Jesus said in John 16… “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into the full truth. He won’t speak on his own. He will speak what he hears and will tell you about things to come. He will give me glory.”
Have you ever known anyone or possibly had a friend who was constantly insinuating that everything he had was superior to what you had. He car is a better car; his wife is a better wife, his kids are better kids and you love him or her enough to overlook their incessant bragging. Church folks can be the same way: their facility is a better facility, their pastor is a better pastor, their worship is more spiritual, their mission trips are more successful. There is something wrong with a person who wants to tell you all about “Their church” but they don’t give a rat’s rear end about what is happening at your church. We use to joke about the Church of Christ thinking that Jesus was exclusively theirs but now we have Baptist that act just as bad. They give you the feeling that whatever your church is doing, it is grossly inferior to what their church is doing. Someone told me last week that the CHURCH GROWTH movement has done more harm than good to our churches. Instead of making us conscious of others and sensitive to Christ command to love others and get the gospel to the world by working together, it has made us competitive. Every pastor wants the fasting growing church or the biggest church. In our effort to achieve this end, we begin to market our church instead of Christ the founder and Savior of the church. I fear that in some cases, it has reached a cult level. I am convinced that it has been the downfall of many individuals. If you attend a church that exalts itself, I suggest you put more time into personal bible study. The KINGDOM that we are building belongs to Jesus and your church is a very tiny piece of that Kingdom. It is not about your church, or the pastor of your church: it is about the Savior of your church.
Let me lay a little practical reality on you: kids are kids, cars are cars, and churches are churches. You kids are not better than the neighbors kids. You may not believe me now, but you will understand this truth someday. Your church is a part of the Body of Christ but it is in no way superior to sister churches. It doesn’t matter how many you run in worship or how many you catch. It doesn’t matter how many books your pastor has written. It doesn’t matter how great a facility you have for youth. Your church is just another church with a unique personality. Your church may have a blend of gifting that some other church down the street does not have but that is simply a part of your unique personality. Be careful, once you go to feeling superior and get into a condescending mode, you fall right into the devil trap. What is your mandate? Go Ye therefore and build bigger and better churches for the glory of it’s members. I don’t think so.
I am a John the Baptist Baptist: I believe my mandate is to make much of JESUS. I must decrease and I am and He must increase and He is. I preach Jesus and I teach Jesus. I do not think that DBC is superior to other churches anymore than I think I am superior to other pastors. I know that we don’t do everything right at Danville and I doubt that we do anything better but the one thing we can do and do consistently is to make much of Jesus. Any size congregation can make much of Jesus. We do things different but our uniqueness does not make us unique; all churches are unique in a sense. God makes churches different just like he makes people different. Everyone would not feel comfortable at DBC and we have no illusions that we can reach everyone. Finding the right church is like finding the right mate. Some visit Danville and feel like it is the perfect fit, other don’t come back because they feel the opposite. Sometimes families visit for months and then go somewhere else. That’s OK by me, I want folks to know what they are getting. We are radically conservative and some people can’t handle it. I am not saying that a liberal could not be a part of our fellowship but they would have to have a thick skin. Personally, I don’t believe that a person who believes it’s OK to kill a baby is saved. I can’t change my position on abortion unless the LORD convicts me that I am wrong. We don’t do a lot of kissing up. If you want a church where the evils of alcohol and abortion are never mentioned; you don’t want to come to Danville. If you want political correctness, Danville is the last place you would want to land. We will denounce evil even when it lives in the white house. John the Baptist denounced the wickedness of Herod and so did Jesus. We are going to preach the word and we fully intend to exalt Jesus. My goal is to be obedient, not to pastor the largest church in North Alabama. If I fail to obey, it will not matter how prosperous the church I pastor becomes. The “Well Done” I want to hear comes from Jesus, not the IMB, or NAMB or the GREAT COMMISSION CONVENTION. By the way, I think we are going to be different and remain SOUTHERN BAPTIST at Danville. I don’t think it’s our name that is offensive, I think it is our attitude.
