A NOTE ABOUT THIS TRANSCRIPT
The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation of why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the message titled "Bible Questions and Answers, Part 66," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
JOHN: Now, again, the idea is not to ask me a question I can’t answer, there are plenty of those; and I will gladly admit when I don’t know the answer. But I do want to help you.
One of the things that I learned in studying the book of Acts many, many years ago was that Paul, it says, reasoned with the believers out of the Scripture. He reasoned with them out of the Scripture. It’s actually a Greek verb, dialegó. He dialoged with them. Ministry for him was not just, “Sit down and I’ll preach to you what I want you to hear.” It was a dialog; it was an interaction. I’m quite confident that during the ministry of the apostles there was much more interaction than we might experience in a typical church service with a sermon.
In the early years at Grace, when we used to be in the chapel, we had so many people crowded around. They’d be sitting in the pews, and they’d be sitting on chairs, on the floor, and they’d be sitting on the steps all around me; and it was not at all uncommon for somebody in the middle of my sermon to interrupt me and ask me a question, or even to say, “I don’t buy that.” That happened a few times as well.
But there was an openness and an availability, and even a certain vulnerability to ministry as the apostles and the early preachers wanted to hear what was on the hearts of the people. So this is that kind of opportunity for me. So keep your question focused and to the point, and I’ll do the best – that’s going to be more my problem than yours, because I tend to give long answers. But we’ll see what we can start with, so we’ll see how far we can get.
Carl, have you got that one figured out over there?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I think so.
AUDIENCE: And this young man right here.
JOHN: All right. Give us your name, and step right up to the microphone.
AUDIENCE: My question has two –
JOHN: What’s your name?
JOHN: Sorry? That’s a strange name. All right, we’ll start all over again.
JOHN: Joshua. I like that better. All right, Joshua.
AUDIENCE: All right. My question has two parts. The answer that I’ve heard many times to why God allows sin is so that it can contrast His glory, and let us know how unique His glory is. Is this true?
JOHN: Yeah. The question that Joshua is asking is, “Why did God allow sin?” And the broad answer to that question is, He allowed sin for His glory; that’s the reason He does everything. And God desired to put His full glory on display; and in order for God to put His full glory on display, and to display all of His attributes, He had to then display His compassion, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, His kindness. And in order to display all of that panoply of attributes, there had to be sin. With no sin, there’s no mercy. With no sin, there’s no grace. With no sin, there’s no forgiveness. With no sin and its consequences, there’s no compassion, there’s no lovingkindness. So in order for God to display the full range of His eternal attributes God allowed sin, so that He could put His glory on display.
But what was implied in your question is also true, that because God allowed sin, we can see by contrast the reality of holiness; that is true. But beyond just showing us sin so we can understand holiness, showing us evil so we can understand good, showing us impurity so we can understand purity, is the goal of everything; and that is that God would display His glory; and not just before creatures on earth. But in the book of Ephesians it says that God has done what He has done in redemptive history to display His glory before the heavenly angels as well. So He allows sin to put His attributes on display that are only activated in a world where there is sin. Okay?
JOHN: Thank you, Joshua. Really good question.
AUDIENCE: Hi, John. My name is Andrew.
JOHN: Yes, it is, Andrew. Good to see you.
AUDIENCE: First of all, welcome back.
JOHN: Thank you so much.
AUDIENCE: It’s great to have you back.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: We know that we contribute nothing to our salvation, that the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, and that Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of our salvation and is responsible for our salvation. So the question is, “What does it mean to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?”
JOHN: Yeah, that’s Philippians chapter 2. And when Paul says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” he is saying simply this: Your salvation has been granted you by God. It is on the inside; make sure it shows up on the outside. In other words, literally, work it out. Live a life that manifests your salvation.
And, you know, that is the reality of the Christian life, right? I mean, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.” That’s the same thing exactly. Let your light shine.
Paul even says we are to shine as lights in this perverse generation. So working out your salvation doesn’t mean working in your salvation, it means working out your salvation. That is the manifestation of that which God has wrought in your heart. And that, of course, is what we do in our Christian life, right? That’s the battle against sin, and that’s the battle for obedience; and that’s applying all the means of grace, and prayer, and Bible study, and Christian fellowship, and the Lord’s Table. And all of those things are the means of grace by which we work out what God has wrought inside; and we do that because that same verse says, “For it is God who wills to do this in you, and to see it made manifest.” This is what pleases Him. He has pleased you by saving you on the inside; now you please Him by working that salvation to the outside.
AUDIENCE: What should our attitude of the fear and trembling be? How should that manifest?
JOHN: You know, the attitude of fear and trembling is part of the dual motivation for holiness. I would like to think, and perhaps you would as well, that you would live a godly life out of sheer love for Christ. And that is the goal, and that is what it means to be really spiritually mature.
