Greg Laurie - The Secret To Spiritual Success
I think we all want to succeed spiritually. Sadly, we all know someone, maybe more than one, who are walking with the Lord and then crashed and burned in the worst imaginable way. Then we know others who just continue to grow and mature and develop as the years go by. Why do some succeed and other's fail? A short answer. Because they choose to. If you are succeeding spiritually it's because you are applying effort. I'm not suggesting it's self-effort, but there's our part and there's God's part.
The Bible says that we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God that works in us both to will and do of his good pleasure. There's a whole picture. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Better way to translate that is develop and discover all that God has done for you, carry it to the goal and complete it, not work for your salvation, work it out, live it out. Work out your own salvation for it is God that works in you both the will and do of his good pleasure.
Look, there are some things only God can do and some things only I can do. Only I can repent. Only I can confess my sin. Only God can forgive me of that sin. So I make a choice and God has given you all the power you need to live this Christian life. 2 Peter 1:3 says, "Through his divine power, God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. We've received all of this by coming to know him". Sort of like you're in your car with a powerful engine. You start the car, the car is not gonna move until you put the pedal to the metal, right? 'Till you accelerate and release the horsepower of the car. In the same way, God's giving you this power, but you got to apply it.
Now, let me ask you a quick question. How many of you want to succeed spiritually? Raise your hand. Okay, I didn't see every hand go up, okay. Guy in the orange shirt, raise your hand. He doesn't even know, okay, he's like what...? Oh, it's me, too late, anyway. So these are things that we need to think about. And here's a word that is not popular in the 21st century, it's the word discipline. Discipline. No, we want things fast and we want things easy. You know, we don't want to sit down and write our report, we want AI to write our report for us. We don't want to wait for anything, we want everything immediately. We live in an instant society.
So we come to the spiritual life and we want everything fast and easy, just like it is in our regular life, but the Bible talks about slowing down, taking root, studying, denying, obeying, and of course, discipline. So if you want to grow spiritually, here's point number one if you're taking notes. To spiritually succeed, you must love and study the Bible. To spiritually succeed, you must study and love scripture. This is essential. You never outgrow this. You never get beyond this. This is always a working principle in the life of every successful Christian. I've never met a Christian who is failing spiritually, who was also studying the Bible diligently.
Here's what Joshua 1:8 says, "This Book of the Law," and when we talk about the Book of the Law, it's another way of saying the Bible or scripture. So I'll say it that way. "The Bible or scripture should not depart from your mouth. You shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do all that is written in it". Listen to this. "Then you will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success". Jesus said, "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples". And if you find the Bible boring and if you have no interest in scripture, you must ask yourself the question, am I really growing as a Christian? In fact, the way that a doctor can tell if someone is healthy or not is by checking their appetite. And in the same way, a growing Christian will be a hungry Christian, someone who is hungry for the Word of God.
1 Peter 2:2 says, "Like newborn babes crave spiritual milk that you may grow". You know the feeling when you haven't eaten, you become lethargic. You might become irritable, you might become lightheaded, and you find yourself hangry, hangry, right? Hangry is when you're angry because you are hungry. Sometimes I'll get maybe a little snippy and Cathy will just throw a sandwich at me. It fixes, a sandwich pretty much fixes everything, doesn't it? But then you have a meal and suddenly your mood will change, your outlook will change, everything will change. What a difference a good meal makes. And this thing can be true spiritually. You might find yourself lethargic and irritable and uptight and you need a good meal and that good meal needs to be the Word of God.
Psalm 119 says, "Revive me according to your Word". So we study God's Word just and it replenishes us. Jeremiah 15:16 says, "When your words came, I ate them, they were my joy and my heart's delight". And you look at the early church, one of their disciplines was they studied the Word of God. One of my favorite stories in the book of Acts is when Paul was preaching, and he was preaching for a long time, for hours, and it was late in the night now, and some young man named Eutychus was up by a window and he fell asleep and fell out of the window and died. Someone said, "Paul, someone just fell out of the window and died".
Paul stopped preaching. He walked out, went up to little Eutychus, laid hands on him, prayed for him, brought him back from death. And then what did Paul do? He did what any self-respecting preacher would do. He preached another hour. I love that. But there was that hunger in the early church for the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says, "The Word of God's alive and powerful, sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting through soul and spirit, between joint and marrow, it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires". I love the statement of Martin Luther when he said, quote, "The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me". I love that. And that's very true of scripture. And it is here that we find absolute truth. And in a crazy culture, it is changing rapidly before our very eyes.
This is the only thing we can depend on the truth of the Word of God. This is what everything we do is really based on. Now, we would like to look briefly at just Acts 2:16, and let me just set the stage here. This is the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been poured out. There's like this flame of fire above the heads of the disciples. They're speaking in languages they've never learned, declaring the wonderful works of God. And as all of this is happening, we read that Simon Peter gets up and says in Acts 2:16, "What you see was spoken of long ago by the prophet Joel. In the last days God said, 'I will pour my Spirit out on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions.'"
