John Bradshaw - Five Steps to Spiritual Victory
Thanks so much for joining me. We're going to pray together and ask God that as we open the Bible His Holy Spirit works in a way that speaks to our hearts, in a way that we'd never forget. Uh, you know, when you open up the Bible, it's an opportunity for transformation to take place, for God to work miracles of divine grace. Let's pray that He does that right now. Can we pray?
Our Father in heaven, we're grateful that we can be with You at this time. We thank You for Your presence, for Your very real goodness, and so we ask You, Lord, to speak through Your Word. Don't let us be the same at the conclusion of this time together. Bless us according to Your perfect will. I pray, we pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.
The man was a bully. That's really what he was. Any grown man who'd pick a fight with a teenager is a bully. Now, you could call the teenager in question naïve; you might call him an idealist, a dreamer. With the exception of maybe two or three people on the entire planet, no one would step into a boxing ring with the heavyweight champion of the world, for example, and think that he has a chance. But here he was, just a kid. He'd been put in his place minutes before he walked out to face the bully. His own brothers had remonstrated with him. In fact, they'd insulted him. It seems he might have got a bad deal from his brothers with some frequency, based on how he replied to them. He said, "What have I done now"? But we know how this story ends. One little stone went up in the air, and the giant came tumbling down. It was an unlikely victory, except, of course, for one thing: God was with David.
David's victory over a nine-feet-tall giant in the Valley of Elah shows us that God is the God of victory. And that when He gets into a situation, when He is allowed into a situation, victory follows. We could think together about Gideon and his 300 soldiers and the victory they won over a Midianite army described as being "as numerous as locusts". And given what's going on in some parts of the world right now, that is a very graphic statement. The Bible says that the Midianites' camels "were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude". Only a fool would enter into a battle with odds like that, someone delusional. Or, someone guided by God and under the aegis of the Holy Spirit. Empowered by God, Gideon was victorious.
And so today, I want to talk with you about victory. Not victory over an army, not victory on the sports field. Spiritual victory. Victory over the ultimate enemy. Victory over sin. And we should want to talk about that. The Bible is very clear about the deadly nature of sin. Isaiah wrote that sin separates from God. Paul wrote that "the wages of sin is death". Sin is an intruder, an interloper. It's like a virus. Let me tell you how these viruses function. These things that are so small, that if bacteria had eyes, bacteria wouldn't be able to see most viruses. They're that small. Like sin, which often goes undetected. People failing to recognize it for what it really is.
Viruses are a collection of organic matter that are able to self-replicate. They're a piece or a strand of genetic information, usually DNA or RNA. In order to replicate, they infect cells and highjack those cells to produce viruses, reproducing, as it were, themselves. They bind to cells and integrate into the cell's own DNA. Doesn't that sound like what sin is like? Sin came here to this world and attached itself to the human family. It infected people, who became carriers and transmitters of the virus of sin, perpetuating it. We were infected, weakened, forever changed, and there was only ever going to be one successful treatment against that virus.
The Bible tells us plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that "Christ died for our sins". And it says that He did so "according to the Scriptures". According to the prophecies, according to Genesis 3 and verse 15, according to Isaiah 53. Jesus died for our sins. Sin causes death, and Jesus said, Let me die that death so that anyone who believes in me can receive eternal life. Jesus was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world". Matthew wrote in his Gospel that Jesus would "save His people from their sins". Matthew 1 and verse 21. So I want to look at a Bible passage with you. This is Paul writing to a group of believers who had their problems. And I need to turn here so I can read it with you. He was writing to a group of believers who had come out of an old life, and he shows us what that life was like.
This is 1 Corinthians chapter 6, and we start in verse 9: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God". That is pretty clear, and you don't want to miss any of that. Moral impurity, idolatry, people fooling around on their spouses. And do you think there's some of that going on today? You know there's plenty of it, and Paul says plainly, people practicing that will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, to be honest with you, adulterers are still a fairly easy target. We know it's wrong. Society knows it's wrong.
