(Including thoughts from “The Interior Castle” by Saint Teresa of Avila)
Lord Jesus, King of peace, reign in our hearts. Come glorify Your name with the love You give us for Yourself--may we never want anything but You. Lord, when our desire is fully for you, no good act seems boring or empty or dead. Purify us in Your light and empty us of all that hinders. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Bear with me in a little foolishness, Church. I am well aware that this example is going to set some of your teeth on edge. Stay with me though, and hear this well. Here’s a story for y’all:
A man is driving from California to Texas. A ghost appears in the passenger seat of his car. Scared, the man stops the car on the side of the road and turns to the figure, who seems to be only half there--the man can see trees and a highway sign through the ghost’s body.
“I want one thing,” the ghost says to him. “You must love me all the days of your life. If I return on the day of your death and find that you haven’t loved me, you will be punished for all eternity.” The ghost gives him a book of instructions for how the ghost wants the man to live, and the ghost disappears.
The man drives on. Let’s say he’s a smart man, smart enough to know that what is invisible is every bit as real what is plain, so he devotes himself day and night to trying to love the ghost. He spends hours reading the book he had been given; he meditates on it constantly; he memorizes large swaths of it; he speaks of loving the ghost to all of his friends, eventually converting a large number of them to follow the path as well. He rejoices in finally knowing how he was meant to live his life.
And finally comes the day of his death. The ghost appears again, and the man lies on his deathbed before him. The man says, “I have tried every way that I know how to love you. Has it been enough?”
The ghost says to him, “You are no closer to the love of me than when I first met you.” He sends the man off to Hell without any hesitation.
Now, obviously, in the story, the ghost is Jesus and the man is any supposed Christian. But this story is not an illustration of our relationship with God--rather, it’s supposed to be an illustration of what Satan wants us to think our relationship with God is, similar to “The Screwtape Letters” by CS Lewis. So why did the man fail?
As the story says, it’s because he did not love. He failed to follow the first commandment. There was no real connection between the man and the ghost, because the ghost didn’t provide one. He simply said, “Hey, love me or I’ll torture you forever,” and then he went off and drank margaritas on the side of a pool in a spirit-realm all-inclusive resort. The best the man could do, the best he was capable of doing in his nature, was to fall in love with his conception of the ghost as presented in the book, in other words the idea of the ghost. This is most definitely not the ghost himself, and its end was eternal damnation.
Why did the man fail to love? How can we say that? The man moved mountains in the name of Jesus! He evangelized a ton, he read his Bible, he prayed, he was the real deal! Doesn’t doing good things mean we love Jesus?
No. Listen to me, Church. Doing good things is a symptom of loving Jesus--it is an indication that we love Jesus. But doing good things, even following the law of the Old Testament, will get no one into Heaven. No one. All of mankind is corrupt in our very nature, and all our good deeds are like menstrual rags. We have nothing to offer God that will please Him, unless we are washed in His Holy Spirit and we become new men who love God by His grace. (Matt. 7:21-23)
This means you are not a Christian because you stopped smoking weed. You’re not a Christian because you don’t watch porn anymore. You’re not a Christian because you stopped drinking, or stopped lying, or stopped making fun of Jimmy behind his back, or stopped judging poor people, or stopped having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You are only a Christian when God fills you with His Spirit and turns your love away from the world and to Himself.
Galatians 5:2-4, hear this, Church: “I, Paul, say to you (the Galatians) that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by law; you have fallen away from grace.” Circumcision in Galatians is a test case representing all fleshly efforts to deserve God’s Presence. Therefore, hear me now, doing good things does not make you deserving of God. We only enter God’s Presence through Jesus. That’s it.
