TD Jakes - Strengthen What Remains
It's not Gucci, baby, it's remnants; it's not Louis Vuitton, baby, it's remnants; it's not even Nike, it's remnants. It's remnants, it's something that, she took something that almost was forgotten and made something out of it, she valued it. She would make shirts for me and blouses for Jaqueline, a few trousers for Ernest, all from discounted remnants. So today, we go to the remnant table. Today, we go to the remnant table to stitch two texts together that are as different as wool from satin or burlap from linen, two texts that seem like they don't have anything to do with each other. And yet, it is my responsibility to measure them and stretch them and sew them and stitch them together.
What in the world does the Saint John text, where Jesus is talking about, "Unless you eat my blood and drink my flesh," uh, "Unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh, you'll have no part with me," what in the world does that have to do with the apocalyptic text of Revelations, writing to the church at Sardis where he says, "I strengthen the things that remain"? They are both remnant messages on the table of the copper and his son. Let's not discount what can be done with the fabric of the theological table of text bypassed by scholars and ignored by contemporary tailors of text who like the creativity to see what can be done from God's, God's remnant table. Though it may seem strange to you, this morning, that I'm talking to you about remnants, it should not be strange.
It's unfortunate that only certain texts are preached about in this contemporary society, because the truth of the matter is, the word remnant is mentioned 540 times in the Bible. And yet, you hardly ever hear anybody talking about remnants. This would be a difficult message to preach, it's gonna be a hard message to preach because I'm preaching against the trends of the culture we're living in, who is racing on the autobahn of technology to be fast, to be first, to be feverishly, frantically in pursuit of what's next. If you are pursuing, if all that you are pursuing is what is next, you will always find that what's next at the expense of losing what's left.
Today, I'm going to swim against the current and go against the grain, and probably get on someone's nerves whose only focus is to be innovative, titillating, explore trends, what's new, what's fresh. If you're from the streets, I'm fresh. You don't know anything about remnants. I'm not here to talk to you about the next new and improved anything, I simply want to know if you will grab my hand like I grabbed my mother's hand and take a serious look at why God mentions this word 540 times, and mostly in reference to prophetic fulfillment. Why is God in love with remnants? Let's start with the text in Revelations. Are you with me?
I love y'all, there is no other place I'd rather preach in the world than The Potter's House, I tell you, this is my church, this is my world. The book of Revelations is penned by John, but authored by Jesus. You must understand the book is divided into three categories, and it divides itself when it explains itself by saying John, writing the things for style, has seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. So when John writes about seeing Jesus, with his hair like lamb's wool and his feet as if they had been burned, he is writing about what he has seen. When he writes to the churches, he's writing about the things which are.
And when God says, "Come up hither, I will shew you thee things which shall be hereafter," this is the syllabus from which Revelation is written, it is the masterpiece, because it is Jesus responding to the question that the disciples ask him, "When should be the sign of your coming? And what shall be the end of the age"? He said, "It is not given to the Son to know, but the Father which is in heaven," because he had not yet been to the cross. But the book of Revelations is him writing back over the balconies of heaven down to John to answer the question. Though John himself is a remnant, John is a remnant because all the other apostles are now gone, and John is all that's left. And Jesus is talking to a remnant about a remnant.
I wonder how many of you are the only one left still standing with stubborn, bodacious faith and tenacity, unrelenting, unwavering, standing by yourself, standing in the integrity of who you are in Christ, even when other friends have gone in other directions. And yes, you have suffered some losses along the way, but you are still here. You see, the text in Revelation 3 is largely a clarion call to strengthen the remnant, because all that stood around the remnant had really fallen away. They had a reputation that they were alive, but they really were not, they had been so influenced by the culture and the world around them that they had lost their identity in exchange for popularity.
