Ex 15:22-27 | Defenses Against Discouragement

Text: Exodus 15 By Ron Dunn
Open your Bibles to the Old Testament, to the book of Exodus, chapter 15, and I want to begin reading with verse 22 and read through the end of the chapter, verse 27. You know the context. They have just had a marvelous deliverance from Egypt, and they have just come through the Red Sea episode. In the first twenty-one verses you have the song of Moses and the Children of Israel as they praise the Lord for all He has done. Then in verse 22, we pick up and read:

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statue and an ordinance, and there he proved them. And said, if thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters.

Mention has already been made this week of the alarming statistics among Southern Baptists that each year 1,000 of our ministers leave the ministry. I read a report of a preliminary study a few weeks ago as to the causes of this defection from the ministry among our ranks. One of the primary contributing factors, especially among younger ministers, was discouragement and disillusionment. I believe that one of the most effective weapons that the devil has ever forged against a believer is the weapon of discouragement.

Jack and I were in a Northwest city a few weeks ago in a conference where several churches had come together to sponsor it. As we talked to pastor after pastor this is what we heard: Our greatest problem here is discouragement. Our pastors are discouraged; our people are discouraged. We need somehow to be lifted out of this mire of discouragement. This week here in New Orleans I have talked to several, and I’ve had more than one pastor mention to me, “You know the greatest thing I have to fight here in my particular location in the city is discouragement.” We are in the minority where we are, and it is so easy to get discouraged.

This is not something that simply afflicts preachers, music directors, and other staff workers; it is something that afflicts every Christian. I believe that my greatest battle with the enemy is at the point of discouragement. My greatest times of weakness have come through discouragement. My greatest times of unbelief, panic, and fretfulness have come through discouragement. When the devil seeks to try to thwart the purpose and work of God in the lives of believers, I think his number one weapon is the weapon of discouragement and disillusionment.

We sometimes have an inadequate view of the Christian life. We don’t know what to expect, and when something happens that knocks us off balance, it destroys our spiritual equilibrium, and we find ourselves plunged into despair and discouragement.

This week has been a time of victory for a great many folks, not only those of you who have come in response to the invitation and gone to the prayer room, but others as well.. God has ministered to your life. I guess you might say that we are sort of on a spiritual high tonight. God has met us, and God has blessed, and many of us have had some difficulties resolved, and problems solved, and some sins forgiven. Many of us come to this place tonight with a new commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if we don’t know what to expect next week after this conference is over, we will find ourselves the helpless victims of discouragement.

As I read through the Israelites’ experience as Moses takes them through the wilderness, I find there a classic record of discouragement. If there was ever a man that had a right to be discouraged, it was Moses. I get a lot of comfort from Moses. I’ve never pastored that large a congregation, and anytime I had anyone murmuring and complaining, and I began to feel sorry for myself, I thought about Moses who had upwards of three million people griping at him all at once. You know, that encourages me. Moses was a man who lived on the edge of discouragement and disillusionment. These stories are rich in their instruction because the Bible makes it very clear that the things that happened to them have happened to us as examples, and they are meant for our instruction and edification.

I want to talk to you tonight about defending against discouragement. As I’ve already intimated, I think that one defense against discouragement is knowing what is going to happen. If you know there is going to be a jolt, you can brace yourself for it. You can learn to roll with the punches. Most Christians find themselves wallowing in self pitying discouragement because they didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t know the route that God would take them in accomplishing his purpose, and leading them to the land of promise and fullness. I want us to look at this strange little incident as Moses brings the people to the waters of Marah, and see their reactions–and see God’s reactions. We are going to learn how to defend against discouragement.

Moses was a man who had completely committed his life to God. The Bible makes it clear that he had given up the riches of Pharaoh; he had given up the palace; he had given up everything for the reproaches of Christ, to suffer for Christ. here was a man who had had a tremendous spiritual experience, and had started out with the glow of victory on his face. And yet, he met one difficulty after another and was always living at the point of discouragement. There are three great spiritual principles of life:

1. If you are going to defend against discouragement, you must understand that the greatest successes of life are often followed by failure.

Now you will miss the impact of this little story if you ignore its context. They had just passed through the Red Sea. They had seen the Red Sea come together and drown the Egyptian army that was pursuing them. And the people stood on the shore and watched as the waves washed the dead bodies of their Egyptian taskmasters up on the shore. I can imagine that they walked around looking at the bodies and said, “Ah, I recognize him. Yes sir, he was the one who whipped me. He was the one who made me make bricks the hard way. I recognize him. He’s dead; I’ve been liberated from that old Egyptian taskmaster. And as they surveyed the scene, and all those dead Egyptians, they felt that liberation surge through their soul and Moses began to sing, and Israel began to sing. I wish we had time tonight to just read those first 21 verses of Chapter 15. It is absolutely amazing. Listen to just one or two of the things they say. In verses 11-13:

“Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto they holy habitation.”

Look at verses 17 and 18: “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O LORD, which thy hands have established. The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”

Boy, if you had walked in on that service, heard that singing and shouting and praising, you would have thought here are people who have arrived. They have it made. All their trials are behind them. With faith like that, with confidence like that, nothing can stop them. And in three days they are wallowing in failure! Three days later they find themselves in a place of bitter waters, and they immediately forget everything they had previously said. “I thought the Lord was going to reign forever and ever. I thought there was no god like your God. I thought he was going to lead you into the land and establish you an inheritance, and here you are now murmuring, grumbling and griping to Moses because you are afraid you are going to die of thirst.” One of the greatest spiritual principles of life is this: the greatest successes of life are often followed by failure, and if you don’t realize that, you are going to be plunged into despondency and discouragement.

I think about Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Has ever a man experienced a greater victory than when he sees the heads of those 450 prophets of Baal roll like crushed eggs down the hillside, and the heavens open and God baptizes the earth in water. Elijah standing on Mt. Carmel—what a great success! And yet, a short time later you find him running from Jezebel and whining under a juniper tree like a whipped pup, wishing God would kill him.

I think about the Israelites as they entered into Canaan, going to Jericho, marching around the city once a day for seven days, and then on the seventh day seven times. Victory was so easy. All they had to do was just to have a little pre-celebration parade and do a little shouting and blow a few trumpets and the walls came tumbling down. Then in the next chapter, we find Ai where they flee before the people.

I think about Simon Peter and the night that Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” Everybody gives their opinion, and then Simon Peter opens his mouth and something right comes out. He is as surprised as everybody else. He says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus says, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” You have been the recipient of divine revelation. What a momen! What success! Simon has been singled out by God to receive a revelation that none of the other disciples had really accurately and fully received.

And what so often happens is that when you have one great spiritual experience, you get to thinking that makes you an expert in all things spiritual. And the very next moment, Jesus is saying to the same man, “Get thee behind me, Satan, you don’t understand the things of God at all.” Success followed by failure.

What happens when this occurs? When I left the pastorate a year ago to get into this work, I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do. I had been at that church for nine years, and God had blessed in a marvelous way. I’ve never had a pastorate in which I loved the people so much, and felt they loved me. We were as one, and there was sweetness and harmony, people being saved, the church growing—and God just manifested himself. And yet for the previous two or three years I had felt God gradually easing me out of that position into this kind of ministry. And so I just naturally knew that if a man is willing to give up that kind of situation, that kind of pastorate, and do God’s will, that everything was going to be roses. So I left that church, and the first two or three months were the worst I’ve ever had in my life. The first church I went to after that meeting was the deadest church I’d ever been in in all my life. And the next church was just as dead. And the next church was dead. And the next one was just as dead. I began to think, “Well, I wonder where I missed God?” Perhaps I miscalculated. Perhaps I misread the will of God. I must have sinned somewhere along the way, or else I wouldn’t be experiencing this.

I think the first thing that happens when we find ourselves in bitter waters is we begin to say, “I wonder where I got off track; I wonder where I missed God. Surely this is not the will of God.” But, it is. The interesting thing about this was that Marah was on the map that God was leading them by. God led them right to that place. The Bible says that Moses led them, but if you read on, you’ll find that God was leading them through Moses.

I want you to understand tonight, that when you arrive at a situation–it may be your next pastorate–it may be your next Sunday School position, or it may be the next day that you arrive at the place of bitter waters. This does not mean you are out of the will of God; it probably means that you are right smack dab in the middle of God’s will. Do you know why? Because he uses this failure to prove us. It says that He proved them there. I thought they had been proved at the Red Sea. They had just had a marvelous demonstration of the omnipotence of God at the Red Sea, but folks I want you to understand tonight that you do not grow and learn to trust God at Red Sea sensational miracles.

God doesn’t test his people and prove his people in miraculous happenings like the Red Sea. He tests them and proves them when they are up against the daily routine of life. And what so often happens is that if we have a marvelous, cataclysmic, ecstatic experience, walking about three feet off the ground, we think we are equipped for anything that comes along. But miracles never produce faith. And you can have one Red Sea experience after another, but that’s not the training ground for living for Jesus Christ. The training ground is when you wonder where your next drink of water is coming from.. That’s the testing. And God led them to the bitter waters to see if they had learned anything at the Red Sea. Sure enough, they hadn’t learned much. And God is going to test you. If this week you have had a great experience, I don’t mean to assume a pessimistic attitude, but if you have a great experience with the Lord this week, get ready. He is going to test you—at the point of that experience. And sometimes, often, the greatest successes of your life will be followed by failure.

He led them there not only to prove them, but it says He also leads us to these places to purify us. He made a statue, and an ordinance, and a commandment. He said, “All right, I don’t want you to get the idea that you are spiritually superior to the Egyptians, The same plagues, the same diseases I put on the Egyptians I will put on you unless you come to the place where you hearken to my Word, where you obey my Word, and where you do everything I tell you to do.” The experience of failure was to purify those people of their spiritual satisfaction and superiority and to reveal to them the murmuring and distrust and disbelief that was in their hearts.

I find that there are times when it is easy to praise the Lord, easy to trust God, and then I find God leading me to some bitter waters, and it is not so easy to praise Him, to trust Him. God is purifying me, but He is doing something else. He is also preparing me. If you read over in the next chapter, you will find they come to another situation in which they don’t have any food, and they are worrying now about hunger. Every time God leads you through one of these experiences, it is in order that he might prepare you for more intense struggles, for greater battles, and equip you for winning greater victories. The first thing to remember is this: the greatest successes of life are often followed by failure.

2. The greatest services of life are often followed by forgetfulness.

It is so hard to believe this. Here was Moses who led them out of Egypt under the mighty hand of God; who when they were stuck at the Red Sea, obeyed God; and it was Moses, the man of God, who raised his hand and wielded the rod of God and parted the waters and delivered the people. You would think they would remember that, but the very moment they get into a tight situation, what do they do? They forget! And they began to accuse Moses, and blame Moses, and murmur against Moses. The greatest services of life are often followed by forgetfulness.

Now, friend, I want to tell you something. You need to get to ready to be unappreciated. There is nothing that will discourage you anymore than being unappreciated, and having people forget. There is something about human nature that can, in a moment, forget a record of faithful service. Some years ago I had a very dear pastor friend. He had taken this church when it was just a little, struggling church. When they were barely able to pay him a decent salary, he stayed there. And was faithful.. There were times when I would say, why don’t you take a day off. He said, no, there is so much to do. He labored so. I would visit him, and he would be pouring over the Word of God, trying to feed the people the Word of God. He was up at five o’clock nearly every morning studying the Word—a faithful preacher of the Word. He was there seven or eight years. One week he went to a revival meeting, and one cantankerous, carnal Christian member of that church told somebody that he believed the pastor is involved in the tongues movement. He wasn’t. I knew him. When he came home, the church was ready to run him off without a hearing. I could not understand it. Here is a man who for eight years had given faithful, dedicated service, and in one moment they forgot about it. It is amazing to me how a man’s ministry can be wiped out because one carnal, backslidden person says something and people believe it.

