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I really feel led of the Lord to speak to you these next three weeks under the heading 'Deep Healing'. That title signifies that I want us to identify, and seek to overcome, hindrances to growth in the Christian life - seeking to identify and overcome hindrances to growth in the Christian life. To do that, I want us to think each week of different subjects. Tonight we're going to look at 'Sins', next Thursday, God willing, we're going to look at 'Wounds', and the last Thursday we're going to look at 'Demons'. 'Sins', 'Wounds', and 'Demons' - seeing what problems we might have, and how they have become a hindrance to us moving on with the Lord.
Let's just pray as we come to the Scripture, and I want you to pray please for yourself, that God might take a dealing with you. We all need the Lord, don't we? We need further revelation, we need further dealings with God and encounters with the Holy Spirit. So let's come and open our hearts just now, and say: 'Lord, please, if there's something that You have to say to me, place Your finger on that very area that I need to deal with, or that I need help with, or I need healing in'. So let's just open ourselves, let's invoke the presence of the Lord with us. We believe He is here, but so often that's an intellectual exercise. We want to, with the eyes of our heart, know a revelation that the Lord is here in the midst. So let's come, believing that He is here, and He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him in faith.
Father, we come to You in that name that is above every name, Lord Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that Jesus is the name high over all in hell, or earth, or sky; angels and men before Him fall, and devils fear and fly. We thank You that You have made all things subject to His name. We thank You that all principalities and powers have been put beneath His feet. We thank You for the victory that there is in the name, and in the blood, and in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Father, we thank You that through the crucified, buried, and resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus, that You have come by Your Spirit to dwell with Your people. We thank You, Lord, that You're here tonight, we thank You that You're with us. We say, Lord: come closer to us, come Lord Jesus, come Holy Spirit, come - we invite You, we welcome You to take a dealing, and to do Divine surgery. Penetrate deep into our spirits, our souls, and even touch our bodies - Lord, we need You. We long for an encounter with the Living God. Lord, deliver us from going through formal rote and ritual; but, Lord, let us have a living encounter with the Living God. We thank You for the authority that the Lord Jesus has given us over the powers of darkness. We claim that tonight in Jesus' name. We pray, Lord, that You will release the mighty power of Your word by the Holy Spirit now. In Jesus' glorious name we pray, Amen.
I want you to turn with me to Isaiah 61. I call this 'The Mandate', or 'The Mission Statement of Messiah'. It's prophetic, of course, and our Lord Jesus, in Luke's gospel it's recorded that He, on the Sabbath, opened the scroll of Isaiah at this very chapter. He read it, and then He sat down and He said: 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears', and they were all fastened, their eyes were fixed on Him. So let's look at what the Lord Jesus prophetically and in history it is declared of Him that He would come to do - if you like, His mission statement.
Verse 1 of Isaiah 61: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified".
I want you to look at what the Lord Jesus came to do. The Spirit of the Lord anointed Him - you see the whole Triune Godhead involved, 'the Spirit', the Holy Spirit, 'of the Lord GOD', the Father you might say, 'is upon Me', that's the Christ. He is anointed to do these things, look at just verse 1 there in the middle: 'to preach good tidings', or the good news, 'to the poor'. 'The poor' there speaks of those who are suffering, those who are held back, if you like, the disadvantaged in society - those who feel have been disenfranchised in life - Jesus came to preach good news to those people. If you're one of those people tonight, you rejoice, because the message of the Gospel is for you! But let's look on, it says also that He came 'to heal the brokenhearted'. The picture there in the original Hebrew language is of the nail-pierced hand - now that's not inferred - but the hand of someone, and we know it's the nail-pierced hand, who goes right to the depths of the human spirit in all its brokenness, and bruisedness, and shatteredness - the human heart. He pours in oil and wine, just like the Good Samaritan did, and He bandages up the wound - that's the picture: the bandaging up of heart-wounds.
In fact, this concept covers everything from conviction of sin, where we have the guilt and shame of our own sinful depravity; and yet it moves in the spectrum right to any form of human breakdown that we can know through life's vicissitudes. So the idea is of a very personal attention from the Saviour, a soothing healing that comes to us by His nail-pierced hand, where we are restored to wholeness right in the depths of our heart. He has come to heal the brokenhearted - and that's the whole Gospel. We need to preach the whole Gospel. The whole Gospel is not just getting to Heaven when you die, and escaping hell - praise God, that's a big part of it - but there is more to it: there is a wholeness in the Gospel, where God comes not just to save us from hell, but to restore humankind from the fallen human condition.
