Robert Jeffress - Convictions That Will Change Your World
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". At times, we're woefully short-sighted. The responsibilities that fill our day tend to overshadow our long-term dreams and aspirations. You see, God has a much bigger plan for you than simply surviving one more day. I believe the keys to breaking out of our mundane patterns are found in the remarkable life of Elijah, and on today's program, we'll discover three foundational beliefs that allowed Elijah to be a true world changer. My message is titled "Convictions That Will Change Your World," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Elijah in the ninth century BC was dropped in the middle of a corrupt culture, a deteriorating culture, but Elijah understood that his purpose was to influence that culture for God. I closed last time's message by quoting my old professor, Howard Hendricks. He said that at that time, Elijah's time, Israel was, quote, "A nation on the skids". He goes on to say, "There was a mania of mediocrity in Israel. 7000 believers were huddled in a cave in silent protest. We don't want to get involved," was their cry. But this man Elijah stands out like a spiritual colossus in the midst of a generation of perverts and spiritual pygmies.
What is it that made Elijah a giant in his time? It was embracing three convictions that not only molded his own life, but allowed him to change the world. And today, we're going to talk about those three convictions that will change your life and change the world around you. Conviction number one is this, and that is God is alive and active in the culture. If you're going to change your world, you have to believe God is actually alive and he's active in the culture. When Elijah stood before evil king Ahab and Jezebel, 1 Kings 17:1, he said, "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand". And Elijah didn't believe he was serving a set of ideas. He was serving a living being named Jehovah God, who had real characteristics, real attributes. And if you want to know who that God is, there are two ways to discover him. One is through the written Word of God. This book will tell you everything you need to know about God. And then secondly, through the living Word of God, Jesus Christ himself.
If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one. He who has seen me has seen the Father". And by the way, that same Jesus Christ, who is the embodiment of God, said in John 14:6, "I am the Way, the truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me". Those who choose to worship the god of their own understanding are on the highway to hell. There is only one God, and there's only one way to that God, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel, God's own people, had come to the point where they weren't understanding that. They were worshiping the god of their own understanding. And today, what we call tolerance, inclusivism, pluralism. God had another name for it. He called it idolatry. To worship any other god was idolatrous, and God was fed up with it. And because of that, he sent his man, Elijah, to say, "As I serve the living God, there is one God, and his name is Jehovah". If we're going to influence our culture, we have to have that conviction, that God is alive, he's real, and he's active in the culture.
Conviction number two. If we're going to change the world around us, we have to understand that we are God's representative to the culture. We're God's representative to the culture. Now, as you search through scripture, you'll discover the Bible uses three analogies to describe our relationship to the culture around us. First of all, the Bible uses the analogy of an ambassador. An ambassador. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Paul writes, "Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Namely that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation".
Do you know what the message God is shouting to the world? Not that he hates people, but that he loves people. He loves them so much, he wants to be reconciled with them. That's the message God wants articulated in the world. God wants to be reconciled to man. But how does God deliver that message? He does it through you and me. That's why he says in verse 20, "Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ. As though God were entreating, begging through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God". The way God voices his message of love and reconciliation and the Gospel of Christ to the world is through you. You are God's mouthpiece. You are his ambassador. God has charged you with that ministry of sharing with others how to be reconciled to God.
Now, what it's important to note is, ambassadors do not speak their own message. Their job is not to manufacture a message, but to articulate the king's message. In Paul's day, an ambassador was a representative of the king or emperor in a foreign land. He would go there to represent the king's interest, to spread the king's kingdom, to share the mind of the king on a variety of topics, not to share his own opinion. Our job as an ambassador is not to manufacture, but to articulate the king's message. We are his ambassadors. Elijah understood that. Elijah understood whether he was condemning Ahab and Jezebel or whether he was dealing with the false prophets of the Baal and the Asherah, whether he was calling down fire from heaven, he was simply doing the king's bidding. And as long as an ambassador does the king's bidding, he enjoys the power and the protection of the king. God is looking for men and women just like Elijah who will dare to be his spokesmen, his representative in the world.
