Robert Jeffress - How to Take a Spiritual Bath
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". For the last couple of weeks in our series called "Unleashed," we've been learning that every Christian has access to the power of the Holy Spirit. But how exactly do we tap into that immense resource? Well, today we're turning to Ephesians 5 to discover one of the four conduits or channels through which the Holy Spirit's power flows into our lives. My message is titled "How to take a spiritual bath" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
In his book, "Seven reasons you can trust the Bible," Erwin Lutzer poses this following scenario, he says imagine you're in Los Angeles, California and a series of wrong turns has landed you in the wrong part of the city, the riot-prone part of the city. And suddenly you discover you have a flat tire. You're stranded there, trying to figure out what your next move is going to be, when you look out your car window and you see a gang of 12 young men leaving a building and they are all headed towards your car. Immediately, you have visions of being dragged from the car, beaten, left for dead. Would it give you any comfort if you knew that those men were leaving a Bible study? Lutzer says even the most hardened atheist would find some comfort in that knowledge.
You see, even unbelievers understand, to a limited degree, they understand the ability of the Word of God to change lives. Unfortunately, many Christians today are not aware of that same power. Now, we talk a good game when it comes to the Bible. We say we believe the Word of God is alive and active and it is powerful, but we don't act that way. You remember in the reformation, one of the cries of the reformation was Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone. And yet, if you go into many evangelical conservative churches today the slogan seems almost to be anything but the Bible. Everything in the worship service is something else other than the Bible. It may be stories, it may be singing, it may be talking about topics, but there is very little emphasis given to the Word of God.
Now, it's easy to talk about what other people are doing wrong. Let's take the spotlight and shine it on our own lives for just a moment. Everybody have your Bible with you? If you don't, grab one, grab your neighbor's, grab somebody's, so you won't be embarrassed here. I want to ask you a question this morning. How many of you believe this book is the inerrant, inspired, powerful, authoritative Word of God? If you believe that, raise your Bibles, okay? All right. Everybody.
Now, let me ask you a few questions about this inerrant, inspired, authoritative, powerful Word of God. How much time did you do you spend this last week reading this an inerrant, inspired, authoritative, powerful Word of God? I'm not talking about how much time you spent reading books about the Bible. How much time this past week did you spend reading God's word? Another question. If you were sitting with somebody who wanted to know how to become a Christian, you had no pamphlet, no tract, all you had was a Bible, using God's word alone, could you lead somebody to faith in Jesus Christ?
Another question. Imagine you're in a prison cell, you have no access to a Bible, like many of our Christian brothers around the world, and sisters. You had no Bible and you're in a prison cell, how much of God's word, how many verses could you recall by memory? Imagine a friend or a coworker came up to you and asked for some real help about how to heal a broken marriage or how to deal with a rebellious child or how to resist temptation or how to break an addiction or how to have peace when your world is falling in around you, would you know where to turn in scripture to give them God's answers to those questions?
Now, my reason for asking you these questions is not to put on you a load of guilt. I mean, we all feel guilty enough about many things. But the reason I'm asking you these questions is to show you one reason that you and I are not experiencing more of God's power in our life. In this series on the Holy Spirit, "Unleashed," experiencing the Holy Spirit's power in your life, we're talking about how to release God's spirit's power in your life. Now, today we're going to look at this first channel through which God pours his spirit's power into your life, and that is through the Word of God. I want you to write this statement down because it is the thesis of the message this morning. And this is something I always want you to remember. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to unleash the power of God to transform us into the image of God. Write that down. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to unleash the power of God to transform form us into the image of God.
Now, let's see how that happens today. Today, I want to share with you four examples of the power of God's word. What is it that God's word is able to do for you and me? If you will, take your Bibles and turn to James 1. First of all, the Word of God possesses the power to save us. The Word of God possesses the power to save us. And the fact is people are attracted to the Gospel any number of ways. They can be attracted to the Gospel by a wonderful song or through a poem or through a warm, fuzzy story. All of those things may attract somebody to the Gospel, but there is only one thing that can save a person, and that is the Word of God.
Look at James 1:21, "Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all the remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted," underline that, "The word implanted, which is able to save your souls". Only the Word of God, the word and planted in people's lives, is what's going to save people. And that is why there is such an emphasis in this church, and has been for 143 years, on the Word of God, on preaching, proclaiming the Word of God.
