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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Avoiding The Elvis Syndrome - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Avoiding The Elvis Syndrome - Part 1


Robert Jeffress - Avoiding The Elvis Syndrome - Part 1
TOPICS: But God..., Joseph, Life of Joseph, Salvation

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The Bible teaches that once we've been saved, we are eternally saved. No one can erase our names from the book of life. However, many Christians use the security of their salvation as a license to sin. They assume their so-called ticket to heaven allows them to live anyway they choose. Well today, we're going to see how this false notion is so wrong. My message is titled, "Avoiding the Elvis Syndrome" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Years ago, in the midst of the sex scandal involving then president Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, World Magazine published an open letter to one of the men who had been selected by president Clinton to be his spiritual advisor in the aftermath of that scandal. I wanted to read you a portion of the letter, because it was particularly applicable to our message today. The letter begins:

I'm heartened to know that you are among those who will offer counsel and accountability to the president. I'm praying that God will use you, an evangelical, as an instrument of God's grace in the life of Mr. Clinton. I hope you won't be offended if I'm so bold as to offer a few words of advice.

First, remember that the president is a southerner. There are something interesting things you should know about those of us who are southerners. One is that many of us suffer from the Elvis syndrome, by which I mean the ability to stand around the piano at Graceland and sing Gospel songs with tears in our eyes, then go upstairs to fornicate and persuade ourselves in the morning that the real person is the hymn-singing person. We have to confront the truth that the real person is not the sentimental one, but the sinful one.

The other thing to note about us is that we grew up in a culture that holds a peculiar perversion of the fifth point of Calvinism, the doctrine that God preserves his people so that they persevere in faith became once saved always saved, which in turn became once you've walked the aisle, you're saved no matter what. This gives a false security that we can live like hell and still go to heaven.

Second piece of advice, teach the president that while forgiveness is free, grace is expensive. In the present moral crisis, we evangelicals must remain evangelical. And that means refusing the Jewish idea that we can atone for our sins, and the Roman Catholic idea that we can make up for our sins through acts of penance. Forgiveness is free, granted immediately and completely to those who confess their sins and claim Christ, but the grace that provides that forgiveness has an infinite cost: the humiliation and death of the Son of God.


Now let's turn the spotlight away from the former president and shine it on ourselves for just a moment. What evidence in your life is there that you are truly saved? I'm afraid too many Christians today suffer from the Elvis syndrome. They think that because they have their so-called ticket to heaven, they can live anyway they choose to live. They can gather together on Sundays and sing hymns and feel exhilarated and have tears in their eyes, but go out and live like the devil the rest of the week without any consequence whatsoever. They cling to the doctrine, once saved always saved. The only people who can have assurance of salvation are those who have been truly saved. The security of the believer only applies to those who are truly believers.

Now let me be very clear about this. While the basis of our salvation is always grace, the evidence of our salvation is our obedience to God. And you can't separate one from the other. We see that truth illustrated in the passage we're going to look at today in Genesis chapters 45 through 46, as we look at the very real change that occurred both in Joseph's brothers and even Joseph's father Jacob, when they received the gift of forgiveness they desperately needed. Remember where we were in the story. Last time we saw the dramatic account of where Joseph actually revealed his identity to his brothers. They thought they had been dealing with just the prime minister of Egypt. It was their own brother Joseph whom they had sold into slavery. And we saw how Joseph evidences true forgiveness.

True forgiveness resists unnecessary embarrassment. Joseph tried to deal with his brothers as privately as possible. It relieves the offender of unhealthy grief. Joseph said to his brothers, "Don't be angry with yourselves". And then true forgiveness releases the offender of their obligation. Instead of giving his brothers what they deserved, death, he gave them what they needed, a new place in which to live. And finally, true forgiveness refocuses everyone's attention on the sovereignty of God. Remember what his brothers would say to Joseph, or Joseph would say to his brothers. Joseph said, "And as for you, you meant evil against me. What you did was wrong, but God is bigger than you are. God used it for good, to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive".

And so after that great revelation of his identity, the story continues in verse 16 of chapter 45, as we look at the change that occurred in both Joseph's brothers and his fathers. First of all, let's look at the brothers. They evidence a change in attitude after they were forgiven. Look at verse 16, "And when the news was heard in Pharaoh's house that Joseph's brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants". Now, Joseph had tried to deal as privately as he could with his brothers. He had everybody else leave the room. But once this happened, once Joseph revealed himself, word spread through the Egyptian grapevine, everybody knew about what had happened there.

Now, it hadn't been any mystery that Joseph was a slave, everybody knew that. He had been bought out of slavery. But they didn't know the whole story. I'm sure there are some people who questioned Pharaoh's wisdom in putting a former slave in charge of all of Egypt. And yet, once the whole story was known and the fact that the brothers had asked forgiveness and there had been a reconciliation, it vindicated Pharaoh's choice. And Pharaoh wanted to reward his servant Joseph for preserving the nation during the time of famine. So Pharaoh gives this order beginning in verse 17. "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'say to your brothers, do this, load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me. And I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land. Now you are ordered, do this, take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives and bring your father and come. But don't concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours'".