However, in truth, that seventh commandment reveals our hypocrisy as human beings, because that sin happens everywhere and goes unnoticed, unchecked, unrebuked often, but as soon as the governor of the state does it, it's the crime of the century. A Hollywood A-lister, nobody seems to care. But a religious leader, and we suddenly find our moral compass. It is a wondrous double standard. Of course, the standard ought to be that sin is sin and therefore wrong all the time, irrespective of who it is carrying it out. But before we look down our proboscises at the morally challenged, that list Paul gave even includes covetousness. Now, that's getting a little close to home for some of us now. It includes idolators, and while that's definitely the person who bows down to an image, it might also be the person who idolizes a sports team.
So let's not think that this is only about the other guy here. But notice what Paul writes to these folks. He mentions thieves and the immoral and drunks and extortionists. Some translators use the word "swindlers" here. He reads them this list of sins, and then he says to them in verse 11: "And such were some of you: but [you] are washed, but [you] are sanctified, but [you] are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God". Did you catch that? "And such were some of you". You were like that, but you are not like that now. You've been cleansed. And Paul isn't just calling them new; he is saying that they are new. And that is God's plan for all of us. So let's understand something here. God can give you a new heart. He can make a new creation out of you. In other words, those promises in the Bible aren't merely platitudes or best intentions. The Bible means what it says when it speaks to us about sin and its remedy. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan.
So now let's look at 1 Corinthians 10 and verse 13. You might be able to recite this by heart. If you cannot, then make sure you can by the end of this day. The Bible says, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it". There is, according to the Bible, a way out of every temptation. That's precisely what Paul wrote. And I know how hard that is for some people to believe. A person gets so deep into lust it's impossible to think that it's even possible to live without that sin in your life. You're so angry, or you're dishonest, or you're an alcoholic, or whatever it might be, and you think there is no way out. But here's God saying to a group of people, "Ya used to be like that, but you are not now".
God says, "There is a way of escape from every temptation". The Bible says in Romans 6 and verse 11: "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord". This is God giving hope to every person alive. You can change. You can be new. You don't have to stay chained to your old ways. You can be everything God wants you to be. But I'll tell you this: You begin talking about this, and you'll make a lot of people as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I can't figure out why, but there are many people who don't want to talk about obeying God, as though "obedience" is a dirty word. It's not. "Sin" is a dirty word. "Death" is another one.
Of course, if you think that you can obey your way to heaven, you are dead wrong. Obedience was never the root of your salvation, the cause of your salvation. God never says, "Go on and obey. I'll wait over here until you figure it out, and then I'll save you". Instead, God makes clear that obedience becomes an inevitability in the life of the person who learns to love Jesus more and more. It was Jesus who said in John 14, verse 15: "If you love me, keep my commandments". But wait, numerous translations render that verse, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments". Jesus was not saying, "If you love me, go on; prove it to me by keeping my commandments". He was saying, "If you love me, something wonderful is going to happen in your life. You are going to keep my commandments".
Obedience is an inevitability in the life of the one who loves God and grows in grace. An apple tree is going to produce apples. A pear tree will produce pears. A believer in Jesus will manifest the fruit of the Spirit because the Holy Spirit is alive and active in your life. So how can we experience obedience? I'll give you five steps. Now, I'm not including these in any order of importance, necessarily. And I'm not pretending that there are only five steps, but I'm going to give you five now. A couple you can predict, a couple you might not. We can look at others later. Here are some things that you can do if you are looking to grow spiritually and experience victory rather than defeat. Five steps. And we are predicating all of these upon a simple idea. That idea being that you want to experience victory in your life. If you don't want to, you won't. Those folks who say, "God doesn't expect me to give up this particular sin". Well, you won't.
You might say, "God doesn't demand that". I would agree. He doesn't demand it. He promises it. "I will do a new thing" in you, God said through Isaiah in Isaiah 43:19. If you don't want to, you will rise as high as your desires. If you want to experience liberty, you will discover that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that [you could] ask or think". Exceeding abundantly, more than you can imagine. All right. Where do we start in our five steps to spiritual victory? We start at number one, and here it is: Read...the...Bible. The human mind is like a sponge, and it soaks up whatever you expose it to. The mind is like a hard drive on a computer, and you get to program it. When you hear the sound of a baby laughing, that brings you joy.