Friend, you are going to be unappreciated many times in your Christian life. Regardless of how faithful you are, there are going to be periods when all of your services are followed by forgetfulness. What do you do in a situation like that? Let me offer two or three suggestions:

1) Don’t take it personally. If you will check over in chapter 16, you’ll find that God says in verse 8, “And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we (Moses and Aaron)? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.

And it is to the eternal credit of Moses that he never took those murmurings personally. You are going to be in deep trouble if you take things personally. You need to remember the Word of the LORD to his servant: they have not rejected you, they have rejected me. I am an ambassador for Christ and God beseeches us in Christ’s stead. I stand in Christ’s place. I am his representative. When people reject me, I must not take it personally. It will make you bitter and resentful. You’ll start whining in self pity. Don’t take it personally.

2) Don’t take it out on the people. I want you to know that Moses exercised great self-control. You never find him turning against the people and saying, this is your fault, and you don’t appreciate me.. He never took it out on the people. What do you do?

3) You take it to the Lord. He cried unto the Lord. And there are two kinds of people in this building tonight. There are those who complain, and there are those who cry to the Lord.

And the Bible says that when he cried to the Lord the Lord showed him a tree and told him to throw it in the waters. And when he threw it into the waters, those bitter waters were made sweet. I want you to notice that the tree was there all the while, but Moses didn’t recognize it. God had to show it to him. In the midst of your worst time, in the midst of your most bitter experiences, if you will, instead of complaining and griping and taking it personally, cry to the Lord, He will show you something that will make it sweet. And he will move into your life in an unexplainable, mysterious way and show you how to make that experience sweet.

The thing that really struck me though is not so much that they forgot Moses, but that they forgot God. You read back through that hymn, and in the first verses of chapter 50, and they talked about God’s power to deliver. Yet, now they are whining and worrying about a loss of water and bitter water. The greatest services of life are often followed by forgetfulness.

One last word…

3. The greatest shortages of life are always followed by fullness.

Look at verse 27: And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters. The greatest shortages of life are always followed by fullness. I want you to notice that the Bible says they kept going, and they came to Elim. You are going to meet obstacles and opposition. The devil is going to wage spiritual war against you, and threaten you with disillusionment and discouragement. But in the midst of that just keep going—trust God, obey God. Regardless of how dismal it looks, obey God. You say, what if I don’t feel like obeying God. Obey God! What if I don’t feel like praying? Pray! What if I don’t feel like studying the Word? Study the Word! Just keep on obeying God, keeping his statutes, doing everything God says. Just keep on following. Keep on moving. For right over the hill, there’s Elim.

When a man or a woman keeps on moving, and keeps on trusting God in the midst of bitterness, he will always bring you to Elim where there were twelve wells (one for every tribe) and seventy palm trees (that’s one for every elder). Listen, a while back they didn’t have any water all except the bitter. Now, each tribe has its own Artesian spring bubbling up out of the ground. Every elder has his own palm tree. All they needed was water, but God gave them shade. The Lord always gives you more than you expect. They didn’t need the shade, but God said, I’m going to throw in something extra. I have found the Lord always gives me more than I am expecting—always gives me more than I am looking for.

The thief on the cross said, Lord, one day when you come into your Kingdom way off yonder in the future, please remember me. Jesus gave him more than he expected. He said, today shalt thou be with me in paradise. He always gives you more.

One of my favorite verses is Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. The thing that I like most about it is this: Jesus said, when I come in, first of all, I’ll sit at your table, and eat what you have. Then he says, I want you to sit at my table and let me feed you for awhile. I’ll sup with you, and then you sup with me. I’ll come in as guest, and I’ll become the host, and I’ll feed you for awhile. God always gives us more than we can give him. They came to Elim, where there were twelve waters.

Have you ever noticed how many times the people of God are running out of necessities? In John, chapter 6, they were having an outdoor meeting, and didn’t have any food. People began to pass out from hunger. One little boy had a little lunch that his mother had evidently packed for him that day. The disciples began to moan and groan and wonder what in the world they were going to do. Jesus distributed that bread and those fishes after he had blessed them. When they finished, they took up how many baskets? Twelve baskets full. That’s one for each disciple; even Judas had his own basket full of bread. For awhile, they had nothing. They were at the point of pain from hunger, but they obeyed the Lord Jesus. They obeyed as ridiculous as it may have seemed. They obeyed and ended up each one with his own basket of bread.

I’ve tried to imagine what Moses must have felt like when God told him to throw that tree in the water. That seemed like a foolish thing to do. The water was already bad enough without throwing a tree in it. I can imagine the Israelites saying, now, look at Moses. Here we are dying of thirst and he’s over there throwing trees in the water!

The ways of God are past finding out. I stand absolutely amazed tonight at the pathway that God leads us. I have to tell you that when I started out giving my life to the Lord, and to preach, and try to do his will, I never in my wildest nightmares imagined some of the bitter waters he was going to lead me through. And there have been many times, folks, when I have been discouraged and despondent. There have been two periods in my life when I have tried my best to leave the ministry. I tried to quit. I have never doubted my call to preach. There have been times in my younger life when I wondered if I was saved and doubted my salvation. I’ve never doubted that God called me to preach. I’d take second best in life. But God locked me in, shut every door. Folks, I have no choice but to preach. I can’t do anything else. It is preach or starve. Do you know why? Because when I started out, I didn’t know what to expect. I somehow thought that surrendering to God and being filled with the Spirit was a vaccination that God gave me that made me immune to problems, difficulties and troubles. And that if I just stayed faithful, and clean and pure, everything would be rosy.

God would lead me to bitter waters. There he would prove me. I would fail the test. Do you know what happened? They failed the test. In chapter 16, he leads them to a place where there is no food, and they fail the test again. And forty years in the wilderness is simply God giving those folks the examination over and over again until they passed it.

I thank God tonight that he never abandons his purpose. He can never be frustrated in his will. God has a plan for my life, and he is not going to abandon it. He will keep on giving me the examination until I pass. You never flunk out. He just keeps giving you the test over and over again. Listen, I want to pass the test the first time and save myself a lot of trouble.

I want you to see the cycle. There was success followed by failure. There was service followed by forgetfulness. There was shortage followed by fullness. All right, everything is all right again. They’ve come to Elim, and they camp there. Plenty of water—each tribe has it’s own well; each elder has his own palm tree to sit under. But, friends, they didn’t stay at Elim. And you never stay at Elim. They moved on, and in chapter 16, it says that once again they murmured against the LORD. Success followed by failure because they came to a place where they had no food, no bread. Service was followed by forgetfulness. They murmured against the Lord again. And shortages followed by fullness because God fed them abundantly. That’s the cycle. If you’ll read the history of Israel you’ll find that’s the cycle again and again and again. Because God is leading us in order to teach us to trust him.

And all those days and months, even years, I spent discouraged and disillusioned and despondent, I wish I had just known that I was in the way and God was leading. There are some of you who dread going home tonight because things aren’t right at home. You may feel the presence of the Lord here, and the moment you step over the threshold, it will all dissipate and die on you. You dread not having a service like this to come to tomorrow night because you don’t know if you can make it without it. That’s why you are so discouraged. Listen, God leads you that way in order that he might teach you to trust him. The greatest testing of faith, friends, comes in just the daily needs of life. God is not going to mold you, and make you, and finish you into that finished product this week. And if you think that he is, or you think that he has, oh, friend, you are in for one big shock. The devil is going to defeat you with the weapon of discouragement. This is not the test this week. This is not the proving this week. Tomorrow is the test. Next week is the test—when God leads you to the waters of Marah, and they are so bitter you can’t stand it. That’s the test. That will be your golden opportunity to demonstrate that what God did last week in that conference was real in your life.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2006

The Doxology of the Christian Life

Text: Jude 24-25

As Jude contemplates the encroaching work of the enemy, he ends up on this tremendous doxology. It is really more than a doxology…it is really a confession of faith. The Bible has a number of doxologies and doxologies are not prayers, but they are confessions of faith. And against the black background of all that has been said concerning the last days in which we now find ourselves, he comes out with this tremendous doxology, the confession of his faith.

The first word of verse 24 in the English Bible is “now”, but it really ought to be “but”, because Jude is beginning a stark contrast to what he has already.
Verse 24-25…
“But to Him that is able to keep you from falling and to
present you faultless before the presence of His glory
with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior
through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory and majesty,
dominion and power both now and forever. Amen.”

Several years ago, I was suffering from some form of insomnia. I went for weeks and weeks without being able to sleep at night. Finally, I went to my doctor and told him I needed to have something because it was just dragging on for weeks and even into months without being able to sleep. And this particular doctor was not one who liked to prescribe sleeping pills and so he said that he wanted to teach me self-hypnosis so you’ll be able just to put yourself to sleep every night. He said he would teach me absolutely to relax and put myself to sleep. So, I said, “Alright.” And I went several times while he taught me self-hypnosis. Simply a method by which you concentrate and you talk yourself into going to sleep. Some of you don’t need to be talked into going to sleep, it’s just natural, but I needed to be talked into going to sleep.

The main thrust of his particular method, and there are many methods, but his was that I would go and sit in his office, and he would say, “Now, I want you to pick out an object on the wall…a picture, a dark smudge, a nail…anything…just pick out an object on the wall, and I want you to look at that and concentrate on it.” And, so, I would. Then, after a moment or two after concentrating on one object, he would say, “Now, I want you to close your eyes, but when you close your eyes you will still be able to see that object that you last looked at.” And so, as I closed my eyes the image of that object was still there and he said, “Now, with your eyes closed you can continue concentrate on that object…” and of course, the process was that you would fall asleep. Of course, if I picked today’s headlines to concentrate on I would never be able to go to sleep, and I would never be able to rest.

The point that I’m bringing out in this is that you and I see a great many things but it’s those things that we see or feel…those things that remain in our vision even after we no longer see them…those are the things that dominate us. It is the last look that can either bring you rest or restlessness. It is the last look, the image of which remains in you conscious or your subconscious long after the object is passed away…and whatever that image is that you have concentrated and has imbedded itself…that will either give you rest and assurance or will give you restlessness.

Now, there are many things that you and I can look at today that are going to cause us to be restless, discouraged, and depressed. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking seriously of giving up reading newspapers…reading headlines…I haven’t read an encouraging headline in I don’t know how long. And if it’s going to get worse, I’d rather just not read about it…I’ll find out about it soon enough. If a person walks through this world looking only outward, seeing all the problems, seeing all the dishonesty, seeing all the disruption of the established institutions, he’s not going to be able to have any of the assurance or rest and I think one of the greatest missing commodities in present America is assurance and rest and confidence.  I’ve been reading in magazines lately of polls that have taken on college campuses and in suburbs…door to door… “Do you have any confidence in our president? Do you have any confidence in our legislative leaders? Do you have any confidence in our school teachers?” And you know, it’s discouraging to see that the majority of the American public have lost nearly all their confidence in any kind of leader…any kind of leader! They have been duped so often and disappointed so many times, that as they look upon the scene on the outside…everywhere they look…there is nothing to inspire them to any confidence.  You can look inward and only increase the despair because as you look inward you see your responsibility coupled with your weakness…and that makes a great team…responsibility coupled with weakness. That can cause you to live without any kind of assurance or confidence.

Now, sometimes Christians are accused of being unreal…of living in an ivory tower. We’re accused of not facing reality, but that’s not the truth. The truth of the matter is that that man who knows how to walk with God does face reality. He does look at the world around him. He does see the starving multitudes. He does see all the dishonesty and degradation. He does see all that. But, that’s not his last look. That’s not the image that imbeds itself on his subconscious after that’s passed…that’s never his last look and the problem with most people is that what they see on the outside and what they see on the inside is their last look. No wonder they’re discouraged. No wonder there’s an absence of assurance.

