I have some concerns. Okay? Can I just share them with you? If you want to know what’s in my heart, what bubbles up inside of me? Now, I preach two times a week, every week, at Grace church. I have for 20 years. I’ve preached about 1,500 sermons. So, I go from subject to subject to subject to subject pretty fast. But some things just never seem to be able to release their grip on me. Do you have things like that? They’re the passions of your life, and I want you to know what they are.
The first thing I want you to understand is that I am deeply concerned that the church of Jesus Christ really begin to live by this book. My preaching is not an exercise in oratory. My preaching is not an exercise in clever homiletics. It is not even duty; it is a passion. It says in Psalm 138:2, that God has exalted His word above His name. Can you imagine that?
This is a sacred trust, and I am deeply concerned that the church plays fast and loose with the Word of God; that men don’t accurately teach and preach it, don’t study it with commitment; that churches don’t apply it and live it out.
Everybody asks me about the Bakker PTL scandal and what I thought of it. And my response is this: the major scandal is not what they did with their bodies, although that was wicked sin. The major scandal was not what they did with money taken from God’s people under false pretenses, though that was wicked sin. The major scandal of the PTL was the development of a system of theology out of the Bible that lets you live like that. That’s the scandal.
I listened to a talk show on the radio one day, and a lady called up, and she said, “I want to know how to tell a good church. What do I look for in a church?”
And the host of the program said, “What you look for in a church is fellowship, sharing, and caring.”
And I said, “That’s the wrong answer. You can find that in a lot of places. You can find that in a bar.” You can find that in a service club, a Moose Lodge, or the Royal Order of the Goats, or whatever else you want to join. Fellowship, sharing, and caring? Hey, there’s only one question to ask about a church: how do they handle the book? How do they handle the book? And I have fear about that.
Will you open your Bible with me to Psalm 19? And I just want to touch lightly on this. Some of you heard the series I did on the sufficiency of Scripture, but I want to just touch this lightly. Psalm 19:7, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Those three verses provide for us the greatest comprehensive statement on the sufficiency of Scripture anywhere in the Bible. Six titles for Scripture. It is the Law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the statutes of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and the ordinances of the Lord. It’s all those things.
It has six characteristics. It is perfect. It is sure. It is right. It is clear or pure. It is eternal, enduring forever. And it is true – it is clean, rather, and it is true. Did you get that? The Bible is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, true. And what does it do? Converts the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and produces comprehensive righteousness. What else could you ask for? What else could you ask for?
And yet I look at the church today, and I see the church giving into entertainment. Why? I read an interview by a well-known Christian rock singer who said, “The reason that she sings the way she does is to reach the lost. She feels she has to be sexy in a godly way.” What is that? What do you mean by that? Do we believe that we have to hide the gospel? Are we creating synthetic seed to replace the good seed? Do we have to be clever and manipulative and creative; we can’t just preach the truth?
Listen, I believe we have t go back to the Word of God. I am concerned deeply that the medium is becoming the message in the church, and that there is no message anymore. There’s a new book out – fascinating book – comparing modern, well-known preachers with the great preachers of the American Awakening, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. The difference is shocking. When Whitfield and Edwards preached, they preached theology. It was profound; it was deep; it was biblical. And the message was the issue. And a man was measured on the basis of how he squared with the Word of God.
Today, the medium of communication has substituted for the message. And nobody seems to care what the message was; all they care about is did we enjoy him. Frightening. I believe there’s a famine of the Word of God. I don’t think people are going to deny the Word of God; they just ignore it or they don’t think it’s sufficient. They think that it’s the Bible plus something: psychology, sociology, philosophy - whatever.
But I believe it is sufficient, and I am deeply distressed that I see in the church a pervasive mentality that we have to manipulate people to believe; we have to entertain people to get them in. And yet, Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation” - is it not? - to those that believe, Jew first and also the Gentile.”
