John 3:16 For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
A Heart Of Idols — Scott Stanley
A HEART FULL OF IDOLS
(All bracketed [ ] words inserted into the following scriptures are the author’s paraphrase.)
I believe that I am seeing more of a fulfillment of prophecy in the things happening to this movement of people than I’ve really ever seen before. I’m seeing scriptures fulfilled and it just shows me we are getting very, very close to the end of the earth. It just seems like the road is getting narrower and the truth is getting higher, and more and more people are finding it difficult to hang on. In thinking that through, several months ago the Lord gave us a study in Ezekiel, Chapter 20, showing how God would lead us out of “Egypt.” He brings us out of the world, and because of our idols, He can’t take us directly into the Promised Land. There is a “wilderness experience” that we have as Christians, before He actually leads us into the Promised Land of abiding in Jesus Christ – I guess it is that thought that I want to project to you. I want to put on the board a kind of a chain – chain together the events that happen to Christians as they are headed for the Promised Land.
When I give this study, there are certain people in mind – I see their struggles and I can feel for you. I realize that things are not easy, but I think that this study will answer some of the questions that we have, as far as what is happening. I know of people who are even struggling with abiding in Christ – and I know that we understand that principle, but actually to do it and to practice it is something else. I guess that’s really what this study is about, just to kind of look at what has happened and see it in the scriptures – and understand what God is doing with us in our own hearts.
If I were to make a chain to list the chain of events that happen to Christians now – people who believe in God – they believe they want religion in their lives, and the effort is made to come out of Egypt. I know from my own experience and from those around me that the first way we live in coming to know God, is that we begin to walk by faith. I want to put this word on the board, FAITH – but I would like to make the claim that it isn’t Jesus’ faith that you begin to live by, but your own. We begin to walk according to our own understanding, and that is what is meant in Ezekiel 20 – that you have so many idols that God cannot bring you directly into this land flowing with milk and honey. You are walking by faith all right, but it’s your own faith.
In the very beginning, we don’t really understand to abide in Christ moment by moment by moment. We’ve been told the words – that we should let Christ lead us; we’re disciples of Christ, and so on – but you’re still walking according to your own faith. If you weren’t, if people didn’t do that, you wouldn’t have numerous denominations. That’s what each denomination stands for. It’s an icon representing the faith of those people sitting in that building – that is what they think the Bible is teaching. It’s funny isn’t it, that as you walk through your Christian experience, God is leading His children out of the denominations, away from that way of thinking because there isn’t a single denomination walking in the faith of Christ – and if we’re going to come to that point, we’ve got to separate from them; come out from among them.
So on the board I have written the word “Faith,” and it represents our faith. The next step, if you’re walking according to your own faith – the next thing that you experience is “strength.” But whose strength is it? It’s your own strength. You begin to overcome your definition of sin, or as you perceive what God is saying in the Bible, you will read do’s and don’ts – and you will begin to keep those things in your own strength. Whether it’s peer pressure causing it, or your own convictions, things are done in your own strength. And yes, we can get on our knees and pray and ask God to deliver us and so on, but until you’re walking in the Faith of Christ, experiencing HIS LIFE, then it’s simply your own faith and your own strength that is happening to you.
The next step that we come to in this wilderness experience of trying to find the Promised Land, hoping that God will lead us there – and He is leading, don’t get me wrong; I see the Lord is leading and meeting us where we are. But nevertheless, you’re still walking with idols. Your faith leads to your strength in doing what you believe God would have you to do – and the next thing that you enter into, after maybe even years of that, is “suffering.” I want to put this on the board: Faith, Strength and then Suffering – suffering that is caused by your own failures, when you cannot live up to the truth as you understand it – and you begin to experience what Paul has written in Romans 7: “the things I want to do I can’t; the things I don’t want to do, that’s what I’m doing,” and you enter into a suffering, or a facing of your “self,” that you are a sinner. And remember, I’m talking about people who believe in God.
You know, the people of the world will experience something like what we’re putting on the board – and it will happen in their lives – God will bring them to a place where they cry out for His help – but right now I’m talking about people who have cried out, and after you believe God is helping you and you come alive in Christ, this is what happens until you learn to abide in Jesus Christ. So you enter into your suffering – your faith in your strength leads to suffering. After the suffering you come to the conclusion of bondage. Let me put this next thing on the board – you recognize that you are still are in bondage and you recognize yourself as a sinner, and in bondage to sin. Let me tell you: It is at this point that many denominations have twisted the scripture to fit their experience – and they begin to define “grace” and “under the law” and they begin to teach that you’re going to be in sin until Jesus comes, and there can’t be any victory. It really does amaze me how many Christians fight the truth of having victory in Christ. It just amazes me that a Christian would argue with you that you can overcome sin – they try to convince you that you can’t.
But it’s when you reach this place of “bondage” that finally, by God’s grace, you will be convinced that not only are you in bondage, but you need God’s help – I could put bondage plus brokenness, if I wanted to. When I first gave this message, instead of “brokenness,” I put being moldable (malleable) – you come to that place now where you’re open to the voice of God. What I’m simply putting down here is what is described in Deuteronomy 8 also, where the Lord says: I humbled you to bring you to the place where you realize that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. That is the point He is trying to bring the Christian to and I think that, in this movement; this is what is happening. We’re recognizing that, in the past, we walked by our own faith, our own strength, entered into suffering, recognized the bondage, and came to the place where we were in the mindset of recognizing our bondage but open to God – brokenness before God; being moldable before God.
