If a stranger approaches you and says they know your buddy “John,” but all their facts are wrong concerning him, you could safely conclude they are referring to a different John. Mark Spence uses this illustration to show why many non-Christians say they “know” Jesus Christ.
August 31, 2018
Sometime ago I was driving through town with my kids, and I have five by the way, one of each. And on this particular excursion, my oldest daughter Julia looked over at me with her big, beautiful brown eyes and said, “Papa, I am so thankful to God right now that I can’t even explain it. I’m so thankful to God for everything that He’s given me, but most of all, I’m so thankful to God for God Himself because if it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t even be here right now.” She was two months old when she said that. And I would like to wholeheartedly echo that profound statement that my daughter so eloquently made. Brothers and sisters, there are no words that are adequate enough for me to express to you how grateful I am to the Lord for the opportunity that He has given us to be here. And we recognize that it’s only because of Him that we’re here.
A Final Exhortation
My heart is overwhelmed with an abundant sense of excitement. But there’s a reason for that. It’s not unfounded. It’s not baseless. The reason for it is because there is something present which I call the element of potential. And wherever the element of potential exists, you can bet that excitement is inevitable. And I’m blown away as I think about all those who will read this and think to themselves, “I want to be used by God.” And then I remember that God is present wherever you’re at, right now, and He desires to use you for His glory, and that each of you who knows Him are filled with His Holy Spirit. You can only imagine what the potential is to bring revival to this world. And that excites me.
It’s not my intention at this time to give you an expositional sermon. It’s my intention at this time to leave you with a final word of exhortation, a final call to action. We’ve heard a lot about what it means to be born again, what it means to be on fire for God. How it is that we’re to go out and be ambassadors for Christ, and how to take this message of the gospel by which we’ve been saved, and to proclaim it to others.
But I want you to remember today, especially as it relates to evangelism and communicating the gospel, that we’ve not given you resources to give you a formula or to pass onto you a method or a script that you’re to go out now and to imitate. No. What it’s been our desire to do is to give you biblical principles that you take and apply in accordance with your personality, with who God has made you, with where God places you, with the unique people that God brings you in contact with, in accordance with the special situations that you’re dealing with. And to use those biblical principles for God’s glory. Law to the proud and grace to the humble.
That your aim will be to lift up the cross of Christ, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and whoever looked upon it was healed, so Christ was lifted up. And as He’s lifted up, He draws all men to Himself. That you’d exalt Christ, you’d exalt the cross. That you’d magnify God, that He may receive all the glory and exaltation. That along with making the Law known, you make the gospel known. And in the midst of that, the grace of God and the abundant love that God showed when He sent His Son to hang upon a cross for the sins of humanity.
This May Be Shocking…
And I know that for a lot of you, some of the things that you’ve heard are extremely new. In fact, almost offensively so. At one of our conferences, a gentleman came up to me afterwards and he was shaking his head and kept saying, “But I don’t get it. All my life, I’ve heard this and it’s so hard to switch over.” And that’s the danger with the traditions of men. When we stop looking to God’s Word and examining what God has to say on the matter. And sometimes no matter what, unless we get to that place where in our hearts we say, “All I care about is what God has to say,” then we’re going to have that mindset of, “There is no way. It can’t be. This is all that I’ve known and this has to be the way.”
Years ago, again, we were driving down the street with the family. My daughter was in the back. She was two and a half or three at the time. And all of a sudden, she had this radical revelation. And all of a sudden, I hear from the back, “Papa, papa. Jesus. Jesus. You spell Jesus with a G. Jesus.” I thought, “Wow.” Obviously it was incorrect, but that’s pretty brilliant. She’s a very intelligent little girl. She’s been reading at a second-grade level since the time she was four. And at this time, we were teaching her to read. She was learning the alphabet. And so I responded. I said, “Sweetheart, that’s amazing. Good job.” I said, “But you know what. You actually spell Jesus with a J.” She goes, “No, no, no. Papa, listen. Jesus. You spell Jesus with a G.”
