God pouring His spirit out on the early church found in the book of Acts was an amazing time to be in the church. As Gods power was being given to the people of the early church they faced many great trials and they were not afraid. As these trials continued some began to give up. Some today have kept Gods way for many years but at some point they may give up. They go back into the world. Many who have Gods Spirit have given up.
On the day of Pentecost we always turn to – make references to – the book of Acts – it was mentioned in the sermonette – I'm sure it was mentioned this morning – because God poured out His Spirit on the church in the book of Acts. And it's quite inspiring. It's quite exciting. I mean, these people were suddenly speaking in different languages. And every place they went, they could spread the gospel, because they could speak in languages that they had no training in. Miracles – people were being healed. The most important miracle that was happening was that people's lives were being changed. Dramatic changes were happening in people's lives all over the place. Hundreds of people – in one case, three thousand in one day – are being baptized. It was an amazing time to be in the church. And it wasn't just the day of Pentecost, but for days and weeks and months afterwards, all kinds of incredible things happened.
One thing that I find interesting is in Acts, chapter 2 – I'm sorry – Acts, chapter 4. Let's go to Acts, chapter 4. Here Peter is talking about how they were suffering persecution. Now, it was interesting. As all these miracles were taking place and God's power was being shown in people – in people's lives, God's power was being shown – they also had a corresponding increase in trials, and in problems, and difficulties in life. You know, it seems like the opposite, right? The more God's working with you, the less trials you would have. But that's not what they experienced. They were receiving persecution. But all along the way, God would do dramatic miracles to show them that He was with them. Breaking in the middle of what Peter is saying here, in verse 29:
Acts 4:29 Acts 4:29And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant to your servants, that with all boldness they may speak your word,
American King James Version×– "Now Lord, look on their threats" – this was a prayer – "and grant to Your servants that, with all boldness, they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant, Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Can you imagine? The building shook! And they had no fear to go face the threats. You know, humanly speaking, if someone is threatening you and saying, "Shut up!" what is the human reaction? "Okay." Here they are, praying to God, the whole building shakes, and instead of running away from the threats, they ran toward the threats. That's the power that they had.
But, you know, if you go through the book of Acts, you see something else that happened. Because of these corresponding trials that happened, some people began to give up. Now, I'm not talking about people who never received God's Spirit. I'm talking about people who had God's Spirit. They got tired of it. They wore out. They couldn't stand under the trials. Some of them couldn't overcome their sins. And by the end of the book of Acts, you find that there are people leaving the faith and going back into the world.
Sometimes we can look at people who live this way of life for twenty or thirty years, face horrible trials, they obey God, they serve, they lose a job over the Sabbath, they face difficulties with trusting a God because of healing, they face difficulties because of tithing, they face family that turns them away – or friends – because their religious beliefs changed, and sometimes, whole families turn against them…. We've seen people go through all kinds of stresses and trials and worries, and have strength, and then after thirty years, say, "Ah, forget this," and go right back out into the world – I mean, completely in the world – become agnostics. And it's easy to say, "Well, I guess those people never had God's Spirit." But, when you go through the book of Acts, you see something different. The whole message of the early New Testament is that there were people, who left it and went back, who had God's Spirit.
You know, when I started putting this sermon together at the beginning of this week, it was a totally different sermon. I had a set of scriptures that I was going to go through, and I was going to talk about how, when we look at the Bible, we see people that didn't have God's Spirit and then the changes in their lives when they did – how suddenly Peter went from being a man who ran from danger to a man who confronted it. Paul went from persecuting Christians to being a great leader in early Christianity. But, as I worked through, literally, hundreds of verses about the Holy Spirit, the sermon began to go in a different direction. I actually tried not to go there. I was actually up this morning – early – in a motel room up in Waco, still trying to change the direction of the sermon, but the scriptures took me where I did not want to go. Because, as I started to think about, "What about the people in the New Testament, what about the message of the people who received it and then were willing to give it up, and the message that is for us?"
Jesus Christ Himself gave a message about this. It's rather a hackneyed message for us. It's a parable that we talk about, we've heard in sermons, we've read so many times that we forget the power of it. It's part of the Olivet prophecy. Let's go to Matthew 25. Matthew, chapter 25 – we forget, when we look at the Olivet prophecy – Matthew 24 through 25 – we like to quote the verses that say, "At the end time there will be great tribulation," the verses that say, "There'll be wars and rumors of wars." And we look through those and say, "That will be the conditions in the world." But you know, about two-thirds of the Olivet prophecy isn't about the world. It's about the church. Take Matthew 24 and 25 sometime and look at all the verses about the church. They are the overwhelming number of verses in the Olivet prophecy.
So Jesus wasn't just talking about the church in the first century – although it applied to them, too. This goes way down to the time before His coming and the warnings He gives to His people – the warnings He gives to His people – the people who have received His Spirit – the people who are the product of Pentecost in 31 AD – after generation, after generation, after generation of the pouring out of God's Spirit. It's a warning to us, because you and I have received the same Spirit. Is the Spirit of God any less powerful than it was in Acts chapter 2? Is the Spirit of God given to us in any less measure than Acts chapter 2? You say, "Well, we're not going around speaking in tongues." We don't have to. There are people in this room right now who can speak at least four or five different languages. He doesn't have to give us that. We can preach the gospel in different languages.
