The Place of Honor

A Bible message by Bayless Conley
Copyright Bayless Conley © 2003

I am also starting a bit of a series this morning. I am going to be talking to you about honor. We will be on it for a little while, and the Bible is actually quite full of teaching about and examples of honor. We are going to be exploring a number of facets of this very important subject that God emphasizes in His kingdom. And we will be looking at who we are to honor, and there are a number of individuals the Scriptures specifically tell us to give honor to. We are going to be talking about how honor is expressed, what it is, how to lose it, how to obtain it. We tend to live in a time where, in many circles, dishonor is glorified. Some people tend to love dishonor and shame. It's like the worst reputation you can have, the cooler you are. You know, the wilder and the more immoral you can be, the more that that gets highlighted in some arenas of the entertainment industry and different things. And we just live in a generation like that. Hosea lived in such a generation. God said to them in Hosea 4:18, He said, "You continually commit adultery and immoral sins; your drink is rebellion." And then He made this statement in Hosea 4:18, He said, "Your rulers love dishonor." I find it is an interesting thing. The heroes of the nation loved dishonor. The Living Bible says they loved shame more than honor. And I truly feel it is a reflection of the generation, at least in some quarters that we live in. It is a generation that loves shame more than they love honor. And so we are going to be talking about honor. And, again, it is something that God emphasizes in His kingdom; it is something that is emphasized in the Scriptures; and it is something that we need to understand. All right, what is it? What does it mean to honor someone? What does it mean to have honor? The word "honor" means to value. It means to prize, to esteem highly. When we honor someone, we treat them with respect, with dignity. We treat them preferentially, if you would. It means to make weighty… both an Old Testament and a New Testament word… that we attach great significance to people's words when we honor them. Their words are weighty to us. We attach great importance to what they say. A person who is honored is someone who is held in good reputation. They have a good name. If I were to honor you, I would esteem you; I would value you; I would prize you, and I would prize the things that you say. Now look with me, if you would, in Romans 13:7. It says, Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due… …taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Render, therefore, to all their due. Render honor to whom honor is due. And, as I said, we actually have a quite lengthy list of individuals who we are to render honor to in the Scriptures. But there is one person who heads the top of the list, and that is God, Himself. We must honor God first and foremost. Let me read a verse to you. This is First Timothy 1:17. It says, Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

As a people of God, we need to honor Him. Yet it is possible to be saved and not live a Godhonoring life. It is possible to have come into a very real experience with the Lord Jesus Christ and yet not live out a God-honoring life. It is not an automatic thing. There are certain things we must do in order to give honor to God. The first one, I think, would be obvious. His words must be weighty to us. How we honor His word determines how we honor Him. We must attach great significance and great importance to God's word because, quite truly, our attitude toward God's word is a revelation of our attitude towards God. I would like to challenge you to take some time, even today, and read through Psalm 119. It is quite lengthy. I think there is over 170 verses in it. And yet it is unique in one respect because every one of those verses just literally is saturated with honor and respect for God's word. In it David attaches this over-the-top extreme exaggerated, if you would… so it seems… importance and reliance upon and honor for God's word. And yet it is something that all of us should embrace. And I just picked out a few of the verses. I want to read them to you to give you an idea. And that Psalm in verse 14, David said, I have rejoiced in Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. Verse 20, he said, My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times. When is the last time your soul was breaking and longing for His word? Verse 28, he said, My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes. Verse 92 and 93, Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life. Verse 105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Verse 128, Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right… Verse 164, Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. Weightiness, respect, importance, honor. I honor God when I hold His word in honor, when it moves beyond being an ornament on the coffee table or just another book in the bookcase that collects dust. When it moves beyond being looked upon just as something I go to in times of crisis, though I certainly should, but when I look upon it as my daily bread. Even as it is, God's word to me… God-breathed, God-indwelt, God-sent, and God-revealed. If I am to respect God, I must respect His word. When we learn to consider this the final word, ending all discussion and

