Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The Word of God P22 (03-29-21)
If you have ever seen someone come to know the Lord for the first time, and had the privilege to share about Jesus to them, family or friends, then you can tell about what joy and delight that is to see. Maybe you have never seen anyone in your family or even any friend come to the Lord, but you are sharing the word of God. We have to trust in God that when His word goes out, it does not return void. For some of you, that could be twenty or more years, and still you see no fruit of the labor. Nevertheless, we leave it in the hands of God. To God belong the results, in His timing. We do not need to force the message. It is a practical message, that man is dead and in need of life, with a message of great news, that Jesus provided that need of life as a gift to be received by faith, yet it can take time for people to process, some longer than others. Yes, family and friends, let them know you love them in any way you can, and if they are willing to listen, then you can share.
The word of God is alive, living in you, and how important the word is for our own growth, that the love of God can be manifested in and through us into the lives of others. How I long to see that show forth in my own life, wondering if anyone even knows I love them, and in what avenues that would be possible. No one really knows my name. But God does, and He is at work in me, and He will complete the work He began in me. Maybe someone will be reading the transcript today or listening on the radio, and be moved by the testimony of how God works in many unique, unusual and funny ways, but with the same wonderful message of good news. Maybe you are that person who asked a hundred people if anyone can tell him about God. Then you happen to turn the dial to a radio program, and it is as if God is talking just to you.
So here is the gospel message in a short summary. Jesus, as God in the flesh, came down from heaven, and came to be born into this world to do something for you and me that we could never do for ourselves. We have this longing in our heart for something. We feel how meaningless life is, and feel an emptiness and lack of purpose or direction. It seems as if we are being drawn by someone, as we ask questions. We realize that we are a sinner, and maybe we knew that already since a child, but had no understanding of the solution to that. Then we come to understand Jesus died on a cross to take away the sins of the world, mine included. But I still feel empty. I do not seem to have life, and I still struggle. Then I come to understand that Jesus rose from the dead to give me His life. That is it! Jesus came to give me life I never had, His life. There is nothing for me to do but simply reach out to God’s righteous right hand and let Him take me close to Himself, so close that He says He will never leave more or forsake me. Not only that, He says He will live in me and guide me into all truth. And, He says to lean on Him, and despite trials and tribulations in this life, and they will come, you will experience a peace and a joy that surpasses understanding. So will you come to Jesus to accept His life as a gift, eternal life, which is the Spirit of God to be lived in you and through you.
How long is the message in the average church? About half an hour. So you are talking about, at the very most, the amount of time is about 2 hours of input and that is if you are listening and not sleeping. If you progress that out into a normal lifetime, by the time you have reached 18 years of age, you might have a 100 hours compared to 21,000 hours.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
When you stop to think, we wonder why we are in such sad shape. It is not hard to figure out. So what we are talking about is not from a legalistic standpoint. This feeding upon the word of God is not even more legalistically construed as such as eating food. When you go home for dinner, you do not say this is legalistic. I have to eat. You are hungry and if you do not you will die. It is the same thing with the word of God. This is spiritual food. Our lack of input will make us malnutritious. We have to realize spiritually we are malnourished. Let us compare our lifestyle up against the early believers.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
That was daily teaching. They devoted themselves daily to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Turn to Acts 2:46-47.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It is an interesting thing, isn’t it, that you see something taking place here as believers assembled themselves together for fellowship, for prayer and for daily the apostles’ teaching? The by-product of listening to that teaching is that the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved. We continually think that evangelism has to be done in the name of evangelism. In other words, we have big evangelistic crusades. Again, nothing wrong with that and thank God for them. Many people have come to Christ in evangelistic crusades. But the matter of fact is evangelism will also take place, and probably even in a more healthy setting with believers assembling themselves together. Inviting people in to explore the word of God together, and there find out who Christ is and who they are and come to the Lord.
