What do you do when you’re depressed? You say, “Christians don’t get depressed! I’m too blessed to be depressed!” Well, that might be a cute saying, but it has nothing to do with reality. Some of God’s greatest saints have gone through dark, deep nights of depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that depression is a billion dollar per year business. Over 8 million Americans are so depressed that they can’t cope and many of them name the name of Christ.
It doesn’t do a depressed person any good for you to say, “Cheer up!” There’s nothing they’d like to do more than to cheer up. And if you come along with a silly grin and a slap on the back thinking you’re doing them some good……you aren’t.
What is depression? It’s listless feeling or an overwhelming sadness. Nothing feels good. It’s a state of hopelessness. It’s the idea that no one understands or cares about you. You’re filled with anxiety and worry. You may be given to crying spells. Every now and then you may just heave a big sigh. You wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. You feel fatigued and worn out all the time. You may ache all over. You may not be able to make decisions. You find yourself irritable and grouchy. You can’t be enthusiastic about anything. Quite frankly, you just wish the world would stop and let you off.
I know what it’s like because I’ve been there.
David went through depression. Look at Psalm 42:5. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me?”
Did you know that depression is the second or third leading cause of death in some age groups? It’s not uncommon to see a spouse die shortly after his or her mate passes away.
David, the man after God’s own heart, wrote this Psalm. And this man of God asks, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”
Moses got so depressed that he asked God to kill him. Elijah, the mighty prophet of God, was running from Jezebel in a time of extreme mental anguish. He sat down under a juniper tree and requested that he might die.
Jeremiah came to the point where he said, “I wish I had died in my mother’s womb!” Even the mighty Apostle Paul said that he despaired even of life. Jonah, who preached a city-wide crusade where everyone in Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes, asked God to take away his life.
Jesus said, “There is not a greater man born of woman than John the Baptist.” But when John was in a dungeon, he got so depressed that he even doubted that Jesus was the Messiah.
Great leaders in the secular world have been depressed. Sir Winston Churchill, the man who said, “Never, never, never give up!” had severe bouts of depression. He called it a black dog that hounded him.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon was a man of wit and warmth, but all of his biographers tell us that there were times when he would sink into deep fits of despondency and depression.
Martin Luther, the great reformer also dealt with deep depression. What I’m trying to show you is this: if you suffer from depression, you are in good company.
David had plenty of reason to be depressed. He had a son, Absalom, who rebelled against him. This was a son David loved with all his heart. That son was killed, David was deposed as king, and he had to flee for his life. He was being hunted down. He has no more power or possessions. His son has died, his daughter was raped by another son, his wife was raped, another son is killed and the nation is in turmoil. He had plenty of reasons to be depressed.
In this Psalm, David writes a clinical case of depression. Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
Just write down spiritual dryness. Here’s a man who says, “God, I’m so thirsty for you, but I can’t find you! I’m like a deer hunted by a pack of wild dogs. God, where are you? Have you forgotten me?” Look at verse 9. “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?”
God hadn’t forgotten him, and God hasn’t forgotten you; but if felt like God had forgotten him. Sometimes, even though a preacher knows that God has him where he wants him, feels like God has forgotten where He put them. David says, “God, have you forgotten me?” There is a spiritual dryness and he’s on continual crying jags. Look at verse 3. “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?”
We all cry and we all have sorrows and heartaches, but that’s not depression. Normal tears are like a thunderstorm that passes through. But depression is like a front that moves in and camps overhead with continual dripping.
David feels shame and defeat. The last part of verse 3 says, “While they continually say, Where is thy God?” David has this feeling that he has let God down and that he’s a miserable example of a Christian. He no longer has any witness or testimony and he has tremendous guilt over that.
Spiritual dryness, continual crying, a feeling of shame; but all of that is compounded by a lingering feeling of what used to be……lingering memories. Look at verse 4. “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy-day.”
He’s looking back at a time when he had joy, and peace, and satisfaction, and friends, and fellowship, and worship. It was so real to him….but now it’s just a memory that haunts him. He thinks it can never be that way again. That just makes his present sadness all the worse because it’s set against that background.
The sum total of all this is overwhelming circumstances. Look at verses 6-7. “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”
What’s he talking about? He’s having thoughts of death. He talks of Jordan. In Bible typology, Jordan speaks of death. Jordan begins at the top of Mount Herman which is beautiful and snowcapped all year round. Then the Jordan trickles down a torturous route to the Dead Sea which is 1300 feet below sea level at its surface and is another 1300 feet deep. It’s the lowest point on earth. The Jordan runs down Mount Herman and buries itself there never to rise again. It speaks of death.
David says, “All thy waterspouts have gone over me.” He’s talking about waterfalls. One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world is at the headwaters of the Jordan. But David says, “This river of death is come over me.” When you get despondent enough, you get to thinking that death would be a welcome release.
