Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on November 11, 1979
WE HAVE BEEN RETURNING TO SOME BASIC principles. There are many ways to preach. Sometimes we just go through a book of the Bible and let God’s word preach its own message, verse by verse. But there are basic principles that are stated over and over again in God’s book that are not like sermons, they are like springs of water. We have to go back to them again and again because of our need. They never run dry, and they never cease to refresh and give strength.
In the New Testament, Paul in Romans 7 describes the misery of a man who is captive to his own flesh and to the desires of the flesh, and he cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then follows the joyous declaration in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Paul then defines the status of being in Christ Jesus: “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” The key word is if.
We have made 2nd Corinthians 1:20 a touchstone of our ministry. “All the promises of God in him, “that is, in Christ, “are yes, and in him Amen,” or “so be it unto you.” That verse becomes a license for fishing throughout God’s book in both the Old and New Testaments to find any promise contained therein and grab it and make it ours. There are multitudes who have been helped and encouraged by claiming a promise of God and making it theirs. But some people claim a promise and when nothing happens, they get disillusioned and want to give up on God. Tragically, they have missed the key.
I have preached many times on Psalm 37. It is one of those “principle” passages. We can go to it a thousand times and it is one of those springs we can always draw upon. It is a message for a fretting, anxious soul, where God commands us not to fret and tells us how to stop fretting. The first step we are to take is in verse 3, which tells us to “Trust in the LORD.” It has to do with getting our faith properly focused again and reestablishing our relationship to God as the trusted One. The second step is in verse 4, which says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” We can read that verse ten thousand times, but very few people will realize it in their experience. We want to rush over the first half of the verse to get to the second half: “he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Such is our carnality and the difficulty of escaping the prison of our wants and desires. We want God to be the giver of our desires before we change the focus of those desires.
What Psalm 37 really says is that if you will focus your desires in the right place, you will receive the desires of your heart. Now the devil will tell you that catering to your desires will bring you happiness. That is the message he has been telling man since the day he deceived Eve: just follow your desires and happiness will be your portion, because a good, loving Father will give you the desires of your heart. But God is saying in Psalm 37 that if you will grab hold of that desiring mechanism and turn it around until your delight is in the Lord, then He will give you the desires of your heart.
The promise that you will receive the desires of your heart is to the man whose desire of the heart is the Lord. If your delight is the Lord, the Lord will give you Himself. If your delight is something else, then that promise does not apply to you. It is so easy to race through the verse to get to the part we like. I call it the “promise box syndrome.” To use a psychological term, it has “fixated” and terminated the growth of more Christians in perpetual babyhood than perhaps any other syndrome, because it keeps a carnal Christian in the frame of mind that God’s business is to bless him in his carnal state, or worse, to bless his carnality.
We said that in Christ we can claim “all the promises of God,” and “all the promises” means there is not even one promise held back. For any promise you can find anywhere in His book, “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen.” But if you are not “in Him,” then they are not yours to take. That is why simply having faith in faith will not work. That is why having faith in God outside of Christ will not work. The Scripture says, “many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them,” because He knew what was in man’s heart. Jesus said that “many are called, but few are chosen.”
I am not preaching a sad sermon today; I am going to preach on a marvelous promise of God. But first we need to clearly understand to whom the promise is given. The parable of the sower teaches that there are certain kinds of people who respond to the gospel and certain kinds who do not respond. The modern church world has changed from seeking “the treasure in the field” to promoting a Madison Avenue sales gospel. There are some preachers who believe that for any person, regardless of their state, you can find a key that will open him up so you can sell your product. No, you can’t! The promise is, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
When God breathed into man, He placed in us a “receiver,” a capacity to respond to Him. It is God’s image in us. Paul calls it “the law of God after the inward man.” But that receiver needs an infusion of God’s own nature in order to bring forth Christ’s nature in us. When we ask Him to come into us, His life joins with that receiver and brings forth the fruit of the Spirit. Paul in Romans 7 contrasts that new life with the “old man” that still dwells in all of us. Paul says, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing.” That part of our nature wants what it wants when it wants it, for its own corrupt desires. It is at enmity with the law of God, at enmity with Christ and at enmity with everything about God. It cannot seize God and hang on.
