You don't invent your own worship activities, you don't invent your own self-styled religion, and you don't take somebody else's experience as authoritative if it violates what you know to be the revelation of God. And people may come along and say, I've had this experience and I've had this experience, and all you have to say is yes, but I have this word from God.
You do not need to be intimidated by the people who want to tell you you're missing some experiences. You may know people who profess faith in Christ and who say they believe the Bible, but they think there's wiggle room in Scripture that allows for broad definitions of marriage or abortion or not being part of a local church. Essentially, they set their own standards for what it means to be a Christian. Of course, when we trust our own sin-tainted thinking, the consequences are disastrous. John MacArthur drives that point home today on Grace to You as he examines the dangers of not taking God's Word seriously. And with that, here's John to continue his study titled, Complete in Christ. Let me take you to 1 Kings 13.
This is a most fascinating story. You remember that after the reign of Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel split into two parts, the northern kingdom with ten tribes and the southern. The northern kingdom was ruled by Jeroboam the first and the southern kingdom by Rehoboam. And there was the splitting of the kingdom because of the sin of Solomon. And when Jeroboam took the ten tribes and established the kingdom in the north, he was afraid that the northern people would not maintain an allegiance to him if they were always going to the south to the temple to worship.
They would keep their roots in the south. So he decided that he'd have to build a couple of worship places up in the north. So he, verse 29 of chapter 12 says, he set the one in Bethel and the other in Dan. Now the problem with that is God didn't want His worship going on in Bethel and Dan, did He?
Where did He want it? In Jerusalem, in the temple. In verse 30 says of chapter 12, it became a sin for the people went to worship before the one even in Dan. And he made a house of high places. He built a temple. He made priests of the lowest of the people who were not of the sons of Levi. He just picked out a few poor folks and made them priests.
You can't do that. Priests are out of the tribe of Levi. Worship goes on in Jerusalem. You don't ad lib it.
You don't just say, we've got a great idea, we'll do our own thing up here. If it isn't scriptural, you don't do it. And verse 32 in the middle there says that he did the same thing in Bethel and he was sacrificing the calves and he went through the whole route, through the whole Jewish deal, sacrifices, priests, the altars, the whole shot only going on in Bethel and Dan.
He had no business going on there. So God said, I've got to send somebody up there to straighten it all out. Chapter 13, Behold there came a man of God. Now this is a man of God as a prophet.
He's a preacher. And he goes all the way out of Judah to go to the north because apparently there wasn't a prophet in the north who would do this. So he goes out of Judah by the word of the Lord, comes to Bethel. And he happens to arrive when Jeroboam is in there doing his thing with the altar. He's in there worshiping God and burning his sacrifice.
And this is a bold young man. He walks up and says in verse 2, he cries against the altar in the word of the Lord and said, O altar, altar. Now this is going to get Jeroboam's attention because he's there worshiping.
This guy busts in and shouts out. O altar, altar, says the Lord, behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name. And upon thee shall he offer the priests to the high places who burn incense upon thee and men's bones shall be burned on thee.
Alder, you've had it. There's coming a man, Josiah, and he's going to burn bones on you. And the ultimate desecration for a Jew is to touch a dead body, right? And to burn the bones of a dead person on an altar was to desecrate it and pollute it for good. And this man of God says, your altars, Jeroboam, have had it. Because three hundred years from now a man is coming by the name of Josiah who's going to dig up dead bones and burn them all over your altar. You want to read 2 Kings 23, you can read the story. And just to make sure Jeroboam didn't say, how funny joke, who is this guy?
Get him out. Verse 3 says, and he gave a sign the same day saying, this is the sign which the Lord has spoken to prove it's going to happen. Behold, the altar shall be torn down and the ashes that are on it poured out. The altar is going to fall down and the ashes too. And it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God who had cried against the altar in Bethel, he put forth his hand from the altar and said, lay hold on him.
And his hand which he put forth dried up so that he couldn't pull it in again, paralyzed. And immediately the altar was torn down and the ashes poured out exactly according to the sign which the man of God had given to the word of the Lord. God says, you don't invent your own worship.