I am greatly concerned that the church doesn’t believe that it’s perfect and able to totally transform the whole person. I’m convinced that the church doesn’t believe that it is sure, trustworthy, and able to make a simple person imminently wise. I’m not sure the church believes that. I’m not sure the church believes that it lays down a right path that brings joy to the heart. I’m not sure the church believes that if you really want to see things clearly you need to see them through the pages of the Scripture. I hear so many preachers who are doing everything but teaching the Word of God with depth. So, I – that’s a passion for me. I believe the Word of God is sufficient for every spiritual need. Every spiritual need.
I want to turn to another passage – much more I could say about that; that’s what your pastor says just after he’s run out of material – I could go on and on, brethren, but just – you know how it is. The reason I know that is because I’m one. Right?
Isaiah 6, it’s a second issue that I want to address just briefly with you. And I’m not going to preach the sermon tonight. If you need to get a sermon from me, buy a tape. I just want to share my heart tonight. Verse 1, “In the year that King Uzziah died...”
You say, why is that there; is that important?”
It is if your name is Uzziah. But you have to understand that Uzziah had been king for 52 years. And the people of Israel had been sliding down the pit of sin. But as long as Uzziah was on the throne, they felt secure because he was a very good king. And he was very effective in strengthening the land economically, militarily, socially, all of that. He brought peace. So, they had this guy for 52 years; they were feeling really secure. Can you imagine having the same president for 52 years, everything going well? And they just felt very good about everything.
And then Uzziah died, and it sort of symbolized God taking His hand off. And when Uzziah died, Isaiah the prophet went to the temple to see God. He wanted to check in and find out what was going on. Because Uzziah was killed by God. God killed him. You know why? Because he intruded on the office of the priest. He got to feeling so good about himself, he tried to play the role of the priest, and that was sacred, and God killed him.
And so, Isaiah steps into the temple, and he wants to see God. And he says, “I saw the Lord.” I saw the Lord. I don’t want to take time to describe the whole vision, but he saw the Lord. And the thing that he saw most about the Lord is in verse 3, the angels began to cry back and forth about the character of the Lord, and three times it says that God is – what? – holy. He saw the Holy God in a vision.
“And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him who cried, and the house was filled with smoke. And then said I” – now, what do you see when you – what do you say when you see God? “‘Woe is me’” - do you know what woe means? Damn me, curse me, assign me to condemnation, send me to hell, judge me – “I am wretched; I am wicked; I am vile!’”
You say, “Well, why do you say that, Isaiah? You got a bad self-image.” “You need a Christian counselor.” “You’ve got to feel good about yourself. You can’t go around saying, ‘Woe is me, I am undone!’” Undone means disintegrating, crumbling, going to pieces, falling apart.
And he says, “I am a man of unclean lips. I have a dirty mouth.”
You say, “Isaiah, you are a prophet. You have the best mouth in the land. When you open your mouth, God talks. What are you saying?”
“No, I have unclean lips. I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”
“Why do you feel that way?”
“Because mine eyes have seen” – what? – “the King.”
Do you want to know something? I am greatly concerned that the church does not understand the holiness of God. I am convinced that the Church plays games with a Holy God, and they don’t understand what they’re doing. And this is serious. Serious.
Let me give you – if Jimmy Swaggart really understood what the Bible says about how holy God is, he wouldn’t have lived the lifestyle he’s been living. You can’t live like that if you understand how holy God is, if you have the fear of God. And if you don’t have the fear of God about your sin, then you don’t understand how holy He is and how He feels about sin.
There’s a man in California who says he went to heaven and saw God. And he gets on TV, and he says, “Oh, I went to heaven; I saw God.”
The first time I saw him, my ears went up. He gets on Christian TV, and he says, “I saw God. And I went up, and the Lord took me to heaven, and oh, we had a wonderful time, and I toured the place, and I saw my mansion.” He said, “I saw my mansion.”