Then we also see that He came 'to proclaim liberty to the captives'. Someone in captivity has been taken prisoner, and the picture here is of those who are in the fetters of Satan and sin. You remember Paul said to Timothy that they wanted unbelievers to come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. Unconverted people are taken captive by the devil to do his will, and Jesus came to set us free from captivity. Also He came to proclaim 'the opening of the prison to those who are bound', another rendering is 'the opening of eyes to those who are in darkness'. Now if a captive is someone who is taken captive by another stronger than they, someone in prison really is in a prison of their own making. We end up in prison because we are convicted of crimes that we have done of our own volition. So if one statement speaks of a great power in developing us, this prison or this blindness is because of the results of our own deeds. Yet, isn't that wonderful that Jesus has the answer - an encounter personally with the Lord Jesus Christ delivers us from all the results of Satan and sin. In fact, it's all summed up here in verse 2, the Lord has come: 'To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD', that is, the year of Jubilee.
Now in Leviticus 25 we see there that every seven years there was a sabbatical year, and they rested the crops and so on. But every seven sevens, that's 49 years, on the fiftieth year they celebrated the year of Jubilee - and what a year that was! Because slaves were released, land was returned to those who were the original owners, debts were cancelled - and this is a picture of what the Gospel is meant to do for broken sinners: it's meant to clean the slate of our debt before God, it's meant to return and restore to us what has been lost by our fall, and those of us who are slaves in bondage to the enemy and sin can be released and set free! The wonderful thing about it is, there are some folk and they still haven't believed yet, and they're asking the question: 'Is this what God wants for me?'. Here it says: 'This is the acceptable year of the LORD', or to put it another way 'This is the LORD's good pleasure' - this is what the Lord wants for you! This is what the Lord wants, it's His will for sinners. It's His mission statement. To sum it up very basically: Jesus came to undo what Satan and sin has done. Amen.
Turn with me to 1 John 3:8, John says: 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil'. Now that word 'destroy' in the original Greek is 'luo', which some of you might be aware means 'loose'. So what John is saying is that Jesus came to loose us from the works of the devil. The word can be used of unravelling a bandage, or a bondage - untying a rope, or breaking chains. The word means 'to unravel', it's like a seamstress unravelling a garment at the seams, or an engineer dismantling an edifice. So, you see what's being said: Jesus Christ came into the world to dismantle, to unravel, to pull apart at the seams, to untie and loose us from the bondage of the devil! Are you half asleep tonight? Isn't that wonderful? I think it's wonderful!
But the mistake that we often fall into is that we expect this to happen all at once, and it doesn't. Now some people get rid of certain things when they are converted, and we praise God for that - but not everybody is the finished article the night that they are saved, in fact nobody is that I know of. So you may have got over the cigarettes, or over the booze, as we talk about it like that, or certain habitual problems that were in your life - but all of us, from the moment of the inception of our faith in Christ till we get to glory, are being changed from glory to glory into the likeness of our Lord Jesus. The Christian experience of sanctification, though there are crises no doubt, is a progress, it's a process. I heard a wonderful illustration of it like this: if you imagine - and you've seen it on the news I'm sure - an oil slick that's released from some disaster in the ocean, and all the wildlife are starting to be affected by it. The nature people, they come along, the wildlife protectors, they come along and try to retrieve as much of the wildlife as possible. Maybe there is a bird there that is just caked in oil, floating along in this slick. What they will do is, they will come alongside in a speedboat or something, and they will lift that bird out of the oil, put it in the boat, and then they will take it to the shore. They won't throw it up in the air, and say: 'Now away you go, you're free, you can fly' - because if that happens, the weight of the oil is so much in its wings that it will break bones and pull muscles. The bird has been taken out of the oil slick, but the oil has to be taken out of the bird - do you understand? That is a painstaking process. When we are converted, we are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. God does a work - and, praise God, it's a wonderful work, and there can be tremendous transformation that happens in the moment of conversion - we believe that, but there's a lot of work still to be done. Then, and only then, begins the process of getting the oil out of the bird.