all debate on any subject it addresses, that's when I begin to honor God. Yet if there are issues in my life that I don't like what it says and I tend to kind of steer around them or come up with reasons why maybe it doesn't apply to me or I become combative or argumentative regarding things in the Scripture, then I am not truly honoring God. Your attitude towards the word reveals where you are at with God. I remember… it was before I was saved… I hadn't seen my family in a long time. The last time they had seen me I was a wild man on drugs. I came back home, and I was a wild man on Jesus. I was still high, but I was high on the Most High. And a bit over-zealous, certainly, didn't have much wisdom, but sincere. And I remember sitting in an airport, and my family was there, and I had this little tiny Gideon's New Testament. One of those little green ones, you know, they would give out to the military. And I'm reading this little tiny New Testament sitting in the chair, and my mom says, "Do you have to do that? That's embarrassing. You are just trying to bring attention to yourself." I've got this little tiny Bible! Well, she wasn't saved. And it was a revelation of where she was at with God. She's sitting here now. Mom, hold up your Bible. Hold it up. She's got a big one, doesn't she? And she totes it around, and now she is witnessing to the people in the airport. But, see, if I am… just even as a Christian… if I am disinterested and not hungry and have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards the word, friend, that's my heart towards God. There is no getting around it. On the other hand, if I'm eager, and if I'm hungry, and if I'm careful to obey the things I read in God's word, that is my heart towards God. If I honor His word, I honor Him. So if we are to give honor to Him, the first place we need to start is by honoring the Book, making it weighty and important in our lives. If I have decisions to make, the first place I go is right here. When I'm faced with a fork in the road, this is the first place I go. When I need strength, this is the first place I go. When I need wisdom, this is the first place I go. And by doing that, I honor God. Amen? All right, look with me at Psalm 66. I want to share with you several ways. The second one we find here. The Book of Psalms, Psalm 66, and verse 1. Psalm 66:1. It says, Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Secondly, we bring honor to God through worship and praise. Through shouting, singing, and praising. But, friend, only when it comes from the heart. Only when my heart is behind it is God honored through my praise. Otherwise, it is just religious noise; otherwise, it is just gospel music, but it is not God-honoring praise. And, friend, there is a difference. You can play and sing gospel music and not love God at all. But when it comes from my heart, I bring honor to God as I praise Him and sing about His name. Jesus said to some people in His day that had become very religious… they had a lot of religious form, but they had no heart… in Matthew 15 He said, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, 'This people draw near to me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me.'" They are honoring with the lips. But He said, "If your heart is far away, the worship is vain." Vain means empty. It is empty worship. There is nothing in it. The thing that fills our worship is our heart. Worship is hollow if it is not filled with a loving heart. And, again, true worship is about being real before God and your whole being engaging Him and lifting Him up.

And I know some people say, "Well, you know, all this loud worship, and people shout; and, you know, the electric guitars and the drums… and I just don't like all that. I mean, I've got a praise for God, but it's in my heart." Well, if you do truly have a praise for God in your heart, it will come out your mouth because the Bible says, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." But as far as the shouting and the singing… which, by the way, all of it is Scriptural. The drums and the stringed instruments, all of it is Scriptural. The Bible says to play skillfully with a loud noise. But you better get used to it because loud worship goes on in heaven ceaselessly. You won't be comfortable in heaven if it bugs you down here. Look with me in the Book of Revelation. Just look over there in Chapter 4. I think some people's idea of what heaven is like is so far from what the Bible says. The Book of Revelation, the fourth chapter, and verse 8. Revelation 4:8, it says: The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night… Now, first of all, these creatures are pretty strange looking. Six wings, and they've got eyes all over the place. Heaven is going to be an interesting place. Now, how often do they rest? No, they don't rest day or night. That means continually this is what they say. They don't rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" How often do they say that? Always! They don't rest day or night. They are always, these four creatures, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" And then verse 9 says, Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him… Now that's always. …who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." So the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are at it all the time. But that's not all. Look in Chapter 5 with me. Verse 11, Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a… Saying with a quiet voice, lest they disturb heaven's tranquility. No, …saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" They're at it again!