I don’t want to blow your dreams, but there are no mansions. In John 14, “In my Father’s house are many rooms,” it says. You’re not living 18 blocks down and four to the right; you’re living in the Father’s house. So am I. But he didn’t even know how to interpret the Bible. So, whatever heaven he went to, it wasn’t the one in the Bible.
But anyway, he said, “We toured, and I saw my mansion, and I saw all the mansions,” da-da-da-da, and he went through this whole thing. He’s a medical doctor, so that gives him credibility with people. And he travels around. He wrote a book about it. And then he says, “Whenever I want to renew my visit to heaven, I go to my closet and take out the tie I wore the day I went; it still has the smell of heaven.”
And then recently he said he went back again. I guess the circuit was running a little dry. So, he needed another trip to stir up the troops. So, he went back to heaven, and he got on again recently, and he said, “I’ve been to heaven, and have a wonderful announcement to make.” And this is exactly what he said, “There are no bathrooms in heaven.”
My blood began to boil at the time Such sacrilege, such mockery. Take your show on the road, write a book be a television celebrity. Let me tell you something, sir, if you ever saw Holy God, you’d be on the ground, with your face down, crying for the mercy of God. That’s where you’d be. You wouldn’t be on TV as some celebrity. A sinner, in the presence of a Holy God, as soon as you see Holy God, you know He sees your sin, and you’re undone.
Remember the disciples trying to cross the Sea of Galilee, and the storm came up, and they were in a boat with Jesus? And the storm starts whipping up, and the boat’s bouncing around, and the thing’s starting to fill up with water. And what is Jesus doing? Sleeping. I love that. Nobody else trusted God; He did. And the disciples wake him up, and they say, “Lord, don’t you care that we perish?” And the Bible says, “They were afraid.”
And the Lord looked out at the sea churning, and He said, “Shh,” and the wind stopped. And the ripples didn’t even go to the shore; they just flattened out. And the Bible says, “The disciples were exceedingly afraid.” You know what is worse than having a storm outside your boat? Having the God of creation in your boat.
In Luke chapter 5, Peter’s trying to catch fish, which he never could do, because after he was called to the ministry, the Lord rerouted all the fish away from his boat. And he is trying to catch fish, and he can’t catch any. And the Lord calls to him, and the Lord says, “Try the right side of the boat.” I don’t know about you but if didn’t know who that was, that would irritate me a little bit after fishing all night – – because that sounds like a pretty silly thing to do. But apparently the voice of the Lord had enough authority, and they pulled in so many fish they couldn’t get them.
Do you remember Peter’s response? “Wow! What a miracle. Wait till I tell everybody.” No. What did he say? “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a” – what? – “sinful man.” As soon as he realized he was in the presence of God, he could only see himself as an exposed sinner.
I had a pastor who’s a pastor of a pretty far-out kind of charismatic church. We were having lunch one day, and he said, “I want to tell you something. I don’t know how you will deal with this.” He said, “But sometimes when I’m shaving in the morning, Jesus comes in the bathroom, puts His arm around me and talks to me.”
I said, “You mean Jesus? The real Jesus appears in a way you can see Him? Actual...”
“Yes.” He said, “Do you believe that?”
I said, “No.” “I don’t believe that. But what distresses me is I believe you believe that.” “I just have one question. Do you keep shaving?” “Because if you keep shaving, my friend, it wasn’t Jesus.”
When a woman reached out and touched the hem of His garment, and He pulled her out of the crowd, she was terrified. You’d be on your face. Do we understand the holiness of God? I understand His grace. I understand His love. I understand His forgiveness. We’re good at that. Do we understand how holy He really is? Why is it important?
Listen to Romans 10:3. “Israel” – get this one – “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, went about to establish their own righteousness.” Do you know what their problem was? They thought God was less righteous than He was. They thought they were more righteous than they were. So, everything was fine.
Many people in the church live like that. They don’t think God’s that upset about their sin, so they don’t get that upset about their sin. And we have an unholy church; we have unholy leadership. I’ll tell you something; if the leaders don’t get serious about the holiness of God, there’s not going to be much hope for the church. Leaders keeping falling right and left into all kinds of immorality.