But the fact of the matter is, in the sanctification process, sin has so much strength in us, remaining sin, that we need more than love for Christ to motivate us. We need a healthy sense of fear. We need to know that whom the Lord loves, He – what? – He chastens, He disciplines. We need to listen to commands like in Jude, “Keep yourselves in the love of God. Stay in the place where you experience His love and not where you experience His discipline.”
So there are two emphases in Scripture that drive us in the direction of sanctification. One is the love of God that pulls us, and the other is the fear of God that threatens us. As you grow as a Christian, the fear factor begins to dissipate, and the love factor begins to dominate. And that’s what spiritual maturity is, when you can say with David, “O how I love Your law.” You’ve gone beyond the sort of disciple aspect of it. You’ve gone beyond being a spiritual child, and you’ve become a spiritual adult, and you’re motivated by love rather than fear. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: God’s evening, Dr. MacArthur.
AUDIENCE: I’m Mark from Simi Valley.
JOHN: Hi, Mark.
AUDIENCE: And I have a question regarding this morning’s sermon.
AUDIENCE: The word “bewitched.” New perspective on Paul is becoming more maybe predominate in some churches today. Could they be in that bewitched category, a church that holds dogmatically to that stance?
JOHN: Absolutely. Absolutely. The new perspective on Paul, without going into all of that, the new perspective on Paul, in my judgment and the judgment of those who think carefully about the doctrine of justification is a heretical view justification. It is an aberrant, wrong view of justification. The main purveyor of that, N. T. Wright, will not affirm individual salvation by faith. That is, he doesn’t affirm that individuals are justified, but rather there is this kind of collective justification that belongs to the people of God; and he uses kind of a second temple Judaism motif to generate that.
But that is one of the bewitching doctrines. And the reason somebody like N. T. Wright, a British theologian, the reason he gets away with it is because he’s written about a 500-page book on the resurrection; and because he affirms the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is so critical, he gains a hearing with evangelical people who then become bewitched by this aberrant doctrine of justification. And of all the doctrines that you’d better not be wrong on, it’s the doctrine of justification. I think it is a bewitching error.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, sir.
JOHN: Good question.
AUDIENCE: Hey, Pastor John. My name is Farris. I’m actually starting as a freshman at The Master’s University starting tomorrow.
AUDIENCE: So I wanted to say thank you for everything you’ve done there in being the president.
JOHN: Well, where’d you come from, Farris?
JOHN: Good, we’re happy.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, Denver area.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. I have two questions, but I guess we’ll just take this one at a time. My first question is, “If Arminian theology deals directly with salvation and how it comes about. And if it is false, why is it not seen as heresy?”
JOHN: Just to clarify for you, he said “Arminian,” not Armenian.
JOHN: There is a very big difference: all good Armenians are Calvinists, no Arminian is a Calvinist – big difference.
Arminius was a theologian, an ancient theologian who believed that salvation was in the hands of the sinner and not God. In other words, he believed the opposite of what we affirm as biblical theology that was basically refined down to what we call Calvinism. We believe salvation is all of God and the sovereignty of God. Arminius taught that salvation is by the will of man, that man has within him the ability to believe on his own. There is enough, he would say, there is enough grace. There is a kind of prevenient grace, a kind of available grace, even in the fallen sinner. There’s enough there for him to muster up faith on his own: it’s not a work of God, it’s a work of man.
You probably have heard the word “Arminian,” but maybe didn’t know about Arminius. But you do know, perhaps, about Charles Finney. Perhaps the most notable early American evangelist. Finney was full-blown Arminian, or as we would say, a Pelagian, because Pelagius taught the same thing.
Finney believed that people had the power within them to come to God, to come to Christ, to believe and be saved, to turn from sin on their own; that it was purely an act of the human will, and God was not responsible for what they did or didn’t do. And so he developed a manipulative kind of evangelism that basically attempted to prod the sinner emotionally, to manipulate the mind and feelings of the sinner to get the sinner to do what he believed the sinner could do and should do. This was Finneyism. And, of course, out of Finney’s error came all kinds of cults, all kinds of cults. In fact, most of the American cults came out of the burned out area in New York where Finney functioned for so long.
Now, is it possible to believe that you can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that you have the power to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and go ahead and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and confess your sin, and acknowledge Him and Lord and Savior, and do it genuinely from the heart, and not know that that was actually a work of God? It is. It is possible. You wouldn’t think it was utterly unaided, because even a person who’s not sure where the power comes from, or how much power and responsibility they might have on their own; even that kind of person knows you have to hear the gospel, and would assume that God has brought the gospel into your life and to your attention, and helped to understand it. So that’s what restrains me a little bit from saying anyone who held to an Arminian view might be holding to a heresy, that when you define a heresy at that level would not be able to save people.
