of the finish line. No.. .that’s when they went to afterburners and pushed the accelerator to the floor.

A note from Kaye:

This note was written by Ron in 1992. Ron had almost 10 more years of fruitful ministry…but those final two months he went to afterburners and pushed the accelerator to the floor. For the eight months that God had him in the hospital or in bed healing at home, he was studying the book of Philippians, preparing messages on the subject of KNOWING GOD, believing with all his heart that he would be traveling and preaching again. These were the messages he was planning to preach at the MEF Bible Conference in Colorado Springs in June, 2002, the week of his death. But first he preached them at a Bible Conference at our home church, MacArthur Blvd. Baptist in Irving, TX, pouring everything he had into them. He would climb those steps to the pulpit so slowly, breathing heavily, but then would open his mouth and the Lord would supernaturally anoint the Word with power.

Just a few weeks later he was back in the hospital. The night before he went into ICU for the last time, he sat up and preached to me what he was planning to preach on the last Friday night of the Conference in Colorado. (We had been told he would be going home from the hospital the next morning). He was so excited about what God had given him from the Word… .but I was the only one who heard that message because he went into the presence of His Lord the Friday morning he was to have preached that message.

What a blessed way to enter into His presence.

Chapel Message

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary September 22, 1972
MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church, Irving, Texas

(This copy has been prepared from a tape recording of the chapel service and has not been edited by Reverend Dunn. Therefore, he is not responsible for any errors that may occur.)

They tell me that it is impolite to ask personal questions. I’m going to be impolite for a few minutes, because I want to ask you a very personal question. And the question is simply this, “Is the Holy Spirit filling you right now?” Now the question isn’t, “Is the Holy Spirit indwelling you right now,” because if you are saved, then that is true. Nor is the question; “Do you believe in the filling of the Holy Spirit?’ Nor is the question, “Have you ever been filled with the Holy Spirit?” The question ~ “Right now, at this moment, is the Spirit of God filling you?” Now there are three possible answers to that question: “Yes,” “No, “ “I don’t know.”

But I want you to know this morning that the filling of the Holy Spirit is available and, more than that, it is the obligation of every child of God. And I realize that this is an issue around which gathers a lot of misunderstanding today. One of our young men this past summer went to serve as youth director in a West Texas church and this pastor said, “now there’s only one thing I want to caution you about.. .don’t say anything about the spirit-filled life, because we’ve had so much problem in our area with tongues.”

Are we so foolish as to believe that you can cure error by covering up the truth? I’m convinced the reason that so many people are having trouble with extremes concerning the Holy Spirit is because we have failed to preach and to teach the truth. And all of this extremism that we’re having today is, in my opinion, nothing more than the hunger pangs of a spiritually starved people. They’ve asked for the fish of spiritual reality, and we’ve given them the stones of promotion and organization. I think pastors are discovering that no longer are people going to be stirred and excited by another attendance goal.

Man is a spiritual being and he must have supernatural experiences. That is a very part of his nature. And man is going to have a supernatural experience. If he cannot find it inside the church, he will find it outside the church. If he cannot have an experience with the Holy Spirit, he will have one with an unholy spirit. And I’m talking to more and more pastors today who stand bewildered before a people they can no longer move nor bless. The solution and the greatest need is for men and women,  be filled with the Spirit of God. And it’s my prayer that every Christian will claim that for him right now, because you can know Jesus is real in your life~ you can know the peace that passes all understanding and the joy unspeakable and full of glory. Available to you right now is a life in which even the valleys are higher ground. Maybe you have personal weaknesses that have haunted and humiliated you even before you were saved. They can be over­come today as the Spirit of God moves into your life in new force and new power.

What does it moan to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Paul says in Ephesians 5:l8, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” Now I want to share with you three simple things concerning the filling of the Spirit from that verse of scripture. First of all, the filling of the Holy ~  command of God. That’s an imperative verb. “Be filled with the Spirit.” It is not a suggestion from God, it is not God simply expressing a desire, but it is God uttering a command. Did you realize that if you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit, you are living in disobedience to God? Has it ever occurred to you that not to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a sin against God? The filling of the Spirit is not a luxury item in the Christian life. It is not optional equipment. God commands us to be filled with the Spirit.

