Date: July 10, 2008

Bible Text: Revelation 3:18 |


Please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 3 verse 18.  “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”


The appeal here on the part of the Lord is to the church of Laodicea.  It is for the people of that church to see their need and to see what is really worthwhile, to see what is important in their lives.  They had said in their cold, indifferent, worldly way, “We’re getting along just fine.”  They had said, “We’re rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.”  I really believe that that would be the statement from the heart of many Christians in America today.  “We’re rich and increased with goods.  Not that we wouldn’t want more, but we’re doing okay.  We don’t need anything, especially spiritually.”  But the Lord answered, “…thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”


Get the picture.  “I’m a church member; I’m just doing fine.  I’m an independent Baptist.  I’m doing fine.  I know I’m not perfect, but I’m doing fine.”  And God says, “…thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”  Our prayer to God tonight ought to be, “Lord, help me to see myself as You see me—not the way I want to look, but the way You see me.”


It’s sad when people are deceived about their spiritual condition.  I’ve known people who were deceived about their physical condition.  A lot of people are that way about many things.  “Oh, I’m just doing fine.  I don’t worry about it.”  I heard somebody say their diabetes count was something over 400, “…but I’ve got a strong heart.”  You better have!  “I’m just doing fine.”  That’s what made me think of this.  They don’t want to think about their problem.  “I’m doing fine,” and all of a sudden they collapse.  They are either dead or they are an invalid for the rest of their lives.


I’ve seen people who were deceived about their financial problem.  “Oh, I’m doing fine.  All I’ve got is $45,000 in unsecured debt.  I’m doing fine.  I’ll get it taken care of in three or four years.”  I’ve seen business people not really look at the overhead, the inventory; and, after a while, their business was gone.  It was too late.


But the most tragic thing is for somebody to be deceived about their spiritual condition.  To imagine they are doing fine when in reality they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.  And one day they are going to stand before Jesus Christ and see their nakedness.  They are going to see their wretchedness and their wickedness and how they wasted their lives.  That’s the idea behind what our Lord meant when He said, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”


It is going to be a different story than our pretend life when we stand before God, when all the records and our motives and our intents of the heart are made clear.  Some are in the forefront here—preachers, evangelists, missionaries, full-time workers.  We put missionaries or a full-time worker on a pedestal, and they think, “I’m a full-time worker.  I’m serving God.  I’m right with God.”  Not especially.


Or, there will be deacons, Sunday School teachers, people who were in leadership, and God will say, “Get back.  No, that’s not far enough.  Get back.”  Many that are first shall be last—and they will give way.  There will be some people whom we never thought much of, but they knew how to get a hold of God.  They were soulwinners, just quiet soulwinners.  They raised a good family.  You know what I am talking about.  They couldn’t give much, but comparatively they gave so much more than the rich guy who everybody said was giving so much.  The first shall be last.


Many of the Lord’s greatest servants are never really seen.  Think of this idea of intercessory prayer.  I really believe it is almost a lost cause in the day that we live in.  If you are really the type of prayer warrior you ought to be, I won’t know about it except for the results.  But let me appeal to some of you.  You are getting older.  You are retired.  You can’t give what you once gave.  You can’t do what you once did.  Maybe you are about ready to be an invalid at home.  Let me encourage you.  If you can take a breath, you can pray—and we need intercessory prayer warriors as never before.  We don’t preach on this type of thing, we don’t hit on it as much.  But as I am standing here, I believe I can honestly say we need intercessory prayer warriors as much as we need soulwinners.  Because if all we are doing is going out and knocking on doors in the flesh, we are never going to see anything really accomplished.


A preacher told a story about a man sending a note up to him one day.  The note said something to the effect of, “I’ve read that a praying pew makes for a powerful pulpit.  You can count on my end of the pew.”  We preachers do get bogged down—the devil whispers to us as we preach.  The devil fights as we preach.  We look out in the audience and see people; and the devil says, “It is not going to work.  It doesn’t work.  Forget it.”  This pastor said every time he was having a hard time keeping going, he would look to that end of the pew.  And he said it was like Aaron and Hur, holding Moses’ hands up with some power.  If we could just get to the place where a great number of people would really uphold this church, these ministries, this staff, our missionaries, in prayer!  If we could only get a great number of people who would say, “You can count on me.  I may have messed up my life in the past.  I might not be able to have a ministry like some others have had, but you can count on me!  I’m going to get a hold of God.”  That’s why you always hear me say, “If you’re prayed up, you’ll get something out of the services.”  Oh, how I depend on you to pray!