Now, I can see it coming, someone’s gonna tell me, but the man actually saw the Lord! Yes, he did see the Lord. Did you see the Lord? Has that happened in your life? Have you seen Jesus in a dream, or a vision, or something? Did God physically come to you? Guess what: That vision didn’t save you. It didn’t make you special. It didn’t add any righteousness to you in God’s sight. Like the rest of us, you too must fall on your face and beg for God to grant you salvation. God spoke to Balaam audibly seven times, but his heart loved the wages of unrighteousness--his obedience was a performance put on for God, a play he acted out. And God spoke to Israel about a trillion times through dreams and prophets and angels but did it change their hearts? Were they able to keep the law because of that? Were they righteous?
Listen to me: You are not a special Christian because of how God decided to save you. We can get so caught up in our stories, our testimonies, you know? We can decide that they indicate our value, that they show how important we are, and the cooler they are the better we are. But this is not biblical at all. All believers are equal, Church, from the apostle Paul to the dude who got saved this morning after getting wild, black-out drunk last night. All believers are equal. At our salvation, none of us bring anything of value to God.
If you have a crazy testimony, that’s awesome--but you’re a normal Christian. Give glory to God just like the rest of us that when you hated him, He rescued you. (Rom. 5:8)
I’m gonna go back to the story now, and here’s the point of it, Church of God, listen to this: Man is not capable of loving something that he cannot interact with. This is the nature of love: It requires a consistent relationship, a period of time with repeated interactions that affect us emotionally. Love without interaction dies very quickly. Therefore, if we can’t actually sense something, whether emotionally or physically or spiritually or whatever, we are not capable of loving it. (You can, certainly, fall in love with the idea of something, such as the idea of fame or a woman or riches or etcetera. But this follows the same rule--you dote on the object of your affection, savoring it in your mind again and again, and those consistent and repeated interactions affect you emotionally. So this instance fits within our definition.)
Now, this is why the man failed--he couldn’t interact with the ghost. He was incapable. The best he could do was invent a ghost, imagine what he thought the ghost was like, and worship that. He couldn’t see the ghost, or touch the ghost, or talk to the ghost, or anything. Think about this in your life, Church--this is exactly the opposite of God revealing Himself through the Word and filling you with His Spirit. Do you see Jesus in your life each day? Are you at all like the man, who invented a god to experience, or do you interact with the Holy Spirit every day? Does God actually come to you in your life?
Take a moment to pray into these things now. Beg God to fill you and to come to you, so you can taste Him and see that He is good. (Psa. 34:8)
Now, to return to our work, this little nightmare story illustrates the exact opposite of how our loving Jesus serves us in real life. Okay? Our life is not at all like the story I just told.
How? Jesus does not command us to love Him and then leave us to work out the details on our own. We are not alone. Instead, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, He shows Himself to us again and again and again in order to be with us.
This morning, I got up and I read my Bible, and I read a little bit of one of the Psalms. And, man, the Lord was there, you know what I mean? Only one of those verses, I was savoring it in my mind, just relishing the goodness of God to His people, and His holiness, and the wonderful nature of His Holy Spirit in me. Think about that: God took the time to come to me this morning. He showed up. Billions of people on Earth, and God came to me this morning in order to be with me, one on one. When you spend time with God, God comes to you, one on one, in order to spend time with you. God loves us, Church. God loves you. Never doubt that.
This is what our relationship with God is, these frequent, repeated immersions in the Holy Spirit--over time, they produce love, and we slowly give up everything else in our life in order to be with God. Remember this: The mind which is totally set on Christ, which thinks about Christ as much as possible, is full of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, but the mind which is full of the things of Earth is pulled between competing desires. There is no peace for the man whose desires are split. So Jesus comes to us in the Holy Spirit, and gives us the opportunity of filling our lives with the simplicity of His joy by allowing us to focus on Him.