You know I’ve discovered in my own life a basic precept essential to spiritual success. And that precept is this: My total inability to do anything for myself in the spiritual realm. And if you happen to forget everything else I say today, I wish you would remember this one fact, because until you come to the place where you’re willing to acknowledge this, God cannot use you to the fullest. My total inability to do anything for myself in the spiritual realm. One of my favorite characters is Elijah; one of the greatest exhortations ever made was made by that prophet on Mt. Carmel. You read that sometime. If you ever come that close to preaching, you’ll be doing fine. But the amazing thing is after Elijah delivered that tremendous message was: “They answered him not a word.” Brother, I’ve preached there before. I’ve pastored that congregation many a time. “They answered him not a word.” But the Bible says, “When the fire fell, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God.’” And when the fire of God falls in the lives of men and women, the people will fall on their faces acknowledging that the Lord, He is God, and beside Him there is none else.

You cannot do what God has called you to do unless the Spirit of God is filling you. Jesus said, speaking of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, “If you come to me and drink, out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” You see, it’s so simple; Jesus says, “You supply the riverbed, I’ll supply the river.” I don’t know of anybody that is blessed by a riverbed. And the tragedy is that so many of us today are nothing more than dried-up, crusty riverbeds that can quench no one’s thirst. Jesus says, “You make yourself available; you’re nothing but a riverbed, you come to me and drink and appropriate what I am and out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.

A young preacher came to me some time ago and said, “In your consideration, in your opinion, what is your primary obligation as the pastor of this church?” And I didn’t have to think about that. I said, “My primary responsibility as pastor of this church is to make certain that Ron Dunn is filled with the Holy Spirit.” My primary responsibility is not to be an administrator, not to be a promoter, not to be a planner, not to visit in hospitals, not to bury and marry, my primary responsibility is not even to the people over whom I shepherd. My primary responsibility is to be filled with the Spirit, to have the rivers of living water flowing out of me and the people will be blessed by the overflow from my 1ife.

Elisha was a man that we could well pattern ourselves after. He was known as Elisha, then he was known as Elisha, the man of God, and then he was simply known as the man of God. If you were around that neck of the woods, and spoke the words, “Man of God,” they all knew who you were talking about. Your primary responsibility is first of all to be a man or a woman of God. And when the Spirit of God is filling you, those rivers of living water will pour forth from your being, from your life, and the people in that way will be blessed and ministered to. It will be Jesus himself ministering to the people through your availability.

And the interesting thing about that passage in John, chapter 7, is that you start out thirsty and then you end up a fountain. Has that ever occurred to you? “If ANY man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” And the fellow who starts out thirsty, will end up quenching the thirst of others. It is a command of God, because you cannot do what God has called you to do without it.

But not only is it a command of God, it is a command to be controlled by God. I like the way the New English Bible translates that verse, because it is a passive verb. “Let the Holy Spirit fill you.” Now I must confess to you that for a great many years I thought that God was reluctant to fill me with his Spirit. I read every book I could get my hands on. I more than anything else wanted to be all that God wanted me to be. I wanted to be useable, and I had the idea., that somehow when I reached a certain spiritual plateau as a reward of my ‘spiritual growth, God would grant me to be filled with the Spirit. So I looked upon God as reluctant and hesitating and I had to somehow beg my way into the fullness of the Spirit. But the Bible teaches the exact opposite of that. He said, “Let the Holy Spirit fill you.” He wants to fill you. The only thing he’s waiting for is your consent, your submission.

And to be filled with the Spirit is, as one man has translated that verse, “Let the Holy Spirit possess you completely.” It simply means that he comes in and no longer is he simply the owner of your life, but he is the operator of your life. We pulled into a filling station the other day and I noticed over the door these words, ‘So-and-so, Owner and Operator.” Now that’s what Jesus Christ wants to be. And for all of us he’s the owner this morning, but for many of us he’s not the operator. Life under new management. A new person has taken over and expresses himself through our human personality. To be filled with the Spirit simply means to let the Spirit of God control every area of my life.