The flesh, though, our human nature, is so depraved that we always have to be on guard.  We are always trying to look good, aren’t we?  We’re always wondering what man thinks of us.  Some people are just wickedly backslidden and they say, “I don’t care what the preacher or anybody says!”  I’m not talking about that.  Don’t worry about the preacher or anybody else.  Worry about Him.  And if you do that, God will use you.  But we have to watch out.  We have to beg for the Holy Spirit to guide us and show us what is right, to shine the search light of the Word of God upon our lives.  We need to examine every motive.  Why are we doing it?  We need to even examine our prayer life.  Is it real?  Is it selfish or self-centered?  Examine every service.  Are we rendering it because of men?  Ask yourself this, how long does it take you to throw up your hands and quit when man criticizes you?  When man criticizes us, how long is it before we are ready to quit?


In Galatians 1:10, Paul said this,  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  or do I seek to please men?  for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”  Again, if I please men, I am not the servant of Christ.  God sends preachers to lead, and I am supposed to lead.  But you are not my servant.  By the way, that’s why it is so important what church you are a member of.  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  or do I seek to please men?  for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”  Are you seeking to please men or Christ?  Are you seeking to satisfy your own selfish ambitions?  Or is there a compelling passion, a passion in your heart, a yearning that you want to serve God?  You want Him to use you.  You want to see Him in your ministry, in your life, in your family.


Turn to II Corinthians 12:2.  Paul said of himself when the Lord gave him His revelation, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago…such an one caught up to the third heaven…How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter…And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations….”  He’s saying that because he has seen these things, and things were revealed to him, in order that he would not be lifted up and become swell-headed, he was given a thorn in the flesh.  We win a couple souls, or God is merciful and we raise our kids, and pretty soon we want the credit for it.


Paul says, “…lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness….”  I think this is the primary thing that Paul is trying to get across here, that we say we want the thorns to go, but sometimes they are good.  The main point Paul is trying to make is that he needed it.  After God told him why he had it, he wanted it because he would become proud without it.  He would think it was him and his strength accomplishing great things.


In II Corinthians 12:9-10 it says, “…Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  The Apostle Paul had come to the place where he could thank God for his weakness, for his thorn in the flesh, because it made it impossible to go on in his own strength.  Most of us want to do it our way, in our strength.  That’s the problem in our churches.


As certain as the Bible is true, no church will ever be hurt from the outside.  We know that, don’t we?  In fact, the very gates of hell shall not prevail against it, the Bible says.  Our church cannot be defeated from the outside.  The only people who can defeat our church are sitting right here.  You stop praying; I stop praying.  I stop getting into the Book; you stop getting into the Book.  You start putting on an act; I start putting on an act.  You decide that you do not agree too much, so you are just going to sit back.  There are some of you who think you know more than the pastor.  You are just going to do your thing.  That kind of attitude is exactly what would destroy this church, and it has destroyed thousands of churches throughout the centuries.


Listen to me.  Let the demons of hell come.  They cannot destroy this church.  Let the wicked and ungodly come.  Let nations come up.  Hitler couldn’t destroy God’s churches.  Russia took the preachers and good Christians and put them in concentration camps.  In England they put Bunyon in jail.  What did Bunyon do?  He preached from between the bars and people came to hear him.  We cannot be destroyed from the outside.  But we will be destroyed from the inside if we don’t watch it.  We like to point our fingers at the Hillary and Bill Clintons.  I don’t like them, but they can’t do anything to this church that God doesn’t allow.


Remember what happened to this church when we were attacked?  We were attacked by the newspapers, by the judicial system, by the welfare, by every group that could attack us.  What happened?  We lost some of our bus kids, and we went down in attendance.  Then God in His power exploded this church.  And that judge said, “I didn’t expect that.  I was going to bleed that place to death.”  It was miraculous.  I love to think about it.  Nobody can destroy this church but you, us.