We've talked a lot over the past year about the fruit of God's Spirit. We're going to talk a lot over the next year about the gifts of God's Spirit. The fruit of God's Spirit is just as powerful as it was in the time of Peter and Paul. And it's supposed to be in your life just as powerful as it was in those people. The gifts of God's Spirit is supposed to be just as powerful in your life as it was those people. Why isn't it at times? Are we in danger of being worn out as they were – that some of them gave it up? Matthew 25, verse 1:
Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×– Then the kingdom of heaven shall be like unto ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise and five of them were foolish. And those that were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Now, there are a couple things here that…again, we've rehearsed this so many times, but let's rehearse it again. The virgins here represent true followers of God. This isn't about five people who follow God and five who don't. These are all virgins. We know what that represents in the Old and New Testament. It represents those who follow God. They all have God's Spirit. Oil is the symbol of God's Spirit. They all have light. They all have light in their lamps. But notice, one group also has oil, not only in their lamps, but in their vessels.
Now, like all parables, you can't take every point of this. It breaks down some, but the detail is amazing. You can buy online from antiquities dealers – authentic antiquities dealers – you can buy clay lamps from the first century BC to the first century AD. You can buy them online. They have them by the thousands, because people threw them away – it was just like plastic today – little clay lamps. And you can buy little clay bottles. The little clay bottles were for the extra oil – like your extra battery – because this burns up oil.
Now, one group has their lamp with their light burning – their oil in it – but they don't have anything, as it says in verse 4, "they took oil in their vessels with their lamps."
V-5 – But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept – all of them did. All of them did – not just the wise, not just the foolish. They all became spiritually complacent. Their lamps were still burning. They all fell asleep with their lamps still burning. There was still oil in there, but they fell asleep.
V-6 – And at midnight a cry was heard, "Behold, the bridegroom is coming!" – of course, Jesus Christ – "Go out and meet him." Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. They all woke up and said, "Ooh! We have to get ready! It's time for Christ to come! How big is my light here?" And five them them…their light is flickering. "Oh, it's going to go out! Oops, there's nothing in my extra vessel. I didn't bring an extra vessel! I've been asleep so long that when the time comes that I must be ready" – these people say – "I can't get ready. I can't get ready. I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to do! How do I get ready now?"
V-7 – And the foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the wise answered saying, "No, lest there should not be enough for us and you, but go rather to those who sell and buy yourselves." And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came. And those who were ready went in with him to the wedding and the door was shut. And afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us," but he answered and said, "Assuredly I say to you, ‘I do not know you.'"
I want you to understand. This isn't Jesus Christ saying to people in the world, "I do not know you." This is Jesus Christ saying to the people who had received God's Spirit – who know that He is the Master and the Bridegroom – these are people who had been called by God – chosen by God – and given God's Spirit, and Jesus says, "I don't know you." Now I hope that scares you a little bit. You say, "What is this? A hell fire and brimstone sermon?" I hope so, because that passage scares me to death. And it's all about this day. We have received the Spirit of God. You and I have received the Spirit of the Almighty God! What does that mean?
What I want to do today is I want to go through four differences between wise Christians and foolish Christians in the way that we respond to the Spirit of God – four differences between wise and foolish Christians – not four differences between Christians in the world…that's easy. "Let me give you four reasons you're superior to the world…." – four differences between us, not your neighbor, not your husband, not your wife – four differences between "are you a wise Christian or a foolish Christian?" Because one of the things this parable tells us – now remember this is a parable given by Jesus Christ – one of the things He teaches us is, there comes a time when is too late. That's the scary thing about this parable. There comes a time when it is too late. It's not that God's patience is worn out. It's that the time is worn out. The time is up! When the time is up, it's like, "Well, okay, I'll get right with God, I'll get right with God, I'll get right with God." Time's up! "Well God, can't you give me a little more time?" "Sorry, Christ just stood on the Mount of Olives! There's no more time left." That's what this tells us. There comes a time when there is no more time. And so it is very important that you and I wake up right now. It is time to wake up. So let's look at four differences.
First of all – and you need to be honest with this – I hope every one of you writes down the differences. I'm going to give you four differences. Here's how wise Christians face things. Here's how the foolish Christians face things. I hope you write these down. I hope you're willing to go to God and ask Him to help you.
First: Wise Christians desperately – and I use that word in all the meaning of it – they desperately seek to know God on a personal level. Wise Christians desperately seek to know God on a personal level.
Many of you have been followers of God for what? Ten years, twenty years, thirty years, forty years. We have people here that have been following God for fifty years. And sometimes we know a lot about God. I'm not asking you if you know a lot about God. Do you desperately seek to know God? Do you desperately seek to know Him? Because to know Him is a daily activity. You have somebody you work with sometimes, you have people you see every day, and you know about them, but you really don't know them. Right? At the end of work, you say, "Goodbye," shake hands, they go. You find out later that, "Wow! That guy was a millionaire!" or "Wow! That guy committed suicide. I had no idea he had problems with his life." We do that all the time. We know about lots of people, but we don't know them. Is your experience that you know about God? So you know about certain things, but do you know Him? Because it is only through God's Spirit that we can actually know Him, because we're connected to Him.
You know, at the teen sermon that I gave to the teenagers and their families at the Fort Davis campout here a couple weeks ago, I went through Psalm 139. We were talking about the creation. I want to go through a few verses of Psalm 139 again for a little different subject – not to look at the greatness of God, but I want to look at how David knew God – at the core of who He is. We have a surface relationship. You know, sometimes we can have a surface relationship with each other in the church. "Hi, how are you doing? How was your week? Good week. Happy Sabbath." Sometimes we have a surface relationship with God. "Oh God, it's Friday night" – two hours after sundown – "Oh yeah, I forgot. God, we had an appointment. Good to see ya. Boy, do I need the rest." So we come to church. We attend services. We go back home and it's just like another day. And the rest of the week, we're just like everybody else. That means you don't know God! And, if you don't know God, eventually, you won't do this. Eventually, you won't do this. It gets too hard. Do you know God? Look what David says in verse 1:
Psalms 139:1 Psalms 139:1O lord, you have searched me, and known me.