Another thing to note is that we aren’t capable of loving God without Him first enabling us to observe Him and interact with Him, and this is not in our control. This is an important thing to think about, Church. You didn’t come to God because you’re awesome, or you have some skill God wants to use, or you were wise enough to submit to Him while your brother is too stubborn, or something like that. You’re not special in that way--it wasn’t due to how good you are that you became a Christian. God revealed Himself to you because He chose you, and He could’ve chosen someone else, but He didn’t. He loves you, and He’s chosen you to lavish His grace upon, to fill you with Himself as the food and drink that satisfies your soul. This is a result of His mind-blowing, deep-as-the-ocean, wide-as-the-sky love for you. (1 Cor. 1:26-31)
He comes to us individually, to spend time with us as individuals, because He loves us individually. You are not better than other Christians--but you are very, very loved.
I’m going to split this teaching into two parts from this section on. The first will deal with our initial salvation and what it means for most of us to love God at that time, at our first knowing Him, and the second will deal with the rest of our life with God, the working out of our salvation.
Here’s part number one. Listen to this. This is how we begin the journey of loving God: He comes to us and shows us Himself, and we weed out our sinful habits with His help, and change the decisions we make to reflect His influence on us. In other words, we repent by getting rid of sin, and we believe by reorienting the way we live around the reality of God’s existence. We repent and believe, get it?
Hanging out with folks who are loving God in this phase often seems like they’ve been baptised with the baptism of John the Baptist, you with me? John the Baptist came and he called people to repent. He called them to follow a law, to clean their life up, to throw off sinful habits and present themselves holy to the Lord. He also warned them to factor God into all of their decisions--in other words, to believe in His reality. Repent and believe.
Now don’t get me wrong here, Church, when you’re living in this spiritual time of life, often the Presence of God is on us thick and heavy, and that’s awesome. You can see people who have just come to God who are experiencing the Holy Spirit in a crazy, deep, wonderful way. So I don’t want to say that people in this phase of Christian life don’t love God--they do, they really do, and they’re blessed often with this unusual outpouring of God’s Spirit. It’s their love for God that pushes them toward the radical obedience that they display a lot of the time.
But what I want to point out is that often, their love for God hinges around what they do. They often understand God as if He is asking them to work for Him. This is a totally normal phase of Christian growth, and if you’re in that phase right now, that’s really great--your theology is going to change one day, though, so listen to what I say to the other group. Your love is going to grow from the child’s who loves his parents because his needs are met, to the adult’s who loves his parents based on the relationship between them and because he knows the love they have for him.
But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy God thoroughly every single day, I hope you get up in the morning and read your Bible and pray and listen to worship music and immerse yourself in great teaching and are soaked in His Presence and fullness and joy.
To these folks who are in this stage, I say this: Focus hard on resisting sin. Hear me when I say this: Resisting sin is a primary battlefront of our life, all of our lives, and you’re in a crucial stage. It’s crucial because there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord. No one. You with me there, Church? If there isn’t an element of holiness in your life, you will not see God--ever. And, as an indication of that, you won’t enter into God’s Presence on Earth either. Your joy in God will be nothing. It will be fleshly. It will be created of you. But to those who are holy, who fight their sin like Hell is breathing down their necks, God has promised that He will satisfy you in His Presence--He will fill you with true food and drink, He will quiet you by His love, you will find pleasures forevermore at His right hand. So, to everyone who is in this stage of ‘God loves me because of what I do,’ rock on and battle that sin and let’s enter into God’s joy more and more every day, okay?
There’s a reason I’m giving this specific encouragement to you and not something else. It’s because this ain’t gonna be fun, guys. Hear me, now: It’s not fun to fight sin. It hurts. Your flesh literally dies when you deny it sinful, worldly pleasures. When you stop masturbating, you go nuts for a time as your body fights against that. When you try to stop judging folks for how prideful you think they are, same thing. When you stop smoking weed, same thing--your body gets bored. It wants the fun of sin, wants to enjoy sin, and it’ll be really uncomfortable for you to fight that.
