Robert Jeffress - Flame Throwers vs Fire Extinguishers - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". For the past few weeks, we've been looking about the four different conduits through which God pours the power of his Holy Spirit into our lives. And just as there are things that hasten his power, there are things that we do that hinder God's power. So today I'm going to describe what I call four Spirit-quenchers. Now, a quick word of caution. Today's study will address some sensitive issues regarding marital intimacy that may not be suitable for everyone so please use discretion. My message is titled, "Flame throwers versus fire extinguishers" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
My grandfather grew up in a small town north of here of about 5.000 people and he always told us stories about growing up in this small town. And one of the stories he told us was about a rash of fires that hit the city on a regular basis. The residents were awakened to the shrill sound of a fire engine racing to a fire. Fortunately, they had a very dedicated fire chief who was always there working to put out the fire. One night, the telephone rang in the middle of the evening and awakened my grandfather telling him that his own dry goods business was on fire. And so he got dressed as quickly as he could. He went down to his business, saw it engulfed in flames and there was the fire chief and the firemen and my grandfather worked the hose with the fire chief to try to salvage what was left of his business.
Finally, after us series of investigations, the cause of this rash of fires was determined. It wasn't faulty wiring. It wasn't a group of delinquent teenagers. It was discovered that the fire chief himself was setting the fires. He was a pyromaniac who actually would go and start the fires and then work to put out the fires. You can hardly imagine anything more ludicrous, somebody working to start a fire and then working feverishly to put out that fire. It's hard to imagine anything more idiotic until you look at your own life.
You know, in this series on the Holy Spirit, we've been talking about what we can do to ignite the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We've said that God has provided the heat, that is the Holy Spirit of God, the moment we trust in Christ as our Savior. But you know, a fire needs two things. It needs heat and energy. God has supplied the heat, we have to supply the energy. And in this series we've said there are four combustibles that God uses in our life to ignite the spirit's flame in our life.
Combustible number one is the Word of God, the Bible. That's one energy source for the Christian. Combustible number two is conversation with God, prayer. Combustible number three, we looked at last week, was the people of God, that is the church. And today we're going to look at the fourth combustible and that is obedience to God. And yet here we work with God to put this fire, to get this fire of his power and his spirit going on inside of us. And then we who are the ones who start the fire, many times, we are the very ones who extinguish the fire by our own disobedience to God. And I think it's that phenomenon that God had in mind when, through the apostle Paul, he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, "Do not quench the Holy Spirit of God". Don't put out the flame of God's spirit in your life.
That's what he's talking about, quenching the flame, the power of the Holy Spirit of God. How do we do that? Well today, we're going to talk about four spirit-quenchers to avoid if you want to keep the power of the Holy Spirit burning brightly in your life. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians 6, as we look at the four spirit-quenchers every Christian needs to avoid. This whole series is built around the premise that you want more in your relationship with God. I know I do. You want more of God's power in your life. Well a way to experience more of God's power in your life is to avoid these spirit-quenchers. And spirit-quencher number one that is mentioned here is immorality. Immorality will extinguish the power of God's spirit in your life.
Look at first Corinthians 6:18-20. You know, by the way, before we look at that, have you ever heard people say, "All sin is the same to God. God doesn't grade sin. All sin is the same in God's eyes". Have you ever heard that before? Nothing could be further from the truth. Now it's true, that any sin is sufficient to separate you and me from God. All sin separates us from God, but there are some sins that have more serious consequences than other sins. You know, nobody has ever gone to prison for harboring hateful thoughts toward another person. Hate is wrong, but you don't go to prison for that. Nobody has ever sat in the electric chair for not paying their income tax. The fact is there are some transgressions that have more consequences in this life than others. The same is true with God.
Yes, all sin can separate us from God, but there is some sin that has more consequence to it than others and number one at the list, at the top of the list of sins that have greater consequences than others, is the sin of immorality. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 beginning with verse 18. Paul says, "Flee immorality. For every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body". Now that word immorality is porneia in Greek. We get our word pornography from it. It is an umbrella term that describes any sexual activity outside of marriage. It could be fornication, that is premarital sex: adultery, sex with somebody else in the marriage relationship: homosexuality: pornography, all of those are a form of immorality.
God's not against sex, he thought it up, it's his idea. But he said the way the sexual relationship works the best is within the security of the marriage relationship. So he says, "Flee immorality". And notice how he makes the distinction between immorality and every other sin. He said, "Every other sin," covetousness, hatred, lying, stealing, all of those sins, "A man commits outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body". Immorality is in a special category all of its own. And there are certainly physical consequences to immorality, AIDs, STDS.