There must always be not only the outward look and not only the inward look, but there must always be as the last look…the upward look. This is what Jude is doing in this little epistle. If you’ve never read it in several different translations because there is so much in there that is not easy to understand. But in this little epistle, the first twenty verses or so gives a depressing picture. I’ll be honest with you, if you closed it off a few verses earlier, I wouldn’t want to read it, because all it is is denunciation…the dangers that are threatening us and threatening our Christian life, that are threatening the fellowship of the church…that are threatening society. But, Jude is a realist and he does paint a real picture of the evils and the wastefulness and the sinfulness that is around about us. He doesn’t hide his head in the clouds and say they don’t exist. He sees all of that…he looks inward to see the innate wickedness and weakness that is in every man, but he doesn’t stop there. As he closes this letter, he brings us in to the place where there can always be absolute assurance and he ends it on a note of victory and he ends it with a doxology.

Now, I want to tell you something. Only a man who really has placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can walk through this world with all its problems, with all its hypocrisy, with all its dangers and still end up in a doxology, instead of a groan. And I’ll just be honest with you this morning, if you are a professing Christian, and you cannot walk through this world, regardless how godless this world may be, you cannot walk through it in doxology, there’s something wrong.

And so as Jude ends this letter, he gives us the upward look, and he says, “All of these things are true…things are bad…and they’re just going to get worse. Evil men are going to wax worse and worse.” I tell you this morning, the pornography situation is going to get worse not better. The wickedness in our government is going to get worse not better. Jesus predicted it and all the way through, the Bible simply states that evil men shall wax worse and worse and the love of many shall grow cold and the longer this world exists the colder it’s going to be and the more indifferent and the more wicked, but Jude doesn’t stop there. He closes out this tremendous little letter, by saying, “BUT…don’t let that be your last look…But unto Him who is able to keep you from falling….”

Every Christian’s life ought to be a doxology. And regardless of the situation in which you find yourself, regardless of the temptation that confronts you today, I want to tell you something…you ought to be able to meet it all with a doxology, and with this confession of faith.

Now, if as I said a moment ago, you cannot live this life and walk through this world with that doxology on your lips and in you heart, it’s simply because you have an inadequate and inferior conception of God. And Jude, in order to inspire assurance and confidence and rejoicing in the hearts of these people who are living in much worse times than you and I can ever imagine…he points them to God…he gives them a vision of God and he says, “Let this be your last look…concentrate on this and as you walk through this world with this vision imbedded in your minds and hearts, you’ll be able to rejoice!”

So, Jude simply directed his readers to a vision of God and I don’t think there is anything I can do better this morning than to try to direct those of you who listen to see God, to see that God who is able regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Let’s look at these two verses and let’s take a look, a concentrated at the God who is the Source of all assurance…and He is. The only place you’re going to find any confidence and assurance in this world today is as your heart is anchored to the living God. This is why in Ephesians 2, describing those who are lost, Paul says, “They have no hope and are without God in this world.” Those two things are synonymous. If you’re without God, then you have no hope and the only place you’ll ever find hope and confidence is in the living God.

So…the first look I want us to take with us is to see God as a sovereign God. This is most essential. It is indispensably essential that you and I, if we are to live in confidence and calm and poise and peace…we must see our God as a God of sovereignty. Now that word, sovereignty, is a theological word that a lot of these young boys and girls sitting on the front row may not understand.

Sovereignty simply means “the ability to do anything you want to do and to do it right”. That’s what sovereignty is. The power and the ability to do anything you want to do and to do it right. And the first and foremost thing that Jude reveals to us about our God in this doxology is that He is a sovereign God…a God of absolute sovereignty.

There are two things that point out this sovereignty and I want you to notice these. Look at verse 25…He says, “To the only wise God.” Now underline that word, “only.” His sovereignty is seen in His aloneness. He is the only God. You say, “Now, Pastor…we already know that. Why are you laboring this point about God being the only God? We all know that!” Well, some of you don’t live as though you know it.

As a matter of fact, a great many Christians that I know live as though there were two Gods, or three Gods, or four Gods, and they are in mortal combat and there is some doubt as to who will come victorious. You see, when you think about God, what do you think of? What does the word “God” mean to you? What does that word signify?

Well, lit signifies One who is all powerful, all knowing. It signifies One who is in control of every situation. It signifies One who has the last word in any discussion. It signifies One who is able to keep His word and keep His promise and everything else bows to Him in submission.

Now, a great many of us live as if there were more Gods. We live as though sometimes circumstances have the last word in our situation. We live as though our own weakness sometimes has the last word in every situation. I think one of the things you and I need to be convinced of this morning is that there is only one God…He is the only God…he is the only One who is in absolute control of our lives. He has the last word to say on every subject. It doesn’t matter what circumstances may be enveloping you right now. It doesn’t matter what the enemy does. It doesn’t matter at all what the worldly crowd and what this Godless world does. It doesn’t matter if an atheist gets on television and says that there’s no God…that doesn’t make any difference… there is one God and He is the only God and He is the One who is going to have the final say in everything that happens in this life.

To see that is to see Him sovereign in His aloneness. He shares His power with no one else. As a matter of fact, I even know of some Christians who have almost made the devil God, but he’s not. God is sovereign…He is solitary and in the 45th chapter of Isaiah the one thing God is trying to impress upon the people is that He is God and beside Him there is no one else.

So the first thing is that we ought to see God as sovereign. Secondly, we need to see Him as a saving God. Verse 25 is an unusual expression. You rarely ever find this expression in the New Testament.
“To the only wise God, our Savior…”

Now, it’s very unusual for God to be called our Savior. Usually, Jesus is called our Savior. But here, speaking of God the Father, He is called our Savior. What Jude is trying to do for us today is for us to have a full dimensional vision of our God. And we need to see Him as God who is in the saving business.

Now, what does this word “Savior” mean? Well, you know it means “the Deliverer”, it means “One who preserves, and protects”, but there’s a very interesting thing about this word. Back in the days of the New Testament, this word “Savior” had a very special usage. Let’s suppose, for instance, that you were living in a little colony…let’s take Philippi, because Philippians 3:20, you have this same word refer to Jesus. He says, “Our citizenship is 0ot in heaven, but we look to heaven from which will come our Savior.”

Now, let’s suppose that you are living in a little outpost. Over here is the empire…the Roman Empire…the seat of government…where the king dwells…and you are in a little outpost way out yonder on the frontier…out yonder in the wild and woolly west…you’re just a little town, a little village, a little colony. You’re exposed to any marauding army, vulnerable to anybody that wants to come and attack you.

Now, many times these little outposts separated by many miles from the “mother city” when attacked by alien armies would send word to the emperor and the emperor would immediately mount up an army and would come to do what?…to deliver his little outpost and the title they always gave to the king or the emperor in those situations was “savior.” A king who comes to the aid of his outpost…and Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven…” That’s our home, but we are an outpost and we’re living in the midst of enemy territory and there are times when the enemy is exerting tremendous pressure on us to dissuade and destroy us, fill us with defeat and despair, but he says, “we need to recognize that our God is our Savior, He is One who always comes to the aid of those who belong to Him.”

Now, there’s something you need to see that is not for some reason in the King James. I don’t know why the King James translators left this out. King James says, “To the only wise God, our Savior, be glory, majesty, dominion and power both now and forever…” There is a tremendously important phrase just left out. That phrase is “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here’s the way it reads, “To the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord…” Now, what’s he saying? He’s saying that God is our Savior only through Jesus Christ. The only way that God will save you, deliver you, preserve you is when you are rightly related with Jesus Christ as Lord.

God has no other means nor inclination to save anybody apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. And, of course, you see people every day who say they believe in God and worship God but they remove Jesus Christ from the agenda of their religious life. You may as well forget it. God’s salvation comes from only through Jesus Christ our Lord. He’s the only Way. And if you think that God is going to save you and deliver you and preserve you without your coming and submission to Jesus Christ, then you’re sadly mistaken.

It says that He saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Somebody came up to me and said, “This emphasis that you make on the Lordship of Christ…why don’t you make the emphasis on the Savior-hood of Christ…why do you always preach on His Lordship?” Well, I answered, “I make that emphasis because the New Testament makes that emphasis. Jesus is called Savior twenty or thirty times in the New Testament, but He is called is called Lord over four hundred times. As a matter of fact, the only way Jesus can save anybody is as He is Lord. It is His Lordship that enables Him to be Savior. And if a person comes to Jesus and says, “I want Him to be my Savior, but I’m not interested at all in bowing my knee to Him as Lord and as my Master…” then, you might as well forget it, because He cannot save you apart from His Lordship.

If men and women come to understand His Lordship and bow in submission to His Lordship, they will be saved. So, we see God as Savior…now one last thing…we need to see Him as Sufficient.

I’m afraid that a great many of us who say we believe in Him have some doubt as to His sufficiency. You could talk for a year on this one phrase and never exhaust it… “Now unto Him who is ABLE…” He is ABLE…He is ABLE. That simply means, folks, that He is adequate, He is sufficient, for every situation that you encounter.

Let me just mention two. First of all, He is sufficient for the present. That’s where I live. I’m not too interested in the past. I have only a curious interest in the future. I live in the present. That’s where I really need some sufficiency, and too much preaching on the Christian life deals all with the past and all with the future and leaves the present without any support or sufficiency. But He is sufficient for the present and this is the thing the writer is bearing down on. He says, “I know you are living in hard times…I know you’re surrounded by everything that is contradictory to how you’re trying to live, but I want you to know that He is able to keep you from falling…He’s sufficient for the present.” This word “keep” means “to watch over and guard”. He is able to watch over you and to keep you from literally stumbling. The King James says falling, but the word is literally stumbling. You know, that’s better, because you have to stumble before you can fall.

It’s much better to be kept from stumbling than to be kept from falling. An interesting thing about this word…it means “sure-footed in slippery places.” If you’ve ever done much horseback riding, you know that if you’re riding in mountainous territory, if you’re going down a steep mountainside, rocky, slippery…the wise thing for you to do if you don’t want to end up under the horse instead of on him is to get off that horse and get hold of that bridle, close to his head, pat him gently, put your hand there and you gently and slowly lead him over those slippery places in order to keep him from stumbling.

That is the picture behind the word. Now, you know there are times when God just lets me fly. I’m making great speed…just moving through…and all of a sudden, everything just slows down. I’ve often wondered, “Why, Lord? Why has that fever pitch of emotion…why aren’t You just letting me loose and letting me just run as fast as I can?” Well, God knows I’m passing over some slippery places and so He takes me very gently and very slowly to keep me from stumbling.

Now that ought to give us great encouragement because we all go over slippery ground. But I want to tell you something, you put your faith in this kind of God and I don’t care how slippery it is, I don’t care how treacherous it is…I don’t care how uncertain the future is…how uncertain your present is…if you will just commit yourself to this God, He will keep you from losing your balance.

He is sufficient for the present. But He is also sufficient for the future. Not only is He able to keep us from falling…but He is also able to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. This means we will stand firm and erect in His presence.

You know, I was reading over this again this morning, and I thought to myself, “It might not be too much of a trick for me to stand blameless before you folks here.” I could stand firm and erect before you, because you’re not omniscient. I can hide a lot of things from you. You don’t know me…and I don’t know you…that’s why we have so much respect for each other.

It’s really not much of a trick to be able to stand erect without blame before people…but notice, he says, “You will stand erect without blame BEFORE GOD!” Think of that, just imagine it…being able to stand in the presence of God’s glory…all of His glory…the God to whom all things are open…the God who searches the deep things of a man’s heart…the God who knows me through and through and who is holy and righteous and will tolerate nothing of un-holiness…to be able to stand in the presence of His glory and be glad about it… “with exceeding joy…” Now, if Jesus Christ were to come today (and all of us someday will stand before God) but will we be able to stand there with joy? But He says that He is able to do such a work in your life through the Lord Jesus Christ that one day you will be able to stand before that piercing, scrutinizing gaze of the glory of God and stand erect, faultless, without a spot, without blemish, without anything in you that would make you unacceptable, and you’ll do it with great joy!! He is sufficient for the present. He is sufficient for the future.

