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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - The Pattern for What You Believe

Charles Stanley - The Pattern for What You Believe

Charles Stanley - The Pattern for What You Believe

Does it matter what you believe? It certainly does because it affects every single area of our life. Now, the problem is most people sorta know what they believe about some things, or maybe most things, but being able to express what they believe and being able to share it with someone else is oftentimes different, for the simple reason that they're not exactly sure what they believe. And oftentimes people will say, "Well, yes, I do have my set of beliefs but I'm not even sure exactly what I ought to believe. There are so many ideas about the Bible and so many ideas about the Christian life and who God is and who Jesus is and the spiritual gifts and so forth. What am I to believe and how am I to believe it"?

Well, in this message, here's what I'd like to do. I want to talk about this whole idea of a belief system and I want to give you a pattern of a belief system. That is, I want to give you a list of things that certainly should be a part of your belief system. That is, what you believe, those things that govern and guide your lifestyle and how you operate. So I want you to follow along and I want to remind you of what Peter said in his first epistle when he said, "Sanctify Christ". That is, you are to set apart the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord in your life. Then he says, "Always being ready to make a defense, being able to give a reason for what you believe". So what I'd like to do in this is simply to give you that which I believe in the scriptures, but also a comprehensive grasp of what the Bible says about the major issues. Each one of these should be a part of your belief system.

Let's begin with the Bible. The Bible is the unfolding revelation of God, of Himself, through His spoken Word, and as He intervened in history and in nature, and finally coming into this world as the God-man. Therefore, when we think in terms of the scripture, we think in terms of the Bible, the Bible says it is inspired in Second Timothy chapter three. What does he mean by inspired? Inspired means it was God-breathed. What does it mean God-breathed? It means that God chose individuals. He chose these men according to their spirituality. He chose them according to their background, where they were, and what God wanted to say at this particular time in history. And when the Bible says that these words are God-breathed, it means that God spoke to them, they wrote the words that God spoke to them, and what we have in the scripture is the Word of God. God has given us this book as an instruction book.

That is, it is our final authority for our faith, what we believe. It is the final authority in our life for how we are to carry out our life. So in conduct and faith, this is the final authority. So the Bible is the unfolding, it's the record of the unfolding revelation of God of Himself. The second word is the Godhead. Well, what do you mean by Godhead? Well, there is one God, but that one God expresses Himself in three ways: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. That is, three distinct persons of the Trinity. And so, when we think in terms of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit making up the Godhead, each and every one of those, the Father, Son, the Spirit, are equal. All their attributes are the same. All of them are divine.

So, it's not a matter of having three gods. It is a matter of having one God who is an expression, or exists in three persons, and that is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, all three of whom have all the same attributes. Third word, the third word is God the Father. Our belief system should not only include what the Bible is and the Trinity, but also God the Father. Now, for example, in Ephesians chapter four, the Bible talks about one Lord and one God over all. And you'll recall, for example, in Genesis chapter one verse one, the Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". Who is this God? This is God our Father. You'll recall also in Matthew chapter six in the Sermon on the Mount, when the disciples were asking Him to show them how to pray, what did He say? He says, "This is the way you're to pray: our Father, who art in heaven". Jesus came to reveal the Father.

Now, who is this Father? This is the God of the Bible, the Father of the Bible. He is eternal. He is unchangeable. He is absolutely perfect in His justice. He is absolutely holy. He is a God of goodness and love and mercy and kindness and grace and forgiveness. He is the sovereign God of this universe, which means that He is in absolute control of every single thing. God the Father is in control of everything that happens in this universe. When you and I come to Romans eight twenty-eight, the Bible says that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Who is it that is executing, who is it that is overseeing all of these things to make them good? God the Father, our heavenly Father watching over us. Then, of course, there is God the Son. God the Father, God the Son.

Who is God the Son? This is the eternal Son of God, Jesus the Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin according to Luke chapter one, who existed in times past even before He came into this world. Because John chapter one verse one says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". And that word "was" there simply means this: that from the beginning of time, when you start at the beginning of time, before that Jesus Christ was. That is, He was in existence then, He was in a face-to-face relationship with God the Father. So when we talk about this whole idea of Jesus coming into the world, who is it that came? Who came was God the Son. That is, God incarnate, that is taking upon Himself human flesh and walking among men. Who was He? He was God. He says, "If you have seen the Father, you", He said, "If you have seen Me, you've seen the Father".