There is the severe problem of depression, but there is also the spiritual provision for depression. There is hope.
You may not be clinically depressed, but you may be mildly depressed: you may just be having a bad day. But this will apply wherever you are on that continuum. Look inward with a firm look. Look at verses 5-6. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.”
He’s beginning to look inward and He’s talking to himself. There is someone inside you who is always talking to you. The old flesh nature is continually talking to you. That’s where negative thinking comes from. It’s saying, “You deserve this. You can never be better. You ought to have a pity party. You be better off dead.” Your soul is always there talking to you, but you need to talk back!
That’s what David does. He takes his soul by the scruff of the neck and says, “Why are you this way, O my soul?” He takes an inward look and says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” He just talks back to himself.
Do you ever talk to yourself? One man said, “I’m concerned about my wife. She always talks to herself.” His friend said, “Does she know she’s doing it?” He said, “No, she thinks I’m listening to her.”
Do you ever talk to yourself? You ought to. You aren’t wacko if you do that. David talks to himself and takes a firm inward look. He asks, “Why am I depressed?” You need to ask yourself that question. You can answer it better than anyone else. No one knows you like you do. The Bible says, “What man knows the spirit of a man save the spirit of man that is in him?”
When you ask yourself, “Why am I depressed?” be honest with your answer. You might be depressed because of the death of a loved one. You might be depressed because you’re heartbroken. Maybe someone has rejected you or done you wrong. Maybe it’s a child, a parent, a husband, a wife, or someone in the church.
Maybe you lost something valuable to you. It might be your health, your job, your reputation, etc. But you’ve lost something and you don’t see how you’ll ever get it back.
Maybe you’re depressed because you feel guilty. The grime and guilt has dirtied up the window panes of your spiritual house and everything looks a yellowish gray.
Just ask yourself, “Why am I depressed?” It may be that you’re in bad health. Maybe the first thing you should do is go get a checkup. You may need some vitamins or a better diet. You may need a rest or a vacation. But look inward with a firm look. Don’t tip toe around it….look yourself straight in the eye!
First, look inward with a firm look, then, look upward with a faith look. Look at verses 7-9. “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?” Look to Him. He’ll never fail you.
Abraham Maslo, a famous research analyst said, “The truth is that the average American does not have a true friend in the world.” You’d think that everyone would have at least one friend. But he says that the average American doesn’t even have one real friend. But every Christian does. What a Friend we have in Jesus! He’s your Rock! Look upward with a faith look. The only lasting cure for depression is to put your eyes on Jesus. If that seems simplistic to you, it’s only because of the hardness of your heart. Verse 8 says that He’s the God of your life and verse 9 says that He’s your Rock.
One verse speaks of His tenderness and the other speaks of His strength. Have you ever heard of a tender rock? That’s what God is: He’s a tender Rock! Look at Psalm 147:3-4. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”
How many stars are there? No one can count them. But God can tell you about every one of them. He can tell you where they’re located, He can tell you their size, their weight, their brightness, their magnitude……and He’s got a name for every one of them! Yet He’s the One who binds up your wounds. That’s a tender Rock. That’s how great God is.
Everything big is made up of things that are little. Our world is made up of atoms. They’re so small that you can put 25 trillion of them inside an inch. The God of bigness is also the God of smallness. The God who runs the universe attends the funeral of every sparrow. He’s the tender Rock.
Don’t get the idea that God doesn’t care about you. The very hairs of your head are numbered. If no one else understands you, if you don’t have a friend anywhere, if you can’t see a solution; God will not fail you.
If you put your hope anywhere else, you’re going to go down. I used to live in Florida and I’ve been through hurricanes. When a hurricane is coming, you bring everything you can inside and shutter all the windows. But some things are too big to bring inside, so you tie them down. But when you have winds that can exceed 140 miles per hour, the thing you tied down can be gone…..and the thing you tied it to is gone also!
God is a Rock that can’t be moved. You say, “Pastor, are you telling me that if I bring all my troubles to God that He’ll explain it and I’ll understand?” No. You may never understand. In verse 9 David asks, “Lord, why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Look at verse 10. “As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?”
When people are depressed, they always come and ask the same question. They say, “Pastor, why did this happen? Why did my husband die? Why did I lose my job? Why? Why? Why?”
Why is not your question. Why is God’s question. Your question is how. How are you going to react?
Many of God’s choicest saints have gone through deep, dark depression and David was one of them. In the same verse where he acknowledges God as his Rock he says, “God, I don’t understand.”
Warren Wiersbe reminds us that we don’t live by explanations; we live by promises. If something has happened to you that you don’t understand, just think of the incredible opportunity you now have to trust God.
Robert Frost said, “It was of the essence of the trial that you shouldn’t understand it at the time. It had to have un-meaning to have meaning.”