Now you have here a very simple little secret of how to live in doxology no matter what. And the pattern is right here in this little letter of Jude. I don’t care what you go through, listen…if you will end every circumstance of life with this confession of faith you’ll be able to live in assurance.

You may say, “I’m going through a hard time…financially, materially, but unto Him who is able to keep me from falling and to present me faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…unto Him be glory and power and majesty and dominion forever.” You see, you ought to climax every evaluation of your present circumstance with that confession of faith.

I promise you this morning that that Christian who walks through this life…I don’t care what he sees…how evil it is…I do not care how desperate the situation will be…if he will end up his daily report of the situation with this confession of faith…I want to tell you something…you’ll be able to live your life in doxology, instead of groaning and moaning and being depressed. That’s the secret and the source of true assurance.

But of course, you have to know Him first. Some of you do and some of you do not. Are you saved? Are you sure? Are you out of fellowship with God? Are you in deep need? Maybe God wants to do a work in your heart…to meet that need…`

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Victory Through Fellowship

Text: 1 John 1:5-22

The basic difference between the christian and the non-christian, between a saved person and a lost person, is not the absence of sin but rather is THE ATTITUDE TOWARD SIN..  When God saves a person this does not necessarily mean that this person will no longer make any mistakes.  This does not mean that the sinful nature has been eradicated and that he will never sin again; it simply means that his attitude toward sin is going to be changed.

In these verses John establishes the truth that all of us sin and then he says that if we do sin and confess our sins to God. He is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us.

Perhaps someone hearing him thought, “well, if human nature is as it is and it is impossible for us to live above sin and we are going to sin anyway and God will forgive us all our sins, why worry about them?”  We sometimes say, “God made me like I am, everybody is this way and it’s just a part of human nature and I can’t help it.”  John is anticipating that some of us might think this and says, “these things I write unto you THAT YOU SIN NOT.”     This is the christian ideal and standard which we are to aim for.

As long as we fall short of that standard, we have no right to be content with our life.  Not one of us can say that we are all right, that we have reached the apex or arrived where God wants us to be.

Notice in the next verse that John comes down to reality, to where we live and says, but if you do sin, there is a solution to it, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Fellowship with God means that God shares all that He has with me because when He saved me we began to share in a common life and everything that God possesses is mine.  This fellowship also means that we have fellowship with one another….there is a kinship, there is a spiritual relationship between those of us who are saved.  This also means that our joy is complete because of my fellowship with God.

But there is one thing we need to say about this fellowship.  It is a holy fellowship, maintained by my holiness.  If I leave the light and walk in darkness, if I allow sin to come into my life, if I do those things which are contrary to God’s will and nature, then my fellowship with God is severed and my fellowship with other christians is severed and my joy as a christian is also annihilated

This is the reason that some christians’ prayers are never answered.  God cannot share with them all the things He has because sin has come into their life.

This is the reason some don’t attend church very often and don’t get very much out of it if they do.  They don’t enjoy it because sin has severed their fellowship.  This is why some have lost the joy of their salvation and are not the happy christians they used to be.  They have allowed sin into their lives.

There is a three-fold attitude toward sin that you and I ought to have to maintain our fellowship with God, our fellowship with the church and our joy as a christian.  First of all John says there must be a:

l.  CONSCIOUSNESS OF OUR SIN.

He says in the 8th verse, “…if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  Then in the 10th verse he says, “if we say we have not sinned we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”  Now what is the difference between verse 8 and verse 10?  In verse 8 he is talking abut the  principal of sin….the sinful nature.  Here is a man who denies that he has a sinful nature.  David said, “in sin did my mother conceive me and I was shapen in iniquity.”   The bible says that a baby is born speaking lies.  It is our sinful nature, I am not a sinner because I sin, but I SIN BECAUSE I AM A SINNER.  In Ephesians 2 we are told that “by nature we are the children of wrath.”

Notice in verse 8 he says we deceive ourselves…we don’t deceive anybody else.  Two preachers met on the street one day and one was of the faith that believe you live above sin and said that his sinful nature had been eradicated and he hadn’t committed a sin in a year.  His wife was with him and she said, “Don’t you believe a word of it!”  We can deceive ourselves, but we can’t deceive other people and we can’t deceive God.

One of the first prerequisites for my maintaining my fellowship with God is having  a consciousness of my sinfulness.  This is why he says that we must walk in the light.  God is light….God is holy, there is no darkness at all in Him.  There is not even a shadow of sin in God.   This means that I am to live where God lives.  I am to expose myself to the light of God to reveal the dirt that is in my life.  I could turn out all the lights in this building and I could say I don’t see a bit of dirt on my hands.  But as one light comes on, a little dirt is seen, another light is switched on and gradually all the lights are turned on and I see clearly and unmistakably the dirt on my hand.

The person who says they don’t see anything in their life that needs to be repented of or mourned over is the person who is walking in darkness and is so far from the light of God that he cannot see his own spiritual condition.  The closer you get to God and the closer you come to the light, the more sin in your life is revealed.  If you are walking in the light, it means you are exposing every act, exposing your daily behaviour to the light of God’s holiness and you are judging your life, your character and your behaviour by God Himself, by His holiness, by His standard of truth.

There has never been a great movement of God in the church unless it was preceded by a great consciousness of sin.  We have allowed the devil and the world to brainwash us so that no longer are things black or white, but they are kind of a muddy grey.  We have lost the distinction between right and wrong. We’ve given birth to the theory that morality is relative and it all depends on where you live…..if others are doing it, it’s all right.  The bible says God is light, He is moral perfection, and He is the standard by which we are to judge ourselves.  There comes a time in the life and experience of every christian when he must mourn over his sin.

It is an astounding thing how the heart gets hardened.  I remember as a little boy how I always looked forward to the summer because I could take my shoes off.  Those first two or three days were mighty tough on those tender feet that had been protected by shoes all winter long.  We lived in the country and didn’t have sidewalks and paved streets, they were dirt or gravel roads and you were always looking for the grass to walk on.  Gradually the soles of your feet were toughened up and by the end of the summer you were running down that rocky road and never even realizing you had your shoes off.  It is the same way with the heart.  You begin to slight God a little bit, then you begin to leave God out of your life a little more.  But, now you have been doing it so long that you don’t even notice it.  The pathetic thing is that some of us are so far from God that it is nearly impossible to see the light and we are not even aware of it.  We need a re-birth of the consciousness of sin in our life.

The second thing there must be is a:

II.  CONFESSION OF OUR SIN

Notice what he says in the 9th verse, “….if we confess our sins.”  The word confess means to “say the same thing”, to agree.  Confessing my sin is to agree with what God has said about me already.  He has already said that I am a sinner.  But we are like the birds who shut their eyes when someone shines a light into them.  When we get a little close to a conviction, we run from it.  We have never agreed with God.  Do you notice that the word “sins” is in the plural and not the singular?  That is significant.  To confess our sin (singular) would be to confess the fact that you have sinned.  But He is saying, “Don’t be general and vague in your confession, be specific and particular…name them one by one.”    You committed them one by one, confess then one by one.

This means dragging them out into the light and examining them.  The best way to get victory over our sins is to face them in God’s presence and come clean with God about it.   Some live your days criticizing and harming others with the words that you use and the language you speak and need to call it “my critical tongue” or “my gossiping tongue” in the presence of God.  To have the blessings of God on your life, you must confess your sins daily.

There must also be:

III.  CLEANSING FROM OUR SIN

He says that “God is faithful and just, not only to forgive us but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”    Not only does God forgive our sin, but He also wants to CLEANSE our sin.  What’s the difference?  A little boy is dressed for church in his Sunday best, he goes out and plays in the mud puddle, cones back in and is covered with mud.  His mother is angry but he stands there and looks at her with those angelic eyes and says, “Mommy, I’m sorry.”  She tells him she forgives him, but now go take off those dirty clothes and get in the bathtub to get clean.  The little boy says, “No, I’m sorry I got dirty, but I want to stay this way, I don’t want to wash and put on clean clothes.”  That’s just like us!

We get convicted of our sin, God gets hold of us and we are miserable and want relief, so we take a spiritual Alka-Seltzer.  We walk down the aisle, shake the preacher’s hand, shed a few tears and feel a little better, the guilt is gone the old conviction of sin is gone.  We go back and each day live the same kind of life we lived before.  We asked God to forgive us of our sin, but aren’t willing to let God CLEANSE US FROM THAT SIN….that means to take it away and get rid of it.  He wants to throw away the dirty rags.  He is not only going to save us from the PENALTY of our sin, but also from the POLLUTION of that sin.

This is the only way our fellowship with a holy God is maintained.

Someone asks me every once in a while if I believe in eternal security, “once saved, always saved.”  They will pose the question, “What if a christian committed a sin and then died before he had a chance to confess that sin and to ask forgiveness, would he be saved?”  I think the first two verses of the second chapter of John give to my own heart one of the greatest evidences for my salvation being eternal and my salvation being secure.  What happens when a christian sins?    He says we have an advocate with the Father….that is the solution to the christians’ sins.  Advocate is just a fancy word for defense lawyer, one who is called alongside to plead your case.  Sometimes it was a friend of the family, sometimes it was the head of the family and he was bound by family ties and family honor to stand by your side and speak to the judge on your behalf.  God says that our advocate, our defense lawyer with the Father is Jesus Christ, the righteous and he is constantly in the presence of my Heavenly Father to plead for me.  He is righteous so he is in good standing with the court.  He intercedes for me.

In John 14:16 the word “comforter” is the same word for advocate.  While on earth I need help to live my christian life.  Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to be my advocate here on earth and he helps me day by day.  But I also need someone to help me up there in heaven when I sin, when I offend the Father, when I transgress against God.  So, as the Holy Spirit is my defense attorney on earth, so Jesus Christ is my defense attorney in heaven and he pleads my case before the Heavenly Father.  He is my advocate, my salvation, my forgiveness.  My cleansing from sin does not depend upon anything except the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous as He stands in the presence of the Heavenly Father and pleads my case.  And notice he says He is the PROPITIATION for my sin….that means the covering for sin.  It takes a blood sacrifice to cover the sin from the eyes of God and Jesus Christ is the covering for my sin so that God cannot see it.

Notice that is doesn’t say He WAS our covering, or He WILL BE, but it uses the present tense…He IS, constantly covering for sin.  As long as Jesus Christ is in the presence of the Father and as long as He is pleading my case, as long as His blood is effective before the Heavenly Father, that long my salvation is secure.

One last important thing…down here on earth when you hire a lawyer to defend your case, he defends you.  He calls in some character witnesses and they testify of  your good moral character and good reputation and the case is built on YOU.  But not so with our heavenly lawyer.  He couldn’t find a character witness that would plead for us and when Jesus our heavenly lawyer pleads before that court in heaven, he does not plead my innocence, HE ADMITS MY GUILT.  But, He pleads His blood, and He says, “Father forgive him, not because he deserves it, not because he is innocent, but FOR MY SAKE, because I covered his sins with my blood.”

That is why I am constantly secure, and if I were to commit a sin tonight and before I had a chance to confess it were to die and go out into eternity I believe that I would still be saved because Jesus IS the covering for my sin in the eyes of God and He is my heavenly advocate, always there constantly in the presence of my Heavenly Father to plead my case.  This is how my fellowship with God is maintained.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

Spiritual Gifts

Text: 1 Peter

I Peter 4:10 “As every man has received a gift, even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

When we receive a spiritual gift as God says we all have received a spiritual gift, we become stewards of the grace of God. Now if you and I understand fully what that phrase means, “stewards of the grace of God”, we’ll understand that it is a very serious and solemn statement. The word “steward” literally means “one who governed a household”. It was a person who received from his master a valuable piece of property or the care or management of the estate and was to manage and govern that for the master. Then when the master returned, he was to give an accounting of his stewardship. This is the reason the Bible says, “moreover it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”

Understanding that, you need to get this picture. God has actually taken the grace of God and placed it in our hands and makes us the administrators of His grace. Imagine that God would take the grace which is able to save, the grace which is God Himself in His loving activity, the diverse grace of God indicating the diversity of gifts, and place it in my hands and your hands. He entrusts to you and me the grace of God in the form of a spiritual gift and you are to administer that grace and to govern the use of that grace. That is a terrible responsibility because the word always carries with it the idea of accounting. There is a time when you and I will have to give to God an accounting of how we managed and administrated the grace of God that He entrusted to us.