I think there are people, even in churches today, who don’t understand fully the sovereignty of God in salvation. They don’t understand fully that it is a work of God in their hearts, because they’ve never been taught that. But that doesn’t mean God has not done the work and brought them to faith in Jesus Christ. So while we would agree that Arminius taught a wrong view, a heretical view; that Finney taught a wrong view that could be, I guess, identified as a heretical view, because it is not orthodox. That is not to say – and this is where I have to draw the line – that anybody who’s ever believed that is therefore not a Christian, because even though they didn’t understand the work of God, it was still the work of God, and they believed and were saved.
It would be the same thing as, of course, Arminius, and Finney, and the others, Pelagians, and even semi-Pelagian, would say you can lose your salvation. The good news is, that even the people who believe you can lose your salvation can’t lose their salvation; it is still the work of God.
So, yes, that is a wrong view. That is a view that undermines the glory of God. And the big problem with that view is this: it is a wrong view of man. If you believe man has any capacity to come to God on his own, then you don’t understand depravity, you don’t understand fallenness, you don’t understand what it is to be dead and blind. That’s how the Bible defines a sinner: without capacity, both unable and unwilling to come.
So when you have the right view of man, which is that he is helpless and hopeless, unwilling and unable, then you know salvation has to be of God. So what really allows for people to believe that salvation is really man-responding is an inadequate view of man. People can have those inadequate views, and God can overrule those. Or they may be just novice enough in their understanding of the gospel that all they know is the gospel, and they don’t know anything else behind the gospel, they can still be converted. So we want to be careful that we don’t take all those people and sort of assign them a place in perdition. Okay?
Good question, Ferris. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor MacArthur. My name Kevin McCue.
JOHN: Hi, Kevin.
AUDIENCE: My question goes to Genesis 9:13 through 16. Could you please explain the difference between what the Christians believe in the rainbow and according what the world believes and the difference in the colors, please?
JOHN: Okay. You mean the difference between the biblical view of the rainbow and the LGBTQ view of the rainbow?
AUDIENCE: Yes, sir.
JOHN: Yeah. Look, the rainbow in the Scripture is clear. It’s a promise from God never to drown the world again, right? It’s a promise from God never to drown the world again. It is simply the water in the air through which became a prism through which the light passed and bifurcated the colors in light, and that beautiful rainbow. And we see them even – all the time around the world. Since then, that is a constant reminder from God that He will not destroy the earth by water again.
It is no surprise to me at all that Satan would want to take something that is a sacred, universal, global promise from God and pervert it at such a gross level. That’s what he does, twisting it. I don’t know that for people in that LGBTQ world that it is a conscious act of taking the promise of God and perverting it. But certainly from Satan’s view, that’s what it is.
What’s going to happen to people caught up in that community is they’re going to experience a far greater judgment; and that is going to be the destruction of the entire world by fire, and then everlasting fire in hell, because no one who lives in that lifestyle will inherit the kingdom of God. But, again, this is Satan’s ploy to mock Scripture; and I think, for the most part, the people who are caught up in that have no idea that they’re doing that. Some of them even think they can be Christians and do that.
And I want to say this in response as well. Look, they’re not our enemy. They’re not our enemy. They’re the mission field. We can’t pick out that sin, as unacceptable as it is, and put it in a category all its own as if it is some sin greater than any other sin. The sin for which every person damned to hell will be damned is the sin of not believing in Jesus Christ. Every other sin can be forgiven.
First Corinthians, Paul says, “Such were some of you: effeminate, homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, and all the rest. So I fear sometimes that because we see this becoming a kind of sinful organization that is gaining power and ascendency in our culture, that we see it as an enemy. And it’s true, there certainly is a frightening reality to that, and it’s being imposed on our children and our grandchildren. It comes from the enemy. But the people caught up in it are our mission field. They need Christ.
I’ve said this before, but maybe it’ll help for some of you. Look, what is going on in America is Romans chapter 1 is being played out. Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Okay, if any country or any civilization ever held the truth it would be us, Western civilization. We held the truth, the Word of God; but we held it in unrighteousness, so the wrath of God has been revealed. This isn’t eternal wrath, that’s hell. This isn’t eschatological wrath, that’s the wrath described at the end of the age. This is the wrath that’s described in Romans 1.
What wrath is this? For those who hold the truth, but hold it in unrighteousness. That is, they abandoned the truth that they have. There is a judgment that has three steps: God gave them over, God gave them over, God gave them over. That defines what that wrath is. First, He gave them over to sexual perversion. He gave them over to adultery, fornication of all kinds.
So when God turns a culture over, when God takes a culture that has had the truth and held the truth in unrighteousness and God unleashes His wrath, the first thing you will see is a sexual revolution. That’s what you will see; and that’s what we saw back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, the sexual revolution.
And then it says, “Then God gave them over to homosexuality: women with women, men with men, and even receiving in their bodies the due reward of their iniquity,” which would be AIDS and other venereal diseases. The sexual revolution in Romans 1, when God judges a nation, will be followed by a homosexual revolution. And we have been in that for the last fifteen-twenty years. So we are seeing in our country and Western civilization, because we held the truth; but we held it in unrighteousness because we knew God and rejected Him as God, because we became wise in our own conceits, we have begun to experience the wrath of God. That wrath came when God let us go into a sexual revolution and a homosexual revolution.