When you see a puppy, you smile. When you look in the rearview mirror and you see a police car, you get nervous. These are natural reactions to situations. Your mind going to a certain place based on how you have programmed your mind one way or another. If you read the Bible, you are going to have closeness with God. You are going to program your mind with God's principles. When you read the Bible, you will think of heavenly things. Your frame of reference for life is going to be the Word of God. How powerful is that! Instead of fear, you'll be thinking courage, because you'll read where God said, "Be strong and of a good courage" in Joshua 1 and verse 9. Instead of getting weak in the knees when a coworker makes a certain inappropriate suggestion, you are going to remember Joseph saying, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God"?
Genesis 39 and verse 9. The Bible becomes the undergirding of your life. That's what it becomes. If you want to think heaven's thoughts, get heaven's communication into your mind. And it's easy. Watch. You just pick it up, and then you read it; you feed on it; you think about it. Instead of playing Candy Crush on your commute, pull out your Bible and read a few chapters. Instead of listening to the radio, listen to somebody reading the Word of God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and he said basically, that by beholding, we become changed. You find that, that's a, a sort of a paraphrase of 2 Corinthians chapter 3 and verse 18. If you behold Christ in the Word, you will become like Christ. That's how this thing works. You get the Word of God out of the pages, into your mind. It will mold you and remake you. And let's not make the claim that the Bible doesn't work if you are not reading the Bible.
Of course you're not going to experience God's power and God's close presence if you are not drinking in that power and if you are not languishing, "luxuriating" is a better word, if you are not luxuriating in His presence. And I say this, knowing that not all God's people read the Bible. People who have gone to church for years can still be biblically illiterate. Get reading. Get your children reading. And, by the way, It Is Written's children's ministry, My Place With Jesus, has an excellent children's Bible-reading program. Do your kids a favor; get 'em reading the Word of God. You get in touch with us, say, "I want Journey Through the Bible for my children," or my grandchildren or the children at church or the children's study rooms at church. Get 'em reading the Bible!
Let me tell you something, speaking of children. We are anguished, all of us, because so many of our young people leave the church, and that happens right across the spectrum of Christianity. But I'll tell you about someone that you have never met. Are you ready? He is someone you have never met. You have never met a young person who left the church while having a meaningful daily devotional experience. It just doesn't happen. Reading God's Word brings God's power into your life because it brings God's presence into your life. That happens whether you are 70 or 27 or 17 or 7. You know that God spoke, and the world came into existence. And that's because there is creative power in God's Word. That same creative power is resident in God's written Word. Receive that into your life, and the same power begins to work in you as worked when God hung the sun in the sky. Unleash that power in your life! Read God's Word.
First of our five steps to spiritual victory. The second of our five steps to spiritual victory, it's an easy one. And you might be able to guess what it is. I heard somebody say it. It is, say it again; we might all hear, it is... pray! You cannot be surprised to hear me say this. Pray. So many people don't. Or they pray haphazardly or half-heartedly. You want to pray like you mean it. And wait with me here for a moment. I appreciate that there are books written about prayer. I, I'm all for that. And you can go to a weekend retreat and learn about prayer. And, and maybe that's so that you can, so that you can crank up your prayer life and get it really humming along. I'm all for that, and I don't want you to think that I'm against that in any way. But you don't have to read nothing but the Bible if you want to figure prayer out.
Read the Lord's Prayer. Read what Christ said about prayer. Read the model prayers that you find in the Bible, and there are many of them, powerful prayers. Just communicate with God. Pray in the morning before you start your day. Pray before you check your emails. Pray before looking at Facebook. Pray. Have something to say to God. Praise Him! Confess your sins. Tell Him what you're thankful for. Do as Jesus already told you, and ask God to give you your daily bread. Tell Him what you need. Pray for others. Pray for your family, for the sick, for your church leaders, for your country, for the missionaries. Pray! And pray for spiritual strength. Pray for deliverance from the thralldom of sin. Pray for victory where now you are experiencing defeat. Prayer is a connection. It is "opening your heart to God as to a friend". It is opening up the lines of communication so you can hear God speak to you when He speaks to you.