But the joy of God is better than the struggle of fighting sin. Do you hear that? Can I get an amen? It really is. The pleasure of God will thoroughly and totally outweigh the cost of giving up your sin. And this joy is eternal. You know how long that porno is gonna last? An hour, if it’s a long one, but you won’t even watch all of it, come on. And after it, you’ll feel used and empty and God’s judgment is thick and heavy in your soul. But the joy of God lasts forever. You can feel peace and joy and love always in Heaven if you seek to totally relinquish your desire for sin and pursue a desire for God instead.
One of the principal strategies these folks need to put in place is to avoid putting yourself in halfway positions. You know what I mean by that? I bet you do. I mean situations that are sketchy, that could easily lead to you screwing up. You struggle with alcohol or weed, but you go to a friend’s house to watch the game and they’re drinking or smoking. You struggle with sex or lusting after a girl or guy friend, but you go to a party where they may be. You struggle with talking bad about folks, but you hang out with Miriam, who’s always got the latest gossip. Stuff like that. You need to run from those situations, guys, they are spiritual death to you, and God is so much better than your sin.
This is doubly and triply true when you don’t feel God’s Presence. It’s gonna happen, folks, when you want to sin and you don’t feel God’s strength. You feel weak and alone. Guess what though: You have everything you need to resist. The Holy Spirit has not abandoned you when you don’t feel Him. God has declared this one hundred percent. So no excuses, Church. This is hard work, to resist sin, but it’s worth it, I promise you. Pursue God and pursue His love and His joy will fill you, with prayer and discipline and waiting. This is the path to God.
Now, God has given us a clear strategy to avoid sin, and that is to set our minds on the Spirit. Now what does that mean? It means to fill your life with the Bible, with great teachings, with prayer, with worship albums, with things that focus us on God and take our eyes away from the world. And one of these tools, in the midst of temptation, is more important than the rest, and that’s the Bible. When you’re feeling tempted, Church, what I want you to do is open Scripture. Don’t just pray a little prayer and imagine that that’s going to get you out of temptation. Sometimes a Christian is feeling tempted to do something, and he just prays a little bit like, “Oh God, please lead me away from this,” and the temptation keeps going but he just tries to ignore it or something--he keeps trying to fight it in the flesh, to use fleshly efforts to avoid sin.
That doesn’t work. You cannot defeat your sin by the power of the flesh--it doesn’t make sense. Your sin is the flesh. Your sin is the flesh trying to rise up and take dominion over you. What you need to do is inject God into that situation, and you do that by reading the Bible. It’s reprogramming your brain--it’s taking your thoughts away from the flesh and putting them towards God, okay? So whenever you’re tempted, Church, take out the Bible and read it and continue to read it until you’ve defeated that temptation, until you’ve outlasted the temptation.
Sometimes it may take a long time, but that doesn’t matter. This is really what it’s like to defeat sin: It’s like winning a siege. You with me there? Temptation sets siege against your soul. What you need to do is take out the Bible and read it to reprogram your brain until you win the siege and sin leaves because you’ve outlasted it.
Okay, part two, guys, now we’re talking about the folks who have been saved for a time already. After our initial salvation, we begin the process of falling in love with God in a new and much deeper way, which is more than just simple repeated interaction--it’s our becoming completely obsessed and enamored and delighted in God. I think a lot of people have questions on how to do that, I know I do--I’m no expert here, folks, I just read the Bible. But I want to offer you some things for you to chew on, folks who are in this camp.
So let’s talk about sanctification, which I define as this process of us wanting God more and more, and wanting sin less and less. In this stage, there begins to be a fundamental shift in the way we look at God, and what changes is why we work for Him. Okay? Why we exert effort for Him. Not how we work, but why we work.
We still work for God, and we still obey the Scriptures, and we do whatever the Holy Spirit tells us to, and we resist sin, and we do whatever we can to enter into God’s Presence every day and enjoy Him, and all of this is us actually exerting physical effort to follow God. But before, right after we got saved, we did what God wanted us to do because that made us better Christians in our mind. That made us more righteous. We were more advanced in our spiritual state, we believed, we were farther along the road of holiness through our obedience. In a way, our obedience earned us access to God. This is what we believed when we were first saved.