Now I think, probably generally anyway, the three great hindrances to Christian growth are what I've already mentioned: sins, wounds, and demons. The remedy for each of those is different, that's why it's essential to have the gift of discernment. Now there is a general discernment that comes through a knowledge of the word of God and through everyday experience in the Kingdom of the Lord, but there is also the gift of discernment which is a supernatural gift of the Spirit. We hear a lot about the gifts of the Spirit, but we don't often hear about the gift of discernment. It's the discernment of spirits - and I'm not going to go into it tonight, save to say that two of the types of spirits that we discern are evil spirits, but also the human spirit, the condition of the human spirit of an individual - and there is also angelic spirits, and there is even discerning the presence of the Spirit of God, which a lot of people can't discern. In a gathering, when the Holy Spirit comes, do you think everybody knows it? No, everybody doesn't know, and some folk don't know what to do - and they can wreck it in a moment, and He's gone.
So, we need God's help, that's basically what I'm saying - it's essential that we know what the problem is in us. That's what we're saying, our subject is: identifying the hindrances to growth - what is the problem? You see, we need to know the problem in order to know the remedy, because the remedy for each of these problems is different. For instance, sins need to be repented of; wounds need to be healed; and demons need to be cast out. Do you understand? We need to understand what the issue is to know the remedy: how to overcome. Now, some people think all the problems that would be a hindrance to you going on with God are sins. So, if you get an alcoholic, a person with a problem with drunkenness, or you get a drug addict with a problem with narcotics, or a sex addict or a person just generally sexually immoral - some people's answer is: 'Repent!' Just repent! You need to repent of that sin, God will forgive you, and then just leave it behind you and move on'. Now, you're going to see tonight from what I'm going to share with you that we must call sin, sin; and we must repent of it - but there can be deep issues that go below the surface of sin. Sin can be a manifestation of deeper problems, they can even be coping mechanisms for deeper problems. Some of those problems are wounds, we will look at that specifically next week - but others of them might be footholds for the enemy to empower that ungodly behaviour. You see, it's not enough to repent if you don't get the wounds healed, and the devil isn't told where to go.
You see, it's important to discern the problem. So sins must be repented of, but sins may not be the only problem. Equally so, for some people everything is a wound - and, yes, there are many wounds that contribute significantly to our problems, but you see some people are always saying: 'Oh, I was wounded, I was wounded, somebody did this on me, and that, and this was my upbringing'. Those are definite big factors, but with a lot of people, what they're trying to do is say: 'I'm not responsible, it's not my fault'. For instance, alcoholism - alcoholism does become a disease, there is no doubt about that, it takes over the body, and the body craves alcohol - but, you see, an alcoholic, like any other person afflicted with a sinful way of life, must take responsibility for their behaviour. That's where repentance comes in - even if there are wounds and there is demonic empowerment - we must take responsibility for our ungodly actions that have led to such a disorder.
So it's not all wounding, and it mightn't all be sin - but some people think everything is demonic. I do believe in the demonic, very much so, and I think a lot of us are unbelieving with regard to it. But you know, sins and wounds are often a favourite way for the enemy to get in and to manipulate situations, even with Christians. But, you know, the root of every issue is not demonic. Demonic entities will capitalise on much, but some people see demons everywhere - you know, everything is a demon, you've got a spirit of this, a spirit of that, and a spirit of the other. Now there are many spirits, and many of them have names - don't misunderstand me tonight - but, you know, some problems are psychological. Some problems are emotional, even physical and moral, and here's the thing: the demonic can latch hold onto wounds and to sins, but wait till I tell you - you can cast as many demons out as you like, but if the root issue is not fixed you will not have helped that person, in fact you might have hindered them because there might be more demons that come and take their place.
Now, do you know what I believe the truth of the matter is? You might think 'I'm just a hodgepodge of problems', but I believe most of us are a mixture of all three of those: sins, wounds, and demons. They tend to feed off one another to greater or lesser degrees, and that's why it's vital that there is discernment. A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. You see, some people are knowledgeable in one of these areas - you know, they're great at preaching against sin, or they're great at inner healing, or they know everything about the devil - they know more about the devil than the devil himself. They are blindsided because they're only seeing part of the equation, that's why we need discernment from the Lord. We need to ask God - why? Because the remedy for each of these problems is different. Sins need repentance, wounds need to be healed, and demons need to be expelled. You can't cast out a wound, and you can't cast out a sin or the flesh. You can't heal a sin, and you certainly can't heal a demon. You can't repent of a demon, and you can't repent of a wound. Sins must be repented of, wounds healed, and demons expelled.