I said, “Sweetheart, again, that’s very, very brilliant, but actually listen to papa. Papa knows best. You spell Jesus with a J.” All of a sudden we hear that dreaded silence and then, “Waaaa!” “Sweetheart, what’s wrong? What’s going on?” “You and mom don’t understand how to spell.” And so it is with us oftentimes isn’t it? We are just so convinced that it must, it must be this way. I encourage you all to take what you’ve heard today, to be Bereans, to go back home and to test it against the standard of Scripture, and examine if these things are so.
What Is Our Purpose?
You know, the big buzz word these days is purpose. And really, it’s an age-old question. What is the purpose of man? There are more answers it seems than there are even questions about it. And you know, what is the purpose of man? It’s extremely, extremely, extremely simple. But we as people have a way of complicating the simple, don’t we? What is the purpose of man? The purpose of man is to know his Maker, be known by his Maker, and make his Maker known so that others may know his Maker as their Maker, be known by his Maker as their Maker, and make the Maker of him who made his Maker known to them as their Maker, known as the Maker of others. So that others may make the Maker of him who made his Maker known as the Maker of the ones who made the Maker of the one who made his Maker known to them as their Maker known as their Maker as their Maker and then also make it known to others who in turn will know Him and be known by Him, and the multiplicity to the degree of infinitude make Him known. Simple, right?
“The purpose of man is to know his Maker, be known by his Maker, and make his Maker known so that others may know his Maker as their Maker.”
And in reality, it is simple, extremely. It is simple, but we do have a way of messing it up. There is no greater honor for us as Christians than to be used by God. Do you remember how negative that phrase was before you came to know the Lord? Whether you uttered it or someone uttered it to you. Whenever you heard that phrase, you always knew that something negative was going to follow it. I was used. But for us as Christians, there is no greater honor than to be able to say, “I was used by the living God.” No greater honor in the entire universe. And how is it that we come to that place that we, as God’s people, can truly be used by Him?
I think second Timothy, chapter two sheds light on that, verse 20. “But in a great house, there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the master, prepared for every good work.” Wonderful. Paul the Apostle here gives an illustration that we can all relate to. He speaks of a great house, and he says that in this great house, there are different vessels that are used for different things. You have vessels of dishonor. Every house has a sink. Every house has a trashcan. Every house has a mop bucket or some homes have ashtrays. All of these are vessels of dishonor. They’re used for dishonorable things, but on the other hand, there are vessels of honor. Vessels that are used for great things. Vessels that are carefully taken care of, that are displayed in places of prominence.
You have the fine china. You have that beloved “number one dad,” or “number one mom,” mug. You have those crystal glasses that you bring out on those special occasions. Vessels of honor. He says, “In a great house, there are vessels of dishonor, vessels of honor.” What do you want to be? If you want to be a vessel of honor, then be one who has, he says, “Cleansed himself from the latter, and then he will be a vessel that is useful for the master, prepared for every good work.” Useful for the master. One who can truly say, as I mentioned earlier, “I was used by God.”
But how do you do that? Listen to what he said. “Anyone who cleanses himself from the latter.” And in the context here of Timothy, he’s talking about iniquities. He gives a whole list of iniquities. Do you want to be a vessel of honor used by God? Then you must come through the doorway of repentance from sin, as you’ve been hearing today.
Sin Will Destroy You
There’s no doubt there are some of you here with us today who came as visitors, and you don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ. The sin that you are holding onto is destroying you while you’re enjoying it. One of the ways they used to capture wolves in Alaska long ago, is they used to take these sharp blades and dip them in blood, and freeze the blood around the blade. They’d keep doing it until this sort of Popsicle barrier of blood formed around the blades. They would stick the blades out in the snow. A wolf would come trotting by unsuspectingly, and there before him, was a feast of a lifetime. As the wolf would come up and begin to like the frozen blood, and his tongue began to get closer and closer to that blade, by the time his tongue reached the blade, it was so numb because of that frozen blood, that even though he was shredding his tongue with that blade and bleeding, he has no idea. He keeps tasting blood, not knowing that it’s his own, and he ends up bleeding to death.