I read recently in a wonderful little book called "The Open Door", "The Open Door," a book of experiences of young people who would sell Christian books. And in this book, "The Open Door," was the story of a young man who was selling Christian books and was having a hard day. And those hard days are hard because he was counting on his sales to help him get through college. Now, he was at a truck stop, and he felt as though God was telling him to knock on the door of that particular parked truck. But he was recitent, you watch enough of these and you'll learn some new words, whether they're in the dictionary or not. Let's try that again. He was reticent about doing so.
In fact, he thought it was a bad idea. But the impression to knock on the door of the truck was so strong that he did. He felt as though God had been talking to him. He knocked. Turns out he connected with a man who'd been a church member. The driver of the truck had once been a church member, grew up in the church. But as he got older, left his home country, started to drift away, so that now he was way out there. But these two connected. Our friend bought some books, read them, connected with the church in his area, of his own volition. He was baptized, and he came back to faith in Christ. Come on and say "amen". And that's because our young man was a praying young man and was accustomed to talking to God. When God spoke to him, he was, therefore, able to discern God's voice, and it led a man back to faith in Christ.
That's why Abraham went forward to sacrifice Isaac, because he knew it was God's voice urging him to do so. That's how powerful prayer is. You get to know God's voice, and you will find that God will do in answer to prayer certain things that He wouldn't do if you didn't ask. And to think we've got Jesus making extravagant promises to us. "Ask, and [you] shall receive". Think about that. First John 5:14 and 15, "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He [hears] us: and if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him".
Now, remember, we don't pray expecting that prayer will get us off the hook, expecting that prayer will always get us out of hardships. Christian believers have prayed and have been martyred. Jesus prayed, and He died on a cross. Bad things can still happen. But we don't pray just so we can avoid bad things. Prayer isn't a shopping list, man. God isn't Santa. You don't sit on His knee and ask for a shiny red bicycle, expecting it to be under the tree on December 25. We pray so that God's will can be done in our lives. You might pray for a shiny red sports car and discover that what you needed instead was a job at Chick-fil-A. Right? Earning your own money, getting some priorities set, learning responsibility. We pray so that God will be honored and glorified, and that we might reflect His character to the world. Next point. And you might not be expecting this one.
Our next point in our five simple steps to spiritual victory is... are you listening now? Eat well. In fact, we could broaden that. Look after yourself. I'll tell you why. You know how people talk about being hangry? You've heard that, "hangry". It's a portmanteau, a combination of "hungry" and "angry". It's not a medical term, but maybe it should be, because if you are not taking care of yourself, if you're getting hungry, it works like not getting enough sleep, except instead of being hangry, you're getting "sin-gry". You can get scratchy and miserable, and the world suddenly is not a happy place. All you need is an apple or a sandwich. Fruit in the Garden of Eden got us into this mess we call sin, and it might be something just as easy that can get you out of it from time to time. Eat well. Eat food that is good for your brain. I'll add to that.
Let me broaden this. Get some exercise. When you're sluggish, it's all a lot more difficult. Clear your mind. Get the blood flowing. Blow out the cobwebs. Get out in nature. Breathe clean air in nature. Get some sunshine. Remember that "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit". We are not our own. We have been "bought at a price". No, no, you're not going to get me wrong. I'm not talking about eating your way into heaven. But here are good reasons the Bible tells us not to defile the body temple. Many good reasons. Let me give you one. The phenomenal book of Daniel contains some of the most profound prophecies in all of the Bible. Daniel 2, with the image representing the rise and fall of nations. Daniel 7, where God repeats that and enlarges upon it. Daniel 8 and the judgment, Daniel 9 and the 70 weeks prophecy. Daniel 11 and 12 with a close-up view of events. But where did it all start? It started with Daniel and his friends "[purposing] in [their hearts] that [they] would not defile [themselves] with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank".
This man's body was God's property, and he developed into a spiritual giant as God blessed him and gave him a mind unlike any other mind, because that mind was given over to God. Now, let me give you point number four... in our five steps to spiritual victory. I just talked about how you ought to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, for that matter. Let me broaden that out a little more. This point is: Get some sleep. Now, you might not have expected me to say that. I thought he was going to talk about, no, wait a moment, why is he suggesting now to get some sleep? You know what, if you are... have you had your eyes open lately? All over the media there is talk about how important it is to get adequate rest. The experts tell us we need to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe you can slide by on six. But these folks who say, "I can get by on four hours of sleep a night," no, you cannot. Every medical expert is going to tell you you are killing yourself. "I get by on five".
