Robert Jeffress - Affirmative Action
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Everyone has his own opinion about what it means to be successful in life. For some, it's having a well-paying job, or raising a good family, or living in a beautiful home. Well, those are certainly worthwhile goals, but today I'm going to describe what it looks like to be successful in your spiritual life, because in the end, that's what really matters. My message is titled "Affirmative Action" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Albert Dunlap was the longtime CEO of the sunbeam corporation. He was known back in the '90s as the Rambo of big business. His specialty was taking companies that were flailing and losing a market share and turning them around to successful enterprises. Albert Dunlap's biggest success had been at his previous company, the Scott Paper Company. When he went in as CEO at Scott, he knew immediately what had to be done to turn that company around. The first thing he did was to sell the company's posh headquarters then he fired 11,000 people and then he refocused the company back onto their most profitable business. And within a few short years, Albert Dunlap had turned Scott Paper Company from a $2 billion company to a $9 billion company. Now, everybody didn't agree with his harsh tactics. But even his most fierce critics had to say this about Albert Dunlap and that is, he was a success because he focused on clearly defined goals. And he was determined to accomplish those goals regardless of the cost.
Focus and determination, those are the keys for success, not just in the business world but in every area of our life. If you want to be a success in life, if you want to be a success in your marriage and your career, in any area of life, it takes focus and determination. And that's certainly true about your spiritual life as well. Tonight, we're going to conclude our series in 1 Corinthians by looking at how to be focused, and determined, and succeed in your relationship with God. If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 16. "Paul is going to distill all of his teaching into four positive commands". Look at it with me. If you want to succeed in the Christian life, here are the four commands. Paul writes, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and be strong".
Some people want to try to overly complicate the Christian life, it's not that hard. It's not that complicated, it's very simple. If you want to succeed in your relationship with God, here are the four commands. Let's look at them each briefly. First of all, Paul says, "Be on the alert". That word alert in Greek is a word that means literally, to watch. It's a word that is used eschatologically, that is to refer to the return of Jesus Christ. What do we need to watch against? Let me mention three things the Bible says we need to be on guard against in our own life. First of all, we need to guard against apathy in the Christian life.
Yiou remember the story about the two students that were seated in class? The teacher was up at the blackboard teaching vocabulary and she had the new word for the day. She wrote it on the chalkboard, A-P-A-T-H-Y. One of the students leaned over to his buddy and said, "What do you think that means"? His buddy shrugged his shoulder and says, "Who cares"? You know that's what apathy is, "Who cares"? It's a dangerous emotion when it comes to our spiritual life. In Revelation 3, verses 15 and 16, God sent this message to the church at Laodicea. He said, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot: I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth". Nothng nauseates God more than a lukewarm Christian. He'd rather you be on fire for Christ or a complete pagan than to be lukewarm. There is nothing that is a more poor witness for Christ than a lukewarm Christian. We need to be on guard against apathy, secondly, we need to be on guard against cynicism in our Christian life.
You know, if you hang around church long enough, if you talk to church people long enough, it's easy to become cynical about things. To become cynical about the pastor and the staff, about the deacons, about the ministries of the church. Always kind of making fun of what's going on, and pretty soon you become, begin to treat holy things as profane. In Psalm one, the Psalmist describes the person that God blesses. And one of the characteristics of the person God blesses is he does not hang around with sinners scoffing at the things of God. When everything in your Christian life becomes a joke, when everything in the church has become a joke to you, something is seriously wrong. You need to guard against cynicism. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the Bible says, "We need to be on guard against the attack of Satan in our life".
In 1 Peter five, verses eight and nine, Peter says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. For your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brothers who are in the world". Listen to me tonight, you will never understand what your life is really all about. You'll never understand the whys of the things you are experiencing until you understand that you have an enemy. An adversary who will not be satisfied until he completely destroys you. And Satan has two goals. If you're not a Christian, what Satan wants to do is to destroy you eternally. He wants to have your spirit and soul and take you to hell for all eternity. And you know, to accomplish that goal, you don't have to do anything. All you have to do is do nothing.
In just a few moments when the invitation is given and you have a chance to trust in Christ as Savior and you don't, you just sit there in your pew, you're playing into Satan's plan for your life. He wants to rob you of eternal life. Now, if he can't succeed in doing that, if you come to faith in Christ and have your sins forgiven, he still isn't going to let up in his attacks against you. He's going to try to rob you of the joy that comes from obeying Christ. He's going to rob you of the assurance of your salvation. He's going to try to rob you of your influence for Christ in this world. He'll try to rob you of the eternal rewards that God has for you in heaven. He is a liar and the father of all lies. And the Bible says that Satan has developed a blueprint for your destruction.