One of my favorite verses of scripture is 2 Chronicles 16:9. "The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his". Now, when we decide that we're going to be that ambassador for God, doesn't mean our assignment is always going to be easy, but every day, you're faced with a decision, of whether you're going to be God's ambassador where you are, in your workplace, in that classroom that may be hostile to Christianity, in a family filled with unbelievers. Being an ambassador for Christ isn't always convenient or comfortable, but it's what God has left us here to do. Elijah understood that. He was God's representative to the culture. God uses the illustration of an ambassador.
The second illustration analogy he uses is salt. We talked about this last time. Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men". In Jesus' day, salt was a preservative. Salt did not prevent the decay of meat. It delayed the decay of the meat. It gave the meat a longer shelf life. And Jesus said one reason he's left us here as his representatives in the world is to help delay the decay of this world, so we have longer to share the Gospel. Salt does nothing if it remains in the shaker. We can't isolate ourselves from the culture. Jesus also said salt is useless if it becomes diluted, that it doesn't retain its distinctiveness. No, salt is only good if it penetrates the culture and influences the culture. That's what God has called us to do, to be salt in this world.
And then the third analogy he uses is we are light. Look at verses 14 to 16 of Matthew 5. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father, who is in heaven". You know, what's interesting to me? In John 8:12, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world". But now that Jesus is in heaven, he says in this passage, "You are the light of the world". The world can't see Jesus. He's gone. He's in heaven. But he shines his light through you to others. Now, the only way light is any good is if it's visible. We can't remain in our holy huddles in churches like so many Christians are advocating we do today. No, we have to confront the darkness with the light of God's word.
Now, Elijah understood that. He understood he was an ambassador, he was salt, and he was light, but he went through periods of discouragement. He thought he was all alone, having no impact. We'll talk about that in the weeks ahead. If we're not careful, as this world continues to deteriorate and darken, we can get discouraged, and that's why we need to have this third and final conviction, and that is God is able to change the culture. Now, while it's true we're ambassadors, we're salt, we're light, by ourselves, we are absolutely useless in changing the culture. We can't change anybody. God is the one who changes people. God is the one who changes the world, but he does it through us. He has chosen to partner with us in this mission to change the world. Isn't that what Philippians 2:13 says? "For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the power and the desire to do his will". God is working through you to be that change agent in the world.
How do we partner with God effectively to change our culture and change our world? By following the pattern of Elijah, this prophet we're studying. I want you to notice three things Elijah did that we must do if we're going to partner effectively with God in changing the world.
First of all, we must trust in the power of God's word. We must trust in the power of God's word to change people. Remember when Elijah stood before Ahab and Jezebel and said, "It is not going to rain for three and a half years because of your idolatry". He didn't just pull that prophecy out of his head. He was quoting Deuteronomy 11 and Deuteronomy 28, when, hundreds of years earlier, God had said to the nation of Israel, "If you follow after other gods, I will turn off the faucet of blessing from heaven". Elijah was basing his message on the truth of God's word. 900 years after Elijah said that, the writer of Hebrews said the same thing in Hebrews 4:12 about the power of God's word. "For the Word of God is living and it's active, and it's sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart".
People are not changed by your words or my words, but they are changed by the Word of God. The Word of God is like a surgeon's scalpel. Think about a surgeon's scalpel in the days before anesthesia, when the surgeon, the doctor would cut into you, that was very painful. But without the hurting, there could be no healing. That was the power of God's word, to hurt and to heal. And if you're going to change the world around you like Elijah, you have to be convinced that the Word of God is alive and it's active and it's sharper than any two-edged sword.