The man catering to that side of his nature is never going to be able to claim God’s promises, because “all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen.” Again, how do you get in Him? “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” John said that as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become the sons of God. We are not to just passively receive. Literally, it says we must “lay hold of and not let go.” The promise is to those who grab hold of Him and hang on for dear life!
Few preachers will admit this, but there have been times when I hated being a Christian, in terms of what God demands as He leads us in an ever-increasing dying to the things of this world and a coming alive to the things eternal. I cannot honestly say that I have come to the point that Paul finally came to, where he counted all things as refuse. Furthermore, I don’t believe that there are very many other Christians who have come to that point, either. Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind. . . I press toward the mark,” and I know what the mark is.
I am very aware that some things I used to want to hang on to, things that used to stand between me and the Lord, no longer have any attraction. Any Christian who has followed the Lord very long has learned that truth: when you finally die to something that was in completion with the things of God, it doesn’t rear its head up any more and bother you. But I haven’t yet come to the point where I never have any doubts.
God has never given me a supernatural “vision.” Yet even if I were to have a vision, I am sure there would still be low moments when the devil would tell me, “Ah, it was just a dream.” The very last thing that God has used to force me to open up His book, that questioning spirit that cannot stop until it finds every verse on a subject, is what pushed me into agnosticism for three and a half years where I wandered in misery. But when I studied the Resurrection, I came to a point where I knew that there was no other explanation except that Jesus came out of that tomb.
Don’t tell me about your personal “spiritual experiences.” Nobody has had more felt spiritual experiences than I had while growing up in the church. But my brain got in the way somewhere along the journey; I had to have explanations. I finally settled it one day. He is the Lord of Glory. He is the starting point of all knowledge and authority. He can tell me all I need to know about eternity. I had to decide: should I be like one of those whom the Bible describes as “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” or should I grab hold of the knowledge I had received? And I grabbed hold. My faith was faltering when I started, but it is much stronger today than it was then.
None of the disciples who started the church would have preached their first sermon if they had not been convinced, factually, that Jesus Christ came out of that tomb. There is a song that says, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” It is a marvelous song, but it is unsound theology. Even the Hare Krishna can testify to an experience. But the New Testament declares, “Jesus of Nazareth. . . as ye yourselves also know. . . This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
That is an historic fact attested to by eyewitnesses. Christianity is based upon an historic fact! The whole church world would do much better if they would quit dwelling on their personal experiences and focus on the Resurrection instead.
I know that Jesus Christ rose; I don’t have to rely on somebody telling me that He rose. I spent three and a half years studying the languages, majoring in history and reading all the available scholarly material, and there is no other explanation. He came out of the tomb! On that basis, I can believe in miracles. On that basis, I can start acting like He is with me. And because I keep on acting that way, He continues to confirm, and I have come to know the reality of it in my own experience. That gives me the basis for a faith in the eternal. But I cannot taste, feel, drink and enjoy the eternal yet.
Do I ever want to quit? Sure! But then I wake up in the morning and I go back to my benchmarks, and I settle it. It doesn’t matter what I want. The Lord and I made a covenant together and I am in His hands. As long as I am in Him, I don’t need any of the other stuff. There are a few honest Christians out there who don’t have that miraculous something that other Christians seem to have. There are some people in the church who seem to have so much of the Spirit in them, they have to comb their hair down to keep it from standing straight up. They never have any doubts. They never have any problems. These are the hypocrites in the church who will stand up and say, “There is no pleasure in sin.” There is pleasure in sin, but it is only for a season.
We need to understand that there is a warfare going on. Until you are laid in the grave, you will never completely convert that old nature of yours so that it will always desire God, and God alone. That old nature has to be put down daily, and all you will ever hope to attain in Christianity is mastery over it until you can obey what Paul says: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body.” All I am really saying is what anyone who has any vitality and any life at all knows. Christianity forces a choice: life now and death then, or death now and life then.
The church world needs to wake up and understand that Christianity is not just another dish on a smorgasbord of life’s philosophies and life’s choices that will win out against the other dishes on the table because it tastes better. It doesn’t work that way.