…And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. Friend, heaven is a noisy place! We have got the four creatures with all the eyes on the wings, and there is "Holy, holy, holy!" And the twenty-four elders are throwing their crowns on the floor, worshipping God, and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands of angels and every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and in the sea, they are all worshipping God in this grand symphony, loudly, all at once. And if it bugs you down here, friend, you might think about not going. We need to honor Him. He is worthy. Some of you… you shout your head off at a football game… you think it odd that Christians get noisy in church. You are in front of the television set, and your pretzels go flying one way, your diet coke goes flying the other way, and you are pointing your finger at the television set, stood up out of your chair and yelling. And you come to church and say, "All that loud worship bothers me." Friend, God… I'm telling you, He is worthy! And we honor Him when we worship with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength… He's honored. And we are going to be doing it in heaven. I want to be part of that grand symphony that is continuously worshipping Him. And I reckon… Just knowing me, when I get up there, I'm probably going to cry for about a hundred years. But that's okay. You know, when I first got saved, I was going to that little Pentecostal church, and I cried all service long. The first time I went into Singapore I turned around and I saw five thousand Chinese worshipping God with their hands up, and I cried the whole service. I can't even imagine what it's going to be like in heaven seeing people of every tongue, tribe, nation worshipping before the Lamb and an innumerable company of angels worshipping. And I'll tell you what: I reckon those angels have got some pipes on them. I think they know how to sing. Can you imagine? It's going to be good! All right, look with me at Proverbs 3. We honor God when we honor His word, and we honor Him through our praise. And here in Proverbs 3 we come to the third way that we can honor God. Proverbs 3:9. It says, Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; And, of course, there is a promise with it: So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. We can honor God with our possessions and with our firstfruits. The Living Bible says, "Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of your income." Sporell's translation adds, "And with the best of all thine increase." We honor God when we give Him our first and our best. Did you know… perhaps maybe you've thought about it; maybe you haven't… the oldest sin in human history, next to Adam's transgression in the garden, the oldest sin in human history was a direct result of a man refusing to honor God with his possessions and his firstfruits. Did you know that? The oldest sin in human history, next to what Adam did in the garden, is the direct result of a man refusing to honor God with his possessions and firstfruits. Look back with me, if you would, in the Book of Genesis. It is about the story of Adam and Eve's first two kids: Cain and Abel. They both had noble occupations. Cain was a tiller of the ground; Abel was a keeper of flocks. It says in verse 3 of Genesis, chapter 4… Genesis 4:3, And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.

And the fat just means the richest, the choicest part thereof. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. Now some people have said, "Well, God didn't respect Cain because Cain knew he was supposed to bring an animal, and that is the only thing acceptable to God." Friend, that is not so. That is called assumption theology. The Bible does not say that. In fact, if you begin to read… even once the law was instituted through Moses… God gave instructions for people bringing grain offerings and the firstfruits of their ground. It was totally acceptable to God. That was the labor of Cain's hands. Yet when Cain brought his offering of the fruit of the ground, it just says that. It doesn't say that he brought his firstfruits, and it doesn't say that he brought his best. But then it is contrasted: When Abel brought his offering, he gave God the first from the flock, and he gave God the best part. He gave God his first and his best. Hebrews 11:4 correlates with that. It says, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." It means a better quality sacrifice than Cain. And, through his offering, he obtained witness that he was in right relationship with God. Abel's offering was a reflection of where his heart was at with God. Now look at verse 6, So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? "If you do well… It could very literally be translated, "If you give your best, if you do your best…" …will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. The New English Bible said, "sin is a demon crouching at the door." And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." Verse 8 shows us that he didn't: Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. You see, Cain's refusal to honor God with his first and his best was a revelation of how far his heart was from God. And God said, "Hey, Cain, if you do well… if you give your best, do what Abel did, you will be accepted, as well. But if you don't, sin is crouching at the door." The Jerusalem Bible says, "Sin is like a beast crouching at the door hungering for you, but you should master it." And, again, Cain didn't. I am going to say this… I'm going to say it with all the love that I can: If bringing God your firstfruits, giving God your first and your best, is an issue with you at all… if you have a problem with it or try and come up with reasons why it somehow doesn't apply to you, you need to really think hard about that because it is a reflection of where your heart is with God. It is an issue of honor and how God is honored in your heart and in your life. Like I said, this goes way, way back into human history. You know, Paul writing about the Macedonians… he is bragging on them to the Corinthians, and he said, "Hey, the Macedonians were in a great trial of affliction. They were experiencing deep poverty, and yet there was this abundant liberality and great joy they had." And those things don't