You remember in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of a master who has three servants who were stewards and he was to go on a long journey and he gathered his three stewards before him, and gave to one ten talents, another five talents and another one talent. It was a wedge of gold, a very valuable piece of property and when the master returned he called each one into his presence and each one had to give an accounting as to what he had done with the talents, the opportunity, the stewardship his master had left him. Jesus made a very significant statement when He said, “To him that has much more shall be given and to him that does not use what he has, it shall be taken away.” The dominant theme of that parable is that God is going to judge you and me on the basis of my stewardship.

I have a spiritual gift and God holds me accountable for that. When I stand before Him at the judgment seat of Christ He is going to say, “I gave you a supernatural endowment, I gave you a supernatural ability to do certain things for my glory and for the sake of the church and I want to know, how did you do?”

That truth leads me to ask three questions. First, when did I get this gift and how do I get a gift? Second, how do I know what my gift is? If I am going to have to give an account of how I use my gift, I ought to know what my gift is. Third, if God is going to judge me on how I exercise that gift, then I ought to know how to exercise it.

Those are the three points of the message: receiving, identifying and exercising your spiritual gift. We’ll take them one by one.

1. RECEIVING YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT. When did I receive my spiritual gift or how does a person receive his spiritual gift? The most important thing is that you have a gift, not how you received it or when you received it. But we really need to have some idea of how we received our gift and when we received it because as we look at the various gifts perhaps some of them appeal to us more than others. What am I to do then? Am I to take the list and pick out the one that I want and put in my order and say,” Now, Lord, this is the gift I want. I have chose this one and please give me this gift.” Is this the way I receive a spiritual gift?

Let me say at the beginning that spiritual gifts are sovereignly bestowed. The Holy Spirit is the distributor of the gifts. If you will look in I Corinthians 12, you will find this emphasized in several places. For instance in verse 11, he says “but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will”.

As we examine these gifts you need to keep in mind that Paul continues to go back and forth from the image of the human body to the truth of spiritual gifts .The body of Christ is like unto a physical, human body and the gifts that God has given to every member are like the different members of that body. He says in verse 18, “but now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him.” In other words, when God created the physical body, he arranged it the way it pleased Him and Paul says in the same way God has arranged the gifts of the Spirit in the body as it has pleased Him.

He says practically the same in verse 28, . . . “and God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets….”. The thing I want to emphasize is that it says in verse 18 and 28 that God has done the setting. God set forth these members. A man does not choose to be an apostle, a man does not choose to be a teacher. He does not choose to be a miracle worker. That does not lie within his province. God is the one that chooses.

Then in Romans 12:6, “having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us….”.  What determines our gift? The will of the Holy Spirit, the pleasure of the Father, the grace of God which is given to us. The Holy Spirit is the one who chooses which gift is to be bestowedupon which person.

Someone asked me the other day what about I Corinthians 12:31 where Paul says, “but covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way”. And then in I Corinthians 14:1, “follow after love and desire spiritual gifts but rather that you may prophesy”

Now the word translated in verse 1, chapter 14 “desire” and translated “covet” in 12:31 are the same Greek word, just translated differently. And the word means to “prize”, to be zealous after, to be devoted to, to cherish.

Now Paul is speaking to the church, not to individuals and Paul is not telling an individual that he is to seek a certain gift but rather that the church is to prize the greater gifts. The Corinthians had been abusing some of the gifts. They had been exalting some gifts above others.  Paul does say that there is a distinction in the gifts but God has to make that distinction. The Corinthians needed to alter their desires, their opinion, their evaluation of the gifts.., They had taken some gifts and had elevated them to a position above other gifts and Paul is rebuking them for this and he is saying that as a church they need to prize and be devoted to the greater gifts indicating that there are degrees of value in the gifts that are given. Paul is not encouraging a Christian here to seek a particular gift.

What about I Corinthians 14:5 where he says “I would that you all spake with tongues but rather that you prophesied….” Someone said to me not long ago that there Paul was saying that everybody ought to have the same gift  the gift of tongues. Perhaps Paul could have said, “I would that everybody have the gift of prophecy” or “I would that everybody have the gift of healing”. What about that verse?

It is an amazing thing about the apostle Paul. Even though the Corinthian church had abused the gift of tongues, Paul refused to speak despairingly of that gift. He said I have that gift, I exercise the gift probably more than all of you. And he says, “I would that you would all speak with tongues”. He was indicating there his own personal desire. For instance in I Corinthians 7:7, he uses the same words, the same language. He says, “1 would that all men were even as I myself….”, talking to men. He said I wish you were all like myself unmarried. I don’t think we would take I Corinthians 7:7 as saying that every man ought to be unmarried. He is indicating here a personal desire. He says, “I speak with tongues…. it has blessed me  it has edified me, I could wish that all of you would have this”. But he is not saying a command from the Lord that everybody is to have the same gift or that we have the right to choose a particular gift..

Paul has said basically three things about spiritual gifts in these chapters. He says that all gifts have their value, all are set in the church by God Himself and some are more valuable than others. But it is God who chooses who has which gift. They are sovereignly bestowed.

It is my conviction that a man receives his spiritual gift when he receives the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are the manifestations of the Spirit Himself. The gift is how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in a person’s life and when a person receives the Holy Spirit he receives the gifts of the Spirit..

For instance, in Acts 2, when did they speak in tongues? When they received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10, when did Cornelius speak in tongues? When he received the Holy Spirit a his salvation. When did the Ephesian disciples speak in tongues in Acts 19? When they received the Holy Spirit at their salvation. Not only did they speak in tongues, they also prophesied. If you will notice in Acts 10 and Acts 19, those gifts were not post-salvation experiences. They were not second blessings, but they were simultaneous with salvation. When they received the Spirit of God, they received their spiritual gift and it seems to me that the scriptures indicate and we will see more about this later, that a man receives his spiritual gift at the moment he receives the Spirit Himself, the Holy Spirit of God. I had not originally intended to get into what I am going to get into right now, but I feel that it is profitable for us to do it.

When does a man receive the Holy Spirit? There have been volumes of books written and older books republished on this matter of the Holy Spirit and this matter of charismatic gifts. I have tried to read all that I could get my hands on, even those that I did not agree with, to try to understand exactly what is being taught. At the end of one popular book there is listed seven steps to receiving the Holy Spirit. I think it is very essential that we take time to discuss this matter of when a man receives the Holy Spirit of God.

There is a very popular teaching that you receive the Holy Spirit after salvation. They point to Acts 2 and Acts 8 when Philip went down to Samaria and he preached. The people were saved but then Peter and John came to Samaria , laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. People take these two instances and say that these people received the Holy Spirit, were baptized by the Spirit after salvation.. That is true in those instances .

It has been written and taught so much today that God gave the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and He doesn’t give it anymore,  that now we must receive Him. So after a person is saved you inform him about the Holy Spirit.. God does not give Him the Spirit because God has already given the Spirit at Pentecost. They say every person must receive the Holy Spirit just as he received Jesus Christ.

In the first place, to me that seems to be splitting hairs over whether God is giving it or whether we are receiving it. In one of the classic books written on this there is a statement that says that the Bible never says that God gives the Holy Spirit, it is always that men received it. That statement is not true. In Acts 11:17 as Peter is rehearsing the experience with Cornelius, he says, “For as much then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God?” Peter is saying that when the Spirit of God fell upon Cornelius and they spoke in tongues that God gave them the gift.

It is my belief that a man receives the Spirit of God at conversion, at salvation. Now there were two exceptions and we will discuss those in a moment.

Acts 2:38 , Peter said on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the Holy Ghost”  or you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The word “receive” is in the aorist tense which indicates you shall receive THEN and THERE,  not future tense,  not a perhaps,  not a conditional clause. He says “….you shall receive… “. What was the condition of their receiving the Holy Spirit. It was the condition of salvation, of turning from their sins, of repenting and confessing Jesus Christ, having their sins remitted.  Then they received the Holy Ghost.

In Acts 11:17, we read a moment ago that Peter said, “For as much then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…”    When did God give them that gift? When they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 7:39 Jesus speaks about the rivers of living water that flow out of our innermost being and he says, “But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive…” When would they receive Him? What was the condition of receiving the Holy Spirit? It was believing on Jesus.

Roman 8:9 says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” I Corinthians 3 and I Corinthians 6 says our body is the dwelling place, the temple of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God. Galatians 3:3 says that they”….begun in the Spirit”. In the second verse it says, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Again in Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying, Abba Father”. What is the condition of receiving the Holy Spirit? Because you are sons.

In I John you have the presence of the Holy Spirit as proof of our salvation. I John 3:24 , “And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him and He in him. And hereby we know that He abided in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.”

I John 4:13….”Hereby know we that we dwell in Him and He in us because He hath given us of His Spirit.”

I John 5:10…. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness within himself….”

Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God”.

Someone said to me not long ago that a man or woman receives their spiritual gift and even receives the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. I just feel that I need to say a word about this matter of laying on of hands and it’s relationship of receiving the Holy Spirit or receiving a spiritual gift.

The laying on of hands was used four different ways in the scriptures. I’ll just mention these briefly.

First it was used as an act of consecration, a setting apart someone for service. The laying on of hands was to consecration what baptism was to salvation. It symbolized this person had been saved. The laying on of hands was a symbol this person had been consecrated.

It was used as a commendation. Paul says in I Timothy 5:22, “Lay hands suddenly on no man…”. Laying on of hands was a symbol of approval.

It was used to signify a commissioning. In acts 13: 3 when the Spirit of God said to set apart and send out Paul and Barnabus as missionaries, the church laid hands on them. It was the church commissioning them.

The laying on of hands was used for communication. To communicate sin from one person to an animal in the book of Leviticus over and over again., They would lay hands on the sheep or goat and the sins of the people would be communicated.

It was used to communicate authority or position from one person to another. Moses laid his hands on Joshua and communicated to him his authority and his position.

It was used to communicate blessing.  Jesus laid his hands on the children and blessed them.

It was used to communicate healing as Jesus would lay his hands on people  it was not essential because he would also heal people without the laying on of hands.

It was also used to communicate the Holy Spirit. The apostles had a special gift, a special dispensation to bestow the Holy Spirit upon certain people. In Acts 8 Phillip was preaching, the people were saved, but he did not lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter and John came and they laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10, Peter did not lay hands on Cornelius, it wasn’t necessary. It is never necessary. Sometimes it is done. Acts 19 Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. In II Timothy 1:6 Paul says to Timothy, “stir up the gift which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” The preposition there means “immediate agency”. In other words the agency of Timothy receiving his spiritual gift was the laying on of hands of the Apostle Paul. So the apostles had a special, supernatural ability to communicate the Holy Spirit to certain individuals. Those were special cases.

In Acts 8 the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after they were saved by the laying on of hands. They were the Samaritans. . . .the half Jews  Jesus said you should go into Jerusalem , Judea , Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. In Acts 10 when the Holy Spirit came in that way it was the Gentiles being saved. In Acts 19 it was the disciples of John the Baptist, old testament believers really that received the Holy Spirit after they were saved. Every time an unusual occurrence such as that happened, it was a special forward thrust in Christian history. Only the apostles had the ability to communicate the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. In Acts 9 Annanias, that disciple, came to Paul after Paul was saved and the bible said he laid his hands on him to receive his healing and to be filled with the spirit. It doesn’t say that he received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands

The Bible makes a very careful distinction between the filling of the Spirit and the receiving of the Spirit. For instance in Acts 4:31 those disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit but they had already received the Spirit. The only ones in the book of Acts that had the ability to communicate a spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit Himself through the laying on of hands were the original apostles including Paul who was chosen by God by divine special revelation Since we no longer have these apostles I see nowhere in scripture where it indicates that anybody today has the ability to lay hands on somebody and by the laying on of hands actually communicate to them the Holy Spirit or a spiritual gift. It is not necessary to have hands layed on for anything. God did not work that way all the time.