Have you got a problem tonight? Maybe I'm giving you problems! Have you got a problem? Could we do something just now, before I go on. If we say it's vital that we have discernment, and we identify the real issue, let's bow before the Lord and ask Him to just do that for you. People around you, yes, pray for them, and the Lord is always uncovering things in my heart, even this week. But I want you to just ask for yourself here tonight, and say: 'Lord, is there something here that's a hindrance to me, that I need You to diagnose, and I need You to cure'. Father, we just pray that You will send Your discernment to the hearts of those that You're ready to touch and to loose from sin, from wounds, from demonic forces, and maybe a combination of these. So, come Lord, and may every heart be open to what You say. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Now we're looking tonight at sins. Repentance is vital in the Christian life. I began a study at the beginning of the year, I haven't got too far in it, I was trying to study the commands of the Lord Jesus. I found out, interestingly, that the first command the Lord gave was Matthew 4:17: 'From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'. Then, when we get to the book of Revelation, what does He tell five of the seven churches? 'Repent, repent, repent, repent repent'. Jesus is big on repentance. We can have wounds, and we can have demonic problems - I believe even Christians can, and I'll be speaking on that in the third study - but when there is sinful behaviours, they must be named as such. Even if they are only coping mechanisms, or the fruition of other problems, sin must be named as sin - because we've got to take responsibility for all ungodly behaviour in our life.
It's very simple: what do you do with sin? You confess it. You confess it, you renounce it, and you repent of it. It's not enough to say: 'The devil made me do it'. You've got to understand that. I know, to a certain extent, the power that there is in the demonic realm, and Satan can make things very very hard for people. If you get a wounded person who uses sin as a coping mechanism, and then it's empowered by demons, that is a very difficult thing to uproot. Nevertheless, every one of us has to admit our role in the process. Yes, Satan wants to take us captive to do his will, but we've got to ask ourselves the question: how have I been involved in cooperating with him? You know, I believe that no matter how demonised a person is, they still have some use of their free will - I do believe that. Even the demoniac, and this might be a disputed point, but I believe that it was the demoniac's spirit that caused him to run and fall at the feet of Jesus. I don't believe it was the demons that fell at the feet of Jesus, I believe it was the demoniac in his own human spirit who fell at the feet of Jesus. So even him with a legion - what was it? Between 3000 to 6000 demons perhaps, that was a legion in the Roman army. Even he, who was so possessed, still was able to throw himself at the feet of the Lord Jesus. You see, I'm not saying that the devil can't tie us in knots, and so can sin and addictive behaviour, that it's almost impossible to get free. I've seen some people, and it's almost impossible - but still there is that part of them that can say: 'Lord, help me! Lord, I confess my sin and, Lord, I don't have the power but I choose to repent - help me'.
So we're asking how have any of us co-operated with darkness. The reason why I'm highlighting this is, some people want God to just zap them, and they're fixed - do you understand? They want someone to pray over them, and I believe in that - but often, deep down, they just don't want to take responsibility for their own behaviour, they want a quick fix. Now, I think I read with you before and spoke on Acts 8, where Simon Magus had been supposedly converted out of a pagan occultish background - there is a question mark on his conversion - but he saw the Apostles laying hands on people, and them being filled and baptised in the Spirit. He offered them money that he would have that same power, and Peter said to him, J.B. Phillips translates it: 'To hell with you and your money! Repent of your bitterness and your wickedness, for your heart is not right with God'. Did Simon Magus have demonic problems? I think he probably did, but Peter didn't exorcise his demonic problems there and then - do you know what Peter said? 'Repent! Repent of your sin!'. It's very instructive, we don't have time to look at it, but in verse 24 of Acts 8, this is what Simon did when he heard that Peter was more or less saying: 'You're going to hell, boy!', he said, 'Oh, pray for me, Peter, pray for me that this will not come upon me'.