Jesus Christ came into this world, sent by the Father, He says. He sent Him into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. Therefore Jesus Christ came into this world for the primary purpose, He says, "I came to seek and to save that which is lost. I came that men might have life and have it more abundantly". So He came for some very specific reasons. He came to die on the cross for your sin and mine. What He did on the cross was that He fulfilled God's requirement for justice against sin. And the penalty of sin is death. Someone had to die for sin who was absolutely sinless. And so Jesus Christ, who is the virgin-born sinless Son of God, came as the Lamb of God to lay down His life on the cross of Calvary in order to pay your sin-debt and mine in absolute and complete fullness.

Then there is God the Holy Spirit. Who is this Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity. As divine, with the same attributes that God the Father and God the Son have. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to do what? To baptize the Church or to place the Church into the...and make them the Body of Christ. He came at Pentecost to indwell every single believer from that point on. Now, the Holy Spirit has many ministries. And if you'll think in terms of the ministries of the Holy Spirit, what you'll discover is this. You'll discover that as you and I look at our lives, and in each area of inadequacy in which we find ourselves, we find that the Holy Spirit who is indwelling every believer is there to meet our need. He's the one who regenerates, listen, He's the one who brings about regeneration or salvation in our life. Every single believer indwelt by Him. Every single believer gifted by Him. Every single believer enabled, listen, anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do any and everything God would call us and would have us to do. That is the work and the ministry of the Spirit.

Then the next part that you should have, the next word you should have in your belief system is creation. The Bible says in Genesis chapter one, "In the beginning God created". And what I want you to remember is this: that God created everything directly. He created directly by His power. The Bible says He created man in His own image. He created the heavens and the earth. And in Genesis chapter one and two is God's account of how He created all things, and no scientist has ever been able to discredit one single verse of chapters one and two in the way that God said He created all things. And if you'll recall, one of the key verses in that, He says, and each thing, listen, multiplied or reproduced itself after, that very important phrase, "after its kind," which means that God's creation was direct and personal.

That is, a man did not evolve from a one-cell amoeba. Neither did this world and this earth and the universe and all the stars and galaxies and everything else out there. They're not the result of some crazy explosion out there somewhere. Because, listen, everything in the creation bears evidence there is design, there are principles, there are laws. And for all of that to happen, a mind greater than everything that is in existence must be behind it. It would be like saying a print shop absolutely totally exploded and the print pieces were blown to smithereens and now we have Webster's big dictionary as a result of this explosion. God is the one who created this universe and everything in it and He's the one who is in absolute control. And the scriptures, in Colossians chapter one, also that Jesus Christ was in a part of that creation, and He's the one who sustains it and keeps it together.

The next word you're to jot down is this, and that is "man". What about man? Well, the Bible says that man was created in the image of God. Genesis chapter one, verse twenty-six. Man is created in the image of God. And God created man for what reason? To love him, to have fellowship with him, and to be glorified in man, and for man to serve Him. Well, what happened? The Bible says in Genesis chapter three that man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. Tempted by Satan, man disobeyed God. When man disobeyed God, something happened to his relationship. Something happened to his very nature. The sinless, perfect nature that man had in the very beginning in the Garden, he lost it. When sin entered his life, his whole, listen, his whole nature became corrupt. And that corrupt nature separated man from God so that every person today that is born into this world is born into this world with a sinful nature. What redemption does is to so work in a person's life as to change their nature.

This is why the very idea that when a person says, "Well, I look at the good things I've done in my life and I look at the evil, and surely, as I look at my life, my life, I have so many, much, much, much better things over here and many more good things over here than I have bad things over here. You mean to tell me when I stand before God, He's going to ignore the good things that I've done and let me die and go to hell when I've been as good as I could be"? The issue is not your goodness. Now, listen carefully, this is very important. The issue is not your works. The issue is your nature. You are a sinful being, and until God changes your spirit and gives you a new spirit and a new nature and a new heart, you are eternally separated from Almighty God. That is what man is all about. Man cannot do anything to help himself in any fashion to make himself acceptable in the eyes of a holy God.

That's why He sent the Lord Jesus Christ to do for mankind, to redeem mankind from a sinful condition from which man could not in any way escape apart from the love of God and the grace of God. Well, certainly the next word that should be in your belief system is the word "salvation". What is salvation? Salvation is the gift of God's grace whereby He provides forgiveness for your sin and my sin. That is what salvation is all about. And our salvation is wrapped up in, absolutely related to, related to nothing else but the person of Jesus Christ. Everywhere you turn in the Bible, salvation is a result of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Salvation's not good works. A person who is saved does good works.

