Joyce Meyer - The Journey to Spiritual Maturity - Part 1
How many of you want to hear the Word of God today? How many of you are going to listen to it with the thought in mind of obeying it? See, I think a lot of times we just think, "Well, you know, I'm gonna go to church. I need to go to church". But we need to go with a thought in mind of doing what we hear. Just havin' somethin' underlined in your Bible or even just hearing it is not the key to breakthrough, but it's doing it. I like what Jesus said in John chapter 13, where he washed the disciples' feet. When it gets around a verse 17, he says, "Knowing these things, blessed and happy are you if you do them".
So today, you're going to hear some things and everything you hear makes you responsible then to do it. So, you're here. So now you're going to have responsibility. "Cheese and cracker Christianity". Actually, the proper title is "Claiming what is rightfully yours".
"A man had wanted to come to America for many years in order to make a better life for himself and his family. He diligently saved what he could year after year and finally had enough money to purchase a ticket on a ship to America. He brought a block of cheese and a package of crackers with him to eat on the trip. He would often go by the dining room and peer into the window at the extravagant meals being served to guests and his stomach would ache with hunger. When the ship docked, one of the workers asked him why he never joined them for any of the meals, and he asked, 'was there something wrong with the food'? To which the man replied, 'the food looked delicious,' but he said, 'i only had enough money for the ticket, not enough for the meals'. The worker told him the meals were all included in the purchase price of the ticket. He said, 'we had your place set at every meal and we wondered why you never came to eat with us'".
And the first thing I thought when I read that story was that's exactly the way a lot of Christians are. They receive Christ as their Savior and they think, "Well, I've got my ticket to heaven". This happens to be a ticket to my granddaughter's bridal shower, but it works. VIP admission. But, you know, when you get your ticket to heaven, there are thousands of things that come with it, that have already been bought and paid for. And I was one of these "Cheese and cracker Christians" for many, many, many, many years. I was lookin' forward to goin' to heaven and many days, wished I was already there. But I wasn't taking advantage of any of the promises of God that were already here, bought and paid for, for me right now and for all the days throughout my life.
And I think there's probably, perhaps millions of Christians like that. They're just trying to make it through every day, looking forward to the day when they can finally go to heaven and be happy, when they can finally go to heaven and have some joy. But see Jesus said, and it's recorded in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal, to kill and destroy". That's all the devil's good for: lyin', deceivin', tryin' to kill everything good that God wants you to have. If there's any way he can keep you from having what Jesus died for you to have, he will. And sometimes we just got to fight back a little bit, you know. We can't just be passive and just hope everything works out. We gotta tell him, "Listen devil, Jesus died for me to have this and I'm going to have it". I like what the apostle Paul said. He said, "I am letting go of what lies behind". He said, "My one thing that's more important to me than anything else".
And, you know, Paul knew a lot, so to say that that one thing was the most important is something we should pay attention to. He said, "One thing I do, it's my one aspiration, forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to the things that are ahead". He said, "I am determined to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus died to take hold of me". So, now, think about it. "I'm determined to take hold of those things for which Christ Jesus died to take hold of me". Yes, he died so our sins could be forgiven, and so we could spend eternity with God, the father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. But he also died so we could be free: so we wouldn't have to live our life in the past, or under a burden of guilt and condemnation, or live in fear, or live our lives trying to please other people. There's so many things that we give up because we either don't know that they're ours or we won't go and claim what is rightfully ours.
And I feel like, Paul, I'm determined, if anybody can have it, I'm going to have it. And see, you need to feel the same way. A lot of people look at themselves and their own mistakes and they kinda secretly decide that all these blessings might be for somebody else, but they're not for you. And you gotta get it through your head that if God will do it for anybody, he'll do it for you, because he said, "Whosoever will". And there's nobody in here today that doesn't fit into the category of a whosoever. You are a whosoever. And he says, "Whosoever will". Well, that means it's partially up to us. Do you know that Jesus has done everything that he needs to do? We don't need to be beggin' him to go do somethin', he's already done it. What we need to do is learn how to receive. Amen? To receive. We're gonna practice a little bit of that today.