Now what had Peter told him to do? He was more or less saying: 'You pray and repent', but you see Simon wanted Peter to fix him. 'Peter, pray for me, fix me'. You see, this is why the point of personal repentance is vital: you need to take responsibility for your sin. I know you've been wounded, and we will labour this next week, and there might be a demonic empowerment in your life - but you have got to put your hands up and agree with what God says about your sin, otherwise you'll never be free. Maybe I'm speaking to someone, or more than one, here tonight, and you're one of these Christians - and we've all been there at some time, and some of us still struggle - where it's just failure, upon failure, upon failure. You've got this rollercoaster experience - it's like the grand old Duke of York, you're up, and then you're down, and then you're neither halfway up nor down, you don't know where you are. Do you know what I mean? Peak and trough Christianity. There is failure after failure, and maybe you're here tonight, and you're at the brink of giving up, throwing in the towel: 'I can't do this. This is beyond me, not with the background I have, and the baggage and the issues I have'. Or maybe you have given up, you don't know why you're here tonight, and maybe I'm not helping you so far - but you've given up, this is too hard for you. Do you know what your problem is? Perfectionism.
You say: 'Boy, you haven't got the gift of discernment, I'll tell you that. My problem is not perfectionism. If you knew me, the big failure that I am. My problem is...'. Hold on, do you know that some of the biggest perfectionists in the world are failures? Did you know that? The dropouts are perfectionists, do you know why? Because if they can't do it, and they can't do it perfectly, they won't do it at all. Then there is the high-over-achievers, at the top end of the scale in their careers and intellect and all the rest - but they're still not satisfied, because no one can achieve perfection as a standard. So you've got people at either end of the scale: the dropout and the over-high-achiever, but in the spiritual realm you've got the same - spiritual dropouts. Like Elijah, he was a spiritual dropout at one point in his career, where he said: 'I am not better than my fathers, just let me die, Lord, I'm no better than my predecessors'. Do you understand? The Lord had to deal with that in Elijah, but maybe He needs to deal with you. You've kept falling with this particular sin, and I'm not condoning that, or maybe you're one of these people - you're going through the Bible in a year, which is a very commendable thing to do, I try to do it, and you're doing your quiet time, you've got your wee shopping list of prayers, and if you miss that for one day, well, that's it, the week's gone, and then the month's gone - because you missed one day, or you missed a week, so what's the point any more, eh? That is the road to no town, that is perfectionism. In fact, the enemy will use that to such an extent that he will hammer you, because he is the accuser of the brethren. He will get behind that, and he will make you miserable for your failure.
G.K. Chesterton, I believe in his creed - he said: 'If a thing is worth doing...', do you know how to finish that? 'It's worth doing poorly' - that's what G.K. Chesterton said. Now, you think about that one: if it's worth doing, do it! Is that not right? If it's worth doing, do it - whether you do it poorly or excel at it! You see, that perfectionism will prevent you doing anything for God. I'm continually telling our daughter, Lydia: 'The man who never made a mistake, never made anything' - isn't it true?
'There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or played.
And when he one day passed away,
His insurance was denied,
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died'.
We all fail, all of us - I fail, you fail. The failure rate for the human race is 100%. Now, I am not condoning sinful failure, but what I am saying is: if you get caught into perfectionism, that is essentially legalism - and legalism will destroy you. Perseverance of the saints is made up of 10,000 new beginnings, and we all have them, every week and every day. Listen to the book of Proverbs in the New Living Translation, Proverbs 24:16: 'The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again'. That's what God's saying to you tonight: 'Get up again!'. There are a few more perfectionists in here than you really thought, aren't there?
Maybe your problem is that you're too passive - do you know what that means? It's the opposite of active. You're not one of these people who gets up and does the thing, you want to lie back and have it happen to you. I haven't got time to go into this, but sometimes that can relate to our upbringings. You know, if you were spoilt rotten, and Mummy did everything for you, you don't know what it is to have that willpower to penetrate and go through. There is a need, even with praying for people, to pray for the strengthening of the will, that the great masculine will of Almighty God will break through and penetrate, that the will of God to do things sovereignly might come down into you. Now we need more than willpower to overcome sin - I mean, if willpower was all that we needed, we wouldn't need a Saviour, would we? We'd be able to do it ourselves, and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. The book of Colossians warns us against those who worship the will, will worshippers.