American King James Version×– "O LORD, you have searched me and known me." You know, I think it's John who says, "We know Him because He knew us first." God knows every single thing about you. There isn't a second in your day that God doesn't know what you're doing. How much of your time do you wonder what God is doing? Tomorrow is Monday. How much time will you spend tomorrow wondering what God is doing? Or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday – maybe next Saturday, when you come back to church? What's God doing? Because knowing God is a twenty-four hour a day, sixty minutes an hour, every second…that's what it is. This is the presence of God. We know what the Holy Spirit is. It's God's mind. It's His power. It's His love. It's His thoughts. It is His presence – the presence of the living God was put inside of you. And how much are you taking light of that? The presence of the Living God was put inside of you when hands were laid on you and you received God's Spirit.
What did you receive? "Oh, I received a little electricity, maybe." What did I receive from God? A few batteries? You received His mind. How often are you in tune with that? That's what this day is all about. We need to remember what has been given to us. What has been given to us isn't a set of doctrines. You can believe the set of doctrines and without the power of God, it is meaningless. It is God who changes us. It is God who gives us everything.
V-2 – "You know my sitting down and my rising up. You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path, my lying down. You're acquainted with all my ways." David knew this. Do you know that? Or do you spend most of your life hidden from God, because you don't even think about it? And so you do what you want. You say what you want. Your actions, your thoughts, your emotions are what you want. They have nothing to do with God.
God gave you His Spirit. How much is that worth? What job? What money? What boyfriend? What girlfriend? What friendship? What house? What car? What is worth that? What price have you put on it, because there are a lot of us that are selling the Spirit of God for a few trinkets? What was given to you? Is it any different than the power of Acts 2? Not unless God, somehow, is getting older and lost some of His power. Has God gotten older and lost some of His power? "Well, He's two thousand years older now. God just isn't as strong as He used to be."
He says, down in verse 4:
V-4 – "For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You have hedged behind me and before, You have laid Your hand upon me." And he says, "When I stop and really think about this" – which David thought about it all the time – what was his answer? "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high. I can't attain it. I can't figure it out. This is enormous."
How much time do you spend in awe of God? Well, you would have more time, if the kids didn't have soccer practice. You would have more time, if it wasn't time for American Idol. You'd have a little more time. Folks, time will eventually run out. Time will run out. And there is no more time. And when it does, the difference will be how much you submitted to God's Spirit. That will be the difference. David says:
V-7 – "Where can I go from Your Spirit?" – verse 7 – "Or where can I flee from Your presence?" He goes on:
V-8 – "If I go up in heaven, if I go to the deepest part of the sea, I cannot hide from You. There's where You are and You will find me."
In verse 17, he says – now notice, he's talking about how God relates to him. A relationship is what? Two individuals relating to each other. How do you relate to God? You want God to relate to you. How do you relate to God? Verse 17:
V-17 – "How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God." How precious are God's words to you in this Book? Or do you even look at it? How precious are His thoughts to you? See, when God gives you His Spirit, He gives you some of His thoughts. When you open this Book, it makes sense, like it never made sense before. These are God's thoughts. And when these things come into your mind, who puts them there? God gives you His thoughts. How precious are God's thoughts to you? This is God-thoughts. How precious are they to you? "How great is the sum of them. If I could count them, they should be more in number than the sand. And when I awake, I'm still with You. If I fall asleep and I wake up, guess what? God still is with me!" He didn't wake up and three days later say, "Oops, I guess I should pray." He wakes up and God is with him.
Look what he says in verse 23:
V-23 – "Search me, O God" – are you willing to go pray this to your Almighty God? Are you willing to say: "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties,know my fears, know my sins, know everything about me, and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" – because the great promise of God and the great end result of receiving His Spirit is what? Eternal life. And sometimes we're gambling eternal life away so that we can live life like Six Flags. We're gambling eternal life so that we can live life like Six Flags.
Now, this is an example of a wise follower of God. It's a relationship – at the core of his being. What does the foolish Christian…how do they see that? The foolish Christians – and all of us, at times, are foolish – it's when we're content to know about God, but we don't really have a personal relationship with Him, as our Father, or Jesus Christ, as our Brother. You know, I fear, sometimes, we don't even have relationship with Jesus Christ, except at the Passover. We have a relationship with Jesus Christ at the Passover that's very intense. And then we spend the rest of year…we sort of forget about Him. Oh well, the Feast of Trumpets comes along…oh yes, He's coming back. Well what was He doing between the Passover and the Feast of Trumpets? He's doing what this day pictures. He's creating a church. He's leading a church. He's the head of the church, He's the Apostle, He's the Savior, He's the High Priest – pretty important stuff! And that's a relationship!
You know, we sing about Jesus Christ. Go through the hymnal sometime and look at how many places in the hymnal we sing praises to Jesus Christ. But how much do we talk about Jesus Christ to each other through the week? How much do we discuss about Jesus Christ at services? If we don't, it's because we don't have a relationship.
I can't help it. I talk about my wife and kids all the time – I have a relationship with them – with my grandkids – until all of you are so bored with it. But I can't help it. Guess – when I'm other places – who do I talk about – when I'm other places? I talk about you – my congregation. "We did this. We did that." I talk about it all the time – I don't mean the bad things…the good things. "Let me tell you about my congregations…." (Laughter) Why? Because we have a relationship. It's important to me. I talk about you all the time. Of course, we do. Do we talk about God? Do we talk about Jesus Christ? Where is the relationship? See, it's through God's Spirit that this relationship is built.