But as we grow in our faith, we start to notice some things that seem off. For one thing, all across the book of Job, Job’s three friends are like, “Bro, do what’s right and God will bless you.” And we’re like, yeah! That’s Christianity, that’s the God I know. But Job is like “No, I’m righteous before God, and I don’t know why God is afflicting me, but I demand an audience with Him so He can justify Himself.” And we’re like…...woah. This dude is nuts, and he’s glorifying himself, and God is gonna drop a nuke on his face right now. But then God shows up and what happens? The three friends get torched! And we’re like, Job is righteous? What’s up? Why did that happen?
And in the Gospels, in Mark 2:22, Jesus is talking about new and old wineskins, and He does it in the context of talking about religious obligation, meaning He’s talking about the law. And He says, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins--and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins.” And most of us have no idea what he’s talking about, right? Man, I sure didn’t. Let me tell you, when I first read that, I had no idea what was going on right then. Pink fluffy elephants and circus clowns and Jesus blowing dandelions in my head, that’s all I got.
So I took that passage to my pastor years ago, and he said, “Jesus is talking about the New Covenant. He is telling the people that God will give them justification automagically and seal them with the Holy Spirit when they believe in Jesus.” (Jer. 31:27-34; Eph. 1:13-14)
And I was like, automagically? But you can still fall away, right? This isn’t, like, some totally guaranteed blank check, free ticket, right?
The pastor said “Oh yeah, you can fall away if you totally deny God and never follow Him. But if you’re truly saved, you won’t, because God puts love for Himself inside of you and sustains your faith.” So when we hear that, that’s weird for us, right? Because we believe that faith is us clinging to God, not God clinging to us. But okay, whatever, we’ll figure it out later, for now the fellowship’s having a movie night and we smell popcorn.
But then you see more weird stuff in Phillippians 2:13, where Paul says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Both to will and to work? Does that mean that God creates my will and my works? And you justify that somehow, you make up a reason why that verse doesn’t say what it says, because it’s just too weird. I mean, the verse before it talks a lot about our role in the whole thing, but if God creates my will, am I a robot? Am I a robot, though? That’s scary--I don’t wanna be a puppet. What kind of God would do that?
But eventually, man, the evidence just piles up. You start piecing things together, you see that all your righteous actions really are actually God working in you to will and to work, and not you. For the passage about the wineskins, you see that Jesus fulfilled the law to remove the weight of our having to please God, because Jesus pleased God for us. You see that Job was righteous because he didn’t spout dogma from the religious culture of his time period--he searched out the deep things of God, and he knew that good works don’t force God to give you good things, because God had filled him with the desire to know Him in truth.
Here’s the truth you’re sniffing out: Human works, fleshly works, cannot produce righteousness. I am not more qualified for salvation if I spend all day praying or if I don’t. I’m able to enter into God’s Presence if I pray, but I don’t deserve anything more from God. There is no change on my righteousness as it pertains to my salvation, because my righteousness was given to me as a gift from Jesus. It is static and unchanging and permanent.
And you realize that what God has desired from you this whole time was mercy, and not sacrifice (Hos. 6:6)--to merely enjoy God’s Spirit, and not to earn entrance into Him by being good. You realize this is the pinnacle of all Christianity: Enjoying God. And as you start to move through this new philosophy, you realize all the weights that are falling off of you--you don’t have to perform anymore. You don’t have to spread the Gospel, or God won’t love you as much. You don’t have to read the Bible, or God won’t grant salvation to your kids. You don’t have to memorize scripture or God won’t give you a long life, or give you a happy marriage, or give you success at work. God is not a vending machine--there is nothing to be gained by appeasing God through rote obedience without love.