Maybe you need healing in your will because everything was taken out of your hands, you never had to do anything for yourself, or you were told you were no good at anything - so you've bailed out and you don't even try any more. This is a serious matter. Calling sin, sin, confessing it, renouncing it and repenting of it - we can't over emphasise this. You folk here in the Elim know how serious it is. Psalm 66: 'If I regard iniquity', the word means 'if I cherish, prize, harbour, iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me' - that is what makes God go deaf, when we are holding onto sin in our heart and won't call it sin and let go of it. We are to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily beset us and ensnares us - Hebrews. First John 1, we are to walk in the light as He is in the light, and then the light - just like the light shafting through the window, it shows up all the dust that's floating through the air - we are to walk in God's light that our sin might be uncovered, that we might put it beneath the blood.
Here's a principle I want you to learn tonight: Calvary will not cover what you will not uncover. God requires truth in the inward parts. We must not presume upon God's protection whenever we are sinning, wilfully and openly sinning. Now we're all falling into sin, don't think I'm Mr Wonderful up here - I'm not. I know my struggles and my temptations and my trials, and there are many, and as I seek to go on more with God they get more. What I'm trying to say is: you cannot step into the kingdom of darkness and presume upon God's protection. There's a lot of foolishness in Christian evangelical circles about this. You see, you can step out of God's covering and be exposed, did you know that? That's why we ought not to take sin lightly.
I was praying with a man not very long ago who had serious demonic problems, and he was a believer. You mightn't be able to put those two things together, but we'll hopefully get to that eventually. He wasn't living right as a Christian - he professed faith in Jesus, but he was backslidden. One day he saw a ghost tour advertised, and he decided he and his partner would go on it. He ended up - it wasn't just one of these, you know, wee story tours about things that happened in the past, not that you'd be OK going to that - but it was much worse than that, it was more like a seance. There were things that happened that were just literally out of this world. Rather than turning on his heels and fleeing, do you know what he did in his heart? This is a backslidden man - he decided to challenge the devil, and he said: 'I'm under the blood and you can't touch me'. Now I'm not going to go into the story for confidentiality reasons, but after that he had untold problems - even in the house, all sorts of things were going on. When he was sitting before me he had this evangelical garbage in his head: 'I'm under the blood' - I said: 'Sir, you weren't under the blood, you weren't under the blood'. Now this might confuse some of you: I'm not talking about being saved and lost here, I'm talking about presuming upon God's protection when you're not dwelling beneath His cover. I took him to that story of the Passover, you know in Exodus, where they were told to take the blood of the lamb and put it in the basin, and take the hyssop and put it on the door posts and the lintel - but the condition of protection was obedience, that they stayed in the house under the covering. So if you're wilfully going out from under the covering of the blood, you're only protected when you're obedient. You're sinning - and in fact I told that man: 'You tempted the Lord! You tested the Lord!'. Praise God, he got free - but often all of us are guilty of presumption. We are saved and we think the devil can't touch us.
Confession is essential if you want to get free. Do you want to get free? God's word, Amos said, is like a plumbline. We have got to measure our lives, and however off measurement or askew we are, we've got to confess it. We can't fix it, but we've got to confess it - measuring our lives to the canon of Scripture. Amos 3:3: 'Can two walk together except they be agreed?', we've got to agree with what God says about our sin, there is no other way around it. I learned recently, and this was a tremendous revelation for me: grace and truth go together, and if you want the grace of God it will only come to you when you tell the truth - when you tell the truth about yourself, your sin, and what God says. If you can tell the truth and confess it, the grace of God will meet you and cover your sin. What we often do is: we let our sin keep us from the Lord - but, you see, we must agree with God. There is a great power in confession to God. Do you know what I believe confession to God and repentance does? Now watch this, try and picture this, the imagery of it: when you confess your sin with your mouth - and I think it's important that it is audible - when you confess, it actually brings the sin, as it were, up and out of you if it's given to God, up and out of you. Isaiah 6: Isaiah saw the Lord, 'high and lifted up, and His train filling the temple' - and remember now, Isaiah is the Shakespeare of the Old Testament, yet when he saw the awesome Holy, Holy, Holy manifestation of God's Presence, what did he cry? 'Woe is me! I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips!' - the Shakespeare of the Old Testament. When he confessed his sin, what did the Lord do? He sent an angelic form to come and take a blood-soaked coal from off the altar, and to touch his lips. You see, when he confessed his sin, the Lord healed him - there is power in confession to God.