You wonder why you can’t hear from God while you’re going through this test, but remember that the teacher is always silent while giving a test.
If God explains it all to you it ceases to be a trial. But if you say, “God, why have you forsaken me? I don’t understand it, yet, you are my Rock.” Now you’re coming to the place Job came to when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
Andrew Murrey said, “In times of trouble God’s trusting child must say, First, He brought me here. It is His will that I am in this strait place. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and He will give me grace in this trial to behave as His child. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn, and working in the grace he means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again. How and when, He knows. Say, number 1, I am here by God’s appointment; number 2, in His keeping; number 3, under His training and number 4, for His time. God is too good to be unkind and too wise to make a mistake. When we cannot trace His hand, we can trust His heart.”
Take the firm inward look. Take the faith upward look. Then, take a focused onward look. Look at verse 11. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?”
He’s looking to the future. “I’m coming out. I do have hope. I will hope in God. No matter how bleak it is, no matter how dark it is, no matter how despairing it is, I have hope in God.
There are only two places where there is no hope. One is Heaven where you don’t need it. There, faith has turned to reality. The other is Hell, where people have no hope.
Hope in God who, in His time, will turn every hurt into a hallelujah; every tear into a pearl; every midnight into a sunrise; and every Calvary into a Resurrection Sunday. Don’t lose hope.
Maybe God is taking everything else away from you to get you to hope in Him and trust in Him alone. St. Augustine asked this question…one of the most penetrating questions I’ve ever heard: He said, “Suppose God were to come to you and offer you a deal. He says to you, You can have whatever you want. You will live everlastingly, you will have all power, every longing will be satisfied, nothing will be a sin to you, nothing will be forbidden to you, you can have everything you want, as much as you want, whether it is joy, peace, long life, success…..anything you want. But there is one exception: you will never see my face. Would you take that deal?”
Then he said, “If you say, No, then you have the pure love of God.” Then he said, “If a chill went over your soul when you heard that phrase, “You will never see my face,” then thank God, because you are saying that God means more to you than all the universes put together.”
I don’t think God is ever finished with us until our chief delight is God alone. When our chief delight is God alone, then no matter how dark, or how deep, or how dismal, or how despairing you are: when God alone is your chief desire, you will be complete.
If you are depressed, don’t let Satan blow out the light of hope within you. God is not finished with you yet.
Take a look at Philippians 1:21-24. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Paul wrote this from a Roman prison. He really doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him. He may be put to death or he may be set free. He may be executed or exonerated. He’s thinking, “Am I going to live, or am I going to die.” But then he thinks, “It really doesn’t matter. For me to live is Christ and for me to die is gain.” No matter what happened, Paul was thrilled with the prospect. He’s in prison, but he’s not moaning and groaning and complaining.
When bad times come to us we do one of three things: either we resent them, or we resign ourselves to them, or we rejoice in them. Paul rejoiced in tribulation. When Paul says, “I may die,” you can almost see a twinkle in his eyes. I think he was almost smiling when he said it!
We’re just going to examine two points this evening. The first point is: “For me to live is Christ.” The second point is: “For me to die is gain.”
When Paul said, “For me to live is Christ,” he’s not talking about his physical existence; he’s talking about his new spiritual life. First, he means that the source of his life is Christ. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul knows that salvation is not his good work for Jesus, but Jesus’ good work in him. But there are a lot of folks who think that being a Christian is the result of being a good boy or girl.
They think God is like Santa Clause, who’s making a list and checking it twice to see who’s naughty or nice. Then, when you die, He’ll balance the scales and if your good works tip the scales over your bad works, He’ll say, “Come on in.”
Folks, salvation is not attainment; it’s atonement! When the shed blood of Christ’s atonement is put on your account as salvation, you become a new creature and Christ begins a good work in you.
Has that new work begun in you? Are you born again? Can you say along with Paul, “For me to live is Christ?”
You can take Buddha out of Buddhism and you still have the teachings of Buddhism. But you can’t take Christ out of Christianity. When you get saved, you don’t get the Christian religion; you get Christ!
Jesus is the source of Paul’s life; therefore He is the subject of Paul’s life. In Philippians 1:2 Paul is telling the Philipian church, “Don’t feel sorry for me because I’m in prison. Hot diggety dog! This gives me a chance to preach the Gospel in Caesar’s palace!”
How else would an itinerant missionary get the chance to preach there? Paul’s chained to a praetorian guard and all day long he’s telling him about Jesus. The guard couldn’t get away from him! Every six hours they’d chain another guard to him and Paul would tell him about Jesus. Paul was establishing a church right there in Caesar’s household! The subject of Paul’s life was Christ.