When you have a simple and narrow purpose statement: “To be obedient to your LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ,” it frees you up in a lot of ways: there is less anxiety when your mission is to honor the wishes of Jesus. I don’t have to build a kingdom, I don’t have to be first, just faithful. I don’t have to be the best or have the best, just be a good steward of what I have. At DBC, we don’t have the best YOUTH center or CHILDREN’S center. We don’t have the best fellowship hall or the most beautiful worship center. Our office building is a double wide from Winston County and in this extreme heat, it gets up to 85 degrees by 3:00 PM. Does it sound like I am bragging. We have more grass in our parking lot than we do on our lawn. Our asphalt has more cracks than Carter has pills. I don’t think we will be crowing too loudly about our “Stuff” being better than your “Stuff”. I will tell you this: if you want to hear Jesus until it’s running out your gills, you could give us a shot. I am totally convinced that the HOLY SPIRIT is right: WE MUST GLORIFY AND EXALT JESUS. We do have the best Savior but He is not ours exclusively.
You know what use to tick me off: make me want to crochet barbed wire. It would be for some deacon or usher to pray at the communion table before the offering…”LORD please hid Bro. Jack behind the cross”. Oh, that would burn me up. I was thinking, here is another one of those birds who doesn’t want me to talk about tithing or the democrats killing babies, they want me to preach the same sermon every week about Jesus dying on the cross…stay off of politics, stay away from stewardship even though 85% are robbing God, just tell them that Jesus loves them and died for them so they can go home feeling good about themselves. Well that prayer doesn’t bother me anymore. First of all, I do not know the person’s motive and secondly, I do need to make much of Jesus. No one gets equal time with Jesus. I will mention Obama from time to time [not often] but he will never get the attention that we give Jesus. I am even careful about mentioning the devil–no way I am going to talk about him more than I do Jesus. I am not going to talk about DBC more than Jesus. I try not to talk more about myself than Jesus–that is a struggle for some reason. I’m not going to talk about the MBA more than I do Jesus or the SBC or whatever they are going to call it. I want it to be just like the song: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Let me close with one of my favorite stories. Everyone at Danville hates this story but it’s not because it is a bad story, it is because they have heard me tell it a 100 times or more. A preacher that I know and love to hear preach told this from the pulpit of the Evangelism Conference several years ago [30 or better]. He was preaching a revival for a friend is some rural-village church in Tennessee. Toward the end of the revival, a little old lady came out the door to shake his hand and then she started a conversation…”You do know, that we are going to run our pastor off as soon as this revival is over, don’t you?” “No madam,” said the evangelist, I had no idea. What seems to be the problem? Has he been unfaithful to his wife and family?” “Oh, dear no,” she said, “He is a great family man”. “Well,” said the evangelist, “Is he a bad preacher?” “Oh no,” she said, “He is an excellent preacher.” “Well, what on earth is the problem?” Asked the evangelist. The little old lady said with a straight face, “The problem is, He is hung up on Jesus and that all we ever hear, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus and we are tired of it.” Long story short, if you want the best of everything you need not come to Danville. If you are tired of hearing Jesus being exalted and praised, you do not want to come to Danville. If you want to celebrate Jesus, you’ll fit right in.
Three times in Psalm 42-43 David says, “Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again–my Savior and my God!“ No doubt about it, David is down in the dumps, he is depressed. I think it was due to the isolation. Saul had cut David off from the community. David was moving from one hide out to another and living mostly alone and in caves. I’m telling you, that would depress most of us. Chuck Swindoll says in his book LIVING BEYOND THE DAILY GRIND that depression is normal– “We all have bad days. Of course it is not normal for a Christian to linger for months in the pit of depression but all of us should be transparent enough to admit we have days of discouragement.” [page 122] I want to make myself clear, we are not talking about clinical depression. If you are depressed all the time, you need to talk to your doctor. King Saul was clinically depressed: he had serious issues. Basically speaking, Saul was insane. David was normal; he was not clinically depressed. His depression was not stimulated by a chemical imbalance but by unpleasant circumstances. He was tired of being cooped up in a cave. He longed to be with people. He longed to march to Zion with the pilgrims as they ascended the holy hill to worship. So how did David manage his depression?