Now that causes me to pause for just a moment because some of us just want the “thrill of the fill.’ Some of us just want an ecstatic experience. You want to be filled with the Spirit today. You mean to tell me that you want someone who will not tolerate any selfishness controlling you. Do you mean to tell me today that you want someone who will never allow you to think of yourself first controlling you. Do you mean to say that you want someone controlling you today who will not tolerate even the slightest sin. Do you mean to say that you want to be controlled today by someone who is going to demand absolute obedience, unquestioning obedience to every command. That’s exactly what it is.

I’ve found in my own life that the Holy Spirit cannot really fill me and control me until two things happen in my life. Number one, until I do what Jesus said to do in Luke, chapter 9, “deny myself.” Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and deny himself.” Williams translates that, “Let him say no to self.” Now that’s tremendous, for you see my self is always talking to me.. .always making suggestions. When a lady runs out in front of me at a four-way stop, you know what my self says? My self says, “You lay down on your horn; don’t let her get away with that.” When I do something and somebody else gets the credit for it, you know what self whispers to me. “Now listen, you’ve got to watch out for yourself. You let everybody know who did that. You take the credit for it.” My self is always talking to me.. .always making suggestions.. .always telling me that I’m wonderful, that I’m great, that I’m right, that everybody else is wrong and I need to look out for myself. Jesus said, “If you are going to follow me, you say “No’ to self, you just tell self to be quiet. You refuse to listen to self.”  That’s what it means to deny yourself. F. B. Myer, the great Baptist preacher of years ago put it this way, “You must dethrone self. S. D. Gordon was a great preacher. He wrote the “Quiet Talk” series, and as he was preaching along, occasionally he would pause and lean down on the pulpit and put his hand to his mouth and whisper, “Are you listening? In every heart there is a throne and a cross. If you’re on the throne, Jesus is still on the cross.” What it means for me to dethrone myself is to get off the throne of my life and to take my place on that cross and to enthrone Jesus as Lord in my life.

And that’s the other thing.. .not only must there be a dethroning of self but there must be ~ enthroning of Jesus as Lord. Wesley, after his .Aldersgate experience, said he woke up the next morning with Jesus Master in his life. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s Jesus coming into his throne rights in my life. It is, by an act of my will, my enthroning Jesus as rightful Lord in my life. And that simply means that Jesus now is able to do anything that he wants to with me. Is Jesus absolute total Lord in your life?

Really, the filling of the Holy Spirit is just the other side of the coin. If a person is filled with the Spirit of God, it is because Jesus is Lord in his life; and if Jesus is Lord in his life, then he is filled with the Spirit, because the Spirit of God himself doesn’t want any glory. And by the way, one way you can tell if a spiritual movement is of God or not is the position it places the Spirit. And if the Spirit has center stage, if it’s leading the parade, it is not of God. The Holy Spirit always retires to the background and pushes Jesus to the front of the parade, and the man who is filled with the Spirit will become a “Jesus Person” if you don’t mind. For Jesus said, “When He is come He shall (what?), He shall testify of me. He shall glorify me.”

It is a command, it is a command to be controlled and it is a command to be continually controlled. That’s a present tense verb. Be ye being filled with the Spirit. I’m not advocating today a spasmodic, occasional high. I’m talking about an every day experience. I read in Acts Chapter 6 where those deacons were men, not filled with the Spirit, but full of the Spirit. There has to be a difference. Men whose lives should be characterized by fullness, a habitual continual experience, every day. A Spirit-filled experience. I think there are two ways you can be filled with the Spirit every day, that the initial filling can extend into a continual walk. Number one by immediate obedience to every command. Immediate obedience the moment the Spirit of God says, “Apologize.” The moment the Spirit of God says, “Witness.” The moment the Spirit of God says, “Give.” Immediate obedience. The second is instant confession of sin. Being filled with the Spirit doesn’t mean you no longer sin, but it means that now you acknowledge your sin and you confess it to Him. Instant confessions, getting every barrier out of the way, a continual experience. This is where God intends us to live. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Is the Holy Spirit filling you right now?