David Jeremiah - Everything You Need (Interview)
Sheila Walsh: Hello, everybody. Welcome! So glad you're here. Beautiful evening. So glad you're here. I've had the honor of interviewing Dr. Jeremiah in so many important subjects but I am particularly excited about this amazing new series. I believe it will impact how you and I live every single day. Life is an adventure and you're either ready to meet the challenge or you're not. The path ahead might lead you through trying circumstances, you might face daunting situations or formidable obstacles.
Let me ask, do you ever feel a little unprepared for everything that life has to throw at you? Well, here's the great news. You might be surprised to know that God has already given you everything you need to live a godly life, confident in the promises of God. And the wonderful thing about God is God not only gives us these promises, but he keeps every single one. So it's time for you and I to unpack all that God has given, and Dr. Jeremiah is here today to encourage you to harness the power of eight essentials that will literally revolutionize your life.
So are you ready to get started? Okay, please join me in welcoming to the stage pastor, author, and beloved Bible teacher, Dr. David Jeremiah. This new series is amazing. "Everything You Need". That's quite a promise. Can you explain to us why you called this particular teaching series, "Everything You Need"?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, you know, I get most of my cues from the Scripture and in 2 Peter chapter 1 it actually says right in the Scripture, it says: "God has given us everything we need for life and godliness". And I was reading that one day, aware of how many Christians run around from place to place trying to figure out how to get what they already have.
Sheila: Do you think we're struggling in the church for lack of knowledge?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, I think if there's one word that describes where everybody is today, I think it's the word "pressure". Everybody seems like they're under a lot of pressure. And I have to be honest with you, Sheila, I got attracted to this particular passage because I think it's singularly one of the most perfect passages of Scripture in the Bible. First of all, there's a promise at the beginning and there's a blessing at the end and in between are all the things you need to do to get from the promise to the blessing. And it's right in the text and it just grabbed me so much I thought I gotta share that passage because it's so powerful.
Sheila: Yeah, you're in for a great adventure. One of the interesting things, when Peter writes this letter and he talks about, "To your faith add this and add that," you had an interesting revelation on the Greek meaning behind the word "add".
Dr. Jeremiah: You know, the Bible is so special. You never wanna discount any word. There's one little word, it's only mentioned in 2 Peter 1 one time but it's assumed six times. And it's the little word, "add". And the Scripture goes something like this: "When you have the special promises of God you're to add to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge, and to your knowledge," and then it goes through all the eight things. But the word "add" only is in the text one time but it's assumed in all of the others.
So when he says, "Add to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge," you assume he's saying "add to", so the word is assumed. But the interesting thing about the word, it's only three letters and it is an incredibly powerful word. It is a word that was used in the days of the Greek theater. When they would put on a major play, they would get a sponsor. He was called a choreogos and that's the word "add" and it meant he would go out and he would spend all this money and get all these people together to try to substantially make this play better than anybody else could make it, and that's what the word "add" means.
And so, when Peter says we're to add to our faith virtue, he's not talking about just, you know, throwing in a thought. He's saying, "lavishly, completely, like you were choreographing a play, add to your faith virtue". In other words, do it seriously. Don't just give it a second thought. Do it as seriously as a man would go out and try to raise money to underwrite a play.
Sheila: That's huge intentionality that would impact how you live every single day.
Dr. Jeremiah: And you know what? I had to ask myself have I ever done anything like that? You know, we had our moments when we worked harder at the Christian life but have we ever thrown everything we have at it? Have we ever said, "Here it is, men. This is my number one priority. No matter what, I'm gonna make this happen by the grace of God". That's what the word means.
Sheila: And you talk about this great adventure that begins with promises and ends in blessing. But I'm wondering what about people who think, "You know what? I wish I'd heard this message years ago. I'm too far beyond the promises of God".
Dr. Jeremiah: You know, the wonderful thing about all that, Sheila, is that God's promises are eternal. They never run out. God miraculously meets us wherever we are with whatever situation and, you know, it takes some of us longer to get the message. Isn't that true? We have to go through more stuff until we hear him speak, and then ultimately, because of what's going on in our life, I mean I can't get over how many times as a pastor I've found that the things that happen to us in our lives are God's way of getting our attention so he can help us understand how much he loves us and what he wants to do to help us.