Now, I didn’t just come up with this chain of events – what I have written on the board is scriptural. I would like to share with you where to find this. Before I do, I want to ask you to turn to Revelation chapter 10. In Revelation 10, this is something that we have read many, many times in the past and I want to go over it again lightly just to make a certain point, something that God has never revealed to me, it never hit me what He was saying in this book, in this chapter. In Revelation 10 it begins with another mighty angel coming down from the heavens, clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow is upon his head, his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. In the past we have recognized this as the Son of God, as Jesus. In the past scriptures, there has only been one angel or one messenger in a cloud – in Exodus – and we recognize that as the messenger of the Lord, or the Son of God.
In Revelation 10, if you’ll notice, the rainbow is upon his head – that is the everlasting covenant, and he is clothed with a cloud. The Son of God is clothed with a cloud. And in Job chapters 36 & 37 clouds are defined spiritually as the people of God, or someone carrying the water of God, carrying the message. Here the son of God is clothed with a cloud and if a cloud represents a person, for Christ to be clothed in the cloud shows Christ in their heart. In other words, in Revelation chapter 10, you are seeing a movement of people led by God. It isn’t just a fluke, it isn’t just them doing it, but Christ is leading a group of people. To understand more in depth of Revelation 10, we have past studies on tapes on this where we show what it means — his face is like the sun, and so on. We can prove beyond a doubt that this is Christ – I would rather say it is Christ in His people. Now what people is it? In verse 2:
2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
Now the little book, in so far as I have always understood this, represents the book of Daniel. Why would I say Daniel? I want to turn to Daniel chapter 12, and in Daniel 12, Daniel is told in verse 9:
9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
That the words of the book that he is given here, his prophecies are not going to be understood until the time of the end — and in verse 4 of Daniel 12:
4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: …
In Revelation 10, that is a picture of Christ in a movement of people carrying the book and the book is opened. In other words, they began to have an understanding of the prophecies in Daniel. I can look back in church history and I can see who that was. I can see in the 1800’s a group of people who were understanding the book of Daniel and coming to some conclusions about the prophecies in that book. This is just simple church history. But if you’ll notice in Revelation 10:2, the feet are on the earth and sea. That shows me a literalism. That shows me that when I go back and read the people who were given these prophecies and coming to an understanding, that they had one foot on the earth and one foot on the sea according to the scriptures. This movement of people was led by God for sure, but they were reading these things in a literal way — and as we read Revelation, chapter 10, let’s just keep reading this, verse 3:
3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth [roars]: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
Now, the only sound a cloud makes is thunder – that’s it – showing the cloud or the people, this movement responding to what God was teaching them. But notice what this says.
4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices [and seven is just spiritual perfection, not “literal,” but “spiritual”], I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not [don’t write them].
John was not permitted to put that in the scriptures, in his prophecy of revelation. He wasn’t going to allow John to write the literal meaning of those things. But look at what he says – verse 5:
5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
Now stop a minute. What is in his hand? It’s the book. He has the little book in his hand and he lifts his hand to heaven. Now somehow I think the Lord is telling us that the hand with the book was lifted up into the heavens. Another way of saying it is: the Savior, in opening the book, lifts it up for a heavenly understanding, a spiritual understanding, you see? Verse 5:.
5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven [the heavens],
Now it doesn’t say: “he lifted up the book,” it says: “he lifted up his hand.” But if you back up a few verses, the book is in his hand – and he lifts it up to the heavens, and we know the story from here on out. When he spiritualizes this book, or lifts it up to the heavens, gives it a spiritual meaning, an heavenly understanding, John is told to go take the book, now, from him, eat it. It’s going to make your belly bitter, but in your mouth, it will be sweet as honey. And he is told to take the little book now, it has been lifted into the heavens, it has spiritual meaning to it and you have got to prophesy again. You’ve got to give this prophecy again before many peoples, nations, tongues and kings, after it has been lifted up to the heavens. Now what does he mean that it is going to be sweet in your mouth like honey, but bitter in your belly? Well, your “belly,” of course, is your mind, and your “mouth” is what passes through, going to the belly; it’s where the food passes through. It’s sweet to your understanding, but when it gets to your belly, and begins to be broken down and assimilated into who you are, it is a bitter thing to have to face. It’s sweet to understand it but it is a bitter thing to experience.
Now that in a nutshell is what I think is happening to people with the abiding – that it’s a sweet truth, but when you begin to face the abiding message, day by day by day, and you come to your Savior, and you have to die to self, it becomes a bitter experience to you. It’s sweet to understand but when it enters into you and begins to be assimilated into your person, it becomes bitter. The point is, the book of Daniel, if we’re accurate about how we’re interpreting Revelation 10, that book of Daniel should be lifted up to the heavens at the time of the end, understood in a higher way. Now, why say all that.
Below is the Christian experience:
- Your faith
- Your strength
- Your suffering
- Your bondage
- Your bondage coupled with brokenness
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