I heard about somebody recently in our church that was kind of grumbling, and they said, "Well, you know, everything in our church is about the pulpit. It's just about the pulpit. Just seems like everything's about the pulpit". That's right. It's been that way for 143 years. You've heard of the purpose-driven church? Well, First Baptist Dallas is a pulpit-driven church, because it is a word-of-God-driven church. And we don't apologize for that. We know it is the Word of God that has the power to save people.
Not only that, the Word of God, secondly, possesses the power to guide us. Turn over to Psalm 119 for just a moment. I wonder this morning, how many of you have an important decision you need to make in the next three months? Just raise your hand. You've got an important decision you need to make in the next three months. I've got some great news for you this morning. If you're a Christian, God promises you to give you the guidance that you need. He hasn't left you as an orphan, Hebrews says. Jesus said, "Even when I go, I'll leave you another helper, the Holy Spirit, who will lead you and guide you into truth". In Psalm 32:8, God says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go: I will counsel you with my eye upon you".
Isn't that a great truth? God promises to give you the direction you need to make a decision. Now, here's the question. How does that direction come? Certainly God can speak to us through prayer, through the counsel of other Christians, through our own desires, but the primary way God is going to give you the direction that you need is through his word. And that's what we find in Psalm 119. Psalm 119, here's a little trivia, is the longest chapter in the Bible. 176 verses, and every one of those verses is about the value of the Word of God in your life.
Now, this Psalm, in the Hebrew text, is arranged in 22 stanzas. It was a song about the value of the Word of God. And each of those 22 stanzas begins with a different letter from the Hebrew alphabet. If it were in English, it would start with A and then B and then C. It's the Psalmists way of saying God's word has everything you need from A to Z to give you what you really need in life. Now look at the value of God's word and guidance. Look at verse 105 of Psalm 119. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". Imagine you're out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, no moon shining at all, and you're lost. Fortunately, though, you have a flashlight, and that flashlight provides just enough light to show you how take the next step, and the next step, and the next step. God's word is like a lamp. It is like a light.
Now, notice it doesn't say God's word is like a floodlight or a spotlight that illumines the whole path. It gives you just the amount of direction you need to take that next step, and that next step, and that next step. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path," and yet so many Christians have that light turned off. They have it on a shelf somewhere. They're stumbling around in the darkness, wondering why they don't receive the guidance they need to make the right decisions. Listen, God's word will give you the direction you need to take that next step.
Thirdly, God's word possesses the power to heal us. I want you to turn over to Hebrews 4. Hebrews 4. Do you remember the story of Gordius? Gordius was that guy tied the knot with rope that was so complex that nobody knew how to untie the Gordian knot. And person after person would come and try to untie the knot, and they were unsuccessful in doing so. And then one day, Alexander the Great came. He looked at that knot, he took out his sword, and just sliced it in two. He found the way to unravel the knot. You know, I think of that story every time I think about Hebrews 4:12. You know, ladies and gentlemen, the Bible says all of us are enslaved by sin. Sin is like a chord that wraps itself around our lives and strangles the life out of us. The Bible says sin is like a rope, it's like a cord wrapped around us. "By what a man is overcome," the Bible says, "By this he is enslaved".
You know what you're enslaved by today? You know what your master is? It's whatever you can't say no to in your life. It's whatever sin you cannot say no to, that is your master right now. "By what a person is overcome, by this he is enslaved". And all sin begins with wrong thinking. Wrong thinking leads to sin, and sin leads to slavery.
Let me show you how that works. For example, we think we're responsible for our well-being, therefore we are bound up in worry. Or we think that money is the answer to everything we need in life, and so we're bound up in greed. Or we think that sexual purity leads to boredom in life, and so we're bound up in immorality. Or we think that revenge is the best way to deal with mistreatment, and so we are bound up in bitterness. And so we are bound up in all of these sins that stem from wrong thinking and we try everything we can to break loose. We go to this program or this counselor, we try this program or we try these new year's resolutions, and nothing helps. What we need is the Word of God to slice through those wrong thoughts that lead to wrong actions that enslave us. And that's what God's word does.
Look at verse 12 of Hebrews 4, "For the Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, with the joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart". Now, you've heard me say before that this phrase, the two-edged sword, refers to the Roman broadsword. Now, God's word is sharper than that, because it doesn't just open us up physically, the Word of God opens us up spiritually. It lays bare, it exposes the true motives and intentions of our heart. And that's why both non-Christians and Christians, so many of them run away from the church. That's why they would rather be any place than sitting here right now, because they don't want to be exposed to the Word of God. They don't want to have the Word of God slice through them, but that's exactly what it takes to break free from sin.
