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.
As we prayed for God to bring this church to unity, unity starts with you. It doesn’t start with your brother. It doesn’t start with a member of your family.
It starts with you.
You can always tell when God is really on the scene. The presence of God so overpowers that the true saints of God can only say what Isaiah said, “Woe is me; I am undone!” When that Spirit comes you will ask yourself, “What are you trying to do to me, God?” And like Rutherford, the old saint, you will say, “Thank God for the hammer; thank God for the file; thank God for the fire.” You can get mad at that iron hammerhead that hits you until you recognize God might have His hand on the handle.
Are you ready to let Him do with you what He wants? Or do you really think you’ve got all of Christ flowing through you that can come out? I don’t think anybody thinks that. Are you flinching on the wheel?
Why don’t you quit looking at the wheel and look up at His hand that is shaping you. I am not here to just preach words today. These are great days for the people of God. As Clara Grace used to say, “God is building a beautiful thing with His church and He is not finished yet.”
God has a right to show off, and He is going to show off. A selfwilled favorite of God, the crowning cherub on the hill of God, looked in the mirror one day and became lifted up in pride and took a third of Heaven with him as he rebelled against God. Someone has said God is going to fill that vacuum in Heaven with the song of the redeemed, and one day He will put on display the sons of God until all the universe can know God doesn’t fail when He says something, “Let us make man in our image.”
That is what Christianity is all about. If you are here with a sense of failure, join the team. In the Old Testament it was tough. In the New Testament our Potter bought the whole field of broken vessels that He might start over with you.
In Romans 8, we read that Jesus is up there interceding for us and doing a good enough job, but in our limitations there needs to be articulation with specifics, because God responds to specifics. And I have said if your toe hurts, will you not pray some big long prayer to God, “O God, high on Your throne with angels flying around, door post shaking, smoke billowing, great and wonderful to be seen and heard….”
Just say, “Lord, my toe hurts, will You heal it?” “Little toe,” if you need to be specific: “My little toe hurts.” That is what the names of God mean. Are you in darkness?
“Who is among you?” Your darkness no doubt is specific, and you have no light? “Let him trust in the name of the LORD.” Find a name that gives light to the specific darkness you are in. Are you sick? Is that your darkness? Exodus 15: “I am Jehovah-rapha.
I am the LORD that healeth thee.” The phrase, “Let him trust” uses a word in the Greek Septuagint that is translated “faith” in the New Testament, which always adds a dimension beyond mere mental assent. You are not trusting if you just believe with your mind. You are not even trusting if, in addition to believing with the mind, you respond with your heart. You are not trusting until you literally hang your body and attach it in action on what the mind has agreed to and the heart has responded to. In my darkness, I am told if it is sickness, “Let him trust in the name of the LORD”: God’s name, in Exodus 15, is Jehovah-raphe . He said it.
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?”
Hereby 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.
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.
As C. S. Lewis says, the mystery of grace is that God who needs nothing would covenant a plan that would let us stumble along and share with Him in His Kingdom, and would covenant a plan where God would take delight in my miserable gifts to Him when He created it all.
It is an act of grace. Nabal was given the opportunity of his life, but he missed the opportunity. He failed to understand with spiritual ears attuned that his was the great opportunity to share with God’s true king. Nabal was so wrapped up in what he saw and what he had that he missed the opportunity. God smote him, and he died; he never made it into the kingdom. There are rich people today who can no longer listen with a simple, sensitive ear to God’s whisper, God’s tug on their heart. They are pulled so many directions because of their riches that they build a shield and miss the opportunity when God comes by. Businessmen would empty their pockets to pay the bill to send Elijah to Mt. Carmel, where all the excitement was going on and the activity was obvious; but they wouldn’t give him a penny to send him to Cherith, where the brook dried up. He was just as much in God’s will going both directions. There is nothing wrong with riches; it is whether or not you look at those as your possession or whether or not you are the Lord’s completely and wholly, and alert to that which God would give as an opportunity to share in His Kingdom. Nabal missed it. Let me tell you, God is going to do something with this church. Some of you are aware of the great things God has done and without that foundation and platform we could not go from here, but God has only just started. I want you to know that. And the true King gives the same opportunities today.