You know, in 2 Corinthians chapter two, verse 11, he says, "We should not be unaware of Satan's schemes". That word scheme means blueprint. Satan has a blueprint individualized just for you to take you out. If he can't rob you of eternal life, he'll rob you of your rewards, your influence, the joy of obedience to God. Now even though his blueprint for your destruction is very specific, he knows your weaknesses, he knows your points of vulnerability. Usually, his point of attack will involve one, if not all, four of these areas. I want you to write these down. I heard somebody share this one time. All of Satan's attack usually come in one of four areas and they all begin with an s. The first s representing Satan's attack in your life is silver. And by that, I mean money. He'll use money to try to attract you away from God.
In 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9 and 10, Paul writes, "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money," not money, but the love of money "Is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and have pierced themselves with many griefs". If Satan wants to destroy your relationship with God, there's no better way to do it than to start having you focus on money. There is something about money that absolutely blinds us to the reality and the power of God. Remember what Jesus said? He said, "You cannot serve God and money". He didn't say you can't serve God in your work. He didn't say you can't serve God and pleasure. He didn't say you can't serve God and anything else, all of those things can be idols, but there is something unique about money that grips our emotions and turns our affections away from God.
You know, it doesn't take very much money to turn our affections away from God. It doesn't take very much money to blind us to the reality of God. Remember that illustration, you can take two Pennies and put a penny up in front of your eye, each eye. That little penny, as small as it is, can block out the sun that is billions of times larger than that penny. It's the same way with money. Money has a way of blinding you to the power and the reality of God. You know what the greatest antidote to materialism is, greed, the love of money? It's giving. It's giving. It's letting go of your money. 1 Corinthians 16, verse 2. Paul said, "On the first day of every week, let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come". Paul was saying, "Get ready, set aside some of your money for the offering that I will be taking soon".
You see, proportionate giving every week to God's work has a way of reminding us that what we have is not ours. It's simply on loan to us from God. And every time we give, we're doing battle with the love of money. And every time we let go, we're having victory over the love of money in our life. Silver is one way that Satan deters our attention away from God. The second area of attack, if he can't get us with money, the second s stands for sex. Another way Satan destroys your testimony for Christ robs you of the joy of obedience to God is through immoral relationships. Satan will try to destroy your witness, your joy in your Christian life through immoral relationships. And that means we need to be on alert for any relationship that could turn us away from God.
If Satan can't get you to focus on silver or sex, the third s stands for self. That is he will tempt you to become so absorbed in your own goals, your own agenda for life that you never take into account what God's plan for you is. Remember, that's what got Lucifer in the first place. It was Lucifer's desire to achieve his own agenda rather than God's agenda that caused him to be cast out of heaven. What's the cure for self? Look at verse 14 of 1 Corinthians 16. "Let all that you do be done in love".
1 Corinthians 13, Paul addressed a whole chapter to what it means to really love other people, to put other people's interest, agape love, above your own interest. What has Satan used to tempt us? He'll use silver, he'll use sex, he'll use self, the fourth s is he will use sloth. S-l-o-t-h, that's another word for laziness. The Bible has a great deal to say about the lazy person. The person who doesn't take care of his career, his business affairs, or his spiritual life. I want you to hold your place here and turn over to Proverbs chapter 24, verses 30 to 34. This is a case analysis of a slothful person, what the Bible calls the slugger, the lazy person. Look at Proverbs 24 beginning with verse 30. The writer says, "I passed by the field of the sluggard, and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense. And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles, its surface was covered with nettles and its Stonewall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it, I looked, and I received instruction".
Now, this is the lesson he came away with after watching this neighbor whose home was broken down and the weeds were overgrown. This is the lesson, verse 33. "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man". Now, obviously, the writer's talking about business affairs here, but this applies to every area of life. The person who just lets things go. He doesn't mean to, he just doesn't give attention to the important things in life. It's the person who misses one day of reading his Bible and praying, one week of church. And then one week easily becomes two weeks. One day of missing your time with the Lord becomes two days, and three days, and four days. You move inch by inch by inch away from God and suddenly you're awaken one day in a place so far away from your Creator, you never thought it possible.
And that's why the Bible says, "We need to be on the alert against the attacks of the evil one" how do you succeed in your relationship with God? First of all, he tells us that we need to be on the alert. Secondly, he says, "Stand firm in the faith". Stand firm in the faith. Now, when he talks about standing firm in the faith, he's not talking about your personal faith. He doesn't say stand firm in faith. He says, "Stand firm in the faith". That word is articular, there's an article in front of it. It's talking about the body of doctrine that has been once for all delivered to the saints. He says, if you're going to survive in your Christian life, you've got to be unwavering in your belief that this book is the Word of God. That this book contains every bit of knowledge you need to know about God. That every word in this book is absolutely true.