You see what he's doing? He doesn't know he's accomplishing God's will. He doesn't even believe in God, probably. But Pharaoh's accomplishing God's purpose. He said, "I want you, Joseph, to tell your brothers to go back with empty wagons from Egypt and load up all the junk and move it back to the land of Egypt". Now remember, the Egyptians are the ones who invented the wheel. They're the ones who invented the wagons. It's like Pharaoh is sending the moving vans to go ahead and pick up this fledgling nucleus of the nation of Israel, about 70 people total, the brothers, their wives, their children and grandchildren and move them to Egypt. Now actually, he gave orders to move the family and don't take any of the junk or the stuff, but as we'll see in a moment, they didn't listen to that part of the instruction. Pharaoh was saying all of this is going to be yours, the fertile region of Egypt. And so Joseph sent his brothers back to retrieve their father Jacob and all of the family and move them, resettle them in Egypt.

And then Joseph adds this parting words to his brothers. Look at verse 44, "So he sent his brothers away and as they departed, he said to them, 'do not quarrel on the journey'". You see, he understood that his brothers had been forgiven, they had repented, but they were still his brothers. And he knew that they would have that tendency, once they got out of his sight to start fighting with each other and blaming one another for everything that happened. Well, if you hadn't planned to sell him to the Egyptians. Oh, it wasn't my plan, it was your plan. He knew the tendency to do that. So he said, "Don't quarrel on the way home". Interestingly, there is no record of any incident of discord among the brothers after this.

Now let me point out something I need to say. Up to this point, the brothers had been presented in a negative light, and for good reason. Sold their brother into slavery, deceived their father by saying he was dead, deceiving people for 25 years about what had happened to Joseph. But we need to point out that they did truly repent of what they had done. They had confessed their sin to God. They had been forgiven, and they were changed people. Never once from this point on do we find any instance in which they didn't submit completely to the Lordship, the authority of Joseph, who is a type of Jesus Christ himself. They had a change in attitude toward one another, they had a change in attitude toward the one they served, their brother Joseph. When you truly receive forgiveness, it's going to change your attitude.

You know today there are some people who teach what we teach Lordship salvation. It's the idea that to become a Christian, yes, you must trust in Jesus as your Savior, but that's not enough. You also need to clean up your life, you need to be willing to give up this wrong relationship, you need to break this addiction, you need to do all of these things, clean yourself up to make yourself presentable to God. And if you're not willing to do that, then you're not truly saved. In fact, there's a phrase they use to describe this heresy. You probably heard it. If he's not Lord of all, he's not Lord at all. Have you ever heard that? That's not true.

Ladies and gentlemen, a non-Christian has no ability or even any inclination to completely renovate his life. The only thing a non-Christian can do, and that's by the grace of God, is call on the name of Jesus for salvation. That's all a non-Christian can do. Don't weigh non-Christians down with a load of heavy requirements they cannot possible fulfill. A non-Christian, all he must do to be saved is believe and trust in and cling to the name of Jesus for his salvation. But if he genuinely does that, the Holy Spirit will come into his life. He will have that unstoppable power we're going to talk about in the book of acts. And that Holy Spirit come in partnership with that human being, together they will work to clean out all of the junk out of that person's life. And they will become a new person in Jesus Christ. It doesn't happen immediately, but it does happen. And also, if that change doesn't happen, it's not that a person loses his salvation, it means he was never saved to begin with. There'll always be a change in a person's attitude toward God and others if they have genuinely been saved.

Remember that passage I had you read from James chapter two about the relationship between faith and works. James 2:14, "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but has no works? Can that faith save him"? Verse 17, "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead," it's non-existence, it is completely worthless. You know people get mixed up in that James two passage, for James says, "Abraham was justified by his works". That seems to be a contradiction of what Paul said in Romans four about Abraham, he wasn't justified by his works, but by faith in God alone. Is that a contradiction? No. They're using the word justified in two different ways. When Paul uses it, he uses it theologically. When Abraham was justified in Genesis 15, the Bible says Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness. That day God declared him to be not guilty, justified. But seven chapters later in Genesis 22, when God said to Abraham, "Offer your son, your only son as a sacrifice," and he was willing to do that, the Bible says at that point, Abraham was not made righteous, but he was seen to be righteous in the eyes of others. In other words, the proof of his justification was his obedience to God.