Another word is also necessary to understand this law: “Let your moderation be known.” Kenneth Wuest translates this passage: “Let your reasonableness and your willingness to be content with less than your due be known.” Now, English is a funny language. If you use the word post, you are liable to think of everything from a fence post to dropping a letter in a mail box to a breakfast cereal. The English word known has many varieties of meaning, but the Greek word here is very precise.
There is knowing that can come from just seeing something and having the mind assimilate it; logically, it is consistent or it has meaning. There are other kinds of knowing. The Greek word being used here is a knowing that is the result of experiencing. It is a knowing that is strictly limited to a knowledge that occurs only when you experience something. Paul is saying to these Philippians, and to me and you today, forever conquered by our circumstance, forever fretting, forever upset, never exhibiting joy, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say,
Rejoice.” How? Let your state of mind be known, and let it so be exhibited, that your willingness to be content with less than your due will be known. Let it actually so flow out of you that you are experienced by other people as being that kind of person.
Pastor Melissa Scott continues by saying that's easier to say than to do. Have you ever seen a family argument? Have you ever been in one? You are dying to have it made up. But you sit there and boil and say, “You are going to apologize for every jot and tittle, item by item, lay them all out and make every single element right!”
Or somebody has done you some damage. You would like to have peace, but “He did this to me and I’m going to have my pound of flesh. I’m going to get what I have coming!”
Pastor Scott goes on to explain that only then, when you’ve forced it out of them and every inch has been explained, apologized for, and paid for will we graciously smile and “forgive.”
PHILIPPIANS 4:4: “REJOICE.” Circle that word, please. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” When God repeats Himself, pay attention. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”
Have you ever wondered why the apostle Paul in the New Testament and David in the Old Testament are quoted so much and why they have had such an enduring impact on Christianity? Of all men, they seem to have lived the Christian life where we have to live it.
David, the writer of psalms in the Old Testament, knew joy but he also knew defeat and sorrow. He knew victory and he knew isolation; he knew rejection and he knew success. He just about had it all in the way of experience. So he can write to us about what God means in the kind of life that we have to live. You can always find him talking right to the point.
When you read David’s psalms, you don’t have to feel that there is some esoteric, far-out spiritual phraseology that cannot reach you. He speaks to you right where you are.
Paul does the same. Two-thirds of the New Testament Epistles are from his pen. He lived life in the arena. In order that he might give the gospel without charge, he made tents; he worked like other men.
When Paul tells you something, you can always know that he is not preaching down to you, mouthing words. When he says it, inexcusable is the man who says, “He just doesn’t understand what I’m going through or he wouldn’t say that.”
Do you know where Paul was when he said, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice”? He was in prison, and not a pleasant one, either. Do you know to whom he was writing? To people who 11 years earlier had been born.
Now, the laws of the Spirit involve you taking charge of yourself.
We have been defining faith as more than just belief. It’s hanging your body on what you know God has said in His Word. Will you honestly confess you have been a little guilty on occasion of not being so “moderate,” as we’ve defined it? How many of us can admit we’ve done a little anxious caring recently? Would you like to put God’s law in motion? You can take hold of yourself and say, “I’m going to put God’s law in motion until my family and people around me can know my moderation and can experience the joy I find in the Lord. He is enough.
Take everything else. I know whom I have believed.” Now, claim the victory.
I’m searching for men and women today. But I’m fishing for the real trophies: the the uncommon kind of person who is not satisfied with the ordinary. So much of life squeezes everybody into the ordinary.
I don’t know what modern society would do with some of the “heroes of faith” if one were to come in and say that a bush talked to him. Or if another (Balaam, not a hero of faith) were to come in and say that his donkey talked to him. But God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
God needs some people who are willing to give it their all.
There is a strange saying in the Gospel of John, at the end of chapter 2, speaking of Jesus: “When he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”
Pastor Scott continues . . . In the name of evangelism, some people forever picture God, or our Lord, hesitantly waiting outside a heart’s door begging to come in. This is why, in our services, we have added the chorus “He is Lord” to the chorus “He’s the Savior of My Soul.” In the eagerness to get the good news out, we may caricature the fact that God comes in love. He comes to us in love, but He doesn’t come begging.