Sheila: So let's look at the things that Peter said that we should add to our faith. I thought it was interesting that the first thing he talks about is diligence. Why do you think Peter made that the very first step in what you call, I love this, a stumble-proof life?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, I think it's important because it's the thing we usually don't bring to the process. You know, we hear a message. We think we should do it but we don't do it diligently. And the word "diligently" is a very powerful word. It kind of goes along with the word "add". It means make this a serious effort on your part and do it diligently. Practice it, work on it, don't put it off, don't say, "I'll get around to it". Get at it. Do it and make it your main objective.
Sheila: I'm wondering even for some who are younger in the faith, they might think, you know, "That sounds like a lot of hard work". How do you stay focused on being diligent?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, it is a lot of hard work. Most everything that's worthwhile is a lot of hard work. Can I get a witness on that, right? But it is worthwhile hard work and what I found is this, as you diligently apply yourself to the Scriptures, God will always give you enough encouragement in the process to keep you going. But if you don't diligently apply yourself, you've got nowhere to go. You're just sort of hanging in nowhere space. He wants us more than anything else to get serious about what we say we believe.
Sheila: The next thing that Peter talks about adding to our faith is virtue. That's not a word we use a lot in our culture anymore. What exactly is virtue?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, let me explain why we don't use it very much 'cause there isn't very much of it in our culture.
Sheila: That's for sure.
Dr. Jeremiah: You know, virtue, the best definition of virtue is moral excellence, doing the right thing. There is a right and there is a wrong and the Bible helps us understand. You know, one of the best illustrations of it and I talk about this in that chapter is that when Jesus Christ was on this earth he was the model of virtue and the way we can see virtue in his life more than anything else is the Bible says: "He always did those things that pleased his Father". That was how he lived his life.
And you know, if you wanna be a virtuous person, you can get real technical about it. You can make all kinds of lists but let me just give you what I think is the secret. Learn how to live your life to please the Lord Jesus Christ. Do what pleases him and, you know what? You don't have to wonder what those things are 'cause he tells you pretty much in his Scripture by his life, by his testimony. As Jesus Christ pleased his Father, our goal is to please our Christ. So we're in that same little construct where if we study the life of Jesus and we watch how he functioned with his Father, we learn how to function with him.
Sheila: Peter says to that diligence and virtue, then we add knowledge. I think this is an interesting one because we live in a time where people think technically we have access to more knowledge than we ever had. But what kind of knowledge is Peter actually talking about?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, let me just put a point in here for the importance of knowledge because there are a lot of people today who teach that if you really wanna know Jesus Christ you have to shut your brain off and just let your emotions rule. That's a bunch of craziness and I hope that you haven't heard that and gotten caught up in it because we can't do anything with what we don't know. It's important to know some things. In the Bible we're taught, first of all, to study the Scripture and know what the Scripture says. There's some homework involved in that. It's blessed homework but it's still homework. You know, the Bible is open to those who will take it seriously and then once you study the Scripture you realize that in studying the Scripture you're learning about Christ.
Somebody once told me we can almost tell what our relationship with Christ really is when we examine what our relationship with the Scripture is. In other words, we can say, "I love the Lord," but if you don't ever read his love letters to you, how does that work? So you study the Scripture, you read the Word of God, you learn what the Word of God says, and the more you study, the more you know, the hungrier you'll get for more information and I can say that after 50 years of doing that. I mean, the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. That's one thing for sure. And the more you want to know.
Sheila: I was wondering for someone who thinks, "Well, I don't have the wealth of biblical knowledge that you have. I would love to know more of God's Word. Where do I even start? I mean, do I just buy a Bible and open it up and hope for the best"?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, let me just tell you. We had a young man at our church who was born in India. His parents told him that he was a cursed child because something had happened during his mother's pregnancy with him and so he thought that he was cursed and one day he went home and some missionary had been to his house and had left a Bible there. And he started reading this Bible as an eight-year-old boy. By the time he was 12, he'd read much of the Scripture and before he turned a teenager, he had accepted Christ. That's the power of the Word of God. The Word of God, when it's unleashed in somebody's life, it's amazing what happens.
Sheila: You have faithfully taught the Word of God for over 50 years. How do you stay motivated to still get excited to dive in one more time?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, the Bible says that "God's mercies are new every morning". Isn't that true? One of the blessings for me at this stage of my life is I've taught most of the Scripture and now when I'm studying a portion of Scripture, God brings to my mind the things that I've studied about, other portions that have to do with this. And it's just kind of that wonderful mystery that goes on in the Scripture.