Foolish Christians are content to attend services. They're content to occasionally read a Good News article. "Oh yeah, I read a really good Good News article." How much time have you spent in your Bible – your scriptures – this week? "Well, I read a Good News article." I'm not putting down Good News articles. I put a lot of work into writing Good News articles. Right? But that's commentary, folks. The Bible is where God talks to you. They have great biblical knowledge.
Most of you, in this room, have an understanding of doctrine that is pretty astounding. But just understanding that doctrine is not the entire experience of conversion. It is just part of conversion. You were created to have a personal relationship with God. You were created to have a personal relationship with God! And the more you don't have that relationship, the more unhappy you are, and the more stress you feel, and the more life doesn't make sense, and the more frustrated you are. And the closer you are to God, the more you are able to deal with those other things. I didn't say they go away. I said, "The more you are able to deal with those things." Because, where does the power come from? Jesus Christ Himself – the Eternal Son of God – said, "I can do nothing of Myself." If He could do nothing of Himself, how much can you and I do? Less than nothing. I don't think there is anything less than nothing.
The foolish Christian can explain why they don't keep Christmas, but ask them how much time they spend every day in relationship with God, and they will tell you how busy they are. And they'll talk about the money they make, and the sports they watched, and the entertainment, and the physical things they own, and how many friends they have on Facebook. But they don't have time to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, who gave you His mind.
Foolish Christians have no fire in their lives. There's no fire at all. Oh, they're there and they go through the motions, but there's no fire. When you read through the book of Acts, there's one thing you find consistently when those people received God's Spirit. They're on fire – to the place of foolishness! I mean, in Jerusalem, they all sort of moved into a commune, only to find out it made them all impoverished. The whole rest of the New Testament is about how they had to keep sending money to these people, because they were out of money. Well, yeah…. You'll see them just doing things that seem almost impetuous. Why? Because they're burning with a fire!
Where is our fire? Is the fire of the Holy Spirit – that God gives us – somehow less diminished than 33 AD? Or 50 AD? Is the fire that God has less for you than it was for them? Is the love God has for you any less than what He had for Mary? Is the love that God has for you any less than the love He had for Paul? Has God changed? Or where is the problem? I don't know the answer to all of this, but I can tell you one thing that I know for absolutely sure. The problem isn't with God. I've figured that much out. Okay, I might as well go sit down, because that's all I've really figured out. But I have figured out that it's not God that's the problem! And He hasn't changed one bit.
Here's the solution. Let's go to a scripture that you have heard what? This will be the fifth or sixth time in the last two days. That wasn't planned. 2 Timothy 1 – I really had a totally different sermon I tried to give – but let's look at verse 6. We've read in verse 7,
2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×– For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind. Is God's Spirit any less powerful? Is God's love any less love? Is God's sound mindedness any less than it was in the Bible? No. So what has been given to you?
Verse 6 – Paul tells Timothy:
V-6 – Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on my hands.
If you are asleep and you wake up – and I think it is time we begin to wake up – then you're going to have to go ask God to stir up His Spirit in you – because you're asleep. You're asleep. You can't get awake. Your mind is fuzzy. You're going to have to go ask God, "Stir up Your Spirit in me. Clear my mind. Give me a clear mind. Give me power and give me love, because I don't have it, and it must come from You." You think, "Well, I have it." Where are you getting it from? It comes from God.
The solution to this first problem – and the first thing we're talking about is how wise Christians desperately – desperately – need to know God – they know it; they want it. Unwise Christians – the foolish Christians – they know about God, and they know some doctrines – they know the beliefs – but their day-to-day living is really not a whole lot different than the world. Their day-to-day lives are, really, not a whole lot different than the world. Solution: Go ask God to stir up His Spirit so that you can know Him. Ask God to reveal Himself to you. Ask God to give you the desperation you need to feel.
"Boy, that's uncomfortable." Yeah, it is. "But I'm really comfortable. I'm really comfortable because I've got my job I go to, and I come home, and, you know, I've got certain shows I watch, and I go to the gym every night, and I've got these things I do, and every Sunday morning I work in the yard. You know, you're asking me to change my life." Isn't that what God's Spirit is? It is the power to change your life. And it's time to wake up! We're going through this in a slumber. We're going through this life half asleep. It's time to wake up!
The second point: Wise Christians are aware of the price that was paid for them to be justified and, therefore, they submit to the guidance of God.
Wise Christians are aware of the price paid for them to be justified. What does that mean? It means that – to put it in simplest terms – you appeared before God, and your ledger was, you owed Him eighty million dollars plus interest. And the interest had been accrued since the day you were born. And God said, "Pay up." And you said, "I don't have it." And you asked for forgiveness and He wiped it out. And your account was zero, because Jesus Christ wiped it out. That was the price for your justification. You don't go to God – I don't go to God – without that happening first. It just doesn't happen. So you and I are able to go have this relationship – you and I received God's Spirit – because of the price that was paid. And how much are we cheapening that price?
Let's look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 6 – amazing couple of verses here – 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, and let's start in verse 9. I want to read 9 and 10, just to give the context of where Paul goes – or why he says what he says. He says:
1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×– Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And then he talks about those who have received God's Spirit. And such were some of you. We all had this big account. And we all are able to have this privilege – a privilege – of a relationship with God. He gives you that privilege. He gives me that privilege.