When you repent and turn from the old way and ask Christ to come in, in that instant you are in Christ. But you have to hang on to Him. And given enough time in the relationship, you will grow up in Him. Your desires will begin to change, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
There are many saints of God who know that I am telling the truth. There are things that used to be a pressure on your Christian experience, but as you get closer to home, those things present less of a problem than they used to. You do reach a stage where the momentum of the new life begins to gain a power that outpaces the drag of the old life. But don’t ever think that you can homogenize this world and eternity in such a way that you can keep doing what you want every time the arousements come and still claim the promises of God.
Now with that negative side of the message done, I thank God that I know one thing today: although there is a warring in the flesh, I know what I want more than anything in this world. I want the Holy Spirit to find His abode in me. Though I might feel the drag of quicksand, I want with every part of my being to grab hold of Christ and His promise and the hope that is eternal, the way a man sinking in quicksand will grab hold of a rope. We have the certainty that as long as we have that intense, gripping relationship with God and His Word, we are in Christ and we can claim these promises. As long as we hang on, what was faintly heard at one point will become a crescendo, and the promise will become a reality in our lives.
With that background, I am going to preach the principle. I first wanted to sort everybody out. If you are sitting here in your carnality, catering to the flesh, knowing that you are not willing to give your all to God, to surrender and make Him the Lord of your life, and knowing that you will only serve God if He lets you have what you want, don’t even think that this message is for you. I am telling you straight out it’s not for you! But if you are one of those faltering Christians in a valley, or if you are one of those Christians who knows you want God more than anything but it is just hard to hang on, then this message is for you. The graft of new life has taken, but you are being buffeted and knocked around. Or perhaps you have come to a crisis where the pain of what you have to give up is dimming what you think you are going to receive, until it is tempting to let go. If you are still holding on to God, even with just a fingernail grip, and you know way down deep that the better part of yourself wants God’s best while the devil is buffeting you with the desires of the flesh, open your eyes to this truth. As long as we are hanging on to God, these promises are ours. With that background, I ask you to turn to the Song of Asher in Deuteronomy 33.
Verse 25 says, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass.” In one sentence, that tells us it is a tough trip. The Great Provider is not going to provide us shoes made out of iron and brass if our journey is going to be up a carpeted stairway. In essence, the Lord is calling us to a trip that requires tough shoes. You cannot make the journey in house slippers or beach sandals or barefooted. God never at any time masks this reality with rose-colored glasses. The whole trip is going to be a tough one.
I have asked God of late, “Did I really think that, as I got older, You would let me lounge around in slippers for the whole year? Did I fall into the trap of thinking that I have had enough tests and now I can sit back in an easy chair and just tell everybody else how to get where I am?” You have to wear those iron and brass shoes all the way home. Christianity is a tough trip. Those who are in Christ are in the First-goer who showed us what the trip is like: there is a cross all along the way. But the promise is a guarantee that He will provide shoes that are tough enough to make the whole trip.
People normally don’t break under the pressure they are in today; they break because of the fear of what they might face tomorrow. Were you ever in a problem at any time in your journey and you didn’t think you would make it through? You must have made it, because you are still here. That is God’s guarantee! There have been many times when I didn’t think I would make it, but I did. To those who are in Christ, God guarantees shoes that will last.
These are the promises we can claim today. The next promise in this passage is, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” I have claimed that promise many times over the years. But it is good medicine, so let’s claim it again. Circle the pronouns in your Bible: “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” I can tell you honestly as your Pastor: I don’t have the strength to face tomorrow, but I have enough to get through today. God’s promise is He will precisely measure out the strength you need for your day. Do you know why I feel good today? I have many reasons for feeling bad and many reasons for feeling good every day, and I try to sort them out before the day finishes. Today I have a reason for feeling really good, because I woke up with very little strength. That means not much is going to hit me today. If you get up feeling like you can conquer the world, you had better get some healthy fear, because God has filled you up with strength for a big one. It is going to be a tough day, but God’s promise is, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
The devil can tempt you, and you can get out of Christ and grieve the Spirit away. You can violate the law of Amos: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” You can get the idea that you can twist God’s arm to go down your path instead of being His bondslave and letting Him lead you down His path. When you get out of Christ, the devil will make everything go well for a while, but the end thereof is what you had better look out for! If you grab hold of Christ, I can guarantee it is going to be a tough trip. But you can also have this guarantee: you are never going to run out of strength. You are never going to be completely broken, because “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
It is a hard message, and that is why I introduced the subject by talking about doubt. I am tired of Christians who only give lip service. They flower so quickly, like the “stoney-ground” people in the parable of the sower. They can respond to the word like desert flowers blooming right after the rain, and they wilt just as quickly when the problems come.