Friend, that’s what sin is like. I know that you look around you and see no repercussions for what you’re doing. I know that you’re enjoying what you’re doing, and it’s pleasurable to you. But believe me when I tell you that sin is pleasurable only for a season, and it is numbing you while destroying you and ushering you to a day when you will stand before a holy God who knows all that there is to know about you. And you will face the due penalty for your sin, which is Hell for all eternity.
Others of you won’t let go of your sin because it’s too dear to you. One of the ways they capture wolves in Africa, or monkeys in Africa, is they take these coconuts and they hollow them out. They place a chain at the end of the coconut, and then the other end of the chain to a tree. They put a little shiny trinket in this hollowed out coconut, and then the poacher goes into hiding. Well the little monkey comes up, being the little curious George that he is. He looks into the hollowed out coconut, sees a little shiny trinket, sticks his hand in and grabs it.
And right at that moment, the hunter comes out with his rifle. And when the monkey sees him, he tries to make a run for it, but if you’ve ever stuck your hand into a small opening and closed up your hand, made a fist, you know you can’t get it out. You know you’ve got to open your hand in order to pull it out. That’s all that monkey has to do. Open his hand and release that silly worthless little trinket. But he values that foolish thing more than he does his own life and it ends up costing him his life. Unbeliever here. Those of you who won’t cleanse yourselves from the latter. Those of you that are not vessels of honor in the hand of God. That’s what you’re doing with your sin. And what, for really, in the final analysis?
Will It Profit a Man?
There’s an interesting story that surrounds the life of the former European emperor Charlemagne. Legend has it that before Charlemagne died, he called together all his servants and he gave them specific instructions to be carried out after his death. He said, “After I die, I want you to entomb me sitting upright on my throne. I want you to put my crown on my head. Put my royal scepter in my hand, my mantle around my shoulders, and to gather all my treasure all around me. And then I want you to take a specific book and place it open to a specific place on my lap.” Well, a couple hundred years had passed, and the emperor Othello was reigning in Charlemagne’s stead, and he heard about this legend. So he called together his servants and gave them instructions, and said to go and investigate the burial site to see if Charlemagne’s requests had been carried out.
So they went. They investigated. And they came back and reported that sure enough, Charlemagne’s requests had been carried out, but only now, 200 years later. That body that at one time sat up majestic and erect, was now a heap of bones. That crown that used to shine and sparkle on his head was tilting to the side. That royal scepter had fallen to the ground and that royal mantle, and all the treasure around him, were all filled with dust. But upon his skeletal thighs was that book that he requested, the Word of God. And they reported that Charlemagne’s bony index finger was pointing to the portion of God’s Word in Matthew 16:26, which says, “Will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?” It’s a poignant picture, and one that I encourage each of you to consider.
“I Don’t Enjoy Christianity”
There are others of you still in here who are unbelievers that are saying, “But I’ve tried this Christian thing. Man, I go to church and I fall asleep. I try to pray, my mind wanders. I try to read the Bible, I get bored out of my mind. I don’t enjoy the things of Christianity.” I have an answer for you: don’t be surprised. See, if we were to go outside right now and find a little caterpillar crawling around, we take this little caterpillar, we put it in a nice little tiny caterpillar box, hop on a plane, fly to New York, catch a cab to the Empire State Building, go all the way up to the roof and pull out our little jet-lagged caterpillar, place a nice little tight blue suit on it, a little red cape and a tiny little S on its chest, and then dangle it over the edge of the Empire State Building, and—just in case any of you are insects’ rights activists—“accidentally” let it go. Then go back down to ground level to what’s now splat all over the sidewalk and raise it from the dead.