We did not negotiate for God's Spirit. We did not negotiate for that privilege. We did not negotiate for the relationship. He initiated it. And He picked you and said, "I would like to have a relationship with you." And we say, "Okay, as soon as I get the fishing boat." What do we say to God? That's what He did to you. He says:
V-11 – And such were some of you. But you were washed…. If you received baptism, your sins were washed away and your ledger was wiped clean. And what happened after you were washed? …you were sanctified…. You received God's Spirit and you were made holy. It's a holy Sabbath. It's a holy law. Right? It's the Holy Spirit. It's a holy Book. And you were made holy – not because you have the power or I have the power to make anything holy. We were made holy because the Almighty God put His Spirit in us and said, "You are now mine. Your desires must become My desires. Your needs must become what I want. Your life must become what I want it to be." And we said, "Yes, Lord, because I want all the benefits." Well, we didn't realize that there was a little work along the way, too, and sometimes there is a price to be paid to be a Christian. Stephen found that out. He was given God's Spirit. He could speak in tongues. He was preaching to people. All kinds of things were happening. This wasn't long after Acts, chapter 2. What happened? People stoned him to death! You think, "Well, this isn't supposed to happen this way." And he paid the price willingly. And we'll sell it so cheap. We sell this so cheap. He says: …you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus by the Spirit of our God. You were justified because of the sacrifice, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but how do you stay justified? I want you to think about that. You know, if you were baptized and didn't receive God's Spirit, how long before the ledger just had more and more sins in it? Why is it that you struggle with sin now, and sometimes you fail, and it still doesn't go on your ledger? Because God has put His presence in you. See, those who are truly the wise Christians remember this price and they respond to the prodding of their conscience of God. They respond to it. They feel it. They hear it day by day – all the time. They don't separate their Sabbath-keeping from the rest of their Christianity. Because you know what that is? That's just hypocrisy. They don't separate their lives. Everything is being a Christian. Everything is being someone who has the presence of God in them.
Now the foolish Christians do not recognize – they do not remember – the justification process. So guess what they do? They try to justify themselves. Foolish Christians are always saying – because their conscience gets pricked – but instead of responding – because they understand the price, they understand what God has given to them – they always give you a reason why.... "I have to divorce my wife, because she's just mean to me." Well, show me in here where that's okay. "Well, God will understand." The moment we say, "I know this is wrong, but God will understand," what we've done is, we've justified ourselves. "God will understand. I have to be dishonest or I can't feed my family. God will understand. This person is being dishonest…it's okay for me to be dishonest." Okay, so your neighbor uses drugs and is a pimp. Well, that's okay then, so it's okay for me to use drugs and be a pimp. I mean, it's ridiculous, but that's what we do. And we justify our sins. We will come up with the most remarkable explanations why what I'm doing wrong, I know is wrong, but why it's okay with God. If we had a personal relationship with God, we would hate to ever have Him displeased with us. It would hurt us to feel like God is displeased with us. But the foolish Christian only sees a way to get around it. They only see a way to get around it. "So God understands," is always the answer. "God understands why I have to sleep with my boyfriend, because he'll leave me if I don't." "God understands why I have to work on the Sabbath." "God understands why I have to do…." I mean, think about all the things…. "God understands why I have to lie in this situation. God understands. God understands why I have to do this. God understands why I have to do that." And what we do is, we justify ourselves.
Do you know what happens when you justify yourself? You're just writing the sins back in your ledger, and then just taking a pen and putting a line through them, and pretending that they're gone. Try that with a judge in a court sometime. "Judge, can I approach the bench? Let me look at your ledger there. Uh, yeah, it says I committed this crime and this crime. Here, give me your pen. There. They're gone now. I need to go do something else. Can we just sort of shut this down?" Try doing that and see how long it takes you to get put in jail. But that's what we do with God when we justify ourselves. We forget that the page is wiped out through the life, the blood, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! We forget that the way we maintain justification is through God's Spirit in us – and that's responding to God. So what we do is, we just keep writing the sins down, putting a line through it, and pretending God can't read it! Do you really think that line through there…He can't read it? So we justify ourselves. And then we wonder why our lives don't work. They can't work.
What's the solution? Titus, chapter 3, and verse 3.
Titus 3:3 Titus 3:3For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
American King James Version×– For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. Remember that? Why were you called out of that? Because the Living God reached down one day, grabbed hold of you, pulled you out, and said, "I, your Creator, your Father, love you so much, I will change you and I will give you My presence in your mind." That's why. Should we forget where we came from? Once again, how cheap will you sell this? Because there are five foolish virgins. There are Christians who sell this very cheaply. But verse 4 says:
V-4 – But when the kindness and the love of God, our Savior, toward man appeared, not by the works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Do you realize what He's saying there? We forget where we were. And God pulled us out, and God saved us through Jesus Christ, and then gave us His Holy Spirit. And we say, "But I'd rather spend life in Six Flags." That's what we think.
I like verse 8. It's a tack-on sentence. Paul, by this time – he's late in his life – every time he talks about grace, he knows someone is going to say, "Well, Paul says, because there's grace, we can sin." In verse 8 he says:
V-8 – This is a faithful saying, and these things I want to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. "Okay, I'm not saying you can do whatever you want." And you'll see all through Paul's life – in his later writings – he tacks on, "Now this isn't what I mean. I don't mean this. Okay? So let's just put that aside."
