1 Peter 2:11-13
I. WE ARE TO SEPARATE FROM THE LUSTS OF THE WORLD.
1. The reason. V.11:
(1) We are pilgrims and strangers in this world.
(2) Fleshly lusts war against the soul.
2. The responsibility: V.12,
“Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles . . . they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
II. WE ARE TO SUBMIT TO THE LAWS OF THE WORLD.
V.13,14 Romans 13:1ff; I Timothy 2:1ff
III. WE ARE TO SILENCE THE LIES OF THE WORLD.
V.15. “For so is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to silence (muzzle) the ignorance of foolish men.”
1. For the Lord’s sake. vs. 13
2. It’s the will of God. v. 15
©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2001
1 Peter 1:13-16
Duncan Campbell: “A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living is the crying need of our day.”
I. IT IS THE PURPOSE OF OUR CONVERSION—”Ye shall be holy”. vs. 16.
II. IT IS PATTERNED AFTER CHRIST, VS 15, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves.”
1. The Old Standard Abandoned: vs. 14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were your in ignorance.”
2. The New Standard Adopted: vv 15,16, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’”
III. IT IS TO BE PORTRAYED IN ALL CONDUCT. “Be holy yourselves in all your behavior.” vs. 15.
IV. IT IS POSSIBLE THROUGH GOD’S CALL. “Like the Holy One who called you.” v. 15. “Called” always means “the EFFECTIVE call of God.
1. Be Serious. “Gird up your minds for action.” v. 13
2. Be Sober. “Keep sober in spirit.” v.13 — moral alertness
3. Be separated. “Do not be conformed to the former lusts.” v. 14. A
Definite and Daily break with the world.
Robert Murray McCheyne: “The greatest ambition of my life is to be a holy man.”
©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2001
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
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
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