I read in different things on the internet. You know, trying to find accurate numbers from the experts is really interesting because they all say something different. It's amazing to me that you can have five experts and they all have a different opinion. And yet, if you say they're an expert, we tend to believe them. I've read that there's 5.467 promises in the Bible. I've read that there are 7.487 promises in the Bible, and I've read that there's 8.810 promises in the Bible. So, we're just going to say today that there's too many to count. Okay? These blessings, now, I want you to hear this today, these blessings have been purchased for us. We are redeemed. And that means we have been bought back from the devil. Amen? Adam and Eve gave over, through their sin, the original plan that God had for them. But Jesus has bought back that original plan, and it's for anybody that will claim it and receive it.
The devil is not going to deliver it to your front door. We are in a war. Did you know that? We're called soldiers in the army of God. The blessings have been purchased for us with the blood of Jesus. I know you're more excited than that one clap. When you stop and think about how he suffered, so we could have great lives. It's just, it's pathetic how many things we just let go by: because either the churches we go to don't tell us, or we just don't know how to fight for 'em. And recently I was working on another message, and I read in Matthew, I think it was when Jesus was in Garden of Gethsemane and he was going through the agony, he was going through, getting mentally and spiritually prepared to go to the cross, and can you imagine, holy Jesus becoming sin? How horrible that must have been for him. And the Bible says that three times: not once, not twice, but three times he went away and prayed, "Father, if you can remove this cup from me".
So, let's just be clear here today that he did not want to go to the cross. It wasn't somethin' he was jumpin' up and down to do. So, if we have to do a few things once in a while, we don't want to do... I think we could manage. So, the next time that, you know God wants you to do somethin' and you don't want to do it. Remember, he didn't want to go to the cross either. But he said, "Nevertheless, your will be done and not mine". And here's the beautiful thing, even though with everything in him, he did not want to go to the cross, he wanted to please his father more than he wanted to please himself. I think that's just beautiful. Do you realize how different our lives would be if that was our attitude? "I don't want to do this God, but I will do it for you".
When God told me that he wanted Dave and I to take care of my mother and father, my dad who had sexually abused me and my mother who had allowed him to do it, I didn't want to do that. That was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I didn't want to be around them. I didn't want to see them. I didn't think they deserved it. But I did want to please God more than I wanted to please myself, and I did it for 13 years. I wasn't expecting it to be that long, and I wasn't expecting it to be as expensive as it was. We had 'em in a house for a while. Bought the house and they got too sick to stay in the house. We put 'em in assisted living. Then they had to go from there to a nursing home. And we had my mom, my dad, and my aunt, my widowed aunt. And I know this sounds bad, but it's the truth.
There's not one time that I went to that nursing home to visit my mom and dad that I can actually say that I wanted to go, but I knew that it was the right thing to do. Come on, I want you to hear me. We need to do the right thing, whether we feel like it or not. Remembering that Jesus didn't feel like going to the... That just really affected me when I got that through my head, that three times! And then when he was in the garden and the soldiers came in to get him and he could have gotten out of it any time he wanted to. Peter, who was always a little aggressive and doing things the wrong time, he gets out his sword and whacks off one of the soldier's ears. I guess, Jesus had to put it back on and... Jesus said to him, "Peter, don't you know"?
Now, listen to this. "Don't you know if I wanted to, I could call 12 legions of angels," that's 72.000 angels, "And they'd get me out of here. But if I did that, how would the will of God be fulfilled"? Wow! My, my, my, my, my. And I'll tell you somethin' that I learned a while ago, and it really helps me. You know, when you're doing something because of your love for God and it's hard to do, but you're doing it anyway because you love God, that's when you're growing spiritually. If it's easy to do, then it's easy because of spiritual growth you've already, have from the past. So, instead of thinking about how hard things are, just think about how you're growing and how much freer you're going to be.
Come on, I said, how much freer you're going to be. And I can tell you and I don't know how to explain this, but the grace that God gave me to do what I did for my parents, I think was the single most powerful thing that I have done in my life and I think it just tore the devil up. Because the Bible says, listen to me, we "Overcome evil with good". That was how I got the devil back for what he did to me. You don't get people back by hating them. You don't get people back by trying to get them back. Every time the enemy managed to do something to make you miserable, the first thing you should do is go out and do something good for somebody else. Do you hear me today? Go out and do something.