If you’re ashamed of Jesus, you wouldn’t want to spend much time around Paul. He’d embarrass you to death! You can tell what’s inside a person by what they talk about. What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket! The Bible says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”
You say, “How boring…always talking about Jesus. Doesn’t that kind of hem you in?” Well, it would be like a minnow being hemmed in by the Atlantic! Do you know what Paul said about Christ? He said, “In whom are hid all of the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” Why did the Lord hide it? He hid it so you and I could have the joy of discovering it!
Have you ever gone to the Word and found a new gem, or a new nugget? I’ve been preaching the Word for going on 4 decades and I’m just as excited about it as I’ve ever been! There’s always more to learn about Jesus, and the subject of Paul’s life is Jesus.
Jesus is not only the source and subject of Paul’s life; the standard of Paul’s life is Jesus. In Philippians 3:14 Paul is talking about his life’s ambition. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” That word “press” describes a runner who’d straining every nerve and fiber in his body to win the race. Paul’s goal in life is to be like Christ.
Not only was Jesus the standard of Paul’s life; the song of Paul’s life is Jesus. Remember, this was written from prison. Look at Philippians 4:4. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”
It doesn’t matter where you are or what the circumstances of your life are, there is a command for you to rejoice in the Lord. How can you do that? You can do that only in the Lord. Paul was in prison, but he was also in Jesus. No matter what happens to him, he’s singing a song and praising Jesus. Don’t feel sorry for Paul….or for any true Christian.
Not only was Jesus the song of Paul’s life; the satisfaction of Paul’s life is Jesus. Look at Philippians 4:11-12. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Paul says, “It doesn’t matter if I have a freezer full of filet minion, or if I’m eating a crust of bread. It doesn’t matter if I’m in prison, or in a palace. I’ve learned to be content no matter where I am.” He found his satisfaction in Jesus. By the way, you’ll never find satisfaction until you find it in Jesus. God made you to serve Him and until you do, you’ll be like a square peg in a round hole. You were made to find your satisfaction in Jesus.
Also, the strength of Paul’s life is in Jesus. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” It’s not that Paul kept Christ: it’s that Christ kept Paul. The Jesus who saves you and the Jesus who’s coming for you, is the same Jesus who keeps you saved and who wants to work through you.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, I just serve God in my poor little old weak way.” Well, knock it off!! He doesn’t want you serving Him in your poor little old weak way. He wants you to serve Him in His mighty, glorious, dynamic way! He wants to do something in and through you.
Next, the supply of Paul’s life is Christ. Look at Philippians 4:19. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
He won’t supply all your wants, but He’ll supply all your needs. Sometimes you want things you don’t need. Sometimes you need things you don’t want. Your dad might have told you that you needed a spanking. He was probably right….but you didn’t want one! You don’t have a need in your life that Jesus can’t supply. If you do, then this verse is a lie.
That’s what Paul meant when he said, “For me to live is Christ.” But now let’s look at the other side of this thing. He also said, “For me to die is gain.” “To live is Christ” is describing days of grace. “To die is gain” is describing days of glory. But how do we know that dying is gain?
“Mr. Scientist, will you tell us if there’s life after death? You’ve unlocked the secret of the atom and you’ve probed the far reaches of space. Tell us if there’s life after death.” He says, “We don’t have the answer. As a scientist I have to deal with things that can be seen, felt, weighed and measured. We can’t prove that there’s life after death. But in all honesty, we can’t disprove it either.” “Well, thank you for being honest in saying there may be life after death, Mr. Scientist.”
“Mr. Philosopher, will you tell me if there’s life after death? You deal in the realm of thought and reason, so tell us if there’s life after death.” He says, “Our observation is, as we study man that he hopes to live again. It’s in his instinct that he hopes to. But we can’t say for certain that man will live again.”
There’s a painting in Boston called: The End of the Trail. It’s a painting of an old Indian sitting upon his pony. They’ve come to a ravine and you can tell that both the Indian and the pony are very aged and facing death. The ravine pictures death. The old pony, being an animal, has his head bent over looking down into that ravine. But the old, weather-beaten Indian sitting astride that pony has his arms outstretched. He’s expecting more. He doesn’t know what, but there’s something about man that causes him to expect more.
All we can say as a scientist is, “Maybe.” All we can say as a philosopher is, “Man hopes to live for ever.”
So we go to the historian. “Mr. Historian, you’ve studied history and know the nature of anthropology. Tell us, will man live again?” He says, “We’ve studied the record of history and can tell you that man expects to live again. All people everywhere expect to live again.” “Thank you, Mr. Historian, but I was looking for something better than that. I don’t want maybe, or hope, or expectation; I want something that’s sure.”
So I go to the teacher of ethics and say, “Tell me, you have studied right and wrong. You know what ought to be and what ought not to be. In your study of moral order can you tell me if man will live again?” He tells me, “Man ought to live again. It’s only fair that man should live again. If there’s no Heaven, there ought to be one. If there’s no Hell, there ought to be one. The same shouldn’t happen to Adolph Hitler and Corrie Tin Boom.” But I don’t want to know what ought to be. I want to know, “If a man die, shall he live again?”