If you're not careful, you can lose your identity seeking popularity, and lose sight of who you are trying to fit in with who they want you to be. And the church had lost its way trying to pursue the culture, you had to be relevant to the culture, and they were so re relevant to the culture that they had lost sight of who they were, and the book of Revelation says that only a remnant was recognizable. I want to be in the number of people who resist the trends and winds of fluctuation, and know who I am so that I don't get caught up in the current of who you want me to be and lose sight of who God created me to be. Even if I end up on the table, I would rather be a few in number and know who I am than to be diluted and polluted by public opinion until I lose all sight and direction and uniqueness of my own self. That means I'll do it if I have to do it by my... That means you don't have to like me, but you do have to respect me.
You don't have to agree with me, but I refuse to let you discard me. Because I'm willing to be a remnant, even if it's at the expense of not being relevant to you, because God works with remnants. He says, "Strengthen the things that remain," before the influence of the world has taken root. There are still a few people in Sardis that are yet holding on. The tolerance of sin had taken its toll, a deadly spiritual cancer known as complacency had unknowingly made its way into the church and sucked the spiritual life out of it without even a fight. But not the few, they were still holding on. While he rebuked the church as Sardis, he did not rebuke the remnant. Instead, he revived it. And the Lord said, "I am going to revive the people who are holding on".
So you might be tired and you might be winded and you might be frustrated and you might be alienated, and you've been asking God, "How long"? God said, "I am going to revive the remnant who are still holding on in spite of the storms and the winds". And he said, "I want you to focus not on who left, not on who you lost, not on who walked away, I want you to focus on strengthening that which remains".
Oh, this is good to my soul. The letter is harsh, it's straightforward, it is designed and written to the pastor where to focus his energy, not to focus your energy on trying to get back people who walked away. Let them go. Let me say it louder for the people in the back. Let them go. This is a time in your life that you can no longer continue to grieve about who walked away, who abandoned you, who forsook you, who left you, who walked away. You've got to stand up and recognize that God doesn't need anything that you lost to bless you, God will always use what you've got left. I'm talking to somebody, I don't even know who it is, but the Bible said wake up, wake up, wake up.
This is challenging because the vast majority of the church had become a victim of the societal culture, yet there was a minority that was fighting to refrain from the gravitational pull ever downward, because there is always something to pull you down instead of up and forward. The remnant wasn't perfect, they were almost dead, but yet holding on. The power of the sentence, in fact, is almost dead, but not quite. God said, "Before death can get you, I'm going to strengthen what remains".
Can I talk to tired folks and weary folks and run-down people who are at the end of their rope who have to fight their way through all kinds of storms and all kinds of tragedies and all kinds of adversity just to be who you are and get where you're going? I've got news for you, God is about to strengthen you like you've never been strengthened before. And then let me challenge the thinking people, because the great challenge in our lives is, how can we be innovative and creative and productive and go forward without losing what we had? Sometimes you become so addicted to what's next that you don't focus on what's now. And if you walk away from what's now, trying to establish what's next, then next will only replace now and you haven't really progressed at all.
And the reason you're so tired is because you're so busy getting to next and losing now that you're still at home plate. After all of these years, you haven't gained anything because you're just swapping out next with now, now with next, next with now, next with now. All of a sudden, you've got to strengthen what remains before you can gain what's next. So we're stuck in between, in this text, two different dilemmas, one is not to try to get back what I lost, and the other one is not to fall in love with where I'm going at the expense of expunging where I'm at. Let me work with this, I'm gonna bring it on down home. It is like growing up in a home where the troubled child gets all the attention and the good child gets none, because there's so much drama coming from this kid that all the parent's focus is, is trying to get back what they lost, and they don't strengthen what they have.
And if you're not careful, the one who was a good child will start acting up for the attention because you're teaching them that the only way to get your attention is to be bad enough. This is the hidden lesson in the prodigal son, it's not just about the boy going and coming back, it is about the neglect of the elder brother, because the father is so focused on what he lost that he neglected what he had. Because it's hard to strengthen what remains because what remains becomes common and normal and ordinary and so predictable and so dependable that you take it for granted until it dies. If you are not careful, you will undervalue who stayed trying to get back who left or get who's next. Because sometimes there's nothing really sexy about being a remnant, about being dependable, about being stable, about hanging in there, about being by your side.