You and I receive this through the grace of God. What happens if we sell this grace cheaply? That's why Protestantism has misused grace so much. Grace is God's favor when you don't deserve it. And what do we sell that for? Because Hebrews reminds us of something that's frightening – Hebrews, chapter 10 – and for us, as we struggle with coming out of our sleep – the spiritual sleep that the people of God are in – as we struggle to come out of that, as we awaken, and we realize that so much of what we think is important isn't that important, when we realize what God is doing, we're brought back to something here that is very, very important to those who have received the Spirit. I'm talking today to people who have received God's Spirit – because you have been given the greatest gift there is – greater than life itself. You have been given a piece of God. That's a weird way to put it. I don't know how else to put it. God took part of Himself and He put it in you. And with that, you can be changed, and you can receive eternal life. Hebrews 10, verse 26:
Hebrews 10:26 Hebrews 10:26For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins,
American King James Version×– For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. So people will worry, "I sinned and I knew it was wrong, and I just couldn't help myself, and …." Whoa, whoa, whoa. Sinning willfully means that you are to the point that you're going to justify that sin. "I'm going to do this sin and I'm going to tell you why it's okay – why God understands my sin – why God understands me doing it this way." "But the scripture says…." "No, no, God understands. I'm justifying myself. God's writing out my crime in the book and instead of having it washed through the blood of Jesus Christ, I'm just putting a line through it. It's okay." We can't do that! He says: But a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? He says, "You know, people were killed under Moses' law – physically – but how much more someone who God made a personal covenant with? God made a personal covenant with you. That's the difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, God made a covenant with a whole group of people. God called you individually and said, "I'll make a covenant with you and you and you and you and you and you and you." You didn't make a covenant with God. You didn't knock on the door one day and say, "Hey, I've got a covenant here I'd like you to sign." God called you and made a covenant with you. And He says, "To sell that cheaply – to sell it at all – then we're looking at eternal death!" It's easy to say that everybody that just goes back into the world, "They probably were just never converted." No, that's a copout! The bottom line is, we're told in a parable about wise and foolish virgins that there will be people who sell their eternity cheaply. And we have been given the Spirit of God.
The third point…well, let's look at the solution. Titus…well, I already went to Titus, didn't I? Okay, next point…am I on point number three? It's been a long day. (Chuckles) Point three: Wise Christians humbly seek to submit and obey God. They humbly seek to submit and obey God.
Romans, chapter 8 – and I think here in Romans 8, we have a core problem – core problem – of why people receive God's Spirit and don't respond, or they respond for awhile and then give it up. Now you can have God's Spirit and float off for a long time. I've seen people leave God for twenty years and God brings them back. But why? What happens? Why do we do that? I mean, some people just leave permanently. And others, God just keeps…as long they'll let God work with them, He'll bring them back. Sometimes it's a hard way, but He'll bring them back. Romans 8, verse 5:
Romans 8:5 Romans 8:5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
American King James Version×– For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
If you're spending all your time and effort on the physical things – what you own, who you are, your status, what you have, the clothes you wear, the things you do – then you're not being motivated and led by the Spirit of God. And eventually, you will have conflicts between what God says, which is spiritual, and what you want to do, which is physical. Verse 7 says:
V-7 – Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. For it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
So we say, "Okay, well, wait a minute" – and we go back to the previous point – "God understands." At that point, you're not pleasing God. Now we're back to the first point. If you don't have a relationship with God, you won't care about pleasing God. In fact, do you know what you'll see God's way as? Necessary burdens. You don't want to do them. You have to do them. And you'll find ways to justify not doing them. See how these things all work together? If you don't care about pleasing God, then go do whatever you want! If you care about pleasing God, then you have to view life differently. Verse 9 says:
V-9 – But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ – it's the same Spirit.) And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Is Christ in us? If you say, "Yes," is Christ any weaker than He used to be? If the problem isn't with God, our Father, and the problem isn't with Christ, and the problem isn't with the power of the Spirit, then where is the problem?
V-11 – But if the Spirit of Him, who raised Jesus from the dead – verse 11 – dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal body through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are all debtors – not to the flesh to live according to the flesh. You have a debt, I have a debt because of how we were justified – to seek and submit and obey God! If we're seeking God, and we realize the price of justification – the third point is, we have to humbly submit and obey God. And one of the reasons why we don't want to submit to God is because we're just arrogant! It's arrogance! "Well, I can't do that. I can't do that. My husband would leave me."
Every one of you, when you were baptized – at least, most people I know who are baptized…I know when I was baptized… and I know when I do baptisms, we read the scripture that says, "If you do not love Me more than mother, brother, sister, father, and your own life, also, you cannot be My disciple." And you promised that. You made a covenant with Jesus Christ. And how cheaply do you sell that? How cheaply are you selling that covenant? You promised. You have a debt! If He wiped out the debt you owed, which led to eternal death, you now have a debt to say, "Yes, Lord!"
V-13 – For, if you live according to the flesh, you will die. But, if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. And there's the core issue. Who are you? "Oh, let's see. Ummm…I'm a thirty-five-year-old man, born in Texas…" and we describe who we are. No, no, no. Who are you? "Well, I'm an American?" No, who are you? "Well, I'm a Christian. There! That was the answer you were looking for." No, who are you? "Umm…I'm a Sabbatarian. Is that the answer?" Who are you? "I don't believe in the immortal soul. Is that the answer?" Who are you? You have to be able to, every day, say, "I am a child of God," because the moment you receive God's Spirit, guess who you became? And what price will you sell that for? That's who you became. That's who you are! He says:
V-15 – For you did not receive the Spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. If you don't understand that and don't have a relationship with God, as your Father, and Jesus Christ, as your Brother, you will give this up. You say, "But I have God's Spirit!" So did the five foolish virgins. Those who are wise Christians live every day as a child of God.
I find it interesting in Acts 9…I have a lot more scriptures than usual. I can justify myself with this, because I told my wife that, and she said, "That's okay. Give all of them." So it's her fault. (Laughter) Acts 9:31 Acts 9:31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
American King James Version×. See, I know about justification, because I can do it as good as anybody. Believe me, I've justified myself for a lot of stuff. It never works. Never works. Acts 9:31 Acts 9:31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
American King James Version×– just one little passage here, but what it says is so amazing.