Very important point here. He says this is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel. Whatever we do should have a biblical basis. If we cannot say this is what is spoken of in scripture, we should not be doing it. You know, people love things new. "I want the newest iPhone". "I want the newest Android phone". "I want the newest this, I want the newest that". We always want new, and sometimes we bring that into the spiritual life. "I want something new". Listen, if it's new it's not true, and if it's true it's not new. You don't need something new. As much as you need to go back to the old paths, the scripture says, where the truth is and walk in those old paths. Oh, I know culture wants to redefine everything now, but God has given us the template for all that we need to know. Everything you need to know about God is found in the Bible. Everything you need to know about life is also found in the Bible.
Now, let's see what the Bible says about itself. I want you to turn over to Psalm 19, and I'm gonna read from verses 7 to 11, Psalm 19, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul". And by the way, when we say the law of the Lord, we could just as easily say the Bible or scripture. So I'll say it that way. The Bible is perfect converting the soul. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise is simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired of even gold, yes, and much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward".
So we already pointed out that if you want to grow spiritually, you need to study and love the Word of God. Number two, to succeed spiritually, we must trust the authority of scripture. As culture changes, we don't need to change with it. The Word of God is trustworthy because things come and go. Things come and go that are stylish. What stylish five years ago suddenly is dated today, but scripture in contrast is perfect or literally whole, complete and sufficient. You need to know that this is a trustworthy book. You can base your life on it. You don't need to add to it. You don't need to take away from it.
I had a pastor asked me not long ago, "How can we make the Bible more relevant"? I said, "We don't need to make the Bible relevant. The Bible is relevant". See, my job is just to let the lion out of the cage. See, I come into this pulpit with a confidence. This is a powerful message. I'm not a powerful preacher, but my message is powerful and I know that power will come from it. It comes from the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is inspired by God". Or a better way to translate it. All scripture is breathed by God. That means that the Bible is God's infallible word. The original autographs, the first copies were without heirs. There's no mistakes, no contradictions. You know, even in a recent discovery like the Dead Sea Scrolls, where an older version of the writings are discovered, we realize they're still the same. So the Word of God is perfect.
The Word of God transforms us. The Word of God transforms us. Look at verse 7 of Psalm 19. "The law of the Lord of the Word of God is perfect converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple". The word used here for converting can be translated, reviving, restoring, transforming, right? So as you study and apply scripture, it revives you, it restores you, it transforms you. This is very important. Now, if you don't feel like you need transformation if you don't feel like you need to be spiritually revived, then I guess you don't really need the Bible. The Bible is for people who have a sense of desperation about where they are in life. It's for people that are not sure where they came from or where they're going. It's for people that wish they could change, but they don't know how. It's for people that wish their relationships were better. It's for people that need answers. It's for you, it's for me.
So if you want to be transformed, you need to study scripture and listen to this memorize scripture. I cannot emphasize that enough. Memorize scripture, commit it to memory. We read in Psalm 119:11, "Your word, have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you". Psalm 37:31, "God's Word is in his heart, and then none of his steps will slide". So make room in your memory for the Bible. Number four, the Word of God gives us incredible wisdom. It gives us incredible wisdom. Look at verse 7, "The testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple". Isn't that an interesting phrase? The Hebrew translates simple from a root word that speaks of an open door. It's speaking of a person who has a mind like an open door. Everything comes in and everything goes out.
This person doesn't necessarily know what to let in or what to keep out. They can be naive, they can be open to everything and close to nothing. But the Bible says that it's able to make such a person wise. Think about when you just flip, when you scroll through social media, the mindless junk that you can expose your mind to. And I'll admit, I've done this flipping through and this video and this other thing, and then you look at your watch and 45 minutes have passed. You can't believe it just happened, but it did happen. I just read about a recent study from Wall Street Journal that found that when researchers created accounts belonging to a fictitious 13-year-old on TikTok, they were quickly inundated with videos about eating disorders, body image, self-harm, and suicide. Get it?
So you open up a TikTok account as a 13-year-old, and this is the kind of data they're feeding you, and you wonder why a young person is struggling with an eating disorder, body image, or as contemplating self-harm or even suicide. How we need to have a filter, say, "No, I'm not gonna look at that". No, that's not helpful for me. I'm gonna instead do this other thing and fill my mind with the Word of God. You see, when I know what the Bible teaches about the world, everything else begins to make sense. If I believe that man is basically good, then I have a problem in the world I'm living in right now. As I look at the way culture is going, as I look at the crime that is rising, as I look at the horrible things that take place each and every day if I think man is good, and if I could just, the problem is he just needs to change his environment, that's where the problems come from.
I'm gonna have a hard time resolving these things, but if I believe what the Bible says, the man is basically sinful, and that's why he does the things that he does. Things start making a lot more sense. If I believe that we can make the world a better place through our efforts, through politics, through technology, I'm gonna be very disappointed. If I believe that justice will prevail through our wonderful court system, I'm gonna be disappointed. But if I believe what the Bible says that one day Jesus Christ will come back again as King of kings and Lord of lords and establish his kingdom, that changes my perspective, you see. This is why you need a biblical worldview.