And that's how James uses the word justified, not to make righteous, but to declare or to be seen as righteous. If there is no works, there is no faith. The other night at our dinner with the pastor during the q&amp:a time, a woman asked a very perceptive question. "You say, pastor, works are not a requirement for salvation, but what place do good works have in the life of somebody who's been saved"? Well, Paul answers that question in Ephesians two verses eight to 10. He says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one should boast". Unfortunately evangelicals stop right there and they don't go to the next verse, they just cling to, oh, good works are worthless, they have no place in my life, they can accomplish nothing. No, he said, "We're not saved by works," but notice what he says in verse 10, "For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we should walk in them".

You see that? We're not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. Martin Luther once described the relationship between faith and works this way. He said, "Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone". Isn't that good? Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone. In other words, where there is genuine faith, there is going to be authentic fruit, spiritual fruit in the life of a person. And where there is no fruit, there is no faith. You see that fruit in the life of these brothers. They had a change in attitude. For Jacob, though, his receiving forgiveness, forgiveness he needed not only from God, but from Joseph as well, for being a derelict parent who didn't treat his children right and led to this favoritism that caused him to be sold into slavery. Jacob needed forgiveness. And his forgiveness resulted in a change not so much of just attitude, but of latitude. By that I mean a change of location, a change of direction. Remember longitude and latitude? I thought this was a good rhyming word with attitude. Latitude refers to the location Jacob was.

Now, let's go back to the story of Jacob in Genesis 45. While all these dramatic things were happening in Egypt and Joseph was identifying himself to his brothers, Jacob knew nothing of this. He was sitting at home alone. He had just sent his remaining sons, including Benjamin, to go back to Egypt to retrieve Simeon who is being held hostage and buy some more grain. And so the brothers finally make it back. All the brothers return this time. And Jacob's waiting to hear the news of what happened. So what's the news? Verse 26, "And the brothers told Jacob saying, 'Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt'. But Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them".

Now I think this account is kind of misleading in the sense it makes it seem like this happened very abruptly. Makes it sound like the boys returned home, they sat around the table munching on some bagels and one of the brothers said, "Oh, by the way, pops, Joseph is still alive, would you pass the cream cheese, please"? That's not what happened. Now listen, everything in the Bible was true, but not every account in the Bible is complete. We know, for example, there are many other things Jesus said besides what we have in the Gospels. The Gospels tell us what we need to know. He did many other works. Not every account in the Bible is a complete account, even if it's an accurate account. Many times the accounts we have in the Bible are summaries of what happened. And I think that's what you got going on here. I think in reality, what happened was, all the way back, they said, "How are we going to break the news to our father Jacob? Because if we tell him part of the story, we have to tell him the whole story".

And so they get home, Jacob said, "Tell me, what happened, what happened"? They said, "Dad, why don't you come over here and sit in your favorite chair. We've got something we need to talk to you about". "Well, what, what"? "Well dad, remember 25 years ago when you sent Joseph to check up on us, and we told you that he had been eaten by wild animal and we brought you back that tunic and that multi-colored garment that was covered in blood and we told you that he was dead"? "Yeah, how could I ever forget that"? They said, "Well, that's not exactly all of the story". And they began to tell him what really happened. And when they reached the climax of the story and tell him that the prime minister of Egypt, with whom they had been dealing, was in fact Joseph, and Joseph said, "I am Joseph, is my father still alive"?

The Bible says, Jacob was stunned. Literally in Hebrew, it means his heart grew cold. Some people believe that he fainted. Some people believe he had a mild heart attack, Dr. Pho, right there. We don't know, but it was absolutely like a thunderbolt from heaven when he heard those words. You see for 25 years, Jacob had been believing a lie that his son, his favorite son was dead. And it's interesting during those 25 years, as soon as he heard the news from the brothers that his son was supposedly killed by an animal, it's like the pilot light went off in his life. For the next 25 years you never find one instance of Jacob praying about anything, worshiping God, even thinking about God, because he had believed the lie that his son, his favorite son, was dead.

Let me ask you today, what lie have you embraced that has extinguished your love for God, your hunger to know God and obey him? We all have different lies we allow to govern our lives. Other Christians have adopted the lie and they've ordered their life around the lie that even though they're saved, they're still going to be slaves to those old habits and addictions that have ruined their life. They can never break the chains, they can never break free.

Romans 6:7 says, "If we have died with Christ, we have died to sin". Sin has no more control over our life than we choose to allow it to have. But some people have believed that lie and they're acting accordingly. Some people, some Christians have bought into the lie that there's something else they have to do to earn God's forgiveness besides trust in Christ, and they spend the rest of their life overcome with guilt and anxiety, because they can never be sure they're truly saved. Some people have bought into the lie that because there's some deep and dark mistake they made years ago, some sin they committed, that they can never truly be forgiven, they can never be used by God in any significant way. They are relegated to always being second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Some believers have bought into the lie that this life is all that there is, that they'll never see that Christian husband, they'll never see that child, that parent, again. What lie are you allowing to govern your life?
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