You can’t defeat a church from the outside, but I’ll tell you what, churches all around are dangerously close to being destroyed today.  Many are destroyed.  And you know when it happened?  When I really saw it happening was in the 80’s when we were counting numbers.  “The largest church in every state of the Union is an independent Baptist church.”  The largest church here, the largest church there, the fastest-growing church here was an independent Baptist church.  Not anymore.  We rotted from within.


Internal weakness is what I’m talking about.  That’s what hurts our churches.  You say, “What internal weaknesses?”  Let me just touch on some.  Little faith.  You cannot be a good Christian without strong faith.  That’s the problem with some.  Clickety-clack.  “Dr. So-and-So says this, and I read a book here.”  The Bible is the only book we need to read.  I like to read, don’t get me wrong.  But the Bible is the only book we need to read, and it is very clear.  Some of you are in a fog and you don’t know what you want.  You don’t know what is happening.  Get in the Book!  The Book will tell you how to have a marriage, how to have children grow up for God.  The Book will tell you how to take care of your finances.  The Book will tell you how to live.  The Book will tell you, you just have to have faith.


Oh, how little faith we have.  We’re so afraid.  We make every excuse in the world to keep from knocking on a door and telling someone about Jesus.  Some of us don’t know how to give.  We’re so afraid.  Let me guarantee you something.  If you read your Bible, the Bible very clearly talks about giving a tithe.  It is very clear.  I’m not begging for money.  But I’m here telling you that if you take care of God, He’ll take care of you better than you could ever take care of yourself.  You give a simple tenth to God, and I always think you ought to give another percent or two, or even 10 or 20, as a gift.  But if you take care of that, you will be shocked at how He will take care of you financially.  You will be jumping up and down for joy.


The point I’m trying to make is that we don’t have faith.  We’re afraid, as a whole, to stand.  If you don’t like your toes stepped on, there are a lot of independent Baptist churches to go to because most pastors are afraid to hit against this idea of filth on television.  Women’s liberation.  “If I preach on women’s liberation, there are so many Christians who have allowed it into their lives…”  You know why it is coming into our churches?  Because preachers are afraid to preach against it.  You say, “I’m a new Christian…”  Read your Bible.  Have faith.  It will make a better marriage.  It will make you a happier person.  People are afraid to stand up in their pulpits and preach against lewd dress.


If I interpret the message of the scripture rightly, the church is in a life and death battle with Satan.  And every time he lifts up his head, we are to take the sword of the Lord and try to cut it off.  That’s our job.  We’re not supposed to just build buildings and sit on the inside and let the world go to the devil, either.  We’ve had a goal to keep these peep shows and pornography shops and trash out of Porter County.  Years ago there was one such place on Highway 6 and 49.  We got the men and a camera with a big, bright flash and a nice scope.  And every guy who came to that place—flash!  You know what?  It shut down!  We had a friend in Sheriff McCarthy; he helped.  But I remember a fellow whom we had hired as a music director.  He was a great piano player.  That was when I used to look for talent.  I remember we were going out to take pictures, and he came to me and said, “Do you think that is good P.R.?”  I said, “No, I don’t think it’s good P.R., but I don’t care what kind of P.R. it is.  I do believe it is our responsibility.”  Now, we can’t keep the whole world clean, but we ought to do our best in our county.


It’s not our job to hide inside these four walls.  We ought to be a testimony and a light in the community.  But so many of us don’t have faith.  And do you know how you lose your faith?  You can be saved and lose strength in your faith—not lose your salvation, but lose strong faith by disobeying what is right.  You know what the Bible says.  And if you consistently go against God’s Word, you go against what you know God wants you to do, you will become weaker, and weaker, and weaker. “I’d like to give, but I can’t.  I know my kids are not what they ought to be, but I wish…”  The principal calls you in and it’s the principal’s fault, it’s the teacher’s fault, it’s your wife’s fault.  No, man, it’s your fault.  But you go against it.  Faith is that thing that lends certainty to our message.  The Apostle Paul said if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?  And our problem is that so many Christians have lost their certain sound.