Let’s ask the Apostle Paul. I’m tired of scientists, and philosophers, and moralists, and historians. Is there an answer from God? “Paul, if a man die, shall he live again?” “Yes.” “How do you know, Paul?” “I know because I met the risen Savior on the Damascus road. I know that Jesus lives. God has taught me by revelation that man shall live again.” “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Why is dying gain, Paul? He says in Philippians 1:23-24, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Paul says, “If I had my way, I’d check out right now. I want to be with Christ.” That word “depart” is one of the richest words in this text. It was a nautical term used by sailors. It meant to loose the moorings and to set sail. So, when a Christian dies, it’s like loosing the moorings and setting sail.
Have you ever been to the harbor and watched a ship sail out to sea? There are people on the dock who have loved ones on that ship. They wave their handkerchiefs and blow kisses. Some of them stay there until the ship dips over the horizon. You can hear them say, “There she goes.”
But the ships destination is another harbor on the other side of that horizon. There are people standing there saying, “Here she comes!”
That’s what death is like for the child of God. We stand on this shore and say, “Oh, they’re gone!” But they’re not gone. They’re on their way to Jesus and to a reunion with all the saints of all the ages.
Suppose babies in their mother’s womb had some way to talk to each other. Two babies are talking about a third baby who was just born and given to loving parents. One of the babies in its mother’s womb says to the other one, “Say, did you hear about Sam? Sam passed on. Too bad about Sam.”
But what has Sam passed on to? He’s passed on to a loving mom and dad! Folks, we’re living in the womb of time and we’re getting ready to be born into eternity! Paul says, “I have a desire to just loose the moorings and sail on out of here!”
But this wasn’t just a nautical term: it was also a military term. In the military it meant to take down your tent and move on. The Apostle Paul was tired of living in that old tent. He would one day drop this robe of flesh and go on to the everlasting prize. He would be clothed with a heavenly body.
Paul says, “Don’t drive your tent pegs too deep, because we’re moving out soon.” This world is not our home, we’re just passing through.
I want you to reach into your pocket and get that invisible fountain pen you have there. And I want you to get that invisible piece of paper on the table there. I don’t want your neighbor to see what you’re writing….that’s why we’re using the invisible stuff. You know who you’re sitting by. You know they’d peek if they could! So use your invisible ink and finish this sentence: For me to live is __________.
Don’t put the answer you think should go there. I want you to be brief and honest. Write down the thing that means the most to you….because that’s what it means for you to live for it.
Some of you will have to write: For me to live is money. Some of you will write: For me to live is pleasure. Some of you will try to be a little more noble so you’ll write: For me to live is church work. Others will write: For me to live is family. Another will write: For me to live is education. Another will write: For me to live is popularity.
Have you written down your answer? Were you honest? Read it back to yourself. If you’ve written anything other than: For me to live is Christ, then you must finish the sentence this way: For me to die is loss.
Suppose you wrote: For me to live is money. Then for you to die is loss because you can’t take your money with you. Someone asked, “How much did Howard Hughes leave when he died?” Answer: He left it all!
You say: For me to live is pleasure. All right, finish it. For me to die is loss. There are no fun and games in a Christ-less grave.
Maybe you wrote: For me to live is family. Then for you to die is loss because you’re going to kiss them all goodbye.
If you’ve written anything other than: For me to live is Christ, then you are an idolater.
Becky is second in my life….and she likes it that way. I’m second in her life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She loves me better because she loves Jesus the most.
Some of you are living because you want the acclaim of this world. You’re saying: For me to live is popularity and fame. But dying will be loss for you. You’re not going to be satisfied making the Who’s Who list in Hell! Time and decay will pull down all your monuments.
If you wrote: For me to live is education, then dying will be a loss for you. One of these days that brain will turn to dust and your education will be nothing more than splendid ignorance if you don’t know Jesus.
Paul says, “For me to live is Christ! He’s the source of my life, He’s the subject of my life, He’s the song of my life, He’s the satisfaction of my life, He’s the strength of my life, He’s the supply of my life. Therefore, praise God, for me to die is gain!”
Are you ready to die? Unless the Lord comes first, you’re going to die. What’s the most important thing in your life?
A man who’d lived for Jesus for many years was dying. Some of his loved ones came to see him on his deathbed. One of them said, “Dad, would you sign your name to this legal document before you go on? Dad, if you would, it would help us with a whole lot of legal difficulties that we might otherwise have. We hate to mention it now, but would you please sign your name? It needs to be done.”
Facing eternity, the old man, with a quivering hand, took the pen and signed his name. They said, “Thank you, dad.”