You might be able to do that once, or you might have been to do it when you were 21 years old and in college. But you cannot do it now if you're much older than that. And if you are a kid, develop this good habit, and it will keep you well. Let me tell you why. When you are tired, you get tetchy. "Tetchy" is a very technical term taken from the Greek word, okay, you understand what I mean. You get scratchy. You get short. You get abrupt. You get impatient. Things rub your fur the wrong way. You can't keep... Let me tell you something that I think is one of the most amazing things about the entire Easter story. Jesus was arrested on Thursday night. He didn't get any sleep. All the next day He was tortured and abused, physically, verbally, and He didn't crack, even though He hadn't had a wink of sleep. He was stretched.
Now, clearly He was able to do that because He was very closely connected with His Father in heaven. I'm not going to suggest to you that if you have a strong connection with God, you can skimp on sleep, because you cannot. God might work a miracle in your favor here and there. Friend, get rest. Otherwise you start to unload on people. Get rest. Otherwise now you're getting road rage out there just because somebody put their brakes on. Get rest. Because if you're not, you are snapping at the person at the checkout in the supermarket. Get some rest. "I'm reading, I'm praying, I'm doing this and that, but I keep on messing up". I'll tell you why it might be. Go to bed. Read God's Word before you sleep, and then sleep soundly. And you do that a night, two nights, three, these people who say, "Oh, I can't do that. I do my best stuff at night".
Well, get out of that habit. If you want to be spiritually successful, you will discover that getting adequate rest will really help you. Now, where have we been? Point one: Pray. Point two... no, no, no, no. Point one: Read the Bible. Point two: Pray. Point three: Look after your health. Point four, closely related to that: Get enough sleep. And now, point five. We are wanting to be spiritually successful. Point five is... surrender, unreservedly to God. God is simply asking you to yield to Him. Paul wrote to the Romans and he said in Romans 6 and verse 16: "Know ye not, that to whom [you] yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants [you] are to whom [you] obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness"? Your experience has already taught you that you are too weak to be victorious over temptation. But that's okay. In fact, it's an unalterable law. You are too weak. And I can say we are too weak.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 and verse 9, God tells us that His "strength is made perfect in weakness". So if you bring your weakness to God, He will unite it with His great strength, making one new person out of the combination of two. See Ephesians 2 and verse 15. If you labor under the misconception that you need to straighten yourself up or fix up your problems before you come to God, you need to disabuse yourself of that idea right away. The key to victory is surrender to Christ. Listen to me now. You can read the Bible until the cows come home, but if you read it without a surrendered heart, God is still unable to do in your life the work that He wants to do. You can pray until you have calluses on your knees, but without a surrendered heart, without praying the prayer that says, "Not my will, but [Thy will], be done," you're going to be the same old person you were before, but with calluses on your knees.
You surrender, and He works. You surrender, and God does His work in you. You surrender, and God will take over in your life and do what you could never do. There are heights you are going to reach that right now you cannot imagine. But the problem too many people have, the mistake too many people make is the tendency to try harder. People think to themselves, If I only do a little better. If I only try a little harder. If I could only remember to bite my tongue. That is a recipe for the worst kind of disaster. And I will tell you why. Because not only do you fail, and you do, but you realize that you are a failure. You fall short, and you realize the impossibility of what you are trying to do. And then, you might despair of ever being able to be a true Christian. If you're honest, you'll say to yourself, "This doesn't work". But the problem is that instead of taking the right approach from then on, you'll take one of at least two devastatingly bad approaches. One of them is this: You try and try, and you pray and pray, and you fast and fast, and you try and try, and you fail and fail. And then you say, "This just doesn't work".