I was listening to a radio program the other day and it was talking about how we need to get out and reach more of the lost. I look at that and say, “Yes, that is a true thing”. But what concerns me is the condition of the saved. I can remember a man I respected very much one time. He said, “If I had to make a choice, and thank God I do not, between leading someone to Christ and building someone up in their relationship with Christ, I would do the latter rather than the former. If I build up a person in Christ, in a very short time there will be two of us sharing Jesus instead of just one.” That is a true thing.
I think today of the condition of many Christians who are living in defeat. How many times have we heard on this radio broadcast and how many times that I think of it myself, in my early years as a Christian, until I understood my identity in Christ, how many times has it entered my mind, that I know I should witness and what am I going to do? Come to Jesus so you can be miserable like me. Come to Jesus so you can still be struggling with life the way I am. It really does not provide much motivation.
So what you do not really see many times is a victory. When talking about a victory, I am not talking about sinless perfection. I am talking about living above your circumstances rather than under your circumstances. Like a person asked one time, “How are you doing?” “Under the circumstance”. So I said, “What are you doing down there? God did not call us to live under circumstances but to live above them.”
That is not just religious talk. Living above circumstances is realizing we have God who is so faithful to us and loves us so much and in that love, He is going to do what is necessary to do, first of all, to show us the immensity of His provision and His love for us. Then, if we are still walking in an attitude that is contrary to Him in some areas of our lives then I believe that is where the Lord will allow the world, by lifting His hands off, to allow the world to get a hold of you. But in that getting a hold of you, going back again to the faithfulness of God, and that is what makes a new person out of us. If we will learn that this input, this constant input of the word of God, of how important that is for the mentality, and to be able to walk in normality of life, how important that is.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
I do not believe he is talking about walking around imitating people. What is he talking about being imitators of us and the Lord? In the midst of suffering and trials, in the midst of tribulation, he said that you welcomed the message of truth with joy that was given by the Holy Spirit. I believe that that is what he is talking about. When you are talking about the imitation of the early Christians, that is imitating those who have gone before us, is imitating that truth, that in the midst of trials and tribulations, the word of God is not only welcomed, the word of God is what will bring peace to a suffering soul.
When talking about the place the word of God in you lives, it is more than something to be learned for the sake of learning something. The word of God is what brings life to us, what brings peace to our hearts, in the midst of trials and tribulations of life. The tribulations that come our way and certainly they come to each and every person who is in Christ Jesus. So it is interesting, though, how people respond to the word of God. I would like to go back to Acts 16:32-34 where Paul was speaking to the jailor.
32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.
How many times does that kind of thing happen? When I see the progression of that, I cannot tell you the number of times I hear how a man comes to know the Lord and then goes back and begins to communicate those truths to his family and sees his wife come to know the Lord and then the children come to know the Lord. I believe that is the pattern of things. I am so thankful to God for the ministry He has given us here with People to People Ministries. A large percentage that respond to our ministry are men. When we have conferences 65% of people who come are men. We do not intentionally try to focus toward men but it is a message that I believe that automatically reaches the heart of a man because it is extremely logical.
The gospel is the most logical message to me on the face of the earth. The logic of that type of thing appeals to man’s mind. It is more logical than it is emotional, whereby a woman thinks more toward feelings. A man thinks toward more sheer, and sometimes a cold, logic. Both of those things are needed. That is why man and wife are together. The subjective and the objective thinking are necessary. Any one of those out of balance and you are out of balance. When the two of them become one and are able to have an informal unit of subjectivity, and many times comes through the wife, and objectivity, that many times comes from the husband, you have a phenomenal balance that takes place in the home. When you are looking at the word of God and you see how these guys responded, the word was given out and people immediately responded.
I ponder on my early Christian life. After coming to Christ, I remember the Sunday that I was driving back from an open house in San Bernardino, CA. Amy and I were invited to go out there. Our lives were kind of in shambles. Not severe, but nothing particularly happening due to the emptiness that comes from being lost. Driving home to Whittaker, CA from San Bernardino, I told Amy that someone took a scrub brush and scrubbed me all over. I did not have a clue what happened to me. I knew that I had accepted Christ but my heart had no idea what that meant. I knew nothing. I never had the bible open as far as I know. I might have glanced at the pages but to say I ever read the bible, never. The churches I went to when I was a child, we never used the bible. We just thought it was obsolete or something. Even evangelical churches that have bibles in the pews never used them. We would have fainted if we ever saw someone with a bible in their hands coming into church. At any rate, I had no idea what took place but I knew something happened.