Many times I have hated the night hours. I wish I could find a promise in God’s book that says, “When you are wide awake at three in the morning, just ask the Lord and He will make you instantly go to sleep.” But I find I am in good company as I have studied the lives of the saints. Any man or woman of God is under constant attack from the devil, and the devil knows to come toward the end of the day when that measure of strength is about to run out. The devil will always attack by somehow turning on all the gears in your mind at the end of the day, until you become preoccupied with worrying about tomorrow.
I have learned to grab this promise and say, “Tomorrow morning, the Lord is going to fill the cup with renewed strength.” If you are in Christ, can you really believe that God in heaven has measured out your strength for today? He has not promised to give you tomorrow’s measure of strength in advance. We are like Elijah in that sense: the oil has to flow anew every day.
The next promise is in verse 27: “The eternal God is thy refuge.” The word refuge means a place of care or security. “The eternal God” translates one of the most difficult expressions in Scripture to communicate. Literally it says, “The God of the forefront is thy refuge.” The guarantee is tough shoes that will last the trip and strength enough for every day, measured out individually. But what about tomorrow? What about the uncertainties when events catch us totally by surprise, when each plan we have laid suddenly explodes with a boom, and it is gone? We are tempted to say, “Hey, God, did this catch You napping?”
God is timeless: “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” We are related to space and time. Jesus is both “the Alpha,” the front, and “the Omega,” the back. He is the beginning and the end. The only way I have ever been able to illustrate this word translated “eternal” is to force us to put time into the frame of reference of watching a parade. Imagine watching a parade go by. First comes the parade leader. Now he passes out of sight. Next comes a marching band. Now, what is in front and what is in back? The front of the parade has passed, and what is yet to come, which will be future in time, is behind. What was in front has now passed, and what is behind is yet to come. As you watch the parade go by, history is up front and the future to come is behind. So what we call history is what has already passed by.
Looking at it from God’s point of view, history is up front. And what we call the uncertain future is the surest part of the trip, because the Parade Master has no uncertainties about what is coming around the bend. This verse is saying that the God we serve is on the corner before we get there. If we look at time like a parade, history, the front of the parade, has already passed by us. And what is yet to come is behind the leader. The trail is already mapped out, and God, the Alpha and the Omega, has no uncertainties.
Now change your viewpoint and imagine that we are marching in that parade. As we are turning a corner, what is uncertain to us is not uncertain to God. No matter how much we are uprooted, no matter how much our circumstances are changed and no matter how much we are shocked and surprised, there are no surprises to Him.
Let’s take this complicated Hebrew verse and put it into the New Testament frame. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 10:13 that God will not tempt us beyond what we are able to bear; but with the temptation, He will provide a way of escape. The literal Greek makes it clear that for each particular temptation, God has worked out just as particular the way of escape. You may be in a position where you cannot see past today and all you can do is hang on. But that is all you have to do, because the Eternal God, the One who is there tomorrow, gives you strength for today.
It is not as though God will wait until tomorrow to figure out how much strength you will need. He is already on that corner before you get there. The Eternal God, your refuge, who knows the measure of strength you need tomorrow in Him, is already working out the way of escape for the problems you will face tomorrow. Today, He gives you strength as your day; tomorrow, He is already there. And when you get there, the strength is ready. That is what the verse is saying. God help us to believe it, live in in and rest in it.
We all know that we can hear the truth and yet tomorrow when the surprise comes, we will cry and complain. We may even think it is the end of the world and let our grasp slip a little. But God also promises that “underneath are the everlasting arms.” God knows your heart, and you know your heart. You know whether or not you want God’s way with you. To those who do, the promise is not only tough shoes, daily strength and certain refuge in a God who is at the forefront and there before you get there, He also promises that “underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Have you ever, as a Christian, been brought so low that you thought you had to reach up to touch bottom? There are some ministries where all you ever hear about is happiness and joy and bouncing from mountaintop to mountaintop. Yet here I am wondering how low my bottomless pit is today. I am not up there on the mountaintop all the time.