You obey my prescription. And the king answered and said to the man of God, entreat now the face of the Lord thy God and pray for me that my hand may be restored. And the man of God besought the Lord and the king's hand was restored to him and became as it was before.
But I'll tell you one thing, he never forgot it. And the king said to the man of God, come home with me. Verse 7, and refresh yourself and I'll give you a reward.
I want to be on your team. The man of God said to the king, if you will give me half your house, I'm not going to go home with you. I wouldn't eat your bread and I wouldn't drink water in this place because it was told me by the word of the Lord saying, eat no bread, drink no water and don't come again by the same way that you went.
I have one commitment in my life, obey the word of God. So he went another way and returned not by the way that he came. This guy is right on. Now, you know, it would have been an honor to be invited to eat with the king. He could have been a hero. And he could have figured, well, you know, the king has heard and he seems to be repented. I think if I go in there, I'll compromise a little on God's word and I'll witness to the king. No, he says, I'm not interested in witnessing to you. I'm not interested in doing anything with you. God told me not to mess around with you just to get out of here and to get out of here a different way than I got here.
Goodbye. Now, on the way, verse 11, he ran into another preacher. For a lot of people, this is a problem. For a lot of preachers, they run into other preachers and that's very intimidating. You know, we who are preachers get intimidated by other preachers.
Watch what happens. There was an old prophet. He's an old preacher and a young preacher now. And his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethlehem. Well, this old prophet boy, you know, he was a true prophet.
Both of them were. He was a true prophet. He must have thought, oh, isn't that wonderful? What a bold young man.
Oh, how marvelous that he would do that. Why didn't I have the courage to do that? Why didn't God call me to? Oh, that young man, would I ever like to meet that guy? Boy, would I like to have some fellowship with that young man of God. And so he sent for him. And he sent his sons, go get him.
Saddle the ass and he saddled the ass and he rode out. And verse 14, he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. He was just resting on his way back to Judah. Are you the man of God who came from Judah and he said, I am? He said to him, come home with me and eat bread. Boy, he's been walking a while, hungry, thirsty, placed to rest. He said, I may not return with you nor go in with you, neither will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.
He sounds like a record. It's the same line he gave before. God told him, God told me what to do. I'm doing what God told me to do. I'm not going to discuss it any longer. You might say, well, we've got to fellowship with everybody. No, God drew some lines for him.
But what could it hurt? God doesn't want him to create his own ministry. He wants him to obey the one God gave him. But watch how he's intimidated.
It was said to me, verse 17, by the word of the Lord, that settles it. And he said to him, the old man, I am a prophet also like you. I'm a true...I'm a preacher. Now watch this intimidation. And an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord saying, bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water. Is that ever intimidating?
Come to my house. I can't...God said not to. But an angel came to me and told me that you're supposed to.
That's very intimidating. Somebody will say to you, oh, I know the Bible doesn't talk about that, but I had a vision. I had a direct word from the Lord. An angel came to me. And just remind yourself of Galatians 1. If an angel comes and preaches anything other than what you know to be the Word of God, let him be...what? Accursed. That is a devil dressed up as an angel of light. What happens is this young prophet is now in the dilemma of accepting the known Word of God revealed or believing that God is speaking through somebody else's experience.
You see? What did he do? Verse 19, he went with him and ate bread in his house and drank water. He acted in direct violation of God's Word because he was intimidated by an older prophet who was also a preacher, a true prophet who probably had a wonderful ministry who said an angel told him this and he forsook what he knew was the truth of God and opted out for experience. Beloved, that's exactly what's going on today.
People are turning away from the Word of God that is clear and they are buying everybody's vision and everybody's experience as a criteria. You want to know what happened? Verse 23, skipping some thoughts, but verse 23, he came to pass after he had eaten bread, after he drunk. He saddled for him the ass, that is for the prophet whom he had brought back, and when he was gone a lion met him in the way and slew him. You know what happened to the young man? God sent a lion and the lion killed him.