And so you decide that you will always be the spiritual failure that you are. Come on, now. You know I'm speaking to some hearts today. You are damned to stay stuck in your sins, and you accept that, and that's a disaster. A second devastatingly bad approach is that you then go to the Bible and say, "All these passages that say that sin isn't really all of that, all of these passages that say I need to quit indulging in sin, all of these things that say sin is so bad and so serious, they really don't mean that". You might say, "How can they mean that when I have done my best and I'm still failing left and right"? People do that, and you know them. You know them. You might even be one. They'll then change the meaning of some of the Bible's plainest statements so that "go, and sin no more" is taken to mean, "Go, and sin a little less," or, "Go, and sin, but don't feel quite so bad about it".
Listen, friend, you don't have to recast the Bible. If you are failing, thank God for that. It means you have seen your weakness, and now you can do something about it. And there's actually a third devastatingly bad approach that you might take when you realize your best efforts aren't getting you to where you want to be. And a fourth, in fact. The third is when people say, "I'll just keep trying hard, and maybe harder than ever before". Why would you think anything is going to change if you are taking exactly the same failed approach to sin as you always have? "It just won't change". And the fourth devastatingly bad approach is that you decide in your heart that it's just not worth it, and that you'll never be a true Christian. Nothing could ever be further from the truth.
Manasseh was a thoroughly wicked man who became a child of God. Nebuchadnezzar was the last person you'd expect to be saved. But you're going to see him in heaven. King David was a train wreck, unless you have a better description for someone who was a serial adulterer, whose lack of faith in God landed not only him but the nation of Israel in some disastrous situations. James and John were known as "the sons of thunder," for crying out loud. Peter couldn't keep his foot out of his own mouth and denied Jesus after boldly declaring, I would rather die than deny You. And we know that all of these people came to have a genuine experience, and the reason for that is that they figured out what I'm about to tell you. Remember Israel at the base of Mount Sinai. They said to God, "[Everything] that the Lord [says] we will do". No! No! No! Right intent, perhaps. You want to be in agreement with God. But their method was catastrophic. They should have said, "Lord, we'd do it if we could, but we just cannot. So, Lord, we are going to need Your help. In fact, we are going to need You to do it. We'll give You our will. We are willing. But we need Your power. We need Your presence. We need You to do it in our lives". And if they had said that, there never would have been a golden calf.
Surrender, friend. You read where the Bible says, "Blessed are the pure in heart," and you say, "My search history reveals that I am not pure in heart". So you go to God and you say, "Lord, this cannot go on, but I can't fix it. I need You to do that. I'm willing, and so I'm asking You to work in my life". What do you think God is going to do? He is going to change your heart and change your life. Now, does that mean that the temptation is gone? Never more to return? No, of course not. So when it comes back, you go to God again, and you say, "I will fall without Your deliverance". And these chains are going to break, and you are not going to be stuck in some of those places where you've been stuck. God might say to you, Delete this or that, and then you say, "By Your grace I will". Which you might not have even been able to do days ago. And you do the sensible things that you need to do. But you lean on God to do what only God can do. And then God says, "You don't speak to your spouse respectfully," or "to your parents".
And now you pray, "Lord, when I open my mouth, take my heart. Take over my vocal cords. You have my permission to produce appropriate words in my speech". And that's what happens. Now, you are going to have to wage stern, hard battles with self, but when your selfish self strives for the supremacy, you call on the Lord Jesus Christ, just like Peter when he was sinking into the Sea of Galilee: "Lord, save me"! And He will. It's what He does. Some of us have got to be saved from potato chips. Some of us have got to be saved from pride. Some of us have got to be saved from immorality. Some of us have got to be saved from impure language. I guess I don't know too many impure languages, but we've got to be saved, some of us, from impure language. Some have got to be saved from... you name it. Of course, one challenge comes when you don't recognize sin as sinful. "Why can't I watch this"? "Why can't I drink that"? "Why can I not act this way"?
But that's why you pray and read the Bible. You give God a chance to talk with you about that, and He will. And if you are genuine, you will soon be on God's program and not your own. The other big issue, and this is, this is truly problematic, is when people try to find out how much sin is okay to have in their life. Can I do this and this and this, even though I've given up that and that and that? It's a lot like asking your dinner guests how much poison they would like in their dessert. Let's keep our focus in the right place. Look, if you are saying, "How much can I do"? bad attitude, because you're saying, "What can I get away with"? If you are saying, "Look at my weakness," then you're not looking at God's strength. If you are saying "I think I'm almost there," you're measuring yourself the wrong way. You don't want to focus on your sin. No, don't take me out of context here. You identify, "This has got to go, and I want it gone out of my life," and you go to God. But you don't need to obsess about that, worry about that, let it weigh you down. You've given it to God, and it is God's problem.