Sheila: The next thing that Peter says we should add to our faith is self-control. One of the things I found encouraging in your teaching in this series is you say it's really more spirit-control than self-control.
Dr. Jeremiah: Yeah, a lot of times, we blame our body for the things that go on and we should, probably. But most of the problems we have with sin don't start in our body. They start in our mind. What we open up our minds to is what allows us to go down the road that gets us in trouble. Let me just say more than ever before because of the Internet and because of what used to be entertainment, I told our people that we just did something in our house and got a new system that's got, like, 100 and 150 channels or whatever. And one night I just sat down and I clicked through all those channels and I couldn't find one single thing that I thought was worth watching. Out of 150 channels. Does that say anything about our culture? I mean, thank God for sports.
Sheila: Amen. The next thing that Peter addresses is perseverance. What does it really mean to persevere?
Dr. Jeremiah: The best way to say that is perseverance is continuing when you don't want to. Here's what I've learned. Somebody told me this. When we think we can't do anymore, there's still 60% more that we can do. We have our own little personal limitations that are comfortable to us. Perseverance is going beyond where you think you can go. All of us here, if we're Christians, we're Christians because somebody persevered. Somebody preached the gospel when it wasn't easy. Somebody came to your home when they'd rather been home watching TV. Somebody prayed for you. Perseverance is one of the building blocks of who we are in Christ. Aren't you glad that Jesus Christ persevered all the way to the cross, amen?
Sheila: Amen. I love how you describe it. In this teaching you actually call it "relentless determination".
Dr. Jeremiah: That's what it is. When you're involved in serving the Lord, the enemy comes along and he whispers in your heart, "That's enough. You don't need to do that anymore. You're finished". But you don't do that. Relentlessly, you pursue, you go forward. You know, the Bible teaches us to live our lives in day-tight compartments. The Bible says: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof". And in the New Testament, says: "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself". You know, if we have something that's hard for us to do and you get caught up in the immensity of it, you will never be able to achieve it. But you can achieve what comes tomorrow. And God never gives us more.
You know, isn't it interesting? God created the world like this. He gives us days and hours and weeks and years. He could have created this just like an endless eternity even on this earth. But I think those places are good for us. It's good that we have a week we can look back on. It's good that we have a day that we can say, "I don't know how I'm gonna get there, but I can get here". And I'd just encourage people, try not to get so caught up in the past that you get depressed. And don't worry about the future 'cause you're not there yet. Live today and ask God to give you the grace for today and when you do that, he will do that.
Sheila: Yeah, that's beautiful. The next thing that Peter encourages us to add to our faith is godliness. And godliness is one of those words that just seems like it's kinda unattainable. It's very lofty...
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, you know what, Sheila, can I just be honest with you? When I saw that list, I was pretty excited about everything that was on that list. When I saw "godliness," I got, "Oh, no," because, you know, that's an intimidating word, isn't it?
Sheila: It is.
Dr. Jeremiah: And it's been used in the wrong way by a lot of people and sometimes it can make you feel like, "Well, I'm not even in this race. Why am I even... I don't even belong in a conversation about that". But let's face it. When you break that word down, it's simply this. To be godly is to try to be like God. That's all it means. To do what God would do. And it's not like we don't have an illustration because God in heaven, nobody has seen, you can't see him and live.
So he sent his Son down here who was God in the flesh and allowed us to witness his life for 30-some years and see what it looks like to live godly. And it's not all the high stuff that we put. You know what it was? It was helping a woman who was caught in adultery. It was helping a father who lost his child. It was reaching out to people with love and kindness. When you see the life of Jesus on this earth and what he did, it's not all this doctrinal stuff we think about. It's the love and ministry we have with other people. That's what it means to be godly.
Sheila: I can't think of a time in our culture or in the church when we've needed this more. He talks about brotherly kindness. Why do you think Peter included that in this list?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, because he lived in a time similar to us. He lived in a time when people went about talking about love and not examining their own lives to see if it was true. And many of these chapters, you guys, when we wrote this book, I would take the quality that's on the list and then I'd try to find the central passage in the New Testament that taught that, and the central passage for that one is in Ephesians chapter 4. Well, you know this passage. If I say it, you'll remember it. "Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you".