But on the second day, I called my mom and dad. My dad was sick with cancer. That is what led me to that event seeing the frustration of life that was ever before me, seeing my dad who had all the things the world had to offer. He was a fine attorney and proficient in the courtroom. So he used his voice all of his life and here it is cut out by this cancer in his throat. Calling back there trying to explain to mom and dad that I had come to Jesus, a relationship with Christ, it was difficult to me in how to communicate. Yet, I was wanting to tell everybody that something had happened. They were probably scratching their head, thinking, “What did Bob get into? What kind of a cult did he get into?” I could imagine all kinds of things going through their minds.
But I went to some training where I learned how to share my faith. I learned more and more about life we have in Christ. I learned about His cross and forgiveness. Then I learned how to communicate my faith. I am not sure how much meaning I had in it, but I learned how to say it. So I say God can use anybody. If He used me, He can use anybody.
I remember going back when dad was very sick again, going back to my family back there. That is who I wanted to reach. Amy already knew the Lord. I had the opportunity to share with my daughter Debbie, and she came to know the Lord. Bob, my dad, prayed along later. He really came to know him in a real way. I went back home again in Indiana, and sat down with my parents and was sharing Christ with them. I can remember sharing with my brother. My brother, at that particular point in time, had a problem with alcohol, and was not really open to me, but we were still brothers. I remember sharing with him how to know Christ personally. He was not ready yet. But I can remember saying to him, “Dick, when the day comes, and it will, when you see your total need for salvation, have I communicated to you how to know Him?” He said to me, “You came through loud and clear”. He might have said it obnoxiously on top of that. I went away from that experience, saying “Praise God”. His word does not return void. It always accomplishes what it was set out to do.
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
To see my brother two years later to go out California and go through the same training I talked about. He came to the Lord. His alcohol stopped that day, some twenty years ago. The word of God was finally received. It was given out. In the first instance, it was not received. In the next incidence, it was received.
The first time I shared with my dad, it was not received. The next time, through the book I had given him, it was received. Before I left that weekend, my dad called my brother and I into the room in the hospital. I will never forget him saying, “All the things I thought were so important, and placed such great emphasis on are absolutely meaningless when you are here dying of cancer.” I had given dad a book when I shared with him that time. He looked up at me because I was desperately asking God to show me dad’s salvation. He said, “Bob, I read that book and everything is ‘A’ okay.” That was the last time I saw dad. When I left and flew back to California, the phone rang. It was my sister telling me that dad went to be with the Lord. The very first time it was not received. But as he read further, it was received. God chose to reveal His Son in him.
The first time I shared the message with my mom, I remembered the response of different things. “What do you mean? Are you saying we are not Christians? We raised you children in a Christian church. Do you remember sitting in the pews and taking communion? What do you mean being a Christian? We were born Christians. All those things coming out of their mouth tells you they did not have a clue what Christian is about. I remember talking to mom over and over again, and never really getting anywhere. She was just insulted that someone would challenge that she was not a Christian. I can remember one time just sitting down and making an appointment with my mom. This is the last time I am going to talk about it. But I said, “Mom, because of my love for you, it is hard for me to understand why you are rebelling against this message that is such great news.” Then I recall that point in her life, of God revealing His Son in her, of her coming to know Christ.
What I am saying, because we are talking about the response of the word of God to the apostles, sometimes it is a very glorious message because that is what is recorded. But even in their life, as it was in Christ’s life, not everyone accepted that immediately. As you share with your friends, not everyone is going to accept that message immediately. That is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to share truth with people in the power of love, and leave the results to God. In everything in our life, folks, the results are always in the hands of God. It is our responsibility merely to communicate the truth, whereby it becomes His responsibility to imbed that truth into your heart.