You say, why did God do that? His carcass was thrown in the way and I want you to see something interesting. And the ass stood by it and the lion stood by it.
Want to know something? The lion didn't eat the body and the lion didn't attack the ass. You know why? God wanted you to know that because that was not a hungry lion, that was a divine agent of judgment. God took the life of that prophet that fast. Why? Because he set somebody else's experience over what he knew was the Word of God.
That's a dangerous thing to do, you see? That's not the criteria. You don't invent your own worship activities, you don't invent your own self-styled religion, and you don't take somebody else's experience as authoritative if it violates what you know to be the revelation of God. And people may come along and say, I've had this experience and I've had this experience and I've had this experience and all you have to say is yes, but I have this Word from God.
And that satisfies. You do not need to be intimidated by the people who want to tell you you're missing some experiences, or you've got to step out and believe God for these things. My Bible tells me clearly that these things that people are claiming are not for today, and I'm not going to let their experience intimidate me because I'm not about to walk out of here and get eaten by a lion.
I've got to take care of my wife and kids and all you people. And how did it happen? Verse 26, and the prophet who brought him back from the way he heard it, he said, it is the man of God who was disobedient to the Word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion which has torn him and slain him.
You want to hear something interesting? God seemingly did not hold the old prophet's ignorance nearly as accountable as the young prophet's knowledge. For somebody who's reared in that and they don't know anything about it, there's less of a chastening from God perhaps than for somebody who knows better and opts out, turning his back on God's truth for somebody's experience. Very serious truth. See, Christian, you don't need to be intimidated by human religion. You just bank on the Word of God. To obey it is better than your own self-styled kind of sacrifice or self-made religion.
We're not looking for spectaculars. We're looking for obedience. We've already experienced the radical change in our lives, so radical that I can't imagine anything more radical. We've entered a new life and everything we need is already ours. And what is Paul saying? And I'll tie this in with Colossians.
You won't believe it, but I will. What is Paul saying? He's saying, look, you don't need to be intimidated. You accept what the Word tells you you have. And what does the Word tell you you have? In Christ you have what?
Everything. But my God, said Paul in Philippians, shall supply, what? All your needs according to His riches by Christ Jesus.
By Christ Jesus, all His riches are yours. You're complete in Him. Such a powerful truth. What is true spirituality? True spirituality is just to concentrate on Christ, Christ consciousness.
Focus on Him. It's all there. It's all yours. And don't let anybody intimidate you with any man-made experiences or man-made rules or self-styled religion. This is a call to true spirituality. And true spirituality means you look up and you see Christ. Second Corinthians 3.18, I would just draw to your attention. Second Corinthians 3.18 says this, but we all...we all with unveiled face, the veil is removed in Christ, beholding as in a glass or a mirror, the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Now that verse might tangle you a little bit.
Let me tell you what it means. As a believer you have one preoccupation. You just focus on Christ. And as you focus on Christ and are lost in His glory, imperceptibly the Spirit of God begins to transform you into His image from one level of glory to the next level of glory to the next level of glory to the next level of glory.
That's true growth, true maturity, true spirituality. That's the only contemplation a Christian needs. A Christian doesn't need to contemplate human philosophy. A Christian doesn't need to become a legalist and sit around looking at all kinds of lists of rules. A Christian doesn't have to be a mystic and sit in the corner and contemplate his navel until something ecstatic happens.
A Christian doesn't need to be an ascetic. A Christian needs to concentrate on Jesus Christ. And as we concentrate on Christ imperceptibly, the Spirit of God does His work.
And that's what the verse is saying. We are changed into the same image by the Holy Spirit. You say, but John, how do you concentrate on Christ? You have to lift your mind out of the world and set it on the things above. Colossians chapter 3 verse 16, how do you do it? You say, how do I concentrate on Christ?
Here's how. Let the Word of Christ do what? Dwell in you richly. You want to contemplate Christ?
