Sometimes God seems to overact.
There are times I wish God would have knocked me down like He knocked Paul down. God knocked him off of his animal and shined a light and made
him blind, then sent him to a man who had never seen him before who
would tell him everything about him, lay hands on him, pray for him and
he would see again.
That would make a quick believer out of anybody!
When I was doubting, I wanted to find something Thomas had said, and
speak with him. It looks to me like God didn’t quite tighten the screws
on Thomas the way He did on Paul. He boxed Paul in. With others He
deals more gently.
I do not understand the mystery of God’s initiative. I am not a
predestinarian; God leaves room for decision and freedom, but the
initiative starts in God’s sovereign will. It is embodied and immortalized
in that poem about “The Hound of Heaven.” God goes after a man. It
might come from a contact with someone who starts jarring your frame
and opening your eyes, or it might go to the extreme, as in the case of
Paul, where God literally knocks you down or checks you and brings
you to a dead stop on your trail. But anywhere God comes into a life, it
is not an accident. David said, “Where is he?”
In the New Testament, the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) God is the seeker. The first question God asks man in the Bible is “Where are you?”
Now, I could preach for an hour on “the unpardonable sin.” I have heard evangelists trying to scare people to death with stories of someone on a deathbed wanting to come to God, but who could not come. Just scratch that out of your theological portfolio, will you?
The devil is sure not going to make you want to come! Jesus said, “No man
comes unless the Father draws him.” I do not really know what the unpardonable sin is. The Pharisees were guilty of crediting Beelzebub,
the devil, with the acts of Jesus. When Jesus said there is an
unpardonable sin, He referenced that act. Another place in the New
Testament speaks of a “sin unto death.” (1 John 5:16)
The book of Hebrews speaks of those acts for which there is no remission of sin. There are lots of different expressions in the New Testament that speak
of putting one beyond the pale. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul speaks of
believers who know better, but persist in their sins until after a while
God turns them over to a strong delusion, they believe a lie and are
damned; God leaves them alone.
His wife was beautiful. He was afraid he might be killed in that heathen land by someone who wanted his wife, so he had her agree with him they would tell a lie and say she was his sister. So lack of faith produced the circumstance of fear, which produced a situation of sinful lying. It almost cost him his life. Pharaoh was more honest than Abram and asked him why he had told such a lie, and then Pharaoh sent him away with his wife. Genesis 13 finds Abram returning to the place: “Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him...he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place....” Circle those words, “unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place....” Circle those words again, “unto the place of the altar.” (Genesis 13:1-4) Abram returned from the place of his sin, and where did he return? “Unto the place of his tent” and “unto the place of the altar.” The tent and the altar characterize Abram’s life, and that is not an accident. A tent was always ready to move and Abram’s characteristic was that of obedient following of the Lord. The tent characterized that state of mind of submission to God’s leading: wherever He said, “Strike the tent and go,” he went. An altar is always a place of death in God’s book. It is a place where God’s rights are recognized, our rights are denied and our lack of rights recognized. An altar is a place of sacrifice, where one gives up and God receives. It is a place where you recognize God has the right to do what He wills. You give up the right to any claims on yourself and you die a “living death” in the expression of obedience to God as you offer a sacrifice in your place.
Jesus was a friend of sinners: He loved them. I want the world to know we love them. We don’t have to condone their sin; we don’t have to wrap holy robes around ourselves. I don’t think Jesus made a big deal out of His spirituality. I don’t believe we have to make people so uncomfortable with our presence all the time.
If you have God in you, you do not have to work so hard to announce it. You will be different, because “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” If you are totally committed to Him, if nothing matters as much to you in this life as doing God’s will, then that will make you different. His burden will consume you. You will be aware of His presence in the ordinary stuff of the day when you iron clothes in the home, when you drive down the freeway and when you work on the job. The majority of this community will never come to hear a preacher preach, but they will watch your sermon, that bringing of God’s nature into the stuff of history.
I’m examining my Christian experience as I preach today. I always preach to myself and then let you listen in. What does Jesus mean to me and to you? Do we really know what has happened?
Do we really understand that while everybody is wandering around in a place of no pastures, God sent for and fetched us?
This is the test: take the whole world, but give me Jesus. “Let him have it all. I got You!”
The one who has come unto the king’s table and begun to eat there has come to Jerusalem. Jerusalem means “the foundation of peace.” From Lodebar, a place of no pastures, to the foundation of peace.
That is what salvation is about.
Faith is hanging your body in action on what the mind has seen
and the heart has responded to. In the English language we have a nifty
separation between faith, as we define it, as just belief and obedience, so
we can sit in a congregation and say, “Well, that’s obvious. Amen, sure
it’s true!” and march out the door and promptly hang our body on
Now, I don’t think God gets excited over long prayers just
because they are long. If you’re going to pray for all the missionaries in
the world while I’m waiting to eat, I’m going to be eating before you get
done. I happen to believe some people never pray until they get a chance
to show their prayer off, and it’s obvious when they start praying. Some
people can zero in and hit it home in a stroke; they are there at the
I’m not suggesting a penance of long prayer. The issue is consecutive order. When you have tuned out the pressure of that outer court, and you have turned off human need and you’ve brought Him center stage in your attention, stay there a while. Minister to Him! Have you ever known those times when the Spirit begins to move in and you
lose all concept of time? Stay there.