And third comes, toward the end of Romans 1, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. Reprobate is simply the word “nonfunctioning.” God gave the society over to a mind that doesn’t work to a kind of insanity. And, you know, you might have wondered five years ago, “What will that insanity be?” How about this: you’re a man, but you call yourself a girl; or you’re a girl, but you call yourself a man; or you’ve decided gender is fluid and you can be anything you want any day you want to be that.
That is insanity. That is a mind that doesn’t function. That is the result of the wrath of God. First, there’ll be a sexual revolution, then a homosexual revolution, and then a reprobate mind where people don’t even think straight, and they are making laws that uphold that kind of insanity. All of that speaks to the issue that this nation and this Western culture is under the wrath of God. This is divine judgment; see it as that.
Our responsibility in this is to do everything we can to rescue people from the final consequences of that temporal judgment, which would be eternal judgment. So don’t get pushed into the position where you see these souls as the enemy, they are the mission field. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you, sir.
JOHN: I know that’s a long answer, sorry.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name’s Mike.
JOHN: Hi, Mike.
AUDIENCE: Hi there. My question has to do with forgiveness, just simply the understanding of it. Are we to be just always willing to forgive, or are we to be just, “I forgive you,” no matter what?
JOHN: Good. Good, Mike. Look, this has been brought up to me recently, and so it was suggested that maybe over the next few Sunday nights I’ll do a series on forgiveness, starting next Sunday night. The best format for that is the book of Philemon. You remember the book of Philemon, little one chapter? So I think we’ll start next Sunday night, that’s kind of a good – maybe that’s kind of an emphasis from the Lord tonight, because so many people have said to me, “We want to hear what the Bible says about forgiveness.”
The answer is simply this: our Lord says, “Forgive your enemies.” Forgive your enemies; there aren’t any conditions. Forgive your enemies. And our Lord says, “You’re never more like your Father in heaven than when you forgive your enemies, because that’s what He does.
When we were enemies, Christ died for us. So the bottom line is we forgive. We forgive our enemies. And that means we also forgive our friends, and we forgive our relatives, and our family members, and we forgive them seventy times seven. Our whole lives are just one long drawn out work of forgiveness.
Now that doesn’t mean the relationship is going to be restored necessarily, but I am convinced that we forgive, because that’s God-like. In fact, Jesus said in the disciple’s prayer, “If you don’t forgive, your Father won’t forgive you.” There is no virtue in being an unforgiving person.
“Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord, “not yours. You don’t need to do the damage to people. You don’t need to pound the flesh. You don’t need to get yours. You don’t need to retaliate.” When Jesus was reviled, He reviled not again.
So, yes, the simple answer is, “We forgive, and we forgive over, and over, and over if it’s seventy times seven.” We keep forgiving. And that frees our hearts, doesn’t it, from the bitterness that unforgiveness develops.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Will.
JOHN: Hi, Will.
AUDIENCE: I praise God for your ministry, first of all. Because of God’s grace, I’m able to attending The Master’s Seminary starting tomorrow. My question is –
JOHN: Will, where did you come from?
JOHN: China. Where in China, Will?
AUDIENCE: It’s Hunan.
JOHN: We’re so glad you’re here.
AUDIENCE: Praise God I’m here.
JOHN: Praise God. And your English, where did you learn your English?
JOHN: Yeah. That’s the right answer, Will. Good. Welcome. Let’s welcome Will from China. Can we do that?
AUDIENCE: My question is, “Do you believe in regeneration precedes faith, or faith precedes regeneration, and why?”
JOHN: You’ve been studying theology over there in China, Will; that’s good.
Regeneration. Now we’re talking about what theologians call “the order of salvation.” Salvation happens at once. It is a single miracle. You repent, you have faith, you are justified, you are converted, you are redeemed, you are ransomed, you are adopted, you are sanctified, and that’s all one great miracle. But if you look closely at it and you break down that miracle into logical parts, what is reasonable, you have to conclude that regeneration comes before faith; because if I am dead in trespasses and sin, if I am in the darkness, if I hate God, if I have no ability to know God, if I am blind to all divine truth – and this is how Paul in Ephesians defines the Gentiles, the nonbelievers – if I have no capacity for anything, then I cannot even believe until the Spirit of God has awakened my heart. So from a reality perspective, that’s all one great miracle. But when you dig deeper, the initial work is the work of God in regeneration. I’ll give you an illustration of it from the third chapter of John.
Jesus says, “You must be born again,” to Nicodemus. You must be born again; you must be regenerated. Or you must be born anóthen [an'-o-then], you must be born from above. Nicodemus wonders, “How do I get in the kingdom of God?” And Jesus says, “You have to be born from above.”