The word translated “underneath” is a pictorial word in the Hebrew. You cannot put it into English except by stating a contradiction. The word essentially means “underneath bottomless.” How far down is bottomless? And yet this verse is saying that wherever bottomless is, God’s arms are underneath that.
Whatever depth bottomless is, if it could be measured, underneath that are the everlasting arms. Now if you are falling into a bottomless hole, even if you don’t know how deep bottomless is, at least you know that it is deep enough that it will take you a while to reach the bottom. So why should God keep His arms there? He has plenty of time to get His arms into position while you are falling. Yet this verse says that underneath bottomless, His arms are always there to catch you. They are already waiting there, ever-present and never moving. The devil has tried to tell me more than once in my journey that I had fallen beyond the catching point. Well, let the devil be a liar, God’s word says, “underneath are the everlasting arms.”
There is much that is good in this Christian journey. It is much better if you will taste and see that the Lord is good, and stay there long enough to develop the taste; it more than compensates for the pain. Some of you have only a little grip and you are just barely hanging on. Some of you have a tighter grip and you know from experience the truth of what I am preaching. It is a tough trip, you can count on that, but “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” The Eternal God, the One who is already on the corner, is your refuge and is working out the way of escape. The way of escape is really there, and if you slip and fall, or give up hope and start losing your grasp, the God who knows the heart keeps His arms there, ever ready to catch you. Underneath are the everlasting arms.
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
The Bible tells the stories of many great mothers. 1st Samuel, chapters 1 and 2 tell the touching story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Hannah spoke of how she “lent” her son, Samuel to the Lord. It’s not easy to give up a child, but she lent him to God and he became one of the great prophets.
Other scriptures tell of Mary, the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Jochebed, the mother of Moses, to name a few. God’s Book mentions many different mothers, so I’m assuming that the subject of mothers must be something important to God. Dr. Scott used to always say that when God repeats Himself, pay attention. There are reasons why certain themes are repeated in the Bible.
In 2nd Samuel the story is told of Rizpah. King Saul had chosen her as one of his concubines. He never married her but she bore him two sons. I always liked this woman. She had a character which was lovely and so honorable, and loyal. Her life could not have been easy and she probably had feelings of being unloved and used. But it’s obvious that her love for the two sons was strong.
Life in those days could be brutal. After Saul’s death David became king. The enemies of Saul demanded atonement for the evil which Saul had done to them. So they asked David for seven men of Saul’s descendants that they could take out their vengeance on. By their laws this was the right thing to do, and David gave the seven sons of Saul to them. The two sons of Rizpah, and five others, were killed and hung on a hill. Rizpah spread some sackcloth on the rocks and stayed there from April to October. For seven long months she fought off the birds by day and the animals by night. She loved her sons and she was not going to let them be eaten by birds or animals.
Her love went beyond anything I have ever seen. We need only to think of all the dark nights that she sat there all alone, and the endless days under the hot sun. She may have stayed there till she died had David not heard about her and sent someone to bury all seven men.
I believe the love a mother has for her child is a God given love. God compares Himself to an earthly mother when we read in Isaiah 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” He loves and comforts us as mother does.
Of course there are all kinds of mothers, but I don’t believe that we ever received a letter from a prisoner that expressed anything but love for his mother. The imperfections were overlooked or accepted because she was the one who brought him into the world. We are all a part of our mother.
I took my mom for granted most of my life, as maybe most of us do. She had always been there. After her death I realized how very much she meant to me. Her passing left a hole in my heart. There had been so much unsaid and left undone. But then we would all like to “re-do” parts of our life. My mom never knew her mother, my grandmother. Today I understand how that loss affected her life. But she was in every way the best mother I could have had.
Mother’s Day this year is May 10th. Mothers love to be remembered, so if you are lucky enough to have a mother, thank God for her. And if her love for you does not reach to the depth you would like, remember that a mother is also a person, who can only give what she was given. And she needs the love of her children.
Prayer Requests for May,2015
For Bob Casto (Cushing, Oklahoma), who is having a lot of health problems.
For Watie (Oklahoma), who just had another heart attack.
For Dennis Martin (Lexington, OK), who has heart problems.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), that he will be granted clemency from the parole board.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Robert Heffernan , Grady, Arkansas.
For Pastor Scott’s health; & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread.
By Bob Dylan
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair
Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand
Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay
I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand
I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand
Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music
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