“Maybe Christ doesn’t hold value to you now and there’s a reason for that. It’s because you don’t recognize His true value because you don’t recognize the danger you’re in and your true need for Him.”
And then ask this caterpillar if it had a pleasurable experience being tossed off the top of the Empire State Building. If it had a fist it would be in your face immediately. But, imagine taking that same creature after it’s gone through its metamorphosis, after it’s been transformed into a butterfly. And then taking it to the top of the Empire State Building and letting it go. And then afterwards, asking it if it had a pleasurable experience. You’re going to get an entirely opposite response. Why? It’s the same entity. It’s the same creature, but it was transformed. And that which was at one time unnatural for it has become the most amazing and most natural thing in the world. And friend, that’s why Jesus said you must be born again. You must be born from above. And unless that happens, then the things of God are strange and foreign to you, just like a caterpillar trying to enjoy his skydive. It’s unnatural.
You must be born again. And maybe Christ doesn’t hold value to you now and there’s a reason for that. It’s because you don’t recognize His true value because you don’t recognize the danger you’re in and your true need for Him.
A Change of Perspective
If I stood before you right now and I held in one hand a glass that was full of big diamond rocks that were retrieved from the mines of South Africa, worth millions and millions of dollars, and then in the other hand, I had a glass that was full of mountain spring Evian water, and I held them before you and I said, “Listen, you have the choice of one or the other,” you wouldn’t take me seriously. It’d be ridiculous to ask you which one you would take. But if we switched up the scenario, and you had happened to be lost in Death Valley for a week, having not had a drop of water in days, and all of a sudden I magically appeared before you holding the same glass of diamonds and the same glass of water and I give you the choice of one or the other, you can guarantee that your priorities would change.
You need to recognize now that Christ is the only means that God has given by which man can be saved. There is no name under Heaven given by which we must be saved. That life is as a vapor. That 150,000 people die every 24 hours and you’re standing on the brink of eternity, and God today is calling you to repentance.
Still in Bondage
And then there are others of you who are believers. You are Christians. You are born again. And yet, you look and you say, “I don’t understand. I’m living for the Lord. I love the Lord, but I don’t seem to be progressing in my walk. I don’t ever seem to move from this place.” There’s a reason for that. Years ago, these guys who lived off an island in the South Pacific who used to go and party every weekend, they’d get in their little boat and they’d go over to a neighboring island and party. One day they heard about this rager of all ragers that was going on on the island near to them. So they thought, “Great!” They put on all their clothes, filled up their boat with all their booze, and they rode over there. It took them about an hour. They got there, they got out of the boat, tied the boat to the dock, went in and partied all night.
About one in the morning, they’re making their way back to their boat. They’re tripping all over the place. Finally they made it, but barely. They got in their boat. They started rowing back to their island. And they’re rowing and singing all their drunk men songs. Finally they looked out at the horizon, sobered up a bit by now, and they couldn’t believe it, but the sun was beginning to rise. They looked to the right. There was no sign of land. They looked to the left. There was no sign of land. They looked in front of them. There was no sign of land. They thought, “We’ve been rowing for six hours. The island was only an hour away.” It wasn’t until they turned around, that they realized that they hadn’t moved an inch. The boat was still tied to the dock.
How many of us say, “I want to move forward for God. I want to get places for God.” And we’re exerting all this energy and doing all these things, but until we cut our heart’s chord that is tied to the sin in this world, it’s not going to happen. How many of us are connected to worldliness and sin and compromise that is slowing us down and holding us back, as Hebrews talks about? You must cleanse yourself from the latter.
We’ve Been Entrusted by God
Listen brothers and sisters, as I draw to a close here. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ. Second Corinthians 5:18-20 says, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Did you hear that?
We have been given a ministry, and we are ambassadors for Christ. If you’re in here and you’re a Christian, you are in ministry, whether you think you are or not. And your role, given to you by God, is that of ambassador, which means representative. You represent the God of the universe. Do we understand what that really means? Because that’s going to affect how we represent Him. Do you understand how grand and mighty God is? How awesome and great He is?