Again, on another day, in Acts 16:13-15, we read.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
There was another case where the word of God was communicated and God chose to open her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
I was tying in again to my mom and dad. In both of those cases, both of them now are with the Lord. That is neat to know, that one of these days we are going to be reunited. It is also neat to know that God in some strange way, allowed me the privilege of communicating that truth to them. Of seeing my mom ultimately come to Christ. What I am emphasizing to our listeners, as we are talking about responses, that people do not always respond the first time. They may not respond the second time. You also do not need to pressure people. It is depending on Christ’s word not to return void.
I recall my brother-n-law, Joe, whom I love as deeply as my own brother. He has been a special friend to me since I was a little child. I remember going back to that period of time my dad was sick, and our family was constantly going back to be with him. I recall sharing the gospel with Joe. We were down at our home in Indiana at that particular time. I saw Joe accept the Lord into his life as his personal Lord and Savior. I could remember the next day, he kind of came up to me. He was a funny guy anyways. He had a deep voice. “Bob, can I talk to you?” “Sure.” “Let us go down to the basement.” So here we trail down into the basement. He had a tract that I shared with him, and he was fumbling through that. “Let me go over this again because”, he said, “maybe I need to pray this over again because I do not think it worked. I do not think it worked. No, maybe it does not work. Maybe I need to do this again.” I said, “If this did not work, what are we doing down in this stupid basement fiddling with this book for? I do not ever remember us ever being in the basement before like some weirdos down here.” Then I said, “I do not think you have to worry about if it works or not.” So I shared again the gospel message with him and I saw the joy of the Lord take place in his life. Joe, at a very early age, died of cancer, but died in the Lord.
I think of my wife, Amy, sharing with her own family back in Pennsylvania. As most people know about Amy’s story, how she came from Russia, and all of her family over there. Going back and sharing the Lord with her sister, and her husband Mike and her mom. All of the people back there, and seeing them respond and come to the Lord. Again, Mike is with Jesus today. I think at fifty three, he died of cancer and went to be with the Lord. Her mom today is with the Lord. One of Amy’s sisters sons, who died at a very early age is with the Lord. All of those things we look back and we see the finality, of course, of seeing spiritual life come and then seeing physical death come, realizing that to those in Christ, you are absent from the body and present with the Lord. The joy of knowing that truth.
I think of the different ways in which God will sometimes use us. Amy was telling a story when her mom was very sick in the hospital. She and Anne were there with her. Amy went into the waiting room with us. Shesaid, “Find me a waiting room, but with nobody there. I am just dog tired.” So she just wanted to sit down and not talk to anybody. She was sitting in there for about five minutes, feeling how tired she was. Then a man came in a bathrobe, confined in the hospital sick. He sat right down next to her and said, “Mam, do you know anything about God?” What in the world is going on here? Where did this come from? Who fired this shot? She said, “Yes I do.” He said, “Can you explain it to me? I asked about a hundred people and nobody can tell me anything about God.” So she shared the Lord with him, and saw him come to Christ. She said by the time that experience was over, not only was she not tired any more, she could have run the 500 without a car. The rejuvenation that takes place with that type of thing. It is a strange thing how all we have to do is just be ourselves and be available.
I laughed so many times about one of my dearest friends in the world, Dan Majors, in Dallas. I met Dan the first night in a funny circumstance because the church I was going to at that particular time was Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday. Every time the church doors opened up there was not a lock. We were supposed to be there. A certain form of legalistic attendance on that type of thing. I was working there as a staff member, so people did expect you to be there. In my particular case, I was raising my own support, so no one was paying me. That worked out because I was able to be a little more independent. Someone asked me to go to the Cowboy’s game that night. I was pondering over that verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord”. I was delighted in the Lord so I thought that was a good enough foundation for me. So I went to the game. This guy walked up, Dan, and introduced himself. “Are you Bob George?” “Yes.” “I understand you know something about God?” “Well, yes.” “Do you mind telling me aobut him?” We sat there and never saw a play the whole game. The entire game, we sat there talking about the Lord Jesus.