First of all, David realized that his depression was basically an emotional problem. Note what he says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” The soul is the seat of the emotions. Depression is basically a feeling. David’s depression was triggered by the negative circumstances that surrounded him but we can get depressed by simply having a perception that things are not going well. The devil loves to get people depressed by using faulty perception. Years ago, a young lady came to me and she was very depressed. She had been involved in a sordid affair that had left her feeling deeply ashamed and totally unforgivable. It took some time but finally by the grace of God we were able [by showing her the truth in scripture] to convince her that God loved her and that He wanted to forgive her of all our sins. The devil had her believing a lie and that was the root of her depression. The same thing happened to Jacob the Patriarch. Those lying scoundrels that he calls sons deceived their own daddy; they led him to believe that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal and they knew all along that he was not dead, at least not when they sold him into slavery. Jacob grieved for Joseph for 20 years. He grieved more over Joseph than he did Rachel. Jacob realized early on that only one of his sons had character and the hope of the nation lay in him. With Joseph dead, Jacob had no hope. But in reality, Joseph is not dead, he is very much alive and as they boys discovered, he was the ruler of Egypt. It took the lying brothers a while to do it but once they convinced their father that Joseph was alive, his heart was revived. He came out of his depression. He had lived 20 years under the diabolical tyranny of a devilish lie. David is a smart fellow, he knows that the depression is coming from his soul. The soul is not to be the master of the house. We are to be Spirit filled and Spirit lead. We attack the depression of the soul with the truth of God’s word. We then live by the power of our will, not the impulse of our emotions. Queen Guinevere said, “My will is stronger than my heart”. We do not yield to the heart when we have a clear command from the word of God, we exercise the will and do what is right whether we feel like it or not. David knew that depression is rooted in the soul, the heart and it is basically an emotion. Note what he says, “I will remember Your kindness…I will put my hope in God….I will go to the altar of God…I will praise Him with my harp…I will praise Him again. David exercises his will and his will was stronger than his heart.
David also realized that his circumstances were temporary. David was in a valley. C.S. Lewis calls this undulation. The waves on the sea undulate, they go up and down. In a wavy sea, you have crest and depressions, highs and lows. Life is kind of like the sea, there are ups and downs. I think the thing that kept David going was the hope that things would eventually change. I think his depression would have gotten the best of him had he not believed that things were going to get better. As believers, we always carry the hope that things are going to get better.
A third factor in David’s triumph is his memories. David has time on his hands and he uses that time to remember. He said, “I remember how it used to be; I walked among the crowds of the worshippers, leading the great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks.“ Time is like a giant river that moved forcefully by: we can’t stop it or even slow it down. Our memories are like the oaks that grow on the river bank; with each passing year, the roots get deeper and deeper. My Father was promoted in 1995 and Mother in 2010. Her grief did not seem to be that bad at first but the older she got, the more obvious it became, she missed daddy. One day I said to her, “Mother, things should be getting better by now.” I’ll never forget [as long as I have memory] what she said, “Son, it doesn’t get better. I miss your daddy more every passing day.” Mother had her low days but I think the thing that kept her going was her memories. I learned during those years to talk about daddy when I was with her.
There is one other thing that I think is very important if we are to win this battle against depression and that is our dreams.Memories look back and dreams look forward. We all need something in which to look forward. I am sitting in a cool office today because of the cool front. The high for today is only 90*. It was 98* yesterday and by 3:00 pm, it was 85* in the office building. They say that we are going over the 100* mark this weekend. As I type, I am listening to a rain storm on YouTube. They have several that you can listen to including rain on a tin roof. Is it raining outside? No, we are in a draught. Am I a little depressed about the weather? Yes, I am depressed but not despairing. Despair is when you have no hope. I have hope. My hope is the foundation of my dreams. What
better way to dream of rain than to listen to it rain. David dreamed about being on top of Mount Herman. What’s the big deal about Mount Herman? It’s the highest mountain in Israel. It is so high that it has snow caps and that means fresh water year round. Mount Herman has streams and falls. Mount Herman also gives you a beautiful panoramic view of Israel. Do you get the point? There is nothing wrong with dreaming of a White Christmas. I don’t think I could bear draughts if I did not have my dreams. I am dreaming of a rain storm that flooded the creeks and fills my cisterns with water from heaven. My grief is nothing compared to that of others. I have a dear friend that lost her only daughter last year. Her daughter called her at a certain time everyday and they talked by phone. You can’t compare a draught to a death of a child but same principles that help me with my minor fits of depression can also help those of you that really have something to be depressed about. Just remember  Don’t let your emotions run your life. Make the heart subservient to your will and will subservient to Jesus.  No matter how much pain you feel right now, it is temporary. Heaven will be here soon, you can count on it!  Cling to your memories. They belong to you and no one can take them from you.  Never stop dreaming. Never stop looking forward to a bright future. Dream of a world where there is no death, no cancer, no separation, no sin, no devil, no hunger, no rejection, no calories and on and on I could go but you get the picture. It’s OK to look back from time to time but we must also look forward. Don’t stop looking forward.