seem to go together. Great trial of affliction; you know, deep poverty; and yet great liberality and joy. He said, "And they pleaded with us to take the gift." But he told the secret a few verses later. I think it is in First Corinthians, chapter 8… maybe Second Corinthians. Anyway, he said, "They first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us by the will of God." And, see, it always boils down… if there is an issue with the stuff, it's really not the stuff that is the issue. It is the heart that is the issue. It is ownership that is the issue. And, see, it always boils down… if there is an issue with the stuff, it's really not the stuff that is the issue. It is the heart that is the issue. It is ownership that is the issue. See, I reckon I belong to God fully and completely, so He has access to all my stuff. And, yes, just like everybody else, there are times when God puts His finger on something, I'm going, "Oh, not that! Please!" And I've got to pray through because stuff has a way of sneaking up on you and attaching itself to you. There is just a sticky side to everything that sometimes it doesn't want to let go. But we need to live light, friend, because we're not taking any of it with us. Look back with me at the Book of Malachi. It is the very last book of the Old Testament, right before Matthew. Malachi, chapter 1. God talks to His people about this issue of honor and how it is tied to their offerings and their giving. Malachi 1:6, God says: "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.' And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts. Now in verse 7, The Living Bible, God says, "When you offer polluted sacrifices on My altar," and they respond by saying, "Polluted sacrifices? When have we ever done a thing like that?" "Every time you say, 'Don't bother bringing anything very valuable to offer to God.' And then God says, "You bring the lame and the diseased, the blind and the sick." You know, "You give Me the stuff that you just kind of want to get rid of." He says, "Try that on your governor." Now the governor was the person who received taxes, and you paid tribute to him, and payments were made to the governor. He said, "Try it on him. Bring him your lame animals. Bring him your blind animals. See how happy he will be." I mean, try it with your banker. Go to your banker, say, "You know, this car payment thing. I've been thinking about it. It's a little steep. And I know that you require the 360 or the 420 dollars a month or whatever it is. But I've been thinking about it. From now on, I'm going to bring you fifty dollars a month. That's what I have in my heart to do." Will he accept you? Will he be favorable toward you? What about the grocer? Go into the grocery store. Get you a basketful of groceries, get it up, have them ring it all up: $120. And you just say, "A hundred and twenty dollars! Huh! Well, it looks like it's worth about $35 to me. I'll give you $35 for it." Will they accept you? Treat you favorably? No, they will call security. Why? Because you are a thief. And, see, God talks about that in the third chapter. He says, "You have robbed Me. Will a man rob God? But you have robbed Me, even this whole nation." They say, "How have we robbed You?" And God says, "In tithes…" In the first tenth, the firstfruit. "In tithes and offerings this whole nation