If you're not careful, you will neglect the people that stayed with you for the people who are next to you. But we serve a God who is talking to us in 540 texts, that what he is interested in is the remnants, he always preserves the remnants, his promise is to the remnants, his prophecy is to the remnants. Over and over and over again, the Bible tells us the value of people who stick it out and hang in there, and take a licking and keep on ticking, and that God has promises that you can only get, come on, Bible class, if you abide, if you abide, abide, abide, abide. "If ye abide in me, and my word abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will".
I'm not gonna give you nothing if you leave, but if ye abide, I will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing you won't have room enough to receive. If you see me when I'm taken up, you will have a double portion of my spirit, but I can't give this to people who are doing one-night stands, because the anointing falls on people who stay. Let me see, both texts were written by the apostle John, both texts have a sinister overtone, both texts have John reporting the words of Jesus, both texts are at inflection points, both texts speak of separation, both texts have a sense of cynicism, both texts are connected to a principle that I am sharing with you. The principle is profound and provocative, that you need to focus on what you got left.
The child that stayed, the friend who stuck, the business you got cannot suffer for the business you're going after. Because if you make that mistake again, you are only replacing what you lost, which means you are not gaining anything at all. The real test of relationship isn't when it's easy, it's when it's hard. The second text is interesting, can I pick it up for a minute and play with this piece of garment? The second text is interesting because it is undeniable that Jesus has changed his message from, "The kingdom of heaven is this and the kingdom of heaven is that, and the kingdom of heaven is likened unto this, and that the scriptures might be fulfilled in your hearing". And all of those things were palatable and enjoyable and receivable. And even though the Pharisees and Sadducees resented him, they could not debate against him because he was the word made flesh.
And it was all cool until he broke out and started talking about death, and they got quiet. And then he brings up this almost cannibalistic statement, "If you're gonna be my disciple," imagine, now, if I say, "If you're gonna be a member of The Potter's House, you must drink my blood and eat my flesh". You can understand why that would be disruptive. And you say, "What"? Jesus started talking cannibalistic, "Drink my blood and eat my flesh," to the carnal mind it was cannibalism. Jesus is actually calling for them to consume him spiritually, not literally, but when you hear with carnal ears, you draw carnal conclusions. And so this was an inflection point to prove, are you a fan or a follower? And all the fans walked away. And what I got out of the text that was really amazing is that Jesus didn't chase them.
Stop chasing people who are leaving, stop chasing people who are offended, stop chasing people who don't get it, stop chasing, trying to get back in your life people that God is trying to take out of your life. Jesus simply let them go. He didn't go behind and say, "No, you didn't understand what I'm saying, You don't get what I mean, you don't know where I'm coming from," and, "No, no, let me explain. No, don't go, don't go, don't go". He turned to his disciples, the remnant, and said, "'Will you leave me also?' Because what I'm going to invest in is what I've got left, not what I lost.'"
You see, Jesus is bringing them to a place of inflection. And the Lord told me, whoever I'm preaching to today, you're at an inflection point, you can neither become so engrossed in your future that you do not feed your present, nor so grieved by your past that you're reaching after what has walked away. The Word of God to you is to strengthen what remains. Who am I talking to today? This is not about a monologue about death or drinking blood or eating his flesh, it's much more than that. We've got to turn the page on that, we've got to go to the next level on that, we've got to understand that what God is trying to do is bigger than that. He is trying to do a methodology that creates conflict-resolution, which is the test between opportunistic people and covenant people. If you can't take a lick, we didn't have covenant in the first place, if you can walk away easily, you weren't meant to stay. Come on.