Isn't it a wonderful passage? That's what brotherly kindness is. And if you unlock that passage, there's, like, four or five points in there that teach you what it means to be kind and loving to one another, including a whole little section on not being angry. And if you go back to Ephesians 4, it's about verse 25 or so, and read that section, you will have Paul's sermon on brotherly kindness and what it looks like and it's all real simple. I mean, it's not rocket science. It's just the everyday things that we do that make a difference in who we are.
Sheila: Well, we've come to the conclusion of Peter's list and we're told to add love to our faith. And you point out the New Living Translation describes it as love for everyone. How do we do that when there's, I mean, I know there'll be many people out there who have been seriously hurt by someone. How do you love when you've been wounded?
Dr. Jeremiah: It's not natural.
Dr. Jeremiah: No, but it's supernatural. You can only love that person through the love of Christ. And I think the key to us all, for all of us, is to realize how unlovely we were when Christ died for us. The Bible even says it, you know? The Bible says it in so many different ways. He died for us when there really was no reason for him to do that. And here's what I've been learning in my life, Sheila. We love others out of the reservoir of God's love for us.
Sheila: That's so true. Our culture, particularly at the moment in the days we're living in, seems very polarized, you know, that we're all one side or another. How do we practice that love in that atmosphere?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, you know, I'm not really sure where to go with what I know you're talking about. Today, in our culture, it's not even a matter of love anymore. It's just a matter of civility, you know? Love's way down the line. If we could just even be kind of nice to one another, that would be good. Paul wrote to the Romans and he said, "Don't let the world pour you into its mold". Don't let the things that are happening in the world make you different than you know you should be. You can still be friends with those who don't agree with you and we as Christians ought to be the ones showing the way to do that.
Sheila: Yeah, so when we add these eight characteristics to our faith, what are the blessings that we can expect from God?
Dr. Jeremiah: Well, I can't go through all of those. We don't have time. But let me just tell you, there's seven of 'em. Five of them you get now, two of 'em you've got to wait for. And I love this last chapter in this book because it tells us six times in five verses, it talks about these things. That little phrase, "these things". If you do these things and here's one of the statements. Let me just talk about this one. This is one of the reasons that I wrote this book and this is what grabbed me.
And listen, this is right from the Bible. I'm not making this up. Peter said, after talking about all these things, he said this: "If you do these things, you will never stumble". I thought, "Can that be true"? But then I thought back on 'em. If you lavishly devote yourself diligently to the growth of your life in the areas that he describes in that chapter, here's what he says. If you do these things, you will never stumble. And then he said at the end of 'em, the last one he said, "You will go into eternity abundantly".
In other words, it doesn't say, "If you do these things, you'll go to eternity," 'cause you can't work your way to heaven. It's not about going to heaven; it's about how you go to heaven. And he says, "If you wanna go to heaven, kind of slipping in the back door, you can do that. Or if you wanna go to heaven with your hands up high, rejoicing that you've had the privilege of honoring the Lord and living for him during your lifetime, you can do that". He says, "If you do these things, you will have an abundant entrance into heaven," hallelujah.
Sheila: This is amazing. What a promise, wow. That chapter has impacted me so much. I mean, this is Peter who sat at the Lord's feet, saying to us, "Here's this promise. You do this and this will happen".
Dr. Jeremiah: And he didn't exactly live a perfect life.
Dr. Jeremiah: I mean, he had his moments. He had his trouble. Until he figured it out and got it right, and then was honored to be crucified upside down instead of being crucified right-side up 'cause he felt he wasn't worthy of the Lord he loved.
Sheila: As we bring this to a conclusion, let me ask you, how has studying this passage impacted your own life?
Dr. Jeremiah: You know, it's very emotional to me. It's just another reminder, you know, of the sufficiency of the Word of God. As I mentioned at the beginning, we have so many Christians running hither and yon trying to find out what's wrong or what's missing or, "Who can I talk to? What great preacher can I listen to? What sermon can I watch on TV? Send me that CD. I gotta have this worship experience". And then you read this simple letter and it says God has given you everything you need for life in godliness.
Now, the fact that he's given it to us as a gift, you know, Paul wrote to the Philippians and he said, "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure". In other words, God has worked it in. Now you work it out. God's given you this gift, and go do it.
Sheila: Please will you help me thank Dr. David Jeremiah.