Get in the book. And the more you study the Word and the more you're saturated by the Word and the more the Word controls your thinking and the more the Word dominates your thoughts, the more Christ is in the front of your mind. Your old Uzzah, if he had been poring over the Word and he knew the Word and the Word had governed his life, when the emotions started to react toward that thing, he would have stopped. And there are Christians today who if they were really saturated by the Word of God and really knew God's Word, when their emotions tend to reach out for something, it will stop. And they'll do what they know the Bible teaches to do, not what their emotions would charge them to do, even though their motives might seem at the time so good. So you let the Word of Christ dwell in you. And as you study the Bible and as you work through the Word of God and as you read it and as it saturates your own life, then Christ moves up into the conscious mind and you begin to get your head into the heavenlies.
And you just...you're sort of suspended. That's what Paul meant when he said in the Ephesians, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings...where?...in the heavenlies. And some Christians go on saying, I don't know where all the blessings are.
You know why? You're mulling around in the muck. You need to get yourself in heaven and stay there.
Get up there. And I'll tell you once you've taken that step and once you've really made that commitment to think Christ and to concentrate on Jesus Christ and to pour your thoughts into Christ and allow Christ to be the center of your life, then you're going to see some things in your life that you never saw before. You hear Christians say, well, you know, I accepted the Lord a long time ago, but it never really did anything. And then, boy, I heard this guy or I made this commitment or something.
Boy, that'll since then...what happened? Well, they got up in the heavenlies. They entered the throne room and they started palling around with Jesus. They got out of the gutter.
They got their mind off material things and they put their thoughts in heaven. Ptolemy used to teach that the center of the solar system was the earth and everything revolved around it. Remember? Ptolemaic theory. The earth is the center of the universe and everything revolves around the earth. Thirteen hundred years that lasted.
Can you believe that? Thirteen hundred years the world believed that. Finally Copernicus came along and said, no, the sun is the center of our solar system and everything goes around that. What's the center of your solar system, the earth or the sun?
The earth or the sun of righteousness? Where's your focus? What are the three things you love the most, think about the most, and want the most? You know what the one thing you need is Christ, the focus on Him and the concentrate on Him. That's all. He is sufficient. Don't be intimidated by anybody else's self-made religion. Christ is all you need and you have all of Him there is. And I really believe, I know in my own life, it isn't just that you, you know, it's not like we're saying there's a second great work and all of a sudden you get zapped and you have this, but there is a time in your life when you come to the point I think where you say, I'm ready to live in the heavenlies.
I'm tired of fiddling around in the mud, I want to get up there where I belong and enjoy some of the blessings that are up there for me. And once you get a taste of it, from there on the life begins to mean something. Dr. Barnhouse used to tell a story, he was on the mission field visiting a young couple and they were sitting around having tea and they were just newlyweds and they went right to the mission field and they were discussing what their engagement was like and the courtship and all of that stuff, you know. And the young man said, well, he said, you know, she would never let me kiss her until we were married. And they kind of chuckled about that, well that's wonderful.
But he said, after we got married and I got the first kiss, the rest came easy. I really think that in a sense if a Christian ever really begins to experience what God has for him by living in the heavenlies and getting his mind off the world and his mind on the sun, that the rest comes easy because you begin to see what's there. And it's tragic to see so many Christians piddling around in the world and trying to reach out for the world's definition of a religious experience to make them happy when all they need to do is drop all of that stuff, concentrate on Jesus Christ and as they're lost in Him and as they gaze on Him and are transformed into His image from one level of glory to the next, they begin to experience what God intended when He said, you'll be blessed with all the blessings in the heavenlies.
Let's pray. Thank You, Father, for just the opportunity to begin to think about some great things. I'm thankful to You that we don't need to be intimidated. I'm thankful to You that we don't have to wander around trying to figure out whose experience is valid and what we can do that's legitimate and who's right and who's wrong, but that we can just hold to the Word of God, that we can just hang on and know it's true. Help us to be like that young man of God and say, no, God's Word said to do it and I'm going to do it. And help us never to come to the place where we let anybody intimidate us with a vision or with anything else, but help us to realize that we cling to the Book. And if it isn't allowed for in the Word of God, if the Word of God is clear, then we're going to obey. We thank You, Father, that You've told us to be obedient to Your Word and not to follow our own fancy, our own experience, our own self-designed worship. Make us biblical.