Now that illustration makes crystal clear how this works. What contribution did you make to your birth? You didn’t make any contribution to your birth. Nobody makes a contribution to their birth. You didn’t exist, and that’s why the Lord chose that. That is the one thing that you had no part of in your life: your birth. And that is the one thing that you have no part of in the spiritual realm. You have to be born from above. You have no part in your physical birth, you have no part in your spiritual birth; those are works of God, apart from anything that you have done.
So I believe our Lord is saying that the new birth is the work of God. And then He goes on to say – Nicodemus says, “How can this happen?” and the Lord gives a very strange answer. He says, “The wind blows where it wills and you see the results and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it’s coming from and you don’t know where it’s going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit,” which is our Lord’s way of saying, “You can observe it, but you have no part in it. You can see the wind, you can see the effects of the wind, you can feel the wind; you can’t control the wind.” The Lord is simply saying to Nicodemus, “Look, you need to be born from above, but you’re not in control of that any more than you are the wind.”
So I think Scripture is abundantly clear that before you can genuinely repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God has already done a work to awaken your dead heart and to give you life. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much.
JOHN: You’re welcome, Will.
AUDIENCE: My name is Edith.
JOHN: Hi, Edith.
AUDIENCE: My question has to do with the changes on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
AUDIENCE: I’ve heard a lot of explanation about why we changed children’s ministry from Wednesdays to Sundays, but so far I haven’t heard anyone explain why after so many decades of our church’s partnership with Awana International we have now decided to drop our Awana program and replace it with our own version of Awana. Can you please help me and my fellow former Awana leaders on your stand?
JOHN: Sure. Thank you, Edith. Thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness in that.
Awana has served us well for a long time. My kids went through it. I had it in prior churches that I grew up in with my dad and ministry there. So I’ve always known the value of Awana. But the primary value of Awana was Scripture memory we all kind of featured. That was the main thing: Scripture memory.
We did Awana. We’ve been doing Awana for decades on Wednesday night. But we all felt that Wednesday night was becoming very difficult: traffic, families getting home late, kids in school, going home after work, turning around, coming back to church. And we also felt that Sunday nights were hard to sustain. But look at tonight.
I want Sunday night to be a great experience in this church as it’s been in the past, and I want our whole church here to hear these great young preachers that are the future of the church. I’m not the future of the church. I’m hanging on; but I’m not the future of this church, they are. So I wanted to do anything and everything I could possibly do to move as much as we could on Sunday night. And you’re already beginning to see this effect, and we haven’t even started the new adventure club program with the kids.
Well, what that meant was, we had many families who preferred the Discovery Club Sunday night program. They liked that. They felt that served their needs better than even Awana did. So the consensus of the elders and leaders was, “Lets marry the two, take the best of Awana, the best of Discovery Club on Sunday night, and create our own kind of combination.” And that’s what they’ve been working on.
And I think – everything we hear, or everyone seems excited about it. It isn’t anything negative about Awana. We’ve proven our commitment to that through the decades. But it was a way to serve the families of our church and give back to our families what they felt was most valuable from Awana and most valuable on Sunday night. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Okay, thank you.
JOHN: And, Edith, we need your help. So you be a part of it, okay? All right.
AUDIENCE: Pastor John, you know me. I’m Andy Romolike.
JOHN: I know you, Andy.
AUDIENCE: My question is, you’ve been studying the Bible for a long, long time, and obviously you’re acquainted with a lot of the Bible. How do you get new insights of the Bible every time you study for sermon preparation and for your own doctrine?
JOHN: Okay, I’ve got to ask you a question, Andy. You say I’ve been studying the Bible for a very long time. How many years were you in seminary?
AUDIENCE: Twelve years.
JOHN: Twelve years, okay. You took the long road through seminary. So you also been studying the Bible for a long time.
JOHN: Look, how do I come up with new things? The Bible is inexhaustible to me. I don’t know the answer to that, except that I probably give you, I don’t know, maybe at the best a fourth of what I learn or what I have. In the message this morning, I had at least an hour or an hour-and-a-half more of things, not only in my head, but in my notes, that I could have given to you.
I find the Scripture is alive. It is a living book; and I know you know that, Andy. And I can’t get to the bottom of it, I can’t get to the height of it, I can’t get to the sides of it. It just – it literally is beyond my comprehension. And every time I go to the Word of God there’s something that the Lord kind of points out to me that’s new and fresh.
Look, I understand. I came here in 1969. That is way too long to listen to one person. Some people have been here since then. And that’s like a death sentence, one person for all that time.
But I think if you’ve been here – some of you’ve been here twenty. Anybody been here thirty years at Grace Church? Put your hand up. Anybody been here twenty years? Sure, lots of you.
Why do you come? It isn’t me that you’re listening to, it’s the Word of God, and it’s alive, and it’s fresh, and it’s dynamic; and I don’t have any trouble. I have trouble kind of sorting it out, not finding things to say, but finding what to eliminate. It’s an inexhaustible treasure. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: My name is Heather.