Instead, your single, sole job in life is to cultivate desire for God, enter into God’s Presence as much as you can, and rejoice in God as your only treasure. On top of that, you don’t even have to fear falling away from God, because it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure--He will always draw your desire back to Him, no matter what. You are safe in Him. He will always protect you from your coldness, your apathy, your weakness of affection.
Church, this is amazing. What chains the Lord can break, Church! What freedom He gives! He has removed every stumbling block, He has caused all our fear to melt away, if we would only believe!
Okay, so now you’re trying to live this new thing out, right, and you realize that, man, it’s hard to enter God’s Presence. Right? You with me? Folks in this second camp, have any of y’all felt that? That it’s hard to enter into His Presence! This is not a casual, easy thing. You can sit and read the Bible and make yourself feel something, but what’s that? It’s not real, you invented it. That’s fleshly joy. There is a major difference between fleshly joy and the joy of God that comes from the Holy Spirit--it’s a difference you can sense and identify. And we start to realize, man, a lot of the joy I’ve been feeling has not been God’s joy. God gives His Presence when He wants, not when I want. And I need to learn how to pursue God’s joy and not fleshly joy in my hobbies, or in doing good things, or in my sense of self-worth, or in my spiritual disciplines, or in anything. I need to learn what God’s joy is and how to discern it when I feel it.
So now I want to address you folks specifically, and I’ve thought a lot about what to say to you guys, and this is what I’ve got: Let’s beg every day that our desires would be turned to Him. Let’s really beg and seek and wrestle in prayer every day that God would incline our hearts to Himself anew, and we would fall head-over-heels in love with Him again. Amen to that? Stand-on-our-head-for-joy in love with Him, quoting Martin Luther. Because I know, I know it gets boring ordering vanilla ice cream every day for thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years. Your flesh starts to crave that interesting, shiny sin. But that’s what the struggle is for this group, that’s where the sin battle is--it’s letting God conquer us on the level of desire, fighting coldness of affection, eliminating boredom and stagnation and embracing how enthralling God is as much as we can.
I’ve thought a lot about how to write this, and one word keeps coming to mind, and it’s probably a surprising word because it’s not really used positively very often, but this is what it is: Brainwashing. (Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:1-4) Right? You with me? If you’re in this camp, it’s time to get totally brainwashed into loving Jesus completely. Remove all that junk that you like, but leaves you feeling empty after it’s done--stuff like movies or watching basketball or shopping or whatever. When it’s time for those things, when you feel like you need to rest and a hobby is useful to spend some down time (which is totally biblical, by the way, and you should be resting when you’re tired, absolutely), then you know. You know when it’s good to use a hobby. Resting is good, Church, listen to me, and after a long day of work and a good day of doing your part to enter into God, then rest. Put on that basketball game or that TV show, and the secret to resting is thankfulness, so enjoy it, really enjoy it, and thank God for that good gift to you.
But when it’s not the right time, and you feel your soul thirsting for God’s joy, let’s engage in that intentional brainwashing together, and let’s fill our souls with things that will profit us in eternity.
I have really benefited from reading rich theological literature, and exposing myself to a ton of sermons and podcasts and teachings on the internet. Now, I know some of you are like, Well why do I need extrabiblical sources? The Bible is all I need. And, yeah, you’re right, the Bible is all you need. It alone is God’s truth, and it alone is definitive in telling us how to live. You shouldn’t replace the Bible with something that isn’t divinely inspired as your source of truth.
But God tells us that He gave us teachers and pastors to prepare us for the work of the ministry, Ephesians 4:11-16. We need folks in authority over us to guard our doctrine and make sure we don’t go down crazy paths (Heb. 13:17). These extrabiblical sources will add to your theology and prepare you for the good works God has made for you. And, from another angle, it’s nuts to think that you can read the Sermon on the Mount forty times in a row entirely on your own and still be interested in it by the end. Know what I mean? There may be some folks out there who just love to read the same stuff again and again and again, but you’re better than I am, and I secretly suspect you’re a robot, okay? All of us need our doctrine to be safeguarded, first, and second, all of us need new resources to spark that love of God again.