May we, as Spurgeon said, have bibbling blood. May the Word pulse right through us and we know that as we study the Word, Christ becomes real. As Christ becomes real, we begin to know what His fellowship means and to partake of His riches and we come to be in His image. Work Your work in us by the Spirit. Help us to be satisfied that Christ is all. Christ is all in all.
The Word is enough to reveal all that He is. Be satisfied with that, to rejoice in it, to grow in it, to revel in it, and to share it with others. We pray in Christ's name. Amen. This is Grace To You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. For 53 years now, John has been the pastor of Grace Community Church. He's also chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, and he's titled Our Current Study, Complete in Christ. Now, John, many Christians believe that they're missing something, that if they just read the right book or hear the right sermon, their spiritual life will take off. But what you have said throughout this study is that God has already provided us with everything we need for fruitful, joyous Christian living, and any Christian can know a life of peace and contentment and intimacy with Christ right now. Yeah, and I think that's something that took a long time for me to learn, because even as a kid, there was this notion that you pray a prayer and you become a believer, and Jesus is your Savior. But, you know, maybe he's not your Lord yet, or maybe you need to dedicate yourself or rededicate. I remember as a kid going to camps and conferences and having revivalists always asking for rededication and consecration and recommitment, and that kind of dogged my footsteps, this notion that you're a true Christian because you believe, but there are some pieces of this thing that are missing. And we've tried to address that in this entire series, Uncomplete in Christ. You are complete in Christ in the sense that you have everything that pertains to life and godliness.
You have all the available power of God. Everything that the believer needs to live fullness out, to live the very fullness of Christ, or even what Paul calls the fullness of God, is deposited in the believer at the time of his regeneration. You become a new creation, and the Spirit takes up residence in your heart, and the Spirit fills you and moves you and directs you to the degree that Ephesians 3 says you're able to do, exceeding abundantly above all, you can ask or think according to the power that works in you. So, as a new believer, you have enough power to do beyond what you can even imagine in terms of the spiritual impact that your life can have. So it's very important to understand that everything we need is ours in Christ, all things pertaining to life and godliness. We are complete in him. So all we need to do is develop that intimate relationship with the person of Jesus Christ that comes through his word and in prayer and in worship so that we can see those things begin to appear, sometimes in very routine ways in our lives and sometimes in very dramatic ways. It's been a wonderful series, Complete in Christ.
We're so thankful we had you with us, at least for today, and I hope you were with us for the rest of the series. If not, you can download all eight messages on the series, Complete in Christ, from our website, gty.org. And also remember, all of this is in a Complete in Christ study guide, the ideal complement to the series as well, affordably priced and available.
That's right. And, friend, both the study guide and the audio series cover a lot of material that we just didn't have time to get into in our radio study. So I encourage you to review the full audio series and pick up the study guide, the title again, Complete in Christ.
Contact us today. You can call toll-free 800-55-GRACE or go to the website gty.org. The Complete in Christ study guide costs $10.50 and shipping is free. To purchase a copy or maybe several for your Bible study group, call us at 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. Also as John said, you can download all eight messages from Complete in Christ free of charge in MP3N transcript format at gty.org.
If you prefer the eight-CD album, we also have that available. And now as we close, a reminder that if you're regularly finding encouragement from this broadcast, please let us know when you contact us. Your notes are more important than you know because they help us measure the impact of our program in your area. Send your email to letters at gty.org.
Once more, that's letters at gty.org. And thank you especially for your prayers. That's really the most important ministry you can have for us. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson reminding you to watch Grace to You television this Sunday and then be here next week when John looks at the crucifixion and resurrection from God's perspective. John is starting a study called Easter Through the Eyes of God with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
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