Can I tell you also: there is power in confession to each other. We have run away from this because of perversions in certain sections of Christendom - but James 5 still says the same as it always did: 'Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed'. Now, here's what I'm getting at, listen: when I sin, my instinct is to withdraw from God and withdraw from my fellow believers, in fact I just do what my father, Adam, did. 'Adam, where are you?', he ran away from God. You see, what we do when we sin is: we withdraw from the relationships that we need - do you understand? We hide from God, we hide from others - but the problem is: the grace that we need is outside of us, it's not from within. What we end up doing is: we build walls of guilt, we build walls of shame, and then God can't get at us, He won't get at us through that. Wait till I tell you something, here's a revelation if ever there was one for anybody in the meeting tonight: your sin, because of Calvary, cannot keep you from God. The only thing that will keep you from God is your pride, and it's pride that builds walls of shame and guilt, not sin but pride.
It was Adam's pride that made him hide from God. It's my pride: 'You should have been better' - eh? Isn't that what we say? 'That was below you!' - it wasn't below me, because I'm a sinner, and I'm not any better. Without the grace of God, that's what I am. That's perfectionism, spiritual perfectionism and pride, and it's that that builds a wall of shame and guilt around us that keeps us from God - but what God wants us to do is own our sin, and confess our sin. But here's the point I want you to see: He wants us to bring everything into relationship - all our struggles, all our temptations, all our failures. The enemy wants us behind a fence of shame and guilt to hide from God, to hide from others because of our sin - but God wants us to bring everything into relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Now this is vital, because if you're struggling with sin - as all of us are - you need to realise this: how do we achieve holiness? Boy, listen to this statement tonight - you might not agree with this, but I believe it's true and tested: you will never achieve holiness by trying to be holy. You will never achieve holiness by trying to be holy. Wait till I tell you: there is a sense in which, as a preacher, I believe we should not preach holiness on its own. It's dangerous to preach holiness on its own, because it's misunderstood. Here's why: there is a legalist in all of us, and when we hear holiness we say, 'Oh, I better pull my socks up and do a bit better', and we are maybe not dealing with the deep issues. Listen: everything in the Christian life is given by God's grace, and is received by our faith - absolutely everything. It's all coming out of relationship with God our Father through Jesus Christ.
I wish I could show you tonight, we don't have time, 1 John 2, 1 John 3, 1 John 4, and it talks about old men and young men overcoming the devil, overcoming the world, and John says: 'This is how we overcome, even by our faith, for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world'. What's all that? That's not theology, that's not rules, that's relationship! The book of Ephesians in its very layout testifies to this. Paul spends the first three chapters telling the Ephesians who they are in Christ, and then he spends the next, the last three, telling them now what to do - but it all comes out of their identity of who they are in Jesus Christ. Neil Anderson put it like this, you might need to write this down: 'What you do does not determine who you are' - what you do does not determine who you are - 'Who you are determines what you do'. Do you understand? Holiness and obedience must come out of relationship, and identity is the key. You can set all the boundaries that you like - not going to functions with drink (and I'm not suggesting that you should go to functions with drink if you've got a problem with drink), but all I'm saying is: if all you've got is rules, that's not enough. Boundaries are not enough, because there is a part of our old sinful, depraved human nature that actually is resentful of the domination of the will, and rebels against rules - that's why rules don't work. They don't work! The only thing that works is relationship.