It’s like marriage, right? You get in a rut doing the same things every week, going through the old routine. You need to get away every little while, change things up, do fun things with your spouse to keep your love thriving. This is what I’m encouraging you to do with God--find fun things to read and listen to and worship to, to keep your love for Him thriving. Hear that word. Not just average or acceptable, Church, that isn’t the goal. Your spirituality is too important. Thriving. That’s the standard.
I think this is really applicable for both groups of the Church, the young and the old believers, what I’m saying now. Church, there are a ton of fabulous materials out there that you can access--you can get the collected works of Jonathon Edwards on the Amazon Kindle store for a dollar. A dollar! That’s stupid, am I right? That’s a stupid price. I bet in Heaven, whatever currency they use, that book sells for two million cheeseburgers. Well actually no, nobody would buy it because they already know all the stuff in it. And I bet they eat healthy up there.
But you take my point, right? Go home, Google a Puritan writer because the Puritans were absolutely awesome, and totally splurge, buy everything he’s ever written, and you’ll have spent about seven bucks. I don’t think your wife’s gonna get mad at you over that, okay? There’s grace for that. While you’re at it, subscribe to John Piper’s Sermon of the Day podcast, and listen to a few dozen Matt Chandler teachings, from The Village Church in north Dallas. These are all available to you for free!
Let’s soak in rich theology and beg God to come fill our lives, right Church? But there’s something important that you have to hear: For our English speaking audience, those who listen to us on Cross of Joy, you’re just nodding your heads and everything’s normal, right? But for our Arab audience, those listening on alMesih, you’re like…….who? Who do I read? Who do I listen to?
There is a distinct lack in the Arab church of biblical preachers and teachers. That’s actually the reason why our team started this ministry, Cross of Joy and alMesih. But, Church, the books are there, the classical theological works have been translated, although it took me a couple years to find some. But they’re out there, guys, they’re available. John Piper, Jonathon Edwards, AW Tozer, the guys that I quote from are available to read in Arabic--look for them on Google and you’ll find them. Also look on www.almesih.com and you’ll see a page title ‘Recommended Works’ (obviously, that will be written in Arabic). That page has a list of these resources where you can go and download the ebooks. So it isn’t an issue of availability or opportunity.
But, see, reading isn’t a big part of Arab culture. Folks don’t read. It isn’t as big a thing as it is in the West. It’s not valued.
So I’m laying a charge, a task, on everyone listening to this message. First, to the English speakers: Join me in praying for God to raise up solid biblical teaching in the Arab world. I mean this, English speakers, pray with me for this, don’t forget and don’t wait, just pray now. In the Arab world we have great, wonderful young believers. We need great, wonderful mature believers to teach others to preach and to face the persecution that exists. And that comes as a result of great teaching.
Now to the Arabs: Will you please read? Will you please jump on Google and find a book by John Piper, or Jonathon Edwards, or AW Tozer, or any Puritan author and read it cover to cover for me, and then find another one and another and another one and read those cover to cover, and eventually God will lead you to write a sermon, and that sermon will be terrible and totally unbiblical because it’s hard to teach biblical doctrine, it really is, but you won’t give up and you’ll prepare another draft and you’ll stick it up on YouTube with a terrible cheap photo recorded on a terrible cheap microphone, and your brothers and sisters in Christ will benefit in the Lord, and the return from that sermon will be an increase of life and joy for the Church of God? Isn’t that a worthwhile way to spend your life? Will you please do that, or at least pray about doing that?
I’m wrapping up now, so leave with this thought: Today is a wonderful day to enjoy God more. So is tomorrow. Let’s set our minds on the Spirit.
May God’s face shine upon you brightly both now and throughout eternity, and let’s adore Him together.