Shortly after that he was looking upon the face of Jesus whom he loved. And when they picked up the document and looked, to their amazement he had signed: J-E-S-U-S….the only name that meant anything to him at that time.
Folks, you may think that something is important right now, but there’s coming a time when the only name that will mean anything to you is J-E-S-U-S.
If you wrote anything else on your paper, wouldn’t you like to take this opportunity to erase it? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. And just as the Lord began a good work in the Apostle Paul, He’ll begin one in you.
That doesn’t mean you’ll all of a sudden become perfect. No one in this room is perfect, but Philippians 1:6 says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
In order to reach the edge of the known universe, you would have to travel at the speed of light
Madalyn Murray O’Hair wrote and distributed a pamphlet entitled, An Invitation to the Intellectual Elite. I wonder if you are a part of the intellectual elite. According to this pamphlet you are if you accept the following:
1. God is a myth and humankind’s future is in its own hands.
2. Prayers are what you say to yourself and success in life depends on human effort.
3. Humans are a part of nature and developed in it. Whatever purpose there is in life, humans make.
4. When you die, your life is over forever. Only your ideas can survive.
5. Humankind is responsible for what it does. There are no sins. Crimes cannot be forgiven by religious rites.
6. The time to live is now, the place to live is here, and the way to be happy is to make yourself and others happy.
That leaflet is produced by the American Atheist Association in Austin, Texas. If you believe the things presented in that pamphlet, then according to Mrs. O’Hair, you are a part of the intellectual elite and you are an atheist.
My question to you this morning is this: Can an intellectual believe in God? Take a look at Psalm 19:1-6. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”
Anyone who wants to believe in God can believe in God. If a man doesn’t want to believe in God, it’s not because he has intellectual difficulty; it’s because he has moral difficulty. Unbelief never comes out of the head; unbelief comes out of the heart. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is not God.”
Can you believe in God and be an intellectual? Absolutely! Many intellectuals believe in God and many non-intellectuals believe in God. Some intellectuals don’t believe in God and some non-intellectuals don’t believe in God. Your intellect has very little to do with it.
God has spoken in three ways so that you can know without any shadow of doubt that He exists, that He loves you, and that you can have a personal relationship with Him and still call yourself an intellectual.
First, there is the declaration in the skies. The heavens declare the glory of God. When we go back to our farm in Oklahoma and get away from all the light pollution of the city, we can look up at the candelabra of stars in the heavens. In the county you can see those millions of stars and realize what awe David must have felt as a shepherd boy when he would look up to the heavens. That’s why he wrote this line in Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
Number 2, the heavens speak of the greatness of God. David said, “The firmament showeth his handiwork.” God created it all, and He made it all out of nothing! God’s incredible power is shown in the creation of the universe. But the greatest stumbling block for the atheist is the thought that out of nothing comes everything. If he doesn’t believe in a self-existing God, then he must believe in a self-existing universe. He has to believe that nothing times nobody equals everything. It’s intellectually contradictory not to believe in God.
The Bible never argues the fact of God: the Bible just presents God. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” A very eloquent preacher said, “God stepped from behind the curtain of nowhere, stood on the platform of nothing, and spoke a world into existence.”
Man can’t create anything. All scientists can do is rearrange what God has already created. At the speed of light you can pass the moon in two seconds. At the speed of light it takes four and one half years to pass our closest star. In order to reach the edge of the known universe, you would have to travel at the speed of light for ten billion years! And God made all that.
But not only is there the immensity of creation, there is also the intricacy of creation. The psalmist said in another place, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” There are over 30 billion cells in your body. Yet, Paul Doty of Harvard said, “One cell in your body is more complicated than New York City.”
It is absolute stupidity not to believe in God! Romans 1:19 says, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
Of all the professional groups, do you know which group has the highest number of believers in God? It’s the astronomers. Over 90% of the worlds great astronomers believe in God. Why? They have studied the heavens! It’s a sign of intelligence to look into the heavens and say, “Somebody created all this!”
Dr. Moody tells us that in the history of the world there have been 54 great philosophers. In 6,000 years of recorded history, only 54 philosophers can be called great. We’re talking about people like Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.
Out of those 54, 40 of them believed in God. Of the 14 who didn’t, all of them hated their earthly fathers. Isn’t that interesting? Eight of them were preacher’s sons, and their fathers were legalistic preachers.
In the British Museum of Natural History there is a statue of Charles Darwin. That whole museum is one colossal lie. It’s all about evolution which is presented as a fact.
Let me tell you about Charles Darwin. He hated his father. His father was a physician and a monstrous man. He was 6’3” and weighed 345 pounds. When he spoke, it was like the roar of a lion! He had huge, hairy hands. Charles Darwin was scared to death of his father. Here is a direct quote from Charles Darwin: “My father could not stand to be opposed. If opposed, he would roar at me. He had the gift of always making people do just as he wanted them to do.”