People ask me everywhere I go, “What do you think of that?”
I’ll be real honest with you, people, I think you have one shot at a life of integrity, and when you’ve blown it, you’re done. I believe that. First Corinthians 9:27 says Paul’s greatest fear was that in preaching to others, he would become disqualified. I believe you can be disqualified. How? First Timothy 3 says you have to be blameless and above reproach. And if you’re not blameless and above reproach, you’re not qualified. By the grace of God, God expects people to set the standard.
You say, “Well, how fast should a leader be restored?”
It all depends on what leadership is. If leadership is gathering the troops, raising the money, speaking to the people, being an interesting guy, get them back. But if leadership is modeling godliness, maybe he never comes back, because the model is shattered. My fear is that what the church has done is this: since we can’t find enough godly leaders to meet the standard, we lower the standard. The holiness of God. The holiness of God. Our hearts must be committed to that.
Well, there are many other things I could say. Psalm 101 says, “He who is” – get this – “upright in heart shall minister to me.” Isn’t that good? “He who is upright in heart shall ministry to me.” I’m concerned about who’s going to have the right to minister.
I’ll be honest with you; I’m concerned about restoring people to ministry who’ve been disqualified. Bringing them back as fast as you can. I’m concerned about that. Do you know what’s going to happen? That’s going to be the new trend. Pastors into sin restored back into ministry. And do you know what they’re going to be saying? “We understand your sins and your problems better than anybody else; we’ve been there.” And we’re going to have this new restored clergy, and the rest of God’s faithful servants, who have been obedient to Christ and walked in faithfulness, are going to wind up as second-class citizens who don’t really understand people. Frightening. The standard gets lower and lower.
I’m concerned also about a lethargy in the church, a lack of spiritual commitment, of real spiritual commitment. I see a lot of Christians who just – I mean they just sort of flake. You know? They’re not involved. It’s heartbreaking.
Three weeks ago – four weeks ago, I guess, I talked to a pastor from Russia who came to visit Grace church. Didn’t speak any English. Had heard about our church, I guess, when he was in this country. He wanted to see our church on a visit to America. So, he came to our church. He spoke no English, only Russian. He had a lady with him who spoke Russian and Spanish. She had a friend who spoke Spanish and English. We had a very interesting conversation. From Russian to Spanish, from Spanish to English, from English to me, and then back through the same circle.
He said to me – first of all, he wanted to know if we had any material in Russian, and I told him we had the book The Charismatics that had just been translated and was being distributed, and I gave him a copy of that. Then he said, “I don’t understand how you can minister in America. I don’t understand it with the low level of commitment.” He said, “Do you know that no one in Russia who ever, ever pretend to be a Christian? Do you understand that? You don’t want to pretend to be a Christian. They put Christians in jail. Unless you’re one, you’re not going to fake it.”
And he went on to say that every time they opened the Word of God, everyone comes to feed on the Word. And here we are fat and sassy in America, aren’t we? It’s a heartrending thing. I’m concerned about apathy.
One other thing I’ll share. I’m concerned about the gospel we preach. I am concerned about the gospel we preach. Somebody said – a Calvinist said, “Sometimes we don’t present the gospel well enough for the non-elect to reject it.” Kind of an interesting statement, isn’t it? I didn’t say that; somebody else said that, but there is a very great amount of confusion today about the gospel. Take it from me folks; I’m in the middle of a battle on this right now. The little tape series we did on “Examine Yourselves,” the new book on The Gospel According to Jesus, which I’ve been working on, really, for ten years, just came out this week; they’re available tonight. The most significant book I’ve ever written in my life.
The gospel is under attack. There are people going cross this country, widespread in fundamentalists and evangelical circles, saying, “All you have to do to be a Christ is believe the facts of the gospel in one moment of time, and if you never believe it again and become an agnostic or an apostate or an atheist, you’re still saved. You don’t ever have to bear any fruit. Your life doesn’t have to change. It has nothing to do with salvation.”