Now, instead of looking at your sin, you are looking at your Savior! There are examples of people in the Bible who looked up towards heaven and saw Jesus there. We got to do that, too. Let's keep our focus in the right place. God asks us to grow. An oak tree doesn't reach maturity for decades. But in the meanwhile, it grows. And that's where our focus has got to be: on growth. And, by the way, you put a seed in the ground, add some water, put a little good growing condition there, put it in the sun or take it out of the sun, give it a little food, give it good soil, it's going to grow. It's just what happens. You bring the baby home from the hospital; you don't say to the baby, "Now, grow," and stand back and watch. You love it. You feed the child. You exercise the child. You dote on the child. You feed the child some more. Child grows. That's the law of this thing.
When you were brought home from the hospital, you couldn't tie your shoelace; you couldn't drive a car; you couldn't walk or run; you did not know the square root of 49... Seven. The time came, though, when you could do all of those things. But you still couldn't fly an airplane, and you couldn't ride a unicycle, and there were still times that you lost your balance. Life is about growth. You accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and when you do, you receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You are given His righteousness, and you didn't receive it because you had arrived at the place Enoch was at when he walked with God. You received it by faith, and then you started to grow, and you hung on to Jesus.
Surrender, friend. That's the key here. Surrender to Christ. Remember: "It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure". That's Philippians 2:13. And remember that "He [who has] begun a good work in you" is faithful to "perform it until the day of Jesus Christ". That is Philippians 1 in verse 6. God will do in your life what you cannot. Sin does not have to master you. You don't like it when it does. Shame doesn't have to ruin your life. Guilt doesn't have to dog your steps. You can live with integrity before society and before God. He can make a new person out of you. Five steps to spiritual victory: Read the Bible. Pray. Look after yourself. Get adequate rest. Surrender everything to Jesus.
I told this story before. A fellow was enjoying the ocean off the coast of New South Wales, Australia, in his yacht. Bad weather, I think, a mast broke. He sent out a mayday signal. It was received, but no one knew where the boat was. And there he was, off the coast, way out there, drifting. Emergency services knew he was out there somewhere. Couldn't find him. Uh, the authorities did something interesting. They asked incoming airliners, planes, passenger planes to look out for the man. And there was an Air Canada Triple Seven with, I think, about 270 people on board. It had been flying at thirty-some thousand feet, dropped right down to about 5,000. The captain said to the people on the aircraft, "Would you look out the windows, and see if you can spot this stricken man, his little boat? He's out there somewhere, like a needle in a haystack".
The passengers were like this up to the windows, looking for the fellow, and one of them saw him. "I think I see him! There he is"! Another one confirmed it: "That's him"! The pilot took the coordinates, relayed them back to shore. They sent somebody out there, picked the man up. It's interesting, his mother said, "I have been praying for you". But he was lost, and he couldn't get home. But he called out, and help came from above. And that lost man was a found man. That stricken man was a saved man. That drifting man... was homeward bound.
Come on, friend, Jesus is coming back soon. He's coming back for people in whom He sees His image reflected. We can't manufacture that. We can't concoct that. But we don't have to. God will do in us what we can't do for ourselves. By the grace of God, you may experience spiritual victory. Do you want that? Do you want that, friend? I think you do. And we're going to pray now, not just telling God that we want it, but thanking God, because we are claiming it right now. Come on, let's pray.
Our Father in heaven, You've said that we would hear a voice behind us when we turn to the left and when we turn to right, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it". Oh, but, Lord, too many times we have wandered off the path. And so now I pray that You take my heart. Take each heart.
Friend, do you want God to have your heart? If you do, would you raise your hand wherever you are?
Lord, I want You to have my heart. You've got to have my heart. You've got to own my life. Lord, that's our prayer now. Lead us in that way, I pray. Give us spiritual victory. We claim it. We believe it. We claim it through faith in Jesus. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.