There are emotional consequences to having sex outside the marriage relationship. There is a bond you form with that other person that is very, very difficult to break. But there are also spiritual consequences to immorality that are unlike any other spiritual consequences to any other sin. Because you see when you commit immorality, you're not sinning outside the body, you're sinning with your body. You say, "Well, what's the big deal about that"? He says, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit"? Immorality quenches the spirit's presence in your life. Now I'm about to paint a very disgusting word picture, but it's necessary for you to understand exactly what Paul is saying here.
For those of you who are married, I want you to imagine being forced to watch your mate have sex with another person. For those of you who are parents, I want you to imagine being forced to watch your teenage child have sex with someone. Can you imagine anything more disgusting? Only the sickest voyeur would find any pleasure in that. Why if you were placed in front of that situation, if you were able, you would run out of the room as quickly as possible. And yet when you as a Christian, who has the Holy Spirit of God in you, when you engage in immorality, you're not only asking the Holy Spirit to watch you commit that act, you're actually asking him to participate in that act with you.
So the next time you're tempted by premarital sex, by adultery, by sitting in front of a computer screen watching pornographic images, I want you to imagine yourself saying, "Holy Spirit of God, I want you to sit here with me and watch this with me. Holy Spirit of God, I want you to have sex with this person as well. I want you to join me in this immoral activity". That's what he's talking about. Every other sin is outside the body, immorality is with your own body, and more importantly, with the Holy Spirit of God. What is the remedy to that kind of immorality that quenches the presence of God's spirit?
You see the fact is the Holy Spirit, in a theological sense, doesn't leave you. But whenever you ask him to participate in a sexual activity with you, I guarantee you, he's not going to hang around. He is going to get out of there as quickly as possible. So in a very practical sense, you lose the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life whenever you engage in immoral
ity. What's the remedy to that? Notice what he says here, it's the realization, he says in verse 19, that you are not your own. You have been bought with a price. You're not free to do with your body whatever you want to do with it because you have been bought with a price. That word "Bought"... The word redeemed had a special meaning to Paul's audience.
Remember when Paul wrote these words, one third of the Roman Empire were slaves. And so they were very familiar with this concept of redeeming. That word "Redeem," exagorazomai, is a word that means to buy out of the slave market. If you wanted to purchase a slave, you would go down to the agora, the marketplace. And there, the slaves would be on display and people would bid for the slaves. And if you wanted to purchase a slave, you would pay the highest price. And once that slave became yours, it was like chattel property, you were free to do with it whatever you wanted to. If you wanted to mistreat it, abuse it, if you wanted to slit its throat, you were free to do so. The slave was your property. You had redeemed it. You had purchased it out of the market. That's what the word redeemed means.
Now ladies and gentlemen, listen to this. The Bible says when we were born into this world, we are born not free. We are born slaves of Satan. He is our master and all he has planned for us is a lifetime and an eternity of misery. That is what Satan's plan is for your life and my life. All of us were born into this world in bondage. We had no future and no hope, but God, for no other reason, the Bible says, than the great love with which he loved you, he sent Jesus, his Son, to shed his blood, to pay the price, to redeem us from the bondage of Satan so that we can enter into everlasting life. That's what it means to be redeemed. God has purchased us, he has bought us with his blood. Now what's the result of that? The result of that, he says, "Therefore, you are not your own. You have been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your bodies".
I read the story one time about Abraham Lincoln when he was a congressman in Illinois. He had heard about slave auctions, but he had never attended one. And there was one going on in his community and so he thought he would attend and see exactly what happened at a slave auction. And there in the crowd was a young, teenage, African-American girl. They had her up on the auction block and people were bidding for her. So Abraham Lincoln entered into the bidding process and the price kept going higher and higher and higher. And finally Lincoln offered the winning bid and the auctioneer said, "Sold"!
And the girl, the young African-American, was brought to Abraham Lincoln. She didn't dare look up at him. She had her head bowed and Lincoln said to her, "You're free". She said, "Mister, I don't know what that means". He said, "It means you are free to do whatever you want to do. You're free to say whatever you want to say. You're free to go wherever you want to go". She lifted up her head and said, with tears streaming down her face, "Then sir, I'll go with you".
That's the response to somebody who understands that they've been redeemed. God purchased us out of the marketplace of Satan and sin and death, not so that we could be free to do what we want to do, so that we are free to follow him, to serve him with all of our heart. That's the reason we flee immorality. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price.