Do you know what that kind of gospel does? That puts people on the broad road, who finally wind up saying, “Lord, Lord,” and they hear, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
The most frightening thing in the world to me would be the reality of Matthew chapter 7, verses 20 and following, to think you’re going to heaven and wind up in hell because somebody gave you a gospel that wasn’t the true gospel. I have just written this book to counter the argument that they say, “You should never, ever call on anyone to repent from their sins. You should never call on anyone to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. You should never say to anyone, ‘Follow Jesus Christ in obedience.’ Salvation is just believing, and that’s it, and later on they can get serious about making Jesus Lord.”
Wait a minute. You don’t make Jesus Lord. Jesus is Lord. You don’t say, “Look, I’ll let you in my life, but you can’t be Lord. You’ve got to be who I’m telling You You’ve got to be.” Ridiculous. I am convinced that the church of Jesus Christ visible is filled with unconverted people. Unconverted people. And we accept some raised hand, a signed card, walk the aisle, some moment of whatever emotion to be true salvation.
And we say, “Well, I know they divorced their wife, and I know they’re adulterous. I know they drink a lot, and I know they don’t come to church, but I remember the day they walked the aisle.” Well, what in the world did that mean? What does that mean? Jesus preached repentance. Jesus preached submission to Him.
One last scripture. In Matthew 19 – don’t turn to it; I’ll just mention it – He said to the rich young ruler – the rich young ruler said, “What do I need to do to have eternal life?”
And Jesus said, Sell all you have and” – do what? – “give it to the poor.” Jesus said, “Come, follow me.”
Here’s a guy who comes to Jesus to say, “What do I need to do to get eternal life?”
Jesus says, “Give your money away.” Is that the right answer? You put that on your quiz at Bible college you’ll flunk. What do you mean give your money away? What’s that? Salvation by philanthropy? And if you get saved by giving your money to a poor guy, he’s lost, because he’s got it. You could stand there and hand it back and forth and hope you don’t have it at the second coming. So, like musical chairs.
What is Jesus saying? The young man said, “I want eternal life.”
Jesus said, “Yeah, that’s fine, but we’ve got to deal with something else, first. Are you willing to follow Me?” He could have asked him anything; this was an arbitrary command, “Sell all, give to the poor,” because He knew that money was the god of this man’s life. And He says, “Let’s deal with the issue. I know you want eternal life, but are you willing to give up everything if I ask you?” And he went away. Salvation is the exchange of all that I am for all that He is. It’s saying, “I won’t follow me; I’ll follow you.”
I wish evangelists would stop saying, “Make a decision for Christ,” and call on people to follow Jesus Christ. It’s a life commitment. The man went away. He didn’t want to follow Jesus Christ; he wanted to rule his own life. He didn’t even want to admit his sin. Jesus said, “Keep the commandments.”
He said, “I’ve kept them all.” He wouldn’t acknowledge his sin, and he wouldn’t submit to the authority of Christ. And Jesus said, “He went away.” Two things basic to salvation: turning from sin and following Christ. That’s true salvation. And I am so burdened because I know there are churches where people are sitting deceived, who think they’re saved.
Look at your life. Look at your life. Do you follow Christ? Let me put it simpler; do you want to follow Christ? Do you desire to follow Christ? And when you don’t, are you saddened by that? Are you grieved by your sin? That’s the mark of salvation. That’s the mark of salvation. It’s not that following Christ is the perfection of your life, but it at least is the direction.
The truly saved – very simple – love Christ, hate sin. Love Christ, hate sin. It doesn’t say they don’t sin. It says when they do sin, they hate it. Paul says, in Romans 7, “The things I don’t want to do, I do; the things I want to do, I don’t do. O wretched man!”
Well, those are the burdens of my heart, and I just wanted to share them with you. We need your prayers.
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