Secondly, we must practice the power of prayer. If we're going to change this world, we have to practice the power of prayer. In James 5:16-18, it says this about Elijah. "For the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much". And then James uses this illustration, verse 17. "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it did not rain on earth for the three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit". James attributes that lack of rain and then the abundance of rain through the prayer life of the prophet Elijah. Mark this down. Remember it forever. If we're to influence our culture, we have to begin on our knees. Show me a person who's effective in public, and I'll show you somebody who's effective in private in their prayer time with God. If we're going to speak persuasively to the culture, we have to speak first passionately with God. A person who is going to change this world certainly trusts in the power of God's word, but he practices the power of prayer.
And thirdly, if we're going to change our world, we must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. You know, it's interesting, as you look through Elijah's life, 1 Kings and 2 kings, the Holy Spirit's not mentioned one time by name, but his fingerprints are all over Elijah's life. Whether it's in the case of that call he received, as we'll look at next time, to hide himself by the brook at Kerith, or his power to raise the widow's son from the dead, or his ability to call down fire from heaven, or even listening to that still small voice in the wilderness, the Holy Spirit empowered Elijah. But did you know that you and I have a benefit that Elijah or anyone in the Old Testament didn't have, and that is, we have the power of the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Elijah and all the Old Testament saints, at times the spirit came upon them for a particular purpose, but they didn't enjoy the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus said in John 14:16-17, "I will ask the father, and he will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever, and that is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see him or know him, but you know him because he abides with you and will be in you".
If you're a child of God, you have the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit of God. He's powerful. He's working not only to change your life and make you more like Christ, but he is at work in your life to influence the lives of others. We said God is the one who works through us to work in our world, and that means to work in other people's lives. You say, "Well, what is it that the Holy Spirit is doing through me in the life of other people"? First of all, the Holy Spirit is working in your life to lead others to faith in Jesus Christ. He has entrusted that message of salvation to you and me. John 16:8 says, "And the Holy Spirit, when he comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment".
The way the Holy Spirit convicts the world is through you, by empowering you to be God's representative in the world. He doesn't do it apart from you, apart from me. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in our life to others is to lead them to faith in Christ. But did you know another way the Holy Spirit is working in our life? He's using us to restrain evil in the world. You hardly ever hear this talked about in the church today, but did you know the way God is restraining evil in the world right now is through the Holy Spirit in us.
Listen to the words of 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7. Now, I want you to look at this very carefully. Paul is talking about the end times and the rise of the antichrist, the great world dictator. He says, "And you know what restrains him," that's talking about the antichrist now, "So that in his time he may be revealed". Something is restraining that antichrist from coming on the world scene right now. "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way". That's what God says we are here to do. We are that restrainer of evil, the Holy Spirit working within us, and that's why, ladies and gentlemen, we don't have any choice but to get engaged with the culture around us. That's what God has called us to do.
Now, admittedly, that can be discouraging at times. Being that restrainer of evil, being that salt and light, being that ambassador is neither comfortable nor convenient, but that's what God called us to do, even when we don't think we're being successful. A lot of times, we may be taking a stand for God thinking we're utterly failing, but not knowing those we are influencing around us.
You know, I think about this story, the true story of our sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams. John Quincy Adams felt like God's purpose for him on earth was to remove the scourge of slavery from the United States of America. After he finished his term as president, he actually went back into the house of representatives, and there in the house of representatives, he fought for nine years to remove the gag rule that kept slavery from even being discussed on the house floor. And once he successfully removed that gag rule, he spoke passionately regularly about what an abomination it was to enslave other human beings. But regardless of what he said, he was voted down every time.
John Quincy Adams went to his deathbed feeling like he was a failure in achieving God's purpose in his life. But what Adams didn't know was, every time he stood up to speak, in the back of the chamber there was a little-known congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln, who listened passionately to what Adams said, and Abraham Lincoln was so moved by the passion of John Adams, that through God's guiding hand, he not only issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but he succeeded in ratifying the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which forever forbids slavery. That's the power of one person. John Adams reminds us that one person with courage equals a majority. Elijah reminds us that one believer empowered by the Word of God, prayer, and the Holy Spirit of God equals a true world changer.