David said in Psalm 19…Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. The Hebrew word for ‘presumptuous’ is ‘zed’. It is used 14 times in NASB but translated arrogant or proud all but here in Psalm 19. I do believe that the word presumptuous is descriptive of much of our sin. Presumption is an attitude or belief dictated by assumption. Assumption is the mother of all lies: never assume anything. The sin of presumption is a sin of audacity. Audacity is an arrogant boldness that ignores rules and restraints.
I don’t know whether or not you have thought about it but our memory affects our behavior. If I don’t remember your kindness, I am not likely to give you thanks. It works the same in our relationship to Christ. If we forget what He has done for us, we become thankless and audacious. The Jews is Malichi’s day were audacious. They said of God–“What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.” The Jews had a chip on their shoulder. They were accusing God of being unjust. Their service to Him had been selfishly motivated. They were serving God to get a blessing. We are to do the right thing because it is the right thing. We are to do right even if it means a cut in salary, a jail term or persecution. We don’t serve to be blessed–we serve because we have been blessed. The Jews were acting presumptuously because they had forgotten all that God had done for them in the past. Just a few years prior, they were captives in Persia. When they returned to the home land, they presumed that everything would go smoothly with no problems. When problems arose, they blamed God. Anytime we blame God, it is an audacious sin of presumption.
I like history, especially biblical history. When I study the behavior of the Jews I sometimes find myself condescending. I think things like…”Boy, these guys were really rebels and ingrates.” It is then that the LORD taps me on the shoulder and says, “What about you? Are you not guilty of the same things?” The LORD is right of course, I am guilty of the very same things.
You are probably wondering what got me on this subject. My thoughts were actually spurred by a recent Sunday School lesson and the heat wave that we are experiencing. Hot dry weather depresses me. After the tornado and the black out of 2011, I made a promise that I would not complain about the weather. I am not complaining about the extreme heat; I just need to tell someone that it depresses me to no end. I can handle cold better than heat. I am merely venting a frustration. I acknowledge that we probably deserve a heat wave but that doesn’t change the fact that they depress me. I also need to make a confession: I love rain. I cannot pray these days without mentioning rain. John Tanner use to upbraid me for always praying for rain. He would say, “It will rain when the good LORD is ready for it to rain.” I always had the same reply, “I know John but I can’t help myself.” God is the Rain Maker, is He not! I don’t criticize people for watching the weather on TV which I rarely do. I have much more confidence in God than I do weather men. I am certainly not going to ask them [weather men] for rain. On the other hand, I don’t want to develop a bad attitude toward man or God because it is not raining.
I have had some wild thoughts since this most recent draught started. Last year Joe David and I were in Guatemala where they have only two seasons, wet and dry. They do not have spring, summer, fall and winter as we do. I was there in the rainy season and the temps were from 65-75 degrees and the Guatemalans were wearing coats some of the time. They think 70 degrees is cold, I think it is wonderful. Jerry Segars’ favorite month of the year is January and that is looking better to me every day. I don’t remember any draughts in January. I do like our four seasons but if I were in charge and I’m glad that I am not and I know you are–I would keep all four seasons but rearrange them slightly. I would take the last two weeks of December and put that with January for my 6 weeks of Winter. I would skip February and March and have two months of April and May. I would have 2 weeks of summer. The week before the 4th of July and the week after and that would be all she wrote for summer. Here comes the good part–I would have 6 months of fall. Six months of warm days and cool nights, college football, stew, harvest, etc. I do love fall. But as Job would say, I am talking like a foolish man. Should we receive good from God and never expect any adversity? Of course not; we only learn during adversity. As Jason says, “The extreme heat makes us thankful for the mild and pleasant weather.”