You say, "Well, that doesn't make any sense". Well, of course, it doesn't make any sense. The whole plan of salvation doesn't make any sense. That's why we miss so much, because we want to get it with our head, and you can't do that. So, Jesus shed his blood in order for us to have the freedoms and for the rights that have been stolen from us to be redeemed. And all we really need to do, once you're born again, all you really need to do is start finding out: by reading the Bible, and hearing good word, and reading good books, what is yours. I had to read and study to find out what was mine. In the beginning, I didn't really know that I could ever get over my past. I thought I would always have a second-class life because I had been sexually abused. That I would always somehow be a little bit inferior. But that was a lie. That was a lie. Actually, the truth of the matter is, I found out, that God says that he'll give me a "Double blessing for my former trouble".
And I personally think, I've got a better life than I would of had if it would of never happened. Now that don't make any sense either, but. Hey, I've decided to go with God, it don't have to make any sense. If it's in the book, I'm down with it. I'm for it. Amen? So, we have a covenant relationship with God, and we don't understand covenant today like they did when the book was written. But a covenant could not be broken. And if it was broken, it was broken at the cost of death. If you had a covenant with somebody and you broke it, your life was over. And so, we have a covenant relationship with God. Psalm 103:17-18, "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him".
Now, I just want to say a little word about fearing God. We're not to be afraid of God. But one of the biggest things that's missing from Christians' lives today is a reverential fear and awe of God. And so, many times people live sloppy lives. They do things that are immoral and act too much like the world. Because we don't have that reverential fear and awe that loving God provokes. I'm not afraid of God. I'm not afraid he would hurt me. But I have a reverence for God. I could not even get up here and preach if I had had a fight with my husband early this morning, unless I made peace with him before I got up here. We need to stop playing games with God and live, how many of you understand reverential fear and awe of God?
See, God is God, and he has all power, and he can do whatever he wants to do, any time he wants to, with anybody. And so, no matter what the world tells you: what you can't have, and what you can't do. If it's in the word and you love God and he says you can have it, then you can have it. There's no devil in hell that can keep you from havin' a good life, if you really want to have one. Amen? "And his righteousness with their children's children".
Now, that's interesting, too, because God makes us right with him when we're born again. And we're gonna talk a little bit more about that, 'cause I think, that's one of the hardest things for people to really grasp and get a hold of, that God sees me as being right. 'cause usually we're always thinkin' about what's wrong with us, you know. The devil whispers your ear all the time, "What's wrong with you? What's wrong with you"? And you know, you do somethin' and some person says, "What is wrong with you"? And yes, we may do things that are wrong, but who we are is different than what we do. When you know who you are, then your do will gradually get better. Amen? From glory to glory. And so, this righteousness that God gives us turns into right behavior because when you have something in you, then you can produce that on the outside. But God would not expect me to live a righteous life if he didn't give me righteousness to start with. Amen?
And so, when you live that righteous life, it affects your children, and then that affects your children's children. And I am so glad that I have 4 children: 2 sons, 2 daughters, 12 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren. And they're all serving God. And it's not because I was a perfect parent, because I wasn't. But three or four of our grandchildren are already workin' for us. And so, you see what you do, how it affects the next generation, and the next generation, and the next generation. So, let's get busy livin' right lives. See, kids are smart. I mean, they pick up on it. If you're a hypocrite, they know it, right away. And if you're a parent and you go to church and do all this spiritual stuff and say all the right spiritual things and have your bumper sticker and your Christian Jewelry and... But you don't live the life at home.
Come on. It just kind of makes them sick to their stomach. And that's the quickest way in the world to turn people against a relationship with God. We could do a little less preaching and a lot more living and get a lot further along. Okay, so I'm I read this whole thing again. So, it goes together. Psalm 103:17-18, "But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children, with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts". A covenant is an agreement between two parties, each party having privileges and responsibilities. God has promised us so many blessings, and what he's asked us to do is to love and obey him. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey me". I think that's John 14:15. He did not say, "If you obey me, I will love you".
See, we read it wrong. We're not buying God's love through our obedience. We're not buying special favors with our obedience. We love God first. And the more you love God, the more you're going to obey him. So, if you're having a problem with obedience, why don't you just go study more about how much God loves you and fall deeper and deeper and deeper in love with God. And the more you love him, the more you're gonna have to do what's right because you just can't stand not to. Amen? Instead of trying in the flesh to do things right, just spend more time with God.