has robbed Me." And He said, "Now bring in the tithe, all the tithe, into the storehouse, and prove Me now in this," says the Lord of Hosts, "if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing you will not have room enough to receive it." Now, see, when they didn't honor God and bring in the firstfruits and their offerings, they robbed God in two areas. Number one, they robbed Him of honor. They robbed Him of the honor that was due Him. He said, "If I am a father, where is My honor?" And He is telling them, "You honor your governor more than Me." And some of us… You see, even when we pay our car payment, and we pay our mortgage, and we pay the electric bill, we call it honoring an obligation. We honor our debts. And some of us show more honor to the telephone company than we do to God. We have more reverence for the grocer than we do for God. They had more reverence and more honor for their governor. They would never dream of not giving the governor the tribute that he was asking for or the taxes that were due. And yet they wouldn't do that with God. And I think it certainly is applicable to us. How much honor do we show to God? They robbed Him of His honor, and they also robbed Him of the opportunity to bless them. And God in His mercy just says, "Well, prove Me. See if I won't open the windows of heaven and bless you so much you won't have room to receive it." God is robbed in two ways: Of honor and the opportunity to bless. I mean, that's what we read there in Proverbs 3: Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase, your income, so your barns will be filled with plenty, your presses will burst out with new wine. Now the people in an agrarian society, that is how their prosperity was measured. It was measured in the amount of wine they made and the crops and the grain and the cattle and all of those things. Friend, you can just transpose that right into the society that we live in and to the things that we measure our prosperity with. And if we will honor God with our firstfruits, God promises to bless us. But we rob Him, not only of His honor, we rob Him of the opportunity to bless our lives when we fail to do it. Now I want to just read to you verses 11 through 14, but I want you to listen because I am going to read it out of The Message Bible, and it probably won't read at all like you have there. It is a bit of a paraphrase, but it is very good. Listen to it. God is speaking, and He says, "I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship Me all over the world who honor Me by bringing their best to Me. They are saying it everywhere, 'God is greater! This God of the angel armies!' All except you. Instead of honoring Me, you profane Me. You profane Me when you say worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account. And when you say, 'I am bored!' This doesn't do anything for Me. You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air, act superior to Me, God of the angel armies. And when you do offer something to Me, it's a hand-me-down or broken or useless. Do you think I am going to accept it? This is God speaking to you! A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for Me… an expensive sacrifice, say… and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless. I am a great King, God of the Angel Armies, honored far and wide, and I will not put up with it." All right, look with me at John's gospel, the fifth chapter. One final thing I want to talk to you about: The fourth way that we bring honor to God. John 5:22,

"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." Number 4, we honor God by honoring His Son, Jesus Christ. When we lift up and worship and reverence and value the Son of God, we honor the Father. In fact, this is pretty strong. Jesus said that we are to honor Him just as we honor the Father. Somebody said, "You know, the problem with Jesus Christ is He acts like He's God or something." Jesus said we are to honor Him as we honor the Father. To dishonor Christ, there is no way you can honor God. To disobey Christ, there is no way you can honor God. Why would Jesus say something like this? Look in John, chapter 8. It makes it pretty clear. John, chapter 8, verse 54, towards the end of the chapter. John 8:54, Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Title for deity. And they got offended. In the next verse they grabbed some rocks to try and kill Him. Now when Moses had the experience in the wilderness and God spoke to him from the burning bush and said, "You need to go. I have heard the cries of My people Israel. Go into the land of Egypt and deliver them." And Moses said, "Who am I going to say sent me? Who is this talking to me out of the bush?" God said, "Tell them I AM THAT I AM sent you." And when Jesus said that to them, they became so furious they wanted to kill Him because He had basically said, "You know who it was talking to Moses out of the bush, boys? It was Me. Before Abraham was, I AM." Deity. Jesus claimed to be one with the Father. And that is why He said, "Honor the Son as you honor the Father." Look a little earlier in the chapter. That is not the first time he brought it up to them. Look in verse 23, And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Now if you notice closely in your Bible, the word "He" in verse 24 should be italicized. It is not written in the same type of print the rest of the words in that Scripture are. Why is that? Anytime you find a word italicized in the Scriptures, it is italicized because it was added by the translators. It is not in the original manuscript, and they wanted to let you know that. That is what an italicized word means. They just thought it would help bring clarity to the verse. So it is actually not there in the original text. In the original text, Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." The same exact phrase He used at the end of the chapter when He said, "Before Abraham was, I AM." Meaning this: You may think Jesus was just a good man that died as a