Just like Alexander the Great's sword sliced through that Gordian knot, we need the Word of God to slice through the intentions and the actions of our life. But follow me on this. The reason God slices us open with the Word of God is not so he can hurt us, but so that he can heal us. God uses, in the book of Deuteronomy, another metaphor. He said that God's word is like a surgeon's scalpel that opens us up. You know, if you had a malignant tumor growing inside of you and the doctor said we need to operate, what would he do? He would take that scalpel out and he would slice you open, not so that he could inflict as much pain as possible inside of you. He opens you up, he hurts you, so that he can heal you. And that's exactly what the great physician does. He wants to hurt us by opening us up, exposing us with his scalpel, the Word of God, so that he might bring healing to us.
Listen to what God said in Deuteronomy 32:39. "See now that i, I am he, and there is no God besides me. It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal. And there is no one who can deliver from my hand". Before there can be healing, there has to be hurt. And the Word of God is that instrument that God uses to open you up, to expose the deepest thoughts and intentions of your heart. The Word of God possesses the power to save us, to guide us, to heal us. Forth, the Word of God possesses the power to transform us. To transform us. And this is the heart of the message.
Remember last time we saw that God has one purpose in your life. Romans 8:28, "For God causes all things to work together for good". And what is that one purpose that God is using everything to work together for? It's not that you have a satisfying marriage, a full bank account, a satisfying career. That's not what God is trying to do in your life. Verse 29 tells us what God's will for your life is. It says, "For whom God foreknew, he predestined to become conformed to the image of his son". God is using everything in your life that's going on right now. Every triumph, as well as every tragedy, every success, as well as every sadness, they're all working together to make you just like Jesus Christ.
That's what God's trying to do. He so loved his first son, Jesus, he said, I just don't want to have one child, I want to have many children. Many sons and daughters I want to transform to be just like my son Jesus, and that's what he's doing in your life. But how does he go about doing that? How does he go about making you like Christ? Turn over to Ephesians 5. And this is where I'm getting the message title, "How to take a spiritual bath". Look at this, verse 25. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present her to himself the church in all of her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless".
Do you know you're going to be a part of a future wedding ceremony? It's going to come when you and i, the bride of Christ, are reunited and connected to the groom, Jesus Christ. There's a great wedding that's going to occur. It happens at the rapture of the church. And right now what God is doing is, he's cleaning up the bride for the wedding ceremony. He's wiping away all the dirt and grime of sin and he's getting you and me ready to meet Jesus Christ. And so in order to get us ready, presentable, acceptable in God's sight, even as Christians, he's got to do some washing, he's gotta give us a spiritual bath. And that's what this passage is about, how he goes about accomplishing that. He wants to sanctify us. That is, to make us like Christ. And how does he do it? Verse 26, "Through the washing of water with the word".
Now the washing of water is a reference to the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God is integral to making us like Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit of God alone won't accomplish that purpose. You know, there are Christians who only emphasize the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. And for them, the Christian life is seeking one experience with the Holy Spirit after another, after another, always looking for a fresh encounter with God. To them, the Christian life is about exhilaration, but exhilarating alone won't make you like Jesus Christ. It takes both the washing of the Holy Spirit and it takes the Word of God. The Christian life is not about exhilaration, it's not about information, it is about transformation, becoming like Jesus Christ. And the way God makes us like Jesus Christ is through the Word of God, but also through the Spirit of God.
Remember the thesis of this sermon? The Spirit of God is the Word of God to unleash the power of God to transform us into the image of God. Now I'm going to make an assumption this morning about those of you listening to us, those of you listening to the message on radio and television, an assumption that, I have a feeling is pretty accurate. I imagine for most of you here today, there was a time when you read the Bible more than you read it right now. There was a time in your life when God's word had greater prominence in your life than it has right now. It may have been five years ago, it may have been 10 years ago, it may have been when you were first saved, but there was a time you were more excited about God's word than you are right now.
In fact, some of you would be embarrassed to say how much time in the last month you've really spent in God's word. And you probably think, if only I could renew my relationship with God, then I would have a greater interest in reading the Bible. But the opposite is really true. You see, reading, meditating, studying the Word of God, is not the result of a renewed relationship with God, it is the means of a renewed relationship with God. For some of you this morning who want to recapture that relationship with God you once enjoyed, the way is do it is through being constantly and consistently exposed to scripture. How do you do that? How do you allow God's word to regain its rightful place in your life? Well, next time, we're going to talk about four practical ways to make God's word central in your life. We're going to talk about that abcs of spiritual hygiene.