Salvation isn't believing something necessarily. Salvation is receiving by faith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the eternal Son of God, virgin-born, conceived of the Spirit, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, believing Jesus Christ as personal savior. That's what brings about all of our forgiveness. There is no forgiveness in this world apart from Him. There is no acceptance before Almighty God in any form or fashion by ignoring, rejecting, trying to get to God in some fashion apart from Jesus Christ. If that were true, then God the Father would have made the biggest blunder in all of history. That is, if He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay for your sins and mine and that wasn't necessary, you and I could be good enough for ourselves, then God made a blunder. And therefore, because He sent Him, we know that was the only way for man to be saved.

Jesus Christ came into this world to die for our sins. Salvation is a gift of Almighty God offered to all men everywhere, those who will place their faith in Him. The Bible says, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God". Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me". And my friend, no matter what you believe, no matter how much you try to believe it, how good you try to be, if you reject the Son of God, there's no salvation. If you reject Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord, when you die there is absolutely no hope of salvation. There's not a single verse in this book that says that in spite of the fact that you have rejected Jesus Christ, you're gonna be saved, no. It is a personal relationship with the Son of God as a result of our simple faith in Him. Salvation.

Well, the next word I want you to put in your category of belief is this, and that is the Church. The Church. What in the world is the Church? Ultimately it is this. The church is not a country club. The church is not just a place for social action. The place, the church is not just a place for social fellowship, though all those things are a part of it. The church is the body of Christ, infilled by the Holy Spirit, enabled by the Holy Spirit, corporately and individually as a person. And what is our responsibility? Our responsibility is to do exactly what Jesus said when He said, "As you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things that I've commanded you. And lo, I'm with you all the way, even to the end of this age". He said to that early church, He says, "Ye shall receive power. After that the Holy Ghost has come upon you. And ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth".

It is very clear, unmistakably clear that the work and the ministry of the church is what? It is reaching out and bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is also, listen, it is also not only reaching people for Jesus, but it is also making disciples, teaching them, instructing them, growing them up in the things of God. And therefore the privilege of being able to be a part of the church is a wonderful privilege that God has given us. And therefore, to be able to assemble together and to pray together and to pray for one another, all of this is extremely important in the eyes of God because He has given us a mission. Our primary responsibility: proclaim the Gospel, love people, help them to understand what it means to receive Jesus, disciple, grow them up, and that each one of us would multiply our witness and our testimony for Jesus Christ.

Well, when you think in terms of what ought to be in your belief system, another word I want you to write down is the Christian life. What about Christian life? The Christian life is simply this. It is Christ, listen, it is Christ living in us and Christ expressing His life through us. His what? His character, His, listen, His conduct, and His conversation. As a child of God, it is the will and purpose of God for us who are believers, to grow in our relationship with Him. Remember that the Christian life is a relationship with Jesus Christ. We're to grow. Listen carefully, we are to progressively mature in our relationship with Jesus Christ. That is, He says, for example, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ". How are we to do that? Well, there are several things involved in that, but I want you to understand that it is not enough to be saved and stop.

That is, because this is a relationship, we're to grow in our relationship, growing in our intimacy of Him, growing in our understanding of Him, growing in our commitment to Him, growing in our surrender to Him. Because, when you and I were saved, we were like diamonds in the rough. And some of us were pretty rough. And so therefore, what does God do? He begins His work of doing what? Maturing us, polishing us, shining us, working in our life. How does He do that? In several ways, one of which, of course, is tribulation, trial, hardship, difficulty, persecution. All of these things are a part of the Christian life. You remember what He said to Timothy? He said, listen, if you live godly in Christ Jesus, you can expect the world, you can expect the world to persecute you. Therefore, the Christian life is not a life of ease, comfort, and pleasure.

It is a life of maturing, of progressively growing into Christlikeness. It is not because I'm getting better, it is because the Christ who is within me, the Christ who is within you, is having more and more control of our life and we're surrendering more and more to Him. And the Spirit of God, listen, is filling us, listen, is filling us, and He is exercising more control of our life. So it isn't that we get better apart from Him. It is Christ on the inside of us. Christ living His life in and through us in order to what? Bring glory to God, honor to God, by the life that we live. Well, the next word that should be in our belief system is, listen, man's eternal destiny.

What is the eternal destiny of man? Listen carefully. Listen carefully now. The Bible says, "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The wages of sin is death". Listen carefully, what is the eternal destiny of the believer, the person who's placed their faith in Jesus? Here's, eternal destiny of the believer. Immediately and consciously, when you and I die as believers, we go immediately and consciously into the presence of a loving heavenly Father who is waiting for us.