Richard Foster says, God’s aim in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God Himself at the very center of the community and the prime Sustainer and most glorious inhabitant [Eph. 2:19-22; 3:10]. God’s plan began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and it will ultimately be fulfilled with Jesus return and a new heaven and new earth.
Under the reign of David, Israel expanded its territory all the way to the Euphrates to the North and to the Red Sea to the South; from the Mediterranean to the West to the Arabia wilderness to the East. David subdued and subjugated all his enemies on all sides. He did such a terrific job that his son Solomon had a 40 reign without one war. This golden age of peace and prosperity became the benchmark for Israel. The kingdom of David was destroyed by Rehoboam’s folly and the good old days became a thing of the past. All Israelites longed for the Kingdom of David. They wanted to go back to the way things were when David was king but for Israel, the glory days never returned. The divided kingdom were never that strong. The Northern Tribes [Israel] had 19 kings and one wicked queen–none of the kings were good. In the South [Judah] things were not a lot better although they had four kings that were like David. Israel fell first in 721 to the Assyrians and Judah fell in 586 to Babylon.
The Israelites [descendants of Jacob] were scattered all over the known world. Little did they know that God would use the despair and the oppression of foreign powers to accomplish His purposes. During the exile, in the midst of the despair, the Israelites receive assurance through the Prophets that Israel has a hope and a future [Jeremiah 29:10-11].
During the 70 year Babylonian captivity, the Israelites [now referred to as Jews] stopped worshipping idols. This had always been their achilles heel. Abraham abhors idols but his granddaughter brought idols with her when she came from Haran. It is my belief that the women secretly kept and worshipped idols and the men were prone to follow suit. They also were influenced by the idols in Egypt. Joshua said, But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” So they were hit by idolatry from three different sources  Beyond the Euphrates [Abraham ancestral land],  the Egyptians and  the Amorites. It is amazing but some unknown reason, the Jews stop worshipping idols during the exile. For the exile to this day, Jews do not have a tendency to worship idols.
The second point I wish to make is that God gives them a new hope but it is not hope in a militant nation that dominates its enemies, it is the promise of a new order, new age, a kingdom of peace, ushered in by the Messiah. God does not want His children depending on Government or military might, it wants us to depend on Him. The new order will not be like the old. We know that even in N.T. times there were still Jews looking for God to restore Israel as a military power. I don’t think that is God’s plan. When Jesus came, He made it clear that His Kingdom was a new order, a different kingdom from that of David. A kingdom that has authority but one that does not use force. Not so much a kingdom of military might but a kingdom of righteousness.
What are lessons we learn from the Jews experience of reformation during the exilic period?
When things seem utterly hopeless, there is hope in God. “Declaring a situation hopeless is to slam the door in God’s face” says Charles Allen the great Methodist preacher. Wolfgang von Goethe said, “In all things, it is better to hope than to despair.” Those who lose hope are dead while they live. Vichtor Frankl noted that once a man loses hope, it is a matter of time before he expires.
We must learn to depend on God, not on a king, president, political leader or government. In exile, the Jews had no government, no country and no king yet God was real and they learned to depend on Him, not government. Our hope is not in an earthly kingdom.
Living in a foreign land, among their enemies, the Jews learned to stick together. The synagogue was born during the exile. The Jews learned that they did not have to have a temple to worship YHWH. The Eternal is omnipresent. They discovered that God was as real in Babylon as He was in Palestine.
The Jews became more family oriented during the exile. The family became a big part of the community.
A New Order is coming for all beleivers. The old heaven and earth are going to pass away and we will see and new heaven and new earth. This new order will not be anything like we have seen. God is going to do somehting new and exciting, something He has never done before.