The Grandness of God
I want to give you a picture of that. Right now, if a beam of light happened to fly through this place at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, and we happened to have our saddle handy, and we hopped on this beam of light and flew through space, in about a second and a half, we’d be at the moon. In nine minutes, we would reach the sun, 93 million miles away. In four years, we would be at Alpha Centauri, which is a star that is closest to our solar system. But if we started at one end of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and traveled to the other end nonstop at 186,000 miles per second, it would take us 100,000 years to travel that expanse. There are over 100 billion galaxies with over 100 billion stars in each galaxy, and scientists tell us that our universe is 128 billion light years wide.
And the Bible says about our God that He spans the universe, the heavens, with His hand. That Heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t even contain Him. And this is the God that fills you and has called you to be His representative.
A Hero like No Other
Now you and I live in a world that is full of manmade heroes. And when I say manmade heroes, I speak of those that have been exulted to a high degree of admiration because of the impact that they have had in the lives of others. We read or hear about the man who dove into the depths of the perilous sea to save the drowning infant. The man who threw his body across the road to save the woman from the oncoming vehicle. The man who scaled the 10 story building and broke in through the glass and saved the family from the blazing inferno. The pilot that landed the plane safely and saved all of those lives. And we hail these people as heroes. We talk about them on the radio and television airwaves. We put their names up in lights. We see their pictures on billboards. We see them on talk shows, and we should because they are heroes indeed.
But my question to you is what are all the heroes of ages past, and all of their heroic deeds combined, what are they all in comparison to the heroism of Jesus Christ when He came to this earth as a man and hung upon a cross to redeem our souls from Hell? The heroes of today are passing, but not Jesus. Malcolm Muggeridge said, “We look back upon history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’
“What are all the heroes of ages past, and all of their heroic deeds combined, what are they all in comparison to the heroism of Jesus Christ when He came to this earth as a man and hung upon a cross to redeem our souls from Hell?”
“I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.
“I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people desired, they could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.
“All in one lifetime. All in one lifetime. All gone with the wind.
“England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.
“All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.
“Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one Person, because of Whom, by Whom, in Whom, and through Whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”
And Philip Chaff, in contrast to that description, said this, “Jesus of Nazareth without money and arms conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon. Without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all scholars and philosophers combined. Without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet. Without writing a single line, He sent more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. That’s my hero. Is He yours?” Is He yours?
The A to Z
And in closing, let me say that Jesus in Scripture is called the Alpha and the Omega, which means the A and the Z, literally. And I believe everything else in between. Beginning with A to the artist, He’s the altogether lovely one. To the builder, He’s the chief cornerstone. To the chef, He’s the bread of life. To the doctor, He’s the great physician. To the educator, He’s the master teacher. To the florist, He’s the rose of Sharon and a lily of the valley. To the geologist, He is the Rock of ages. To the horticulturist, He’s the true vine. To the intellectual, He’s the wisdom of God. To the jeweler, He is the head of His Church, which is the pearl of great price. To the king, He is the Prince of Peace. To the lawyer, He is judge of all the earth. To the manufacturer, He is the creator of all things. To the newsman, He is the glad tidings of great joy. To the occultist and church of the light, He is the light of the world.
To the philanthropist, He is the gift of God. To the queen, He is the king of kings. To the rabbi, He is the Messiah. To the scholar, He is the truth. To the theologian, He is the author and the finisher of our faith. To the undertaker, He is the resurrection and the life. To the visionary, He is the revelation of God. To the waiter, He is the one who came not to be served, but to serve. To the X-ray technician, He is the Word of God with whom all things are naked and bare. To the youth, He is alive. And to the zealot, He is the Son of God for whom life is worth living.
And my hope and prayer is that after you finish this article that you will be more madly and passionately in love with Him. That you would draw near to Him. That you would abide in Him. That He would become your all and all. May God touch you and bless you as you go. And may you become doers of His Word for the glory of God.