Immorality quenches the spirit's presence in our life. Spirit-quencher number two is bitterness. Bitterness quenches the spirit's power to heal our hurts. Now every one of us, sooner or later, and probably sooner, is going to be hurt by somebody and hurt deeply. We don't have any choice over that. And some of you this morning, some of you watching on television, you've been hurt by a friend who betrayed you or maybe a business associate who cheated you. It may be a child who's ignored you or a mate who's abandoned you. We can't control what happens to us, but we can control our response to those hurts. We can either hold on to those hurts and turn them over and over in our minds until they metastasize into a tumor of bitterness or we can respond to the grace of God to heal those hurts.
You see the Bible teaches, for a Christian, every time you're hurt by somebody, God provides an antidote to that hurt, a soothing balm called the Holy Spirit of God. And he gives you an extra measure of grace in order to deal with that offense. He doesn't give it to other people, he gives it to you. And that's why, by the way, you should never get angry and take up somebody else's vengeance when they're mistreated and make that your cause. Because the fact is, God has given that person an extra measure of grace that he hasn't given you or me. But we have a choice what to do with that grace. We can either accept it or refuse it.
And that's why Hebrews 12:15 says, "See to it that no one of you come short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many are defiled". He says when these hurts come into your life, don't fall short of receiving that grace that God offers you because the only alternative is bitterness. A bitterness that destroys you and will destroy everything and everyone around you. How can you make sure that you don't fall short of the grace of God and fall under the trap of bitterness?
Four quick suggestions. First of all, realize that offenses are inevitable. Have you come to the place in your life where you realize you can't control other people? Now that's one of the greatest realizations. We spend so much effort trying to control what people do or don't do to us and usually we're helpless. The fact is it doesn't matter how hard you try, you can't keep that boss from firing you if he really wants to fire you. You can't keep that mate from leaving you if he or she really wants to leave. You can't keep that child from rebelling against you and God if they really want to rebel. We can't control what people do to us, but we can control our response. Realize that offenses are inevitable.
Secondly, reflect on God's forgiveness of you. You know there is an inseparable link between our receiving God's forgiveness and our willingness to forgive other people. While we were on this mission trip to Argentina, the choir heard this message so many times, they could all preach it by memory right now. But I preached that message on forgiveness, the parable from Matthew 18. Remember the story about the slave who was brought in before the king? He owed him 10.000 talents of gold. A talent was about 80 pounds of gold. And I did the calculation on the trip, that would be about $16 billion.
Now since we've been back from the trip, gold's gone up again, past $1.800, so make that about $18 billion. Here was a slave that owed an $18 billion debt, but the king chose to forgive him, to release him of the debt. And that slave who had just been forgiven an $18 billion debt, goes out and finds a fellow slave who owes him $18. And the slave who had been forgiven 18 billion was unwilling to forgive that paltry, measly $18 debt. And when the king heard about it, he was so enraged, he brought that first slave in and said, "You wicked slave! How could you who have been forgiven of so much refuse to forgive so little"? And he threw the slave into prison and turned him over to the torturers until he should repay everything. And then Jesus added the zinger. He said, "So shall my Heavenly Father do to each of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart".
See, before you get all high and mighty and self-righteous and say, "I'm not going to forgive. I refuse to forgive". Remember the great debt from which you've been forgiven. God's not diminishing at all the hurt some of you have experienced. Some of you have been abused sexually by your parents. Some of you have been betrayed by those closest to you. God is not diminishing what has happened to you. He's saying, "Put your hurt into perspective". You see the difference between how much somebody has hurt you and how much you have hurt God is the difference between the $18 and $18 billion. Forgiveness is the obligation of those who have been forgiven.
Number three, release your offender from his obligation to you. You know, forgiveness isn't about forgetting, it's not about sweeping something under the rug, or playing like it never happened. Real forgiveness, first of all, acknowledges that a wrong has occurred. "You meant it for evil," Joseph said, "But God used it for good". Go ahead and acknowledge that you've been wrong. Calculate the debt of what is owed you because of the wrong. But thirdly, forgiveness releases the other person of that debt. Forgiveness is giving up your right to hurt somebody else for hurting you, that's what forgiveness is. Turning it over to God, letting God deal with that person rather than you.
And then number four, remember the consequences of unforgiveness. We've talked in past messages before, there are very real physical consequences when you refuse to forgive. The leading Christian psychiatrists in America today said pent up anger, bitterness, is the leading cause of death in America today. There are physical consequences. There are emotional consequences when you refuse to forgive somebody. Just think about it.
Here's somebody, just imagine, you're grabbing hold of somebody who is continually punching you in the face. Now what would be the wise thing to do? To keep on holding to that person, holding onto that person? Or letting them go? Why would you hold on to somebody who is continuing to hurt you? It's the same thing when you're holding on to an offense that has been committed against you. It's like you are reliving that hurt over and over and over again. Instead release it. There are emotional consequences to unforgiveness, but the most serious consequences to bitterness are the spiritual consequences.