Acts 9:31 Acts 9:31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
American King James Version×– Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and were edified. They were built up. Good things happened. Their lives changed. Boy, isn't that what we want? In the hectic life you live, don't you want peace from God? Don't you want to be stirred up by God? Don't you want to be built up and have good things happening, and your marriages work? And you want to have a right relationship with your kids, you want to get along with everybody in the church, and you want to kick the problems you've had – you want to make sure that, you know, that drinking problem never comes back – you want to overcome that sin and that sin, you want to get that temper under control. Don't you want to do that? Wouldn't that be great! But notice what it says: And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. That's an odd sentence for most people. How can you have the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit? But the truth is, you will never have comfort of God's Holy Spirit until you have the fear of the Lord. Until we are willing to submit to the prodding of God's Spirit, until we're willing to submit to what it says, in this humility in the fear of God, we will never have comfort.
Foolish Christians try to live with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God. Now I want you to notice, I didn't say, "One foot in the world and one foot in the church," because that becomes an excuse. Because what do we do? We look at the church and say, "Well, everybody else has their problems, too. So let's not talk about that." I didn't say, "One foot in the world and one foot in the church." We're talking about one foot in the world and one in the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God is where we're going. And this is a messy way to get there. It's a messy way to get there. This is how we get there. Okay? Foolish Christians try to do both.
Foolish Christians feel this way: foolish Christians always feel like they have no spiritual power. And the reason why is, they are always controlled by other people. They're not controlled by God. They're not giving up control to God, through His Spirit. They're controlled by other people. They're controlled by concerns, what will happen, and how they will be treated by other people. And they're controlled by their own desires. And because they're controlled by their own desires, there's no control at all! And because they're controlled by other people, they feel, "God isn't in my life. God isn't working in my life. But my boss is." "God isn't working in my life, but, boy, my sister is, who's messed my life up." "God isn't working in my life, but my husband is. And he's taking me away from God." It's amazing how many people will say, "Well, the reason I'm not close to God is because of this person." Well, then you've made that person an idol, because you've made them bigger than God. If you ever believe you are taken away from God by another person, then you are an idolater, because you've made that person bigger than God. Because there isn't a single human being on the face of the earth that can take you away from God, unless you let them – because you fear that person more than you fear the Almighty.
So foolish Christians feel like they have no control, and they won't give up their desires to God, and they're always in fear of what everybody else will do to them. So what happens is, they become passive-aggressive. Let me read a verse and then I'm going to explain what I mean – Ephesians 4, verse 30. I know you're tired. It's been a long day – been sitting a long time. By the way, there were a hundred and ninety-six people here this morning. I know a few of the elderly have gone, because they just can't stay for two services, but it's pretty full today – so nice crowd here today. Ephesians 4, verse 30:
Ephesians 4:30 Ephesians 4:30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed to the day of redemption.
American King James Version×– Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
I remember my dad saying something to me years ago. He was dealing with a situation. He said, "God's Spirit in me is grieved." I thought, "I wonder what he means by that." Well, I've lived long enough now. I know what that means. We become passive-aggressive with God. What we do is, we obey God when we get a reward, and when we don't get a reward, or it's not what we want, we sort of…it's like the child that's not openly rebellious. It's just that you tell them to go clean up their room and they walk, you know, like this. (Chuckles) It's going to take them three hours to get there. Right? And when they get there, they sit down and read a book. They're being passively aggressive. They're not confronting you, they just really don't do it – sort of like, maybe, but they don't. What happens is, we either humbly submit to God in the guidance of His Spirit or we become passively aggressive. And this is where, even, the justification comes in. We'll find a million ways to justify shuffling our feet – not doing, really, what God wants – even though, deep inside, we know what He wants. But we won't do it. But we're afraid not to do it, so we sort of just whiningly, not completely do it.
Now you are in a relationship with God. God gave you His Spirit. We want God to relate to us, right? Boy, when you're in trouble, when you're sick, what's the first thing you do? I know what I do. I pray, "God, please, I don't want to be sick anymore." I received a phone call this week. I picked up the phone, and I heard, "Grandpa! I'm really sick. I'm throwing up and I can't stand it anymore!" "I'm two thousand miles away, Sweetheart. There's not a whole lot I can do." Isn't that what we do? We call God and, "I'm in trouble here!" We want Him to relate to us. Do you realize, when you do this passive-aggressive, sort of halfway obedience, He hurts because of you. God grieves. He loves you so much, He watched Jesus die for you. He loves you so much, He called you, cleaned you up and gave you His Spirit. And then, like some snot-nosed little kid, we are passively aggressive and we don't want to do it. And He grieves. God hurts. See, He relates to us, too.
There's another end to this relationship. We always see this as a one-way relationship. There's another end to this relationship. There's another part to this relationship. And we never think that anything we can do can affect God. Well, you have His Spirit. And what does it send back to Him at times? Grief.
What's the solution? 1 Corinthians 3 – then we'll do our last point – 1 Corinthians 3, verse 16:
1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
American King James Version×– Do you not know that you are the temple of God? Interesting question. You and I are the temple of God. Where does God dwell on earth right now? In a temple? You know, they call it the shekinah – the presence of God. The presence of God was in that temple. You read in the Bible where it filled up with the presence of God and everybody had to leave it. Nobody could go in the Holy of holies. Why? Because that was where the presence of God was. Where is the presence of God today? It's not in a temple in Jerusalem. It's in you! We are the temple of God. That's what this day is all about. And God said, "I'm going to make these people My temple and I'm going to go live in them." And that's who you are. Paul says: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
Now that's a frightening set of verses! It's a very encouraging set of verses and it's a frightening set of verses, because it's just like Matthew 25. You are the virgins of God, so be very careful with this grace that God has given to you. You are the temple of God, so be very vigilant of what God has given to you.