JOHN: Hi, Heather.
AUDIENCE: First, I’d like to thank you for your ministry. God has used your online broadcast very much over the last couple of years in my life and my family’s life.
AUDIENCE: One question I struggle with though is, “To what extent a member of a church is required to obey his pastor? How much authority does a pastor have in the lives of his congregants?”
JOHN: None. No authority. I have no authority in this church personally. My experience doesn’t give me any authority. My knowledge doesn’t give me any authority. My education doesn’t give me any authority. I have no authority. My position doesn’t give me any authority. My title doesn’t give me any authority, that’s why I don’t like titles. Only the Word of God has authority. Christ is the head of the church, and He mediates His rule in the church through His Word.
I have no authority. I don’t have authority beyond the Scripture. I can never exceed what is written, 1 Corinthians 4:6. To do that is to become, Paul says, arrogant, and to regard yourself as superior. I have nothing to say to you that puts any demand on you if it isn’t from the Word of God.
And you’re probably talking out of some experience where you felt that some undo authority was exercised over you or somebody you know by a pastor. We need to be reminded that as pastors, even though the Lord has lifted us up and given us this kind of responsibility, we possess no personal authority.
If I am telling you what God has said in His Word, that has authority, right? But I cannot exceed what is written. I can’t tell you about your life. I can give you wisdom if you ask; but I may have no more wisdom than somebody else.
You would get more wisdom on many, many issues out of my beloved Patricia on things than you would get out of me. But she’s not in the pulpit, but she has spiritual insight and spiritual wisdom; and if you ask for advice or wisdom, hers in many cases would exceed mine. So the pastor in himself has no authority.
Listen to what Paul says: “Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? Who is Cephas? We’re nothing.” It’s all of Christ, it’s all of the Holy Spirit, it’s all of the Scripture. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Paul.
JOHN: Hi, Paul.
AUDIENCE: I was back-and-forth with this question, but I received some slight peer pressure through text message.
JOHN: So you succumbed to the pressure.
AUDIENCE: Yes, I did, I did.
AUDIENCE: So with that being said, “What is a biblical and Christ-proclaiming view of Charlottesville, Virginia and all that’s happened recently?”
JOHN: Sure. I’ll give you a biblical view of it. The human heart is desperately wicked, and the human heart is hostile toward God, and self-centered, and proud, and selfish, and angry. What Charlottesville simply demonstrates is that fallen humanity is corrupt. All I see in that is the justification of anger.
Look, that’s not about slavery. That’s not about something that happened 200 years ago. That’s an opportunity for angry, hostile, self-willed, selfish people to explode and feel good about it, because they can get away with it when there’s enough of them, too many of them to stop. No one tolerates White supremacists.
When I was down in Mississippi years ago, I was arrested by those kinds of people for preaching the gospel in Black high schools, and I was put in jail, and they took all my money away. I know that. I was with Black leaders in Jackson, Mississippi when Charles Evers, Medgar Evers brother – Charles was the first Black mayor in the South, Charles. His brother Medgar was the first martyr of the Civil Right Movement, he was killed. I was in the room when Martin Luther King was assassinated with those Black leaders. We went to Memphis, and I stood on the blood spots on that motel with those men. And I stood in the little bathroom on top of the toilet where James Earl Ray shot him out the window. Those men were my friends. That was my community. I couldn’t buy groceries in that town when I got back in Mendenhall, Mississippi. I couldn’t eat in a restaurant.
I’ve seen all that. That’s not what’s going on there in Charlottesville or any of these other demonstrations. This is the wretched fallen human heart feeling like it can rise to any level that is not completely controlled. And tell me what gets you there. Number one, the human heart is evil. War is in the heart, men will kill; that’s how they function. But God has built three restraints into society.
Restraint number one is in the individual and it’s the conscience. But the conscience reacts to a moral law. So if you have a whole generation of young people that have been taught a twisted, perverted, inverted, upside-down and backwards moral law, then their conscience can’t function. The conscience is simply a recognition mechanism that says, “That’s wrong, that’s right,” that excuses and accuses. But it only can function where there’s a sound moral law written in the heart.
So you have a whole generation of these people, this generation, who have had a totally perverted sense of what morality is. And the dominant part of this new morality is, “I’m the most important person in the world. It’s all about me.” It’s the selfie culture. So conscience is now crippled.
Secondly, God put fathers and mothers in a family to bring a rod to discipline people in order to subdue their evil. If the family is destroyed and the family breaks down, then you have no control over those people. So conscience can’t function because the moral law has been literally destroyed. Families don’t function, so there’s no discipline learned, there’s no sense of what is right, what is acceptable behavior. And the only institution left that God ordained was the police. And police were given a sword to subdue those who do evil.
When you assault the police long enough that you diminish their authority and the sense of fear and the sense of reverence that a society has to have for those who police them, then all hell will break loose. Conscience isn’t functioning, families not functioning, and the police have been stripped of their powers in the social consciousness. You literally have unleashed the human heart at its worst level. This is not about race, and this is not about what happened in American in the past. No one can tolerate White supremacists. No one can tolerate the Ku Klux Klan.