And don't be surprised that one of Satan's first attacks against Christians is to make them doubt the veracity, the truthfulness of the Word of God. It's one of his oldest and most effective schemes. People will continually try to get you to doubt the truthfulness of God's word. But 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "Know all scripture is inspired by God". That word inspires, you know, is the combination word, theopneustos, "All scripture is God-breathed". Every word in this book comes from the breath of God, and God doesn't have bad breath. Every word he speaks is true and trusted. We have to believe in the veracity of God's word. But you know what? An even greater attack against the Bible today than the truthfulness of God's word is the completeness of God's word.
Now that's where the real attack is today. We need to be prepared and equipped to defend the Word of God against the attacks of Satan. The Bible says, "If you're going to succeed in the Christian life, you need to be on the alert, you need to stand firm in the faith, and number three," he says, "You need to act like men". Act like men. Well, you need to understand what Paul was saying here. When he says act like men, he's not referring to gender, -he's referring to maturity. He's saying, instead of acting like children, we need to act like grown-ups. We need to act like men and women rather than boys and girls. There's a time when you have to grow up in your Christian faith if you're going to succeed in your Christian life.
That was the problem with the Corinthians, they had not grown up. They were acting like children. In 1 Corinthians three, verse one, Paul says, "And i, brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as infants in Christ". These Corinthians were acting like children. They were spiritual children, but they were children. We're not to be that way. In Ephesians chapter four, Paul writes, "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves carried about by every wind of doctrine and the trickery of men by craftiness in deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth and love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him who is the head, even Christ". Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and fourthly, he says, "Be strong".
Listen to me. One of the greatest myths about Christianity is when you become a Christian, it's an automatic exemption from any further problems in life. We know that's not true, is it? The fact is following Christ is going to ensure that you face problems in life. The good news is you don't face them alone. But you do face problems on a variety of fronts. You know, military strategists will tell us, it's very difficult to fight a war on two different fronts. And yet as Christians, we are asked to be in a battle, in a war on three separate fronts. We'll jot these down. If you enlist to be a follower of Christ, first of all, you're in a battle against the world.
In James four, verse four, James writes, "You adulteress, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God". What does he mean, a friend of the world? When he talks about the world, he's not talking about that picture of planet earth that the colonel showed us today. He's talking about the world system that is opposed to the things of God. You see, Satan has control of this world system. He's ultimately in control temporarily, but he's still in control of this world's value systems. We are in a world that is hostile toward the things of God.
Have you discovered that yet? This world is in conflict with God's value system. And if you enlist as a follower of Christ, don't be surprised when you face conflicts at work, when you face conflicts in some of your closest friendships, when you even face conflicts at home, the Bible says you are doing battle not against people, but against the world system of which Satan is in charge. We're in battle against the world. Secondly, we're in a battle against our own flesh, that is our sin nature. There is an internal struggle inside of you if you're a Christian, between that nature that wants to please God, your new nature, and the residual effects of your old nature.
In 1 Peter 2, verse 11, Peter writes, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul". Do you feel that conflict that goes on in your own soul every minute of every hour? The apostle Paul faced it in Romans seven. He said, "The things I want to do, I don't do, and the things I don't want to do, I do". Every Christian faces that battle. But could I give you a word of encouragement tonight? If you're a Christian, God has given you the strength to say no to your old nature. And every time you say no to it, every time you say no to sin, not only do you strengthen that new nature, but you actually offer a sacrifice to God.
Do you know every time you say no to sin, it's like offering a sacrifice to God? You say, "Preacher, where in the world do you get that"? Psalm four, verse five. The Psalmist said, "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and trust in the Lord". That word righteousness simply means right living. And the Bible says when you say no to what you really want to do, the old nature, and say yes to God, you are offering a sacrifice. A sacrifice of righteousness. We're in a war against the world, against the flesh, and certainly, against the devil himself. In Ephesians 6:13, Paul said, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm".
Satan is going to unleash his whole arsenal of spiritual weapons against you. You are in a life and death struggle with the evil one. But here is the good news, folks, you're not in that battle alone. God says, he has given you and me every spiritual resource we need to stand firm in the faith. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. Someone is well written, why is it we should be on the alert? Because we always have an enemy who is ready to pounce. Why stand firm in the faith? Because nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without a commitment to truth. Why act like men? Because acting childish won't cut it when the battle rages. And why be strong? Because weakness precedes surrender, and quitting is not an option.