As I study this, the thing that impresses me over and over again is the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit  the variety by which the Holy Spirit works. For instance, on the day of Pentecost when He manifested Himself there was the rushing wind, the cloven tongues of fire, and the languages. But in Acts 10 there were just the tongues, no cloven tongues of fire, no rushing wind. Acts 8 doesn’t mention any manifestation. In Acts 19 there were tongues and prophecy. In Acts 4 when they were filled there was just an earthquake that shook the place. The Holy Spirit manifested Himself differently every time and leads me to say that we cannot put the Holy Spirit in a straight-jacket and say the Holy Spirit will always, must always manifest Himself in a particular way. He just will not be caged in. He has the freedom and the sovereignty to manifest Himself any way He wants to.

We receive the Spirit of God at salvation as a gift from God when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And when the Spirit of God comes to indwell us it is my belief this is when we receive our spiritual gift. Paul says we all have a spiritual gift and the only way every Christian in the world could have a spiritual gift would be to receive it at salvation because they certainly are not all filled with the Spirit. All the tenses that Paul and Peter used talking about the spiritual gifts are in the past tense. It is always the fact that they HAVE received a gift. Not the fact that they can or the fact that they may.

The figure of a body leads me to believe that we receive our gift at salvation. When did your hand become a hand? At birth. At salvation we are placed in the body of Christ. We become a member of the body of Christ. You have a spiritual gift if you are saved, sovereignly bestowed upon you. Not because you chose it but because it pleased God to give you a spiritual gift. Now that gift may lie dormant for years and years. Paul says to Timothy, “stir up the gift of God which is in thee.” It’s possible for a spiritual gift to be atrophied. It’s possible for a Christian in carnality and idleness to live his life without exercising properly that spiritual gift and one day, perhaps, when he is filled with the Spirit he realizes he has a spiritual gift and he begins to exercise it.

2. HOW CAN I RECOGNIZE MY SPIRITUAL GIFT? Let me say first that it is really not essential that you know what your gift is. I believe it is good and important and I think you can know. But it is not essential that you know what your spiritual gift is. Paul said to Timothy, “the gift which is in thee”. The gift is a part of us and every Christian who is obedient to the head and serves the Lord as God leads him and gives him opportunity is exercising his spiritual gift.

If you have been obedient to the head, if you have served the Lord as He led you and gave you opportunity, you have been exercising your spiritual gift whether you knew what it was or not. How does a hand know what to do? It simply is obedient to the head. How does a foot know what to do? It is simply obedient to the head. How does a hand or a foot exercise it’s spiritual gift? By doing what comes naturally. How does a Christian exercise his spiritual gift? By doing what comes supernaturally. The gift is a part of your life. You are your gift. That is why Paul says some are teachers, some are miracle workers  there is one who exhorts. It doesn’t say he has the office of exhortation and between the hours of 8 and 5, Monday through Friday he exhorts. No, he is one who is continually exhorting. You are your gift. As a Christian simply lives his life in obedience to the head, he is exercising his spiritual whether he knows what it is or not. You don’t have to manipulate, maneuver and politic and work and struggle to exercise your gift. You just live your life under his leadership.

Now, having said that it is not essential to know your gift, I’ll give you some suggestions about how you may know it. I have four suggestions to make.

First…. Personal Inclination. What is your desire? What is your motivation and leaning?  I Examine your special concerns. What do you want to do? Your spiritual gift will lie in the direction of your desire and your desire under God will lie in the direction of your spiritual gift. For instance, a man who has the gift of showing mercy wants to show mercy. A man who has the gift of teaching wants to teach  he enjoys teaching. That is why I can preach for an hour and not mind it. Maybe one of you will have the gift of listening one of these days. Examine your desires. There will be an inner witness.

It has to be a desire to do it God’s way. It is possible that your desire may be nothing more than a carnal desire. For instance, some people may want to rule but they don’t want to do it God’s way. That is not a gift. That is a greed. That is not the final test because it is possible for you to have a desire that is nothing more than a carnal desire and is not really a God-given desire that you have. By way of illustration, for years I wanted to be an evangelist. From the moment I surrendered to preach I knew that God wanted me to be an evangelist. At my ordination I was so shaken up when my pastor said, “Now, Ron, God has not called you to be another Billy Graham”  Well, I knew he had. For years I tried to be an evangelist. One day it finally dawned upon me I that I was manipulating and maneuvering and trying to work out something that I thought God wanted me to do. So, your personal inclination is not the final test but it is the first hint. What do you enjoy doing?

Second…There will be a public recognition of that. And that will come in two ways. The church will use it. There will be given to you opportunities to minister your gift. If you are  interested in knowing what your gift is, answer this question. Where has God already used me in     I the body of Christ? Look for those repeated areas where you find places of service.. This is one of the reasons it finally dawned upon me that I wasn’t an evangelist. I nearly starved to death. After I ran through my close friends, where was I to preach? When a man is in his proper place exercising his proper gift, he doesn’t have to try to drum up business. I would see other fellows that weren’t as experienced as I was in preaching and they were busy all the time. They weren’t starving to death. The church was using them. What really confused me was that some of those fellows never sent out a letter, never printed a brochure, never politicked, it just came. Why?  They were exercising their gift and God was seeing to it that they had opportunity.

Not only will the church use it but God will bless it. Paul says in I Corinthians 12:7 that these spiritual gifts are given to profit withall, profit everyone. And when you exercise your spiritual gift it will profit the body of Christ. God will bless it and it will minister life and health to those people. For instance, a person who has the gift of showing mercy just seems to attract people who seem to need mercy.

There was a lady in our church who had the gift of mercy and she attracted people all the time. In fact several of the people that I baptized were saved because of the mercy she showed them. I know people who have the gift of evangelism who have the strangest, most miraculous opportunities to witness and win people that you ever saw and they minister that gift effectively. A person who has the gift of helps, people will just seek him out. You don’t have to put up a sign that says, “Open for business”. You will be able to help people effectively and God will bless it. Now are any of you getting a clue as to what your spiritual gift is? Where has God given you opportunities? Where has God opened the doors? One of the tragic things is that God will open a door over here and we are still waiting for another door to open. Where you have opportunity to serve and your desire lies in that direction and God blesses it and people are blessed or profited and you minister life, you can know that is a spiritual gift from God.

In Acts 6 when they ordained those original deacons I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if those apostles when they laid hands on them did not communicate to them the gift of ministering. And when they exercised that ministry of ministering, the Bible says the Word of God through the believers multiplied. God will bless it.

Third……By Prophetic declaration.. This is exceptional in discovering your spiritual gift. In I Timothy 4:14 and 1:18 Paul speaks of Timothy having his spiritual gift by prophecy. . . . “the prophecies that were spoken concerning thee”. And it seems that the Apostle Paul or someone else received a prophetic word, made a prophecy about Timothy and said you will be such and so. I almost hesitate to mention this because I don’t want people running around to other people saying, “You are to be a missionary.” “You have the gift of giving”. There are times when a man knows his spiritual gift by prophetic declaration. Young George W. Truett, was studying to be a lawyer, and his church said “You are to be ordained as our Pastor”. George Truett said, “But I have sought to be a lawyer.” The church said, “But God has called you to be a preacher.”

I believe that it was Spurgeon (I reserve the right to change this if I learn differently) who one day when he was a child of seven was in the garden and a great preacher was visiting in their home and laid his hand on the shoulder of young Charles Spurgeon and said, “Son, some day you will be a great preacher of the gospel”. There are other illustrations of famous men in history where years before God had given somebody a word of prophecy.

Fourth…..There will be a Proper Confession. Not all supernatural gifts come from the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 7 Jesus said, “many will say to me in that day, have we not cast out demons, have we not prophesied in thy name, have we not worked miracles in thy name?”   And Jesus said  unto them,  “I never knew you” Paul in II Thessalonians indicates that as the end time comes, there will be counterfeits who will come working miracles as though miracles of God but yet they are the spirit of antichrist. There are supernatural gifts that are not from God.

How do you know? He tells us in I Corinthians 12:3, “I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Holy Spirit calleth Jesus accursed and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Spirit.” If a man is real, if he is of God, he will always put Jesus Christ in His proper place and that is on the throne. Any movement, any work, any ministry that puts anything above Jesus Christ in affection, in allegiance, in attention, is not of the Spirit of God. He that is of the spirit of God and receives his word from the Spirit of God always puts Jesus Christ in His proper place. And that is on the throne.

3. HOW DO I EXERCISE MY SPIRITUAL GIFT? If God is going to hold me accountable as to how I exercise my gift, then how do I do it? I have four suggestions but let me’ preface this by saying that the gifts are subject to misuse. You can misuse the gifts of the Spirit as the Corinthians did. So it is necessar5r to understand the proper way to exercise your gifts.

First…There must be proper acceptance of your gift. Now this is what Paul is bringing out in Romans 12. There can be no discontent with your gift. There can be no dissatisfaction with your gift. I wish I didn’t  have this gift, I wish I had that gift. The first thing you have to do is to accept your gift because it is from God.  Paul says that every man must evaluate himself, size up his gift according to the measure of faith that God has given to every man. And the measure of faith is simply that ability that God has given, that mountain-moving faith, for a man to exercise his gift. Now when he says the “measure of faith”, it doesn’t mean that some have more faith than others, but that God has measured out to each man faith in which to exercise his gift. That measure is a limitation and that measure is for that particular gift. If you exercise the gift God has given you, God gives you the faith, the power, the ability to exercise that gift effectively. You must evaluate and accept your gift according to the measure of faith which God has given to every person. God has given me a measure of faith and that measure is for the exercise of my particular gift. If I step out of that gift, God has not given me a measure of faith to exercise another man’s gift. I stick with my gift. “He that hath the gift of teaching, let him teach.” “He that has the gift of exhortation, let him exhort.” “He that has the gift of ministry, let him minister it.” Be satisfied with your gift.

Two….There must be a proper assessment of your gift..   This is in Romans 12:3 and following.  First, there must be no superior attitude. A man ought not to think more highly of himself than he ought. Because you have a gift that so and so doesn’t, you are not supposed to think you have a spiritual edge because you have a gift someone else doesn’t have. Secondly, there is to be no inferior attitude. Let a man think soberly. Simply because you don’t have a more spectacular gift, you are not to have an inferior attitude. You will never be able to exercise your gift properly if you think your gift is inferior and that makes you inferior.

Three…There must be a proper application of that gift.  Now the Bible gives us several suggestions about the gift.

First, do not neglect it. I Timothy 4:14 says “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you..” God will hold you accountable.

Second, in II Timothy 1:6 he says to “stir the gift up”, indicating our responsibility. Indicating that the gift may become atrophied. The “stir up” is used of rekindling a fire, causing a blaze. You don’t need a new gift, you just need to stir up the one you have. There are times that I need to stir up the gift God has given me. I begin to neglect it, the fire begins to burn low, coldness comes in and I find that I am exercising my gift out of mere duty and ritual and ceremony. Paul says set it on fire!

Thirdly, we are to minister this gift to others. This has to do with the attitude. We are not to take this gift and use it for our own glorification, our own profit, but rather Peter says “as every man has received a gift so let him minister the same one to another.” You are to use this gift in the service and for the good of the body of Christ. That verb indicates you are to do this all the time. You never turn off your gift.

I spoke on the phone to a preacher who was in town today and all he did was talk about the Lord and how God was dealing with him in certain areas of scripture. When we hung up the phone I said to myself, “He is always what he is”. He is not one thing in the pulpit and then when he steps out he turns it off and all of his talk and interest then lie in secular things. You know I have been with some preachers that never want to talk about the things of God or share the word of God outside the pulpit. They just turn it off. Peter says you are to minister this all the time. If you have the gift of mercy, you show mercy no matter where you are. If you are at a ballgame, if you are on vacation, if you are in the church. You see, it is the life that you live. Exercise your gift for the good of others all the time.