One of my dear friends John Perkins, his brother was killed in front of him by the Ku Klux Klan in the street. No one can tolerate that. That is just one manifestation of the evil of the human heart; and we have only begun to see it. Once it’s unleashed – and it’s going to start coming in all kinds of forms, because of the breakdown of moral law, the breakdown of the conscience, the breakdown of the family, and because of the incessant assaults on governing authorities. So get ready; I don’t think it’s going to go away. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you, pastor.
JOHN: You’re welcome. Thank you, Paul.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Pastor John. My name is Imore. Thank you for answering your questions.
JOHN: Hi, Imore.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My question is, I am a public school educator and recently had to be quote-unquote “trained” on the education code on trans, transgender students that wants us to be affirming of their asserted gender identity. I had a student last year who is female, but wanted me to call her by a male name, and I didn’t want to do that. My question is, “As a Christian, how do I submit to the government and maintain my integrity in that kind of a work environment?”
JOHN: Yeah, I understand your position, and just would give you – maybe this is as definitive as I can be. You know the truth. You know whether that’s a boy or a girl; you know that. And you know that God ordained male and female; that’s how He made them. And you also probably know that eighty percent of transgender people commit suicide. You probably know that this is a path to death. So you want to find whatever path you can find to help the person trapped in that lie out.
I don’t know how that’s going to play out in your school, I don’t know. But I don’t think you have any obligation to the federal government to propagate a destructive lie. It doesn’t mean that you go to school and take an anti-transgender poster and put it up in your classroom. You may want to judicially and carefully avoid any major confrontation on that issue, because it might serve you well to go on teaching. And you’re a teacher, not a crusader. I think you might want to find the safest path.
I don’t think if you are a teacher you’d probably go into class and say, “Look, I want to talk to you kids who come from broken homes. Do any of you have adulterous parent? Because if you do, we need to confront them.” You wouldn’t do that. No. Or you wouldn’t say, “Do any of your parents cheat on their income tax?” You probably wouldn’t do that.
You’re there to teach. You’re there to be a light for Christ in your personal life. But you cannot, you cannot affirm a lie, a destructive lie that goes against God. So either you say nothing, or when you do speak, you speak with great wisdom and care. And maybe it comes down to a student and you say, “I just want you to know how much I care about you, how much I hope the best for you, and how much I fear for the things that are taking place in your life.” I don’t think you can completely avoid the consequences of being honest, but you can minimize them. You don’t want to be a crusader in the midst of all of that.
And I know you’re not alone. This is a problem everywhere. This is a problem in the military. This is a problem all over the place. This is a problem in prisons. This is a problem in hospitals. This is a problem in schools. But I think you can trust the Lord to do right. Leave it with Him. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Evening, Pastor John. My name is Shi Hong. My question pertains to that everyone who has had any kind of conversation with you outside of the pulpit can identify that you are a very gentle and caring soul to them, and you earnestly want to pastor them. And so my question is, “In pastoral ministry, what are major influences that has shaped that kind of heart, that kind of shepherding heart?”
JOHN: From a biblical standpoint, I think just the constant exposure to the person of Christ, and particularly the apostle Paul. I haven’t really picked up a lot of pastoral tips from Peter. By the time you get to 1 Peter, there are a few in chapter 5. But I think it’s my constant exposure to the person of Christ, and the gentleness and meekness of Christ.
You know, I don’t need a bracelet that it says, “What would Jesus Do?” There’s just a sort of dominating consciousness of Christ in my mind: How would Christ respond? How would He react? How would He deal with this person?
I also think that it’s not just the example of Christ and the example of Paul, but I actually think the Word is a sanctifying agent. I think there’s real power in the Word of God to sanctify a person. I will tell the guys tomorrow when we meet with the new seminary students that if I never preached a sermon but I just spent my whole life studying the Bible, I wouldn’t change my life at all, because I have been blessed by the sanctifying work of the Word in my heart. So whatever there is in me that might be gracious, or might be kind, or might be merciful, I think it is the Word of God that has done its work in my heart; and it is the example of Christ, and it is sort of Christ in me. It is being conformed to the person of Christ more and more.
I think what comes along with that – and this is a very hard thing to say in one sense. But I can see that Christ being formed in a believer produces humility. And I’m not saying I’m humble, I’m not; but I can see a humbling process going on in my life. So I think only humble people love, only humble people care, only humble people forgive. And so when we do those things, it’s because the Lord has wrought some humility in our hearts.
I also think – and I say this with complete conviction – that the Lord brought Patricia into my life for many reasons; but one of them was because she’s not impressed with me. She expects me to live everything I preach. The woman is unreasonable.