The Bible says in Second Corinthians chapter five, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord". You'll recall what Paul said in that first chapter of Philippians. He says, "I'm pulled in two directions". He said to the Philippian Christians, "On the one hand," he says, "I just want to die and be with the Lord. On the other hand," he says, "I want to stay here and serve you and minister to you because you need me". Now listen carefully, there are people who believe in purgatory, that one of these days when a believer dies, that you are going to go somewhere and suffer for your sins, and then when you get clean enough you're going to heaven.

Now, let me explain carefully why that is a false doctrine. Number one, first of all, there's not a single verse in the Bible about purgatory. Secondly, it is not the grace of God. The Bible says you can't have grace and works. Something can't be a gift and at the same time something you work for. If a person has to go somewhere and suffer for their sin, then God didn't forgive them. What God did is He, listen, what God did is make a promise, then make 'em pay for it and then finally when they've paid for it, they're gonna get to heaven. That's not forgiveness. That's working, listen, that is working for your ultimate salvation. You can turn this Bible any way you want to.

There is absolutely, listen, doctrinally, reasonably, by faith, you look at it, there's no place for a purgatory in the Word of God. You don't have to pay for what Jesus paid for at the cross because His Son paid your price and the judge has set you free. Somebody else went to prison for you. That is, somebody else went to the cross for you. Somebody else died for you, therefore you're set free. There is no place for purgatory. Listen, saved by the grace of God, immediately consciously, listen, absent from the body, present with the Lord. Secondly, listen, if the Apostle Paul had believed, as some people believe, that you die and you rest in a grave for a thousand or so years until Jesus comes, then you wake up.

My friend, the Apostle Paul would never have made this statement. He says, "Now, here's my problem". He says, "On the one hand, I want to die and be with the Lord, on the other hand, I want to stay here and serve you". If Paul thought that he was gonna die and get to the grave and lie there unconscious for ever so how many years, and that would've been a long time, the Apostle Paul, a long time's happened since he died. He'd still be in the grave in an unconscious state. There's not a single verse in the Bible that indicates that when you die, two things don't happen. Number one, the Bible doesn't say that's the end of you. The Bible doesn't say that you just become matter and you no longer exist. The Bible doesn't teach that. Secondly, the Bible doesn't teach that you lie in a grave somewhere until one of these days there's a resurrection.

Absent from the body, present with the Lord. Not one single verse in the Bible that says you're going to purgatory. Not a single verse that says you're gonna be buried in a grave somewhere. You can mark this down. You cannot bury a child of God. You can put our body in there but you cannot put us in there, because there's gonna be, even that's temporary because every single one of us is gonna be resurrected into a glorified body. Now, listen, what about that lost person? That lost person who dies without Christ, the Bible says what? Absolutely, consciously, instantly, what happens to them? Go to torment, a place of suffering, the same place the rich man went to in the sixteenth chapter of Luke. And they are there suffering until the Great Judgment.

When they stand in the Great White Throne Judgment and the Bible says that God's gonna open the books. What books? That's His books where He's kept the record, listen, the records of those who have been born and the life that they've lived. And those of us who know Jesus Christ as our savior, the Bible says our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. There is a Book of Life, and listen, if a person is not their name is not there, He says they're cast in the lake of fire. And so when a person dies without Christ, listen, there's not a single verse in this Bible that says you gonna get a second chance. There's not one single verse that says if you die and then you decide that you want to change things, you're gonna receive Jesus, no.

When a person dies, they die fixed in that character. And forever and ever and ever they're separated from God. That's, listen, that's why we get serious about preaching the gospel. That's why there's nothing joking and funning about the proclamation of the gospel. We're talking about people's eternal destiny. We're talking about eternal consequences. We're talking about something that will not be changed once you breathe your last breath in this life. There's not a single verse in the Bible that says you get a second chance. Listen, the chance, the opportunity is shouting at you. And that is whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

That's what this is all about. Helping you to understand the truth in order that you may know that Jesus Christ is your savior, and the moment you die, you're absolutely in the presence of Almighty God. I'm talking about the most critical, the most crucial, the most important decision you will ever make in your life. I'm talking about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior, which will indeed determine your whole future, unchangeable destiny. After you die, it's unchangeable.

I want to encourage you to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins and tell Him that today you're turning your life over to Him and let Him begin to work in your life. You know what He'll do? Write your name in the Lamb's Book of Life, make you one of His children, seal you as a child of God. And you'll no longer have to worry about death or about life, because the Son of the Living God says He's abiding in you. The presence of the Holy Spirit, He will never leave you nor forsake you, not one second in life and not a second in death. You can't beat that, listen, for God's great deal, offer to every single person who will receive it.
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