Some people are afraid to testify.  Some people say, “Well I don’t go on church soulwinning, but I witness at work.”  The guy who says that does not witness at work.  He talks about religion at work.  If your life does not bear a ringing testimony to the saving power of Jesus, it is because you are not sure of it yourself.  Certainty of a triumphant faith is what we need.  We “hope so.”  No, the world doesn’t need a “hope-so” religion.  The world needs a “know-so” Christian.  That’s what people sometimes do not like about our church.  They think we are “know-it-alls.”  That’s not true.  But if the Bible says something about it, we’re very strong on the issue.


We need the certainty of Job.  Remember Job when he lost his children, and he lost all his material goods, and he lost his health.  Then his wife said, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?”  And then his friends accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite, unable to understand the providence of God.  Yet Job was sure of one thing in Job 19:25, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”  I know He’s coming.  “And though after my skin worms destroy this body…”  If I die, and the worms eat me, “…yet in my flesh shall I see God:  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another…”  Amen.  That’s the way we ought to be.  The devil says, “God is not with you.  Look at you.”  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him….”  We ought to be sure.


What gave Paul such courage to preach the gospel?  His absolute assurance of a personal experience with the Lord.  When he was writing young Timothy, he talked about the suffering and then he said, “…Nevertheless I am not ashamed:  for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”  What enabled that little handful of Christians to turn the world upside-down?  Their certainty.  And that’s what we need.  Some of you are up and down.  You know you should be good Christians, you try to be good Christians, and you wish you were good Christians.  Why don’t you just get right with God tonight?  It will solve that problem.  You sit there and say, “I don’t see the Bible helping my marriage.”  You’ve got to follow the Bible.  “I don’t see the Bible taking care of my kids.  I send the kids to Fairhaven Baptist Academy, and they are not what they ought to be.”  You’ve got to follow the Bible!  We have had hundreds of people through the years who sent their kids to Fairhaven Baptist Academy, and they turned out worthless because their parents did not have a certainty about their lives.  If you have a certainty, they will turn out right and you will turn out right.


Peter and John, when they were threatened by the Sanhedrin, said, “…we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”  The world has enough doubts and uncertainty.  The world needs a clarion call.  “I believe in Jesus.  I believe this is His Book for us.  I believe.”  But before you say that, you have to be real in your life.  And before He’s real in your life, you have to be given totally over to Him.  We don’t want to just study what the Bible has to say about Christ.  We really need to search our lives.  That was what these men’s and women’s retreats were about.  That’s why I begged you to come.  It is a time when you can search your life.  When God deals with you in the evening, you don’t have to go back to the work-a-day world.  You’re there, and you can stay and allow God to deal with you more.  In the morning He can deal with you more.  We have to place ourselves in the center of God’s will.  Christ becomes real to us.  Jesus Christ ought to be as real to us as our wife is, as our husband is.  Jesus Christ ought to be just as real as I am standing in front of you.  He needs to become the great certainty in your life.  And when He is, you will live for Him.  You won’t be afraid to witness.  You won’t wonder about tithing.  You’ll raise up your family.


And then, there is a weakness of self-satisfaction.  We are doing well financially.  I think the giving shows something of the heart of the people.  But we shouldn’t be satisfied because we pay our bills.  As far as buildings are concerned, the next three or four years are going to be so exciting.  But we shouldn’t be satisfied with buildings.  We shouldn’t be satisfied because we see a few souls saved.  We shouldn’t be satisfied until we see the power of God manifest in our lives.  I think of the old prophet when he talked to Israel about being satisfied and sitting comfortably in the blessings of God.  He compared them to an eagle that had pushed her little ones out of the nest—how the eagle stirs up the nest and gets those prickly things in there.  She makes them uncomfortable, gets them on the edge, and then pushes them out.  Don’t be self-satisfied.  God doesn’t want you to be.  He wants you flying.  He wants you soaring.


That’s exactly what God did at Pentecost when the church began to prosper and they saw all those souls saved—thousands added to the church.  They were going to just sit and enjoy it, but what did God do?  He sent persecution.  They ran for their lives, and some of them lost their lives.  And what happened?  Millions came to Christ.  We can’t be satisfied with ourselves and be used of God.  We should never be satisfied with past blessings and blessings upon our church.