Darwin’s mother died when he was a little boy, just 8 years old. Later on he wrote that he couldn’t remember one thing about his mother. He could remember things that happened to him when he was 4, 5, and 6 years of age, but he couldn’t remember a thing about his mother who died when he was 8. He only remembered that when his mother died he had a deep resentment toward his father. Why? It was because his father was a doctor who could heal others, but Darwin said, “He let my mother die.”
Darwin failed in school. His father came in and bullied the teachers until they gave him a passing grade. After Darwin graduated, his father wanted him to go to medical school. He couldn’t hack it in medical school. When they had to work on their first cadaver, he fainted. He flunked medial school. Then his father said, “Maybe you can be a preacher. If you can’t do anything else, maybe you can preach!”
He enrolled Charles in seminary. But while in seminary, Charles met a biologist who became a father figure to him. He became interested in biology because of this man. He dropped out of seminary and began to travel. He went to the Indies, to Brazil, to the Galapagos Islands, etc. He began to take pictures, and to make biological drawings, and to formulate his ideas about evolution.
Darwin didn’t come up with the idea of evolution. Aristotle and others had already toyed with the idea of evolution. But Darwin began to think, “How can I explain all this apart from God?” For 35 years he was sickly, he hated God, he hated his father, and he hated everybody. Finally, he wrote his book: The Descent of Man and the Origin of the Species. In it he tried to explain how you could have creation without a Creator.
There was another man who bought into this. His name was Niche…a philosopher. Fredrick Niche was the son of a dogmatic preacher. Niche hated his father. He hated God and the very idea of God. Niche became a sexual pervert and died insane due to syphilis. He wrote a book called: Man and Super Man. He had the idea that man could become super in that he could achieve all that he wanted to achieve.
A mad man by the name of Adolph Hitler got hold of the works of Darwin and Niche. After thinking about what Darwin and Niche said, Hitler wrote his own book called Mien Kampf. This was his plan to make the Arian race the super race. Hitler had a venomous hatred toward the Jewish people. And in Mein Kampf he said, “I have a right to eliminate an inferior race that breeds like vermin.” He was talking about the Jews.
Every once in a while you will hear people say, “The trouble with religion is that there are so many religious wars. All the wars in the world were caused by religion. So many people died as a result of religion.”
In 6,000 years of recorded history about 3 million people have died in religious wars. That’s regrettable. But Hitler and Stalin alone, who both rejected the idea of God, are responsible for the death of 57 million people. That’s a conservative estimate. Three million in religious wars…fifty seven million by people who say they don’t believe in God. So don’t let anyone tell you that the trouble in the world is because of religious people!
When I said that three million had died in religious wars, I was talking about all religions, including Muslims, Hindus, etc. But if you talk about wars that involved so-called Christians, then the figure drops to 1.8 million. If you’re talking about Bible-believing, evangelical Christians, then the figure drops to less than a quarter of a million.
Niche, Darwin, Hitler, Stalin, Karl Marx……if you’re talking about these cats, 57 million have been slaughtered and the number is still growing.
The great intellectuals have believed in God. When you look at the heavens, they declared God’s glory and greatness. But they also declare God’s goodness. Look at Psalm 19:2. “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.”
What does that mean? There is a fixed order in the universe. Day follows night and night follows day. There is beauty, there is order and there is harmony. You can say, “Thank God, His mercies are new every morning.”
The light and the warmth of the sun speak of the warmth of God’s love and God’s grace. To look at those stars is amazing! To see the sun rise is amazing! You have to feel sorry for an atheist who sees a beautiful sunrise and has no one to thank for it!
There is the declaration of the skies….the heavens declare the glory of God. But there is also the revelation of the Scriptures. God’s Word is written in the heavens, but God’s Word is also written in the Bible. Here’s the second way you can know God. Take a look at Psalm 19:7-11. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”
You can know the fact of God by studying the heavens, but you can never know the heart and mind of God by looking at the stars. You need more than natural revelation. You need to see, not only what God has wrought, but what God has taught. You need the Word of God.
The Psalmist not only speaks of the declarations of the skies; he speaks about the revelation of Scripture. First, he speaks of the virtue of the Scriptures. In verse 7 he says, “The law of the Lord is perfect…” The only way you can be saved is by the perfect Word of God. The Bible says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the Word of God.” It’s the Word of God that converts the soul. It’s God’s Word that gives life.
The Psalmist says, “It’s perfect.” This speaks of the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Every sentence, every syllable, every jot, every pen-stroke was put there by the mind and purpose of God. Jesus said, “The scriptures cannot be broken.”
Not only is it perfect (verse 7); “…it is sure, making wise the simple.” Do you want to be a true intellectual? If so, then get into the Word of God. It is sure. That means you have a sure place to stand. You’ve got a solid foundation. You’re not building on Jello.