Now don't misunderstand me, we still need boundaries, but even boundaries must come out of relationship. Let me make this practical as I draw this all together for your help tonight: some of you might be stuck in sin, and it's because you have no sense of being. I'm not condoning your behaviour, but what I'm saying is: it's because you have no sense of being, sense of worth deep down in you, your identity in Christ. You've never let the sin come out of you in confession, but that's not enough: you've got to let Immanuel come down into you in incarnation, He's got to come into you and take residence in you, and then you will find your centre and your identity in Him - not in your achievement, not in your performance but your acceptance and your relationship with Him. That's why you turn to sin - do you understand? When you're empty you turn to sin because it dulls the emptiness, it dulls the pain, or maybe it gives you the buzz - a momentary feel-good, it's a fix! That's why drug addicts talk about taking drugs as 'a fix', heroin is 'a fix', and heroine is called 'heroine' because it makes you feel heroic, it makes you feel wonderful - but it leaves you worse afterwards. This is the addictive cycle, whether it's alcohol, drugs, pornography, even religion - even religion, self-righteousness - the addiction is the same. Here's the cycle, listen: you feel pain, so you need to medicate it; so you drink, you shoot up, you watch porn, or you do some religious deed, and it makes you feel better. It makes you feel better for a wee while, and then when it wears off the pain comes to the surface again - but, you know, the pain is different now because it's got the guilt and the shame on top of it of what you've just done. You're running from the pain you originally had, and now you have the guilt and shame on top of it of what you've been dabbling in - so what do you do again? You run to the fix again, and so you're caught in this cycle.
Can I tell you: sin is sin, and we've got to name it, and we've got to repent of it. You might have wounds to be healed, most of us do - but you've got to confess your sin, and you must confess it to God and by faith receive a sense of being coming down right into your soul. Some of you tonight are struggling with sin and temptation, and you're practising the presence of sin. You're like the devil himself, standing outside of yourself, pointing the finger, you're introspective, you're accusing yourself, you're hammering yourself, you're condemning yourself - and I'm not saying that God's not convicting you, but God convicts you in order to confess it, bring it up and out, and allow Him to come down and possess you by His grace.
Whenever you do fail you need to stop standing outside of yourself criticising yourself, and you need to step back into your centre in Christ and know who you are in Jesus - that's the only way to overcome, I'll tell you. Now you might think that's being light on sin. I don't think I'm being light on sin tonight, am I? Repent - but I'm telling you, this is the only answer, we don't have the answer: it's God's grace, and it's in relationship. Listen: true holiness is found in relationship with the Lord Jesus, and true holiness leads to wholeness. Listen to The Message - and I'm not saying it's the best translation everywhere, but it's a good paraphrase - listen, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: 'May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole', the God who makes everything holy and whole, 'make you holy and whole, put you together - spirit, soul, and body - and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If He said it, He'll do it!'.
Are you whole tonight? True happiness will only come when you're holy. Some of us have this perverted view of holiness, you know - I don't know where we got it, maybe from years ago - I don't know. Not everything was bad years ago, but sometimes we got the wrong idea of holiness - you know, you couldn't smile, and you couldn't go anywhere fun and enjoy yourself. That's not holiness, but holiness brings happiness: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'. Wait till I tell you: true holiness brings freedom - do you know that? I saw a book, and I haven't read it, John Eldridge is the author - so I can't recommend it because I haven't read it - but if the book says what the title says, it did me enough good just reading the title. Do you know what the title was? 'The Utter Relief of Holiness' - I get a tingle when I say that, 'The Utter Relief of Holiness'. Do you know what I'm talking about? To be free.
A pilot was flying one day, and he heard a gnawing noise in the fuselage of his plane. He looked and he saw a rat, and he knew that rodents weren't made to fly in planes. So he went to a high altitude, as high as he could, he soared high into the sky as far as he could go, and after being there for a number of minutes, he landed and he looked and the rat was dead. You can't chase after that rat that is troubling you, that sin - you'll chase it for the rest of your days, you will. You can put traps down and boundaries, but that sin is more elusive than you think. There is an entity, an intelligence behind it. What you need to do is: you need to confess your sin, you need to allow it to come up and out of you to the cross of Jesus, you need to soar high by faith into your identity in Jesus Christ and God, into His grace, and know your sin coming up and out of you, and the grace in the presence of God coming down and into you.
I'm going to hand over now, but let me say this. In the time that we have praying, if you could envisage with the eyes of your heart, if God has put His finger on something, you imagine with the eyes of your heart the crucified Jesus, crucified before the foundation of the world, and you bring your sin up and out to Him. See it going into Him, and take the grace and the identity that you have in Jesus, the worth, the self-worth, the meaning, the being that comes from Him, take it down deep into your soul - and, I'll tell you, you'll never be the same again. There might be wounds that need healed, and we will deal with that next week. There might be demons that you need set free from - but repent tonight, and allow the Lord to set you free, and make you holy, and make you whole. God bless you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Portadown Elim Church in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'Deep Healing' series, entitled "Sins" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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