That is what I ask of this church today: a band and a company of people who will settle for nothing less than genuine spirituality, who will ask themselves week after week, “Am I abiding in Him?”
We know, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Analyze your commitment: does it match His?
If it doesn’t, then draw nigh.
Pastor Melissa Scott continues: Analyze your concern; if it doesn’t match His, then draw nigh to Him and renew the experience. Analyze your attitude about being a flowing light of the gospel and a flowing spring of His nature wherever your life, routines, and tedious detail take you. Analyze your dependence upon what other people do. Analyze your attitude toward the sinner. Analyze your motives. Do you come to church to be ministered to or do you live to minister?
Look at your humility; look at your own results among loved ones. For too long the church world has been running out bellowing with the mouth in little formulas of salvation.
We need to bring that ineffable nature of Jesus until those closest to us will wonder, “What’s made him different? He’s different every day.”
That is what spirituality is, and the Spirit came to be that in you and me if you give Him the chance.
Worthlessness, unworthiness. I feel unworthy every day that God would let me be a part of His creative work in the lives of men; unworthy as a vessel because “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
I feel as unworthy as Isaiah felt when he saw the Lord. (Isaiah 6:5) There was a time when I was silly enough to “volunteer” for God, when I was younger and wanted to do His work for Him. I think I’ve begun to understand what a wonder it is that God, who has angels to do His work, lets us do it. I’m not the only one who feels this way. When you really understand God, a sense of unworthiness comes, and the sin that God forever has to deal with most harshly is pride. You can’t even get through that barrier; but once God’s broken the barrier of pride, then the devil starts gathering his forces and would press the attack until we feel worthless.
Now, God never dealt with man with rose-tinted glasses. When Jesus came, He said that we were lepers, we were blind, we were sick in need of a physician. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He said it is the sick who need a physician and to them He came. Again, I want the Word to penetrate individual hearts.
You can smile at the world, but down deep the devil has you on the defensive. So if you feel worthless in the place where you are, read the parables of Matthew 13, and know the context of those parables taught by Jesus. He teaches three parables: a treasure in a field, a pearl of great price, and fish in a net. He says the Kingdom is like this: there is a treasure in a field and the price paid is sufficient to buy the whole field, that you might get the treasure. For too long, I’ve heard “the pearl of great price” mistreated in theology.
That pearl of great price is not Jesus. A goodly merchant will sell everything he has to get the pearl of great price. And they will drag in the good fish along with the bad fish; because the good fish have the value, they can be sorted out later.
If you are here today helpless, beaten down, physically sick or sick in spirit and your real need is way down deep behind the front; though your neighbors and the friends who would carry you may not know it, there is an ever-present sense of personal guilt and personal attack on yourself; will you listen to Jesus today? “Be of good courage; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
In that wondrous promise to the saints: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” (James 5:14-15)
What does James add? “And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” Jesus is here. He is trying to tell you, don’t be afraid because of your past sins. Don’t cower in His presence because of your past sins. That grip of “penance” on the heart of the church, which we inherited from one of the great streams of the church, stands between so many people and the cross. “He paid it all,” as the old song says, so throw away your fears and let me do what the translators did in Exodus 14:13.
Instead of saying “be of good courage,” let me say, “Don’t you be even one little bit afraid, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Get that out of the way, and then listen to Him say, “take up your bed, walk.”
If God begins to bless, you can count on something. As God begins to bless, in the agony, in the prayer and in the seeking, one of these days someone will come crashing through that door to lambaste all the rest of us on our lack of spirituality. Some who claim to be seeking “deep things” in God seem to get more concerned about the nonspirituality of others than they are about their own condition. Elisha didn’t make an issue; the sons of the prophets made it an issue.
As you begin to hunger and thirst after God’s best, and I make nothing super-mystical out of this, there are some things that God has that He just doesn’t turn loose of for nothing. My Bible says that when we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
Have you ever been thirsty? Have you ever been really hungry? Hunger and thirst; when you seek Me with all of your heart, the Scripture says, you will find Me. (Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13)
The saint in the Old Testament describes the yearning heart after God like that of a heart that pants for the water brook. (Psalm 42:1) The thirsty animal wants the brook. Elisha had a hunger, but he didn’t make something super-spiritual out of it; he never said anything. Elijah, the master, tested him. When the sons of the prophets criticized him, saying Elijah’s going away, he said, “I know it.” He said to Elijah, “I won’t stay here.” His hunger made him want what he could get from God. God tested it and the crowd tested it. That won’t change today: if you want God’s best, the majority is quite satisfied with less. He could have become the principal of the school of the prophets in any one of those cities and spent the rest of his days there. But he wouldn’t; he wanted God’s best.