Verse 18 says:
V-18 – Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he might become wise.
See, the solution to this passive-aggressive behavior is to realize what we have…we have the thought processes of the world, and this world is dying, and we have to give it up. You and I have to give up this world that we don't want to. We still think what Satan offers us is better than what God does. Like I've said before, "One of the strangest things about modern Christianity is, what God means by grace is, ‘I sacrificed My Son for you, so now you're saved, no matter what you do. It doesn't matter. You're saved. So go live in Satan's world. Do whatever you want. Live like Satan. Let him be your boss. Let him lead you wherever you want. And then when you die, I'll bring you to heaven.'" How bizarre is that?! But that is what most Christians actually believe. That's not what God is doing! He's creating children.
What we have to realize is, we have to give up the world. And that's part of the problem: we've got one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God. And you can't live in both. Eventually, you will choose. And if you say, "I'll choose tomorrow," you've probably already made your choice. "I'll choose…you know, when I graduate from college. That way I can have my fun now." Well, you've already made your choice. You've already made your choice. Now God may bring you back, but I guarantee you, it's going to be hard.
The fourth point: Wise Christians trust in God's promises and God's future. Wise Christians trust in God's promises and God's future. We just read through Romans, chapter 8. There were lots of promises in there about Christ's return, about being the children of God – resurrected into that Kingdom – into His family – for eternity. Those are promises.
Is God's power waning so much that He can't fulfill the promises He made to people five thousand years ago? Or is God just as powerful today? Those promises are just as real. It's just…will we sell the promise and what will we sell it for? What will we sell it for? A job? Will we sell it for some sort of entertainment? What will we sell it for?
Foolish Christians can't see the promises of God. Here's what foolish Christians do: they try to control everyone and everything. "If I can't just control everyone and everything, then my life will be okay." So they're not trusting in God. They're trusting in themselves. So every day, they trust in themselves. And every day is a battle to control everybody and everything. And they're always disappointed, because you can never get everybody to do it the way you want. And everybody's flawed. You're never going to get your wife to act exactly the way you want her to. And you're never going to get your children to act exactly the way you want them to. And I've seen people held hostage by other people. Right? You'll see bosses do this. They'll control everybody to get exactly what they want out of them, which never works. But they hold everybody hostage. "I've got your job over your head." People will do that at all levels. "I've got your friendship over your head." I've seen kids do it with parents. "Well, I just won't love you anymore." You know, "I just don't love you anymore." Okay.
I'll never forget the only time my granddaughter tried that. I went, "Okay, I still love you, but okay. It doesn't change a thing. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Whether you love me or not doesn't change that." And the look of disappointment was like, "Well, that didn't work. I thought he would just collapse." No, no, no. "Right's right and wrong's wrong. If you don't love me, okay, but it still doesn't change anything!" She only tried it once. She's never tried it again. Boy, if I had lost that one, guess how many times I'd fight that battle? Probably for about, oh, fifteen years. There would have always been this "Can I get Grandpa to do what I want by telling him that I don't love him? And somehow, if he loses my love, that will really hurt him." Well, yeah, it does, but it doesn't change the truth! It doesn't change it. Because truth is the issue and our relationship with God is the issue. That's the issue! They have to know that. Everybody in your life has to know that. You love them, but you will not go against God for anybody, because you love God more!
Ephesians 1 – last scripture – Ephesians 1, verse 13 – sort of a thought in the center of what Paul's talking about here, but it's a remarkable thought.
Ephesians 1:13 Ephesians 1:13In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
American King James Version×– In Him, whom you also trusted after you heard the word of truth – the gospel of your salvation – in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of what? …the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
I read a scripture that said you could lose your salvation. The parable of the virgins tells us we can lose our salvation because Christ comes to some people who had His Spirit and He says to them, "I don't know you." That's what that parable says! But God's promises…if that happens, it's because you decide for that to happen, not Him. God won't let you go there unless you decide – unless I decide – to go there.
What is He holding back from you? What is God holding back from you? Nothing. Everything you need for eternal life, He has given to you. Everything you need to live His way of life right now, He has given to you. It's just how much we're going to have a relationship with Him, and how much we're going to obey, and how much we're going to submit, or how much we're going to justify ourselves, and how passive-aggressive we're going to be. That's the question.
The power of God's Spirit given to the church at Pentecost hasn't been diminished one bit. It's still the same power and it's what you have. The power of God's thoughts hasn't diminished. The power of God's sound mindedness hasn't diminished. The power of God's love hasn't diminished. What God will give to you hasn't changed one bit from the first century. It is still the mind of God that changes human beings. And it is still the power He wants to give you. It is the power of eternal life! It is the Spirit that was given to you because you were justified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And you will remain justified because you interact with God and Christ through that Spirit – His mind, His thoughts.
I gave a sermon years ago I'm going to give again sometime in the future – just the word abide. Jesus said, "We will abide in you." That's a remarkable concept. "We will live in you." You are the temple of God.
It is time for the virgins of God to wake up. Someday we all run out of time. If you get hit by a car tonight, and God allows you to die, guess when your time was up. So there is no saying, "Well, someday, one day, I'll do this," because many times, that day never comes, and many times, your time will be up before you get there. Wake up now! Come out of your sleep now! God has given you – that's what this day is all about – God has given you everything you need to be His son and daughter for eternity. Are you a wise virgin or a foolish one?