Fourthly, exercise that gift in such a way that will glory God. I Peter 11:4 says that all of this is to be done “for the glory of God”. Now there are ways you can exercise your gift that will glorify you and will attract attention to you rather than glorifying God.

Four..Proper adjustment of the gift. Ephesians 4:16 says that every joint is to be properly adjusted to the head and when it is properly adjusted to the head, then it supplies for the good of the body and the body is built up in love. The head is Jesus Christ. It is my conviction that every time you exercise your gift outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ God rejects it as far as reward is concerned. Because then it becomes simply a work of the flesh rather than a work of God.

Are you properly adjusted to the head? You may have the gift of evangelism and lead hundreds to Jesus without being properly adjusted to the head and God will judge you for working in the flesh on judgment day.

©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2003

How to Read your Bible

Text: I Peter 1:23-2:3

Part Three of How to Interpret the Bible

We’re talking about interpreting the Bible for yourself. And we’ve already looked at the six basic principles of interpretation. And today I want us to simply look at the study of the Bible…reading the Bible and what the Bible means to us and how we ought to read it.

In 1 Peter 1, beginning with verse 23 through chapter 2:3…
“For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and abiding Word of God. For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall off, but the Word of the Lord abides forever. And this is the Word which was preached to you. Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes long for the pure milk of the Word that by it you may grow in respect to salvation if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”

To me, the greatest evidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God is the fact that it simply does what it professes to do…the effect it has when it is preached, when it is read, when it is heard. The Word of God promises and gives to us the way of salvation and when the Word of God is preached and shared people are saved. And when you preach the Word of God, people are brought under conviction and they are converted and their lives are changed. That doesn’t happen when you read Shakespeare. It happens when you read the Word of God.

So, one of the greatest evidences as far as I’m concerned…the greatest evidence…of the inspiration of the Word of God is that it simply does what it professes to do. It converts the soul. It changes lives. And here, Peter is saying it does that because…he pictures the Word of God as a seed…and he says, “You and I have been born again not of a corruptible seed, but of an incorruptible seed, which is the Word of God. When the Word of God is planted in the hearts of men and women, it brings about a new birth in the lives of those people.

Now, the interesting thing that I want to share with you today is that the same seed that gives us life is also the milk that gives us growth. You notice the first chapter, verses 23 and following, he talks about the Word of God as the seed which has given us a new birth, and following that expression of a new birth, he says in the second chapter, verse 1, “Therefore,” – and always you look at the “therefore” and you know that he is about to make a practical application of the truth that he has just enunciated. The truth is this: the Word of God is the incorruptible seed that brings life… “Therefore,” – if this is so, and it is – then you and I need to lay aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisy and all envy and all slander and like newborn babes, we are to long – desire – crave for the sincere or the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.

So, the seed that gives us life is also the milk that gives us growth. Now, I want you to notice how he adds in verse 3… “if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord…” The Berkley Translation does a great job here. It says, “presuming you have tasted the goodness of the Lord.” Now, what Peter is saying is this…that if you have been born again, you ought to have an appetite to grow. You ought to have an appetite for the pure milk of the Word. You don’t have to teach a baby to eat. You don’t have to try to cause a craving in the baby for milk. That comes with life. That comes with birth. And so, he says if you have been born again of that seed, then like a newborn babe, you will crave the sincere milk of the Word if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

The implication is that if you have no appetite for the Word of God, you must not have ever tasted the goodness of the Lord. Now, we were talking, Kaye and I were talking the other day, and we were saying that we talk a lot about food. Have you ever noticed that? We talk an awful lot about food. Her mother came down and visited us for a week and any time the three of us sat down – the ladies did this…I didn’t do this of course – but everything on their plate…they would say, “Well, I know I ought not to eat this,” and then they eat it, you know…always talking about food. We go on diets and such as this… Now, I’m not a very good dieter. I can fast pretty good. I really can…I can fast pretty good. If I don’t eat anything, I can go without eating anything, and I can make it pretty good, but I want to tell you something, when I take a bite of food, I mean it’s Katy bar the door…I mean, I’m sunk, you know. If I just won’t taste it, I’ll be alright. But, once you taste it, you’re done for.

Now, Peter says, “If you have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, then you’re going to have an appetite to have more and more and more of it.” And so, when you and I get a taste of the Word of God and when we get a taste of the goodness of the Lord, there is created within us this desire, this longing, to drink and to nourish the sincere milk of the Word.

What I want to talk to you about is how we are to read the Word of God…how it is to be applied into our lives. And I want to just this…that there is…before we get started…there a moral qualification for reading the Bible. There is an intellectual qualification, of course, I mean, you have to be able to read or you have to understand when it’s preached, you have to have an intellectual belief that it is the Word of God. There is an intellectual qualification and most of the time the emphasis is placed on that. But do you realize that the Bible really never places the emphasis on that? It always places it on the moral qualification for reading the Word.

Notice what he says…if you and I are to long for the Word…there are some things that must be laid aside. 1 Peter 1:2:
Therefore, putting aside – he uses a word that was used for casting aside old clothes, clothes that were no longer wearable…you laid them aside – like old dirty clothes – so he says like old dirty garments you need to lay aside and he gives us three categories and each one of them prefaced that word “all” – lay aside all malice, all guile, which included hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

Before you can desire the sincere milk of the Word, before you can have that appetite and have that appetite intensified, there’s a moral qualification for reading the Word of God. There are certain things in your life that you have to lay aside, and most of these indicate our relationship with other people. You can’t read the Word of God and benefit from it if there’s malice in your heart…if there’s slander in you heart…if there’s hypocrisy, if there is envy…when you come to the Word, my dear friend, you have to come clean. There is a moral qualification.

I said a moment ago that you don’t get converted by reading Shakespeare. I also say that whether or not you’re living in sin doesn’t affect your reading of Shakespeare at all. I mean, you can sit down and read Shakespeare and get just as much out of Shakespeare no matter what kind of moral situation you’re in. But, you cannot do that with the Word of God. When you and I come to the Word of God, there is a moral qualification and if the Word of God is going to bless me at all, first of all I need to make certain that my sins are confessed up to date and as far as I can tell everything is right between myself and God, if God is going to speak to me out of His Word.

So, with that I’d like to share with you about six or seven on how to read the Bible.

You need to read the Bible regularly.

Now, you’re going to say that some of these things are old hat, but we need to emphasize them anyway. What I mean by reading the Bible regularly is we need to sit down at the table of the Word and read it and eat it every day…every day…every day!

You and I ought to look upon reading the Bible, studying the Bible, letting the Bible study us just as necessary as taking in physical food and physical drink. You know what I’m hoping for? I wish that one of these days I could get to the place spiritually that I would miss a meal of the Word of God as much as I miss a meal of spaghetti and meatballs. If I go without a meal or two I want you to know that I’m ravenous. I mean…if you get hungry you’ll eat bread out of a garbage can. Have you ever been that hungry for the Word of God? Reading the Bible regularly!

Now, it doesn’t matter what time of the day you read it. It doesn’t matter where you read it. You just make certain that every day there’s going to be a systematic reading of the Word of God. First of all, we need to read the Word of God regularly.

We need to read the Bible alertly.

Now, a fresh mind is essential. Don’t give God the drowsy dregs of your day. Read the Bible when you are alert. Now, I may have made reference to this the other night…I think I did. A lot of people think you need to get up about 5:30 and have your quiet time, and for those who can do that, that’s wonderful. But, I’m going to tell you something. I need to read the Bible alertly. And I’m not an early morning person. I’m not! Through the years, doing what I do…preaching…you’re in meetings like we are this week…you get out about 9:00 or 9:30, you go out and eat…and by the time you get home it’s midnight and then you can’t sleep because your mind is still revved up from the service, or revved up from what you’ve eaten and I hardly ever get to sleep before 2:00 in the morning and then I wake up about every hour on the hour, you know, and I’ll just be frank with you, folks, I’m just not a morning person. I think getting up is a terrible way to start the day. Of course, I do this because I’m humble. Only proud people get up at 5:00 a.m. I mean, don’t they brag about it? Ohhh, I want you to know I’ve been up since dawn. Man, I’ve been up…I mean, they are so filled with arrogance and pride and haughtiness. You never hear anybody brag about getting up late, do you? Man, I got up at the break of noon today. Oh, no…see, I’m humble…that’s the way I am. Find the time when you are most alert.

I’ll be honest with you…when I first get up in the morning, that’s my most alert time and if I try to do my study then and my reading then, my quiet time…if I get that quiet that early I’m going to go back to sleep. Actually, I’m more alert at midnight. And I do my best reading late at night. So, you read the Bible alertly…however it fits into your lifestyle. Read the Bible alertly.

Read the Bible systematically.

Now, I’m happy that they have changed the way they do this…to a certain extent. But growing up in church we were given our daily Bible readings. Remember those? They were in the Sunday School quarterly and they were the daily Bible readings and here’s the way they would be…for Wednesday, read Leviticus 17:8; Matthew 7:15; Revelation 10:3-8. And I couldn’t understand a thing that I was reading. I mean it was all a jumble and I never did enjoy it so I never did it much.

Why do we read the Bible like we read no other book? If you go down to the bookstore and buy a novel and you open it to page 150 and start reading and after awhile say, “Well, I don’t understand a thing I’m reading.” Well, of course not! You start at the first…chapter 1, page 1, paragraph 1, word 1. Read the Bible systematically. Take a book of the Bible and read it from beginning to end and you read it like Philippians or Colossians or Genesis…start at verse 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1, word 1. Read the Bible systematically. I am highly in favor of these ideas whereby we read the Bible once every year and those plans are very good. You start at the beginning.

Now, I know when you get to those “begats” it’s going to be a little much of a drag, but you can sort of keep on reading until God “begats” something in your own life. Eventually you’ll come to some good stuff. So, read the Bible systematically.

Read the Bible with variety.

What do I mean by that? I mean we need to use different translations. Now, there are some places I go and this may be one of them, I don’t know, where there’s always somebody in the church that if I get up and read from anything but the King James Version I’m confined to the outer limits of hell. Now, I grew up on the King James Version of the Bible. And I still preach from it a great deal. But let’s be honest, folks. They used to burn men at the stake who tried to translate the Bible hundreds of years ago to put it into the language of the people. The Catholic church in those days wanted to keep it in the language that only the priests could read. The common person, the average person didn’t have a copy of the Bible and if he did, he couldn’t read it, because it was not in the language that he spoke. And there were men like Tyndale and some of the others, Jerome, and they paid their lives because they translated the Bible into the language that the average man could understand. That’s always been God’s plan.

The New Testament is written in Greek. There’s a little Aramaic in it, but it’s primarily written in Greek. And it’s written in what they call Koine Greek, which is vulgar Greek, which means everyday Greek…marketplace Greek. There is classical Greek and then there is everyday, marketplace Greek. And when God sat down to inspire the Word of God, He didn’t use the classical Greek that only the intellectuals could understand. He used the marketplace that every normal, common, average person could understand. I want to tell you something…we must always have the Bible in the language that you and I can understand.

And language changes. The meanings of words change. For instance, in the King James, it says in 1 Thessalonians, talking about the resurrection and the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming… “those who are alive shall not prevent those who are asleep.” Now, the word “prevent” today means “to hinder.” The word meant they will not precede them…I mean, those of us who are alive will not precede those who are dead…they will be raised first. They’re going to come first and then we’re going to be caught up in the air.
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul talks about the Holy Spirit and the man of sin coming and he says, “he that letteth will let until he be taken out of the way…” Now, in the King James time, “let” meant “to hinder.” It doesn’t mean that today. It means “to permit” you see. And so, the language changes and if you and I are to read the Bible with understanding we must use various translations that keep the language that you and I understand.