Here's a problem with people today. They don't have a biblical worldview. You need to think biblically. You need to live biblically. You need to vote biblically. But instead, we let our emotions rule our decisions. Years ago, someone asked me this question, "What do you do when you don't agree with the Bible"? I said, "We'll change your opinion because you're wrong". But some people will say, "Well, I don't agree with that verse". Oh really? Who cares? But anyway, I mean, you're free to have your opinion, but God's Word is true, and if you don't agree, you need to change the way you see things. Romans 9:20 says, "Who are you a mere human being to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Good question.
So God's Word is perfect. It transforms us, it makes us wise. What else do we know about the Bible? Well, the Word of God is right. Verse 8, "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart". It's right, and I can know that it is right. And as I read the Bible, I should ask myself questions. It's not just a historical document, it is that, and we do have history in the Bible, of course. But that's not the objective of the Bible to just merely teach you history, that's to give you the backdrop so you understand what was going on in that particular moment, but ultimately, it's a living breathing book that will speak to you. But it's very important to read things in context. See, people get themselves into a lot of trouble because they get verses out of context.
You know, they hold the Bible up to the wind and they say, "Lord, just speak to me right now. Just let the wind blow the pages to the thing you want me to read. All right". You read it. "And Judas went and hanged himself". "Well, Lord, what does this mean to me? Just blow the pages some more". "Go thou and do likewise". "Wait, what? No". Read it in context. Who was this written to? What was it saying in its original setting? That's why it's good to get an understanding of original languages, having multiple translations that you can consult so you understand the context, you understand the language, the meaning of it when it was originally given, and then I can apply it to my own life as well. This is why it's important to read through books of the Bible and get the whole counsel of God and ask yourself the question as you're reading verses, is there a sin here mentioned that I need to avoid? Or is there a promise here for me to claim or is a victory here for me to gain or a blessing for me to enjoy?
I heard about an old recluse who lived deep in the mountains of Colorado, and when he died, some of his distant relatives came from the city to collect his valuables. Upon arriving, they found an old shack with an outhouse next to it. Inside the shack next to the rock, fireplace was an old cooking pot and some mining equipment. There was a crack table with a three-legged chair standing guard by a tiny window, an old kerosene lamp serving as a centerpiece for the table. And at the dark corner of this little room, there was a dilapidated cot with a bed roll on it, and they picked up the old man's junk and started to leave. As they were driving back to the city, an old guy yelled out, who happened to be a friend of the miner. "Hey, could I have what you left back there in my friend's cabin"? They said, "Sure, take it". They thought there's nothing left in that cabin.
And the old friend walked right over to the table, reached under it, lifted up one of the floorboards and proceeded to take out all the gold his friend had discovered for the past 53 years. It was worth millions of dollars. And as relatives were driving away, the old friend said, "They shoulda got to know him better". See, he knew where the gold was 'cause he knew this man. And the gold is in the Word of God. And if you want to get to know God better, dig into the Word of God. The treasures are here for you to discover every single day. One last point, keeping the Word of God makes you happy. Keeping the Word of God makes you happy. Psalm 19:8, "The statutes of the Lord are right," or the Word of God is right. "Rejoicing the heart".
Psalm 1 says, "Happy is the man who does not walk in the council of the ungodly or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful, but his is delight". Not his duty or his drudgery, his delight is in the Word of God, and in it does he meditate day and night. He'll be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, his leaves shall not wither, and what's over he does will prosper. Happy is the man. And what does he do? He meditates in the Word of God. Let me just say a word about how much of the Bible you should read. Sometimes he'll read ten chapters and even brag about it. "Just read ten chapters of Leviticus. Let that sink in". "Wow. What was it about"? "I have no idea, but I read ten chapters".
I'd rather read ten verses with comprehension than ten chapters without it. This is what it means to meditate. In Eastern meditation, one seeks to empty their mind. In biblical meditation, one seeks to fill their mind, completely different. So when we talk about meditating on the Word of God, another way to translate it would be, chew your food carefully. I remember when Jonathan was a little boy, he loved crab. "Dad, can I get crab"? "Sure, son, here are some crab". He'd just eat. Wow, I paid a lot for that crab. "Can I have some more"? "Yeah, here you go". He'd eat it. You're eating the crab too fast. You don't know the value of the crab, you gotta taste it and chew it. This is costing me too much money.
All right. So we need to chew the Word of God. Let it sink in. Go back and read that verse again. "Don't you gotta read the verses"? No, think about it. Ponder it. Hmm. What does this say to me? Does this apply to me today? That's very important. It'll make you happy. Luke 11:28 says, "Happy are those that hear the Word of God and keep it".
See, you gotta keep it. It's not just enough to read it. It's not enough to just go through the Word of God, the Word of God has to go through you. It's not how you mark your Bible, it's how your Bible marks you. So it's like letting it impact me and the decisions that I make and that will bring the happiness that I desire. You can have a happy life without sin. Oh, I know. That's not what culture tells us. But look at the way people's lives go in this culture today. They have it all. They get it all. They experience it all, and they're miserable, unhappy people. God offers you a happiness apart from all of that. The happiness he gives doesn't stop when the party is over. It comes from reading, studying, memorizing, and obeying the Word of God.