The Bible says, “God has hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and hath revealed them unto babes.” Verse 7 says, “Making wise the simple.” An ordinary person without a PhD can go to the Word of God and get food for his soul. So clear and so plain is the Word of God that, “A wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.”
Verse 8 says, “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eye.” That means that there is no mixture of evil or error. There are over 6,000 promises in the Bible. Every one of them is “Yea and amen in the Lord Jesus.” Not a single one of His promises has ever failed.
Verse 9 says, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever.” That means that there are not seeds of corruption in God’s Word. It has been several millenniums since David wrote this. The world will pass away, but the Word of our God endures forever. The Bible is never out of date: it applies to every age. It never needs to be updated or revised. Thank God for the inerrant, infallible, incorruptible Word of God! That’s the virtue of the Scriptures.
Once you see the virtue of the Scriptures, then you can see the value of the Scriptures. Look at verse 10. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
There is nothing more precious to a true believer than the Word of God. A man can’t love God without loving the Word of God.
But not only is it precious; it’s protective. Verse 11 says, “Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” Protection is better than cure. The Word of God will keep you from so many hurts if you’ll only bathe your soul in its truths and walk in its light.
It’s precious, it’s protective, and it’s profitable. “In keeping of them there is great reward.” Do you want to be wise and rewarded? Take the Word of God which is pure, and plain, and right and live by it. Only a fool would fail to saturate himself in the Word of God!
So, how has God spoken to us? There is the declaration of the skies, and the revelation of the Scriptures, but we’re not finished yet. You may walk out one night and see the stars and believe and say, “There is a God.” You may hear someone preach this Book and you say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God.” But you’re not home yet. There’s one more thing you need: the illumination of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit takes what you see objectively in nature and what you see objectively in the Word of God and subjectively interprets that to you. That’s when you can know God. Let’s see how this Psalm ends. Verse 12 says, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” Now David is praying. Verses 13 and 14 say, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
This is what I call the illumination of the Spirit. The Spirit takes what we see in nature and what we read in the Bible and begins to apply that to our hearts. If you have the first two without the third, you’re still not there.
Let me show you what the Spirit can do for you today. First, there’s the conviction of the Spirit. “Who can understand his errors?” You can’t do it.
Before we can know God, we have to be clean of sin. Who can convict us of sin? Your old carnal, dirty heart isn’t going to expose your carnal, dirty heart. Verse 12 says, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
You have secret faults you don’t know anything about. If the seismologists hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t know about the faults underneath you in the earth. You can’t see them, but they’re there. One of these days they may cause and earthquake.
Many times people have moral earthquakes because they have secret faults. They don’t know they’re there. If you don’t pray this prayer: “Cleanse me from secret faults,” here’s what may happen to you. Much sin is an undetected weakness, an unexpected temptation, and an unprotected life.
You have an undetected fault in you that you don’t know is there. It’s a secret fault. Then, along comes a temptation that you’ve never been faced with before. You haven’t prayed for God to cleanse you from secret faults. You have an undetected weakness, an unexpected temptation, and an unprotected life, so down you go.
You can have God’s Word in the skies and God’s Word in the Scriptures, but you still fall, unless you have God’s Word in the Spirit who’s speaking to you.
Under the conviction of the Spirit you pray, “God, help me to understand my errors. Help me to understand my ways.” But then you move from the conviction of the Spirit to the cleansing of the Spirit. “Cleanse me from secret faults.” Then God’s Spirit will do subterranean surgery on you. He’ll cleanse you. And there’s no cleansing apart from the blood of Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
For you to know God, there must be the convicting of the Spirit and the cleansing of the Spirit, but that’s not enough. You must then have the control of the Spirit. Verse 13 says, Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me…”
There are those hidden faults, but there are also times when we sin with our eyes wide open. We don’t have the strength to say, “No!” So we have to pray, “Keep me from presumptuous sins and don’t let them have dominion over me.”
Pray that prayer because the control of the Spirit is linked to your prayer life. Every morning when you wake up, pray “Lord, cleanse me from secret faults. Cleanse me from every sin and keep me from presumptuous sin.” Pray this in the morning….not at the end of the day.
When there is the conviction of the Spirit, and the cleansing of the Spirit, and the control of the Spirit; then you’ll know God and have fellowship with Him and walk with Him.
That leads us to the final thing: the communion of the Spirit. Verse 14 says, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in they sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
That’s when God is real to you. You have to feel sorry for the atheist who doesn’t know these things. God has put His Word in the skies, He’s put His Word in the Bible, and He’s sent His Holy Spirit to convict you, to cleanse you, to control you, and to have communion with you.
Can an intellectual believe in God? Absolutely! But you don’t have to come to God because of intellect; you come to God because He first loved you and has revealed Himself to you.
God is speaking to you right now. How will you answer Him?