And she is a sanctifying influence. She also makes me think sensitively about people. She will say, “You need to write a note to this person. You need to call this person. You need to thank this person.” She’ll even put names and addresses under my nose at home, and she’ll keep reminding me. Her caring heart has been a tremendous benediction to me as well.
So I think it’s all those influences, but I think it’s the working of the Word and the Holy Spirit in your life that begins to conform you toward the Lord, and draws you toward that kind of kindness and care. Okay? All right.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, Pastor John.
JOHN: I think we’re winding down, so we’re going to have to do this quickly. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Chris.
JOHN: Hi, Chris.
AUDIENCE: My question is, “How would you, living in this culture of, you said, reprobate minds. Los Angeles, there’s such a place of reprobate minds. What advice or encouragement would you give us, being in a corporate world and college to be able to evangelize and also not to compromise to the pressures?”
JOHN: Yeah. You just have to be bold. You have to be bold. And know this, that you’re not going to be able to save anybody; but the Lord is in the business of saving His people, and you just need to be the tool. You just need to be the tool. Just speak the truth in love, in love; it’s very important. Speak the truth in love; don’t hold the gospel back at all. Be bold.
Look, I think the darker the night, the brighter the light. I mean, you’ve got desperate people in this culture. This is not a happy culture, this is a crazily entertained culture. This is madness going on in our society. This is juvenile – the whole culture is juvenile. There’s a superficial, shallow silliness in this society; and it’s a society madly under the influence of entertainment. But it is not a happy society. This is a broken, twisted, sad, fearful, anxiety-riddled culture of people; and we have the only good news. Right? Just proclaim it. Let God do with it as He will.
Thank you, Chris. Okay.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Rachel.
JOHN: Hi, Rachel.
AUDIENCE: The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity I don’t understand very well. Since we were learning about the Holy Spirit this morning in Galatians, I would like to ask you, “Where in Scripture does it say or support that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians today?” I think you touched on it a little bit this morning. Would you please explain it a little bit more to me, and maybe give me some scripture verses to study?
JOHN: Yes. Go – I hope it’s still over there. Check the bookstore. There’s a book called The Silent Shepherd. And if you can’t find it in the bookstore, call over at Grace To You and we’ll get one for you. It’s a book that I did on the Holy Spirit.
But listen to Romans chapter 8 and verse 9: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Therefore, if you belong to Him, you have the Holy Spirit. That’s where you start. It’s not that you’re seeking the Holy Spirit, it’s that you have the Holy Spirit.
And in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, “There are” – verse 4 – “a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit.” And then in verse 7, “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit. We all have the Holy Spirit, that’s clear. And if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you’re not a believer.
Then another passage, perhaps most important, 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you’ve been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” That’s 1 Corinthians 6:19.
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There are many other scriptures; you can start with those. You can, if you have a concordance, look up the Holy Spirit in the back of it and just chase down all the passages that relate to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, fully God, as is the Father and the Son. And the Bible has much to say about the Spirit.
One other thing I would suggest to you, in the new book Biblical Doctrine – have you all gotten that great big book Biblical Doctrine? There is an entire section on the Holy Spirit. And I’ll tell you what: since you’re serious about this, go to the bookstore and tell them – Mark, you take her over there, and tell them to give her a copy of Biblical Doctrine and help her carry it to her car, and she can –
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: She can read it. And that whole section on the Holy Spirit will answer your question. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Well, thank you all so much. Oh, one more, one more.
AUDIENCE: Yes. Hi, my name is Julie.
JOHN: Hi, Julie.
AUDIENCE: And I have had a life-changing accident about two years ago with permanent injuries, and it really got me thinking. You know, obviously if you have a permanent injury or cancer or a stroke or something along those lines, you pray for physical healing, you know.
AUDIENCE: You want to pray with all your heart that you will be healed. But I also know that God is a sovereign God, and that might not be His will. So how do you go about praying for physical healing without being disappointed at the end if it doesn’t – if that’s not God’s will?
JOHN: Look, you are told by God to pray, to pray, and to lay before God whatever is on your heart; and God hears and answers according to His will. And the way to pray is this: “Lord, this is what I would desire.” And I think you can pray that with all your heart. You can pray for healing from cancer. You can pray for recovery from an injury. You can pray for somebody in your family, some, you know, spiritual issue that you’re seeing in your family that you’re having to confront. And you can pray boldly, and you can pray continually, unceasingly for those things. And at the end of it, you have this confidence, that God will answer, and that His answer, whether it's yes or no, will be the best answer. Okay?
And that doesn’t mean that you stop praying. You don’t take the approach, “Well, we don’t need to pray, because God’s got it all wired anyway.” No. He uses our prayers to achieve His ends; and your prayers are a part of what God will do. But I tell people all the time, “Pray boldly. Ask the Lord for what it is that’s on your heart that you want; and if it’s not what you should be praying for, ask Him to show you how to pray as you ought to pray, and know that the answer will be the best expression of His will for your good.” Okay?
All right, thank you.
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