What I see as a pastor is that the most self-assured are the weakest Christians.  They think they can sit and watch that old, stupid “boob tube” and watch the soaps and watch reality television.  I’ve got a challenge for you.  Maybe you have not been saved very long.  Turn it off for 30 days.  I challenge you.  If you turn it back on, it will shock you as to what you have been watching.  My mother had a television, and every time I visited her, she would always have the television on and never turn it off.  We would sit there, and the cursing would be on there, and the homosexuality, all that type of thing.  She would always say, “I never heard that on this program before.”  And I’d say, “Mom, it’s because your preacher son is sitting here.  It was there, but you were used to it.  Why don’t you get rid of it?”  Thirty days, that’s my challenge.  You say, “I only watch the news.”  Thirty days.  It could change your life.


The great weakness of churches is self-satisfaction or indifference.  I think of people who seem to care nothing about sin in their lives, or care nothing about souls going to hell.  The thing that is killing churches is not the opposition of the devil as I’ve said already.  It’s not government intervention.  The thing killing churches is indifference.  And pastors feel like Jeremiah must have felt when he said, “Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”  Nothing on earth will kill the spirit of a pastor or the leadership of a church more than indifference.


Then, quickly, many have diluted their Bible.  Of course, the Bible itself can’t be, but they have done it in their own mind.  They’ve diluted the message of the Bible.  Someone said we’ve diluted the dynamite of God.  All over the land, independent Baptist churches are changing.  That’s why I encourage you men to wear shirts and ties and coats to our services.  I don’t want to change with the world.  I don’t think it’s a sin not to wear a coat to church; however, we don’t want to change like the world.  Do you know what is common in independent Baptist churches now?  Coffee.  You sit there and drink coffee.  It’s very common to have donuts in the back.  I’m trying to teach in Sunday School classes, and people are eating donuts and drinking coffee.  Eat them at home!  Drink your coffee at home!  This is church!  I’m not saying it’s a sin to drink coffee in church, but listen, what I’m trying to say is we’re following the world.


And preachers are tickling the ears of their people.  They are not going to preach against women’s liberation, they might lose some people.  They are not going to preach against lewd dress, they may lose some people.  Tickling the ears—we don’t need that.  We need to hear what John said when he said the axe is laid at the root of the tree.  Or Jesus, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye are like unto whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”  You say I’m too strong a preacher.  Tell that to Jesus.  “You’re like a whited sepulcher.  You’re all pretty and beautiful on the outside, and inside you are full of dead, stinking, rotten bodies.”  I couldn’t preach that hard.  Again he said, “…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”


We need to declare the whole gospel of God and not adulterate one word.  The world needs to be told, “…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” and that God is no respecter of persons, whether they like it or not.  Turn to Matthew 3:7.  The judgment of God is falling upon so-called or ex-fundamental churches all over the nation.  The judgment of God will fall on you personally and your family, and His judgment is not going to be lifted until we repent.  You say, “I guess I’ll go to church.”  Going to church doesn’t do it.  “I’ll guess I’ll read the Bible.”  Reading the Bible won’t do it.  “I guess I’ll tithe.”  Tithing won’t do it.  We’ve got to repent!


Can you see them calling John the Baptist “narrow”?  He said in Matthew 3:7, “…O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father:  for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”  That’s pretty strong.  Don’t you think they thought Christ was a fanatic when He did what is recorded in Matthew 21:12.  Picture this.  He “…cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”  I can hear them saying, “He’s crazy!”


The world has always called Christians who stand for God crazy.  They’ve always said they were fanatics.  John Wesley was preaching, I understand, for about 12 years before he had a real experience with God.  He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and went out as a firebrand to literally turn England over.  In fact, he really did a work in America also.  It is said there is a plaque in the place where that happened, and there was an old preacher who came and read that plaque and the story of the scribe.  He just started crying, and he lifted up his eyes weeping, saying, “Lord, do it again!  Lord, O God, do it again!”


Christian, aren’t you tired of just plugging along looking good, acting good, worrying about what other people think?  I feel like that old preacher.  “Lord, do it again!”  That’s what we need today.  But we will never see it as long as we are deceiving ourselves about our true spiritual condition.  God said, “anoint thine eyes… that thou mayest see.”  Don’t you want to see yourself as God sees you?  I hope so.

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