Now, the King James Version is a very excellent translation. It actually is. A lot of people knock it today, but it is a very good translation. The main thing that’s wrong with it for us today is that it’s written in that old style English that we don’t use and that we don’t feel familiar with and sometimes that keeps us from reading the Bible as regularly as we would if it were written in more modern English. So, I think there are always places for different translations. And I carry about six translations with me. I got three with me this morning and I carry about six with me, because I found out something…I found out that one translation may read in a certain way and another translation – just as accurate in its translations of the Greek words – may read a slightly different way and all of a sudden it throws light on it that I didn’t see before, you see.

For instance, if you have a King James Version, I want you to turn to Colossians 1 and I want you to read that verse 23…no, it’s Colossians 2, verse 23:
“Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship,
and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to
the satisfying of the flesh.”

Would somebody like to stand up and explain that to me? Folks, that’s a jawbreaker, isn’t it? Alright…now listen to it in the NIV.
“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom with
their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh
treatment of the body but they lack any value in restraining
sensual indulgence.”

Now, let me ask you a question. Which one do you understand? You’re really supposed to say the NIV! That is just one example of why we need to read the Bible with variety. Use different translations. The Greek language is so rich that sometimes one Greek word can be translated two or three different ways and each way has a different shade of meaning and it throws different light on it. So, read the Bible with variety.

I have here the New International Version. Now, personally…this is just my humble and accurate opinion…personally, I don’t believe the NIV is the best translation around. It’s the most popular right now and it’s a good translation, but I don’t think it’s the best translation around but I use it and preach from it a lot. I think the best translation today is the New American Standard Version. That is the most accurate translation. Actually the most accurate translation is the old American Standard Version, but you can’t find that anywhere much. But the New American Standard Version is the most accurate translation that we have.

The New English Bible…the Revised English Bible is a good translation. The New Revised Version is a good translation. I read a lot from the Williams Translation…Charles B. Williams Translation…it’s the only New Testament ever translated by a Baptist, by the way, and I made reference to it the other night…it is an excellent translation. It’s published by Holman and you can get copies of it. It brings out the nuances and the shades of meaning of the Greek text, and when you read that translation it throws so much more light onto it than other translations.

The Amplified Bible is a very good translation and it does exactly what it says it does…it amplifies the meanings of the words. Some people read the Living Bible, which is not a translation, but more of a paraphrase. Now, the Living Bible is the most readable but not the most reliable. I read the Living Bible just for the pleasure of reading, but when I get down to study I don’t use that because it’s not a translation, it’s a paraphrase.

There is the New King James Version, which is a very good translation. The only thing I don’t like about it is where Jesus said, “Verily, verily,” they translated “Most assuredly” and I don’t like that. I don’t know why. It sounds like kind of stuffy. Do you ever say that? Do you say “Most assuredly”? You don’t say that, do you? But anyway, it’s a good translation. My wife says she does. You do? She does. You know what she said? She said, “I don’t say verily, verily, either.” (Laughter) Behave yourself!

So, you read the Bible with variety.

Read the Bible prayerfully.

Approach this Book as you would approach no other book. It is a living Word. And when you open this Bible you need to open it prayerfully…praying like this perhaps… “Father, give me something today to live by out of this Word.” When I start to read my Bible just casually that’s always a prayer on my heart… “Lord, as I read this, give me something to live today.”

And as you come to the Bible prayerfully the Spirit of God who inspired the Bible will illuminate your minds so that can understand it. Over in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says that the natural man, the unsaved man does not receive the things of the Spirit “…for they are spiritually discerned…” A lost person, an un-regenerated person cannot understand the Word of God. Now, he has a certain intellectual and scholarly understanding of the Word of God, but he doesn’t understand the message of the word of God and he cannot read the Bible with the faith that you and I can read it from.

Do you realize that most of the liberalism and modernism, they don’t call it modernism anymore, it’s all liberalism now…but did you know that most of the liberalism that we have in our schools and seminaries over here came from Germany and France? Do you know why it came from there? Because in Europe, especially in Germany, you take up theology just like you might take up medicine…as a profession. Some of the highly respected theologians probably have never been saved! Because they took up a “profession.” Clarence Darrow, the famous lawyer…his dad became a preacher simply so that he would have time to read a lot…he like to read a lot. He wasn’t even a Christian. He was a Unitarian. But he became a preacher simply because he liked to have a lot of time to read.

And some of these theologians that came in the early years from Germany and some of the other European countries chose theology just like you might choose law or insurance or anything else. They weren’t even converted! That’s why they can’t handle the miracles, you see. They read the Bible only as an ancient document.

Now, the Bible is an ancient document and you need to keep that in mind. I need to keep that in mind. And it is good for us to come to the Bible with scholarship, don’t get the idea that I’m against scholarship or education. No sir! I believe that a preacher ought to know the Bible as well as a doctor knows the human body. I think that if I am committing my life to preach this Book I ought to know it as best as I can…I ought to be able to understand as much as I know how to understand of this Word.

I think some preachers, if they were doctors, they’d get sued for malpractice…because they don’t really know the Word. You have to have that! But, these men who simply are theologians as profession, they view the Bible only as ancient document. And so, they say Isaiah had to be written by two different people…because the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are written in a certain style and the next are written in a different style, you see…because in the first section it deals with judgment and the second section it deals with comfort and salvation and these men cannot believe that one man can have two messages.

For instance, some deny that the epistle of James is inspired because there’s no personal references in it. And some of them don’t believe that Peter wrote 1 Peter because there are too many personal references in it. Does that make sense to anybody? There are those who don’t believe that the Red Sea parted and drowned the Egyptian army…they say it was the Reed Sea which was just about knee deep, maybe, and the wind would blow over there constantly and so what really happened is the wind was blowing so hard that it just blew that few feet of water and the people were able to cross. Now, the first time I heard somebody say that, I said, “Praise God it’s a greater miracle than I thought! A whole army drowned in knee deep water!”

And that’s why there are some who can read the Bible and study the Bible and it never changes their lives. And they can’t handle the miracles. They can’t handle the resurrection. They can’t handle the blood covenant. They cannot handle the second coming. Read the Bible prayerfully.

Read the Bible expectantly.

A good way to read your Bible is to read it aloud, and sort of make it your prayer. If you’re sitting in a chair reading the Bible, does your mind ever wander? I find out sometimes that I’ve read ten verses and don’t have the slightest idea what I’ve read, because my mind has wandered…and I’ll go back and read it again and my mind wanders again. But, I’ve discovered something. I’ve discovered that if I will read the Bible, moving my lips while I read it…reading it out loud or just reading it moving my lips, it holds my attention and I’m concentrating and if I read it with a pencil and paper in my hand and as I read it and come across something good, I make a note of that. All of this, of course, is keeping my attention staid on the Word of God.

A third thing that I do in reading the Bible that helps me more than anything else is I pray it. For instance, the January Bible study for next year is going to be The Sermon on the Mount. And if you really want to have God do a work in your heart, I suggest you take The Sermon on the Mount and pray through it. I mean, make it your prayer. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” and you say, “Dear Lord, am I poor in spirit? What does this mean? Lord, help me to be poor in spirit.” And Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful…” and you say, “Dear Lord, I want to be merciful and I see areas in which I’m not merciful.” And as you read through the Bible and pray through it, turning it into prayer it does something. Not only does it keep your attention, but it does something. It works in your heart! It works in your life!

You come to the Bible expectantly. I expect God to speak to me through the Word of God. I expect God to say something to me every time I read this Word. And you know, while I’m thinking about, let me just mention this. I have observed a peculiar thing. The colder my heart gets, the less anxious I am to read the Word. Have you noticed that? But, every time that God does a new work in my heart, revives me, puts a new spark in my life…do you know what my first thought is? I want to get into the Word…I want to read the Word, because I know it’s going to say something and I know it’s going to do something for me.

Read the Bible obediently.

This is probably the most important. Now, what I mean by that, of course, is that we ought to obey whatever the Bible says to us. Unless the Bible is obeyed it becomes a closed book to us. If I come to this Bible and I don’t have any intention of letting it change my life, suddenly the book becomes closed to me. Because you see it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to understand what we’re reading. He illuminates the Scripture. And by that, He simply gives to us divine enablement so that what we read speaks to our hearts and makes sense to us.

But, if I’m reading and suddenly it condemns me, convicts me, says something to me and I don’t do anything about it, this grieves the Holy Spirit and the illumination is gone. It’s like reading the Bible in a dark room. When I’m sitting under the lights, I can read it and it’s easy to read because I’m right there in the light. But the moment I don’t obey something that the Bible says to me the light goes off and I can no longer see. There’s no longer any illumination.

So, when you come to the Bible you come with this attitude… “Lord, whatever You’re going to say to me in this Word, I commit myself to obey even before I know what it is.”

Now I stress obedience because the condition, or the prerequisite for additional revelation is obedience to present revelation. Now, Bill has mentioned this a couple a times this week. And we always laugh about it, because you know, we already know more than we’re living up to. And that’s true. And sometimes we wonder why it is that God is not saying something to us. It’s because we’re not doing anything about what He told us the last time He spoke to us. It’s useless for me to say, “God, bless me more if I haven’t lived up to the blessings that God had given me.” It’s useless for me to say, “God, give me more light when I haven’t even walked in the light that He has already given me.”

But, here is the way I fine it in my own life. Maybe you find it differently, but here is the way I find it in my own life. God just gives me enough light to see my next step, folks, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t have the slightest idea what God is going to do with me in the next few weeks or the next year. You know, sometime you say, “Lord, if You’ll just give me the ‘month in review’ ahead of me and kind of let me see what’s coming…” I usually have just enough light to see the next step. I take that step and the light moves out just another step farther. I take that next step and it moves out just another step farther. That’s the way God works. If you want additional revelation, the condition is obedience to present revelation, which is important to understand…because I believe this is how God deals with the heathen who have never heard the Gospel of Christ.

I remember a person arguing about this and saying, “I believe that if a man or woman does the best that they can…does the best that they know…follows their conscience…even though they never heard the Gospel, then I believe they’ll be saved. I always say, “Show me that heathen. Show me any person who has ever lived up to the light of his conscience. Show me anybody who has never violated their conscience.” Have you ever done anything against your conscience? Of course, you have. So, if you say, “Well, a man can be saved without hearing the Gospel…if he just lives up to the light of his conscience…” – he’s still condemned! Because no person ever lives up to all the light of their conscience.

Well, how does God deal with the heathen? If a man won’t live up to the little light that he has, he’s not going to live up to the big light. But, if a man lives up to the light that he has, God gives him more light. And if he walks in that light, God gives him more light and sooner or later, if that man has walked in the light and has lived up to the light that God has given him, then God works in his heart and brings about the work of salvation…somebody comes along and preaches the Gospel to him, but you see, the Bible says in Romans 1 that no one is without excuse…because even the pagans know God because God has made Himself known to them. But, if a person, even a pagan, rejects the knowledge of God that he already has, then he’s certainly going to reject the knowledge of Jesus that he sees.

That’s just the way God works with people. Obedience is the condition for additional revelation. This is why Jesus said, “It would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for Capernaum.” Do you know why He said that? He goes on to say, “…for if the things done here in your presence had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah they would have repented a long time ago.” God does not judge us on how much sin we commit. God judges us on how much light we reject and disobey.

So you read the Bible obediently. And as we obey it, God extends that light just a little further. Read it and reap! The more you read the Word of God, the more you will reap the things of God in your heart and in your life.

Let’s pray together:
Father, today, we are grateful that You have given us Your Word. And I guess one of our greatest sins is the way we neglect it…and the way we disobey it. Father, give us a hunger and a thirst for Your Word. I pray that it would become to us like milk to newborn babes that we would have an unquenchable thirst for Your Word. Thank You for giving it to us. Thank You most of all for the Living Word…the Lord Jesus Christ, who is with us today even more than is this Book with us. And we thank You in His name. Amen

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005