token for His fellow man, some sort of a guru to follow. A prophet, a leader, a religious leader. But, friend, if you do not come to grip with the fact that He is deity, Immanuel, God with us, God manifest in the flesh, God's Son, you will die in your sins. Believing Jesus was a prophet will not bring salvation to you. Following the teachings of Jesus will not bring salvation to you. It is embracing His deity. And Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." Friend, He is deity clothed in flesh. And the heart cannot fully take it in. We had rebelled against God; our sins had separated us from Him. But He had such a great love for us that the Son of God who co-existed with the Father in eternity past, who was at one with God, divested Himself of all divine privileges, and as the Holy Spirit overshadowed that young virgin named Mary, conceived in her womb was the Son of God. God took upon Himself flesh, and then went beyond that. He didn't just live in a flesh and blood body. He went beyond that, and He died for our sins. One missionary said, "If Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice I can make for Him is too great." And, friend, I agree. We must honor Jesus Christ. And, you know, we can come to God now because of what He has done. He tasted death for you. Took the penalty of your sins upon Himself, died on the cross that you might live. The innocent for the guilty. He came to save us from our sins, and He accomplished His mission. And you know what? I want you to listen. Today that door of salvation still is open, and you can come if you will. But the decision is yours. Please bow your heads and close your eyes, if you would. Thank you, Jesus. Lord, I thank you for speaking to every heart in this place today… Jesus, making Yourself real to each and every one. Please, nobody looking around. You know, if you really think about it, you could have been anywhere today other than here. You could be asleep in bed, could be watching a golf tournament on TV, could be at the mall, could be having breakfast or lunch somewhere. But you are in church. Why is that? Friend, I believe that you wouldn't be here except for the fact that God is tugging on your heart. Working behind the scenes there is a God in heaven that knows your name and that loves you, and He has brought you into this place. Whether you are in an overflow room or this main auditorium or whether you're watching on television, friend, it's a God set-up. And it's not about religious ritual, not about mindless ceremony. It's about a walking, talking, living, breathing relationship with Him. What I shared about Jesus, friend, it is absolutely true. I grappled with it, myself, for years and years. I had a list of things I was looking into. I looked into… got deeply involved in kundalini yoga, got deeply involved in American Indian religions, even got involved in taking drugs for religious experiences, would go to a metaphysical church, used to go to the Hindu Temple in Los Angeles and chant. Would hitchhike up to San Francisco and go to big Krishna festivals there. I was searching. And towards the end I even started getting involved with people that were practicing black magic. And it's the funniest thing. I had this mental list of things I would look into, and Jesus Christ was on the list, but He was dead last. Christianity was dead last on my list because I had never met a real deal Christian that was truly living for God. And one day a 12year-old boy came up to me in a park and rocked my world. He had a real relationship with Jesus Christ, and he shared the gospel with me. Now I wrestled a bit after that. I ended up down in Mexico City involved in some illegal activity, doing a lot of things I shouldn't be doing. But I couldn't get away from that boy's words who told me about Jesus. I couldn't get away from the words of his mother as she shared Christ's love with me. And I got in my truck… I left my partners down there… and drove three thousand miles back to find them in a little church in Oregon. And shortly after that I ended up in a mission in a place

called Medford, Oregon, and I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. I have never looked back. It has been over 26 years. And to realize that He was the Son of God and that He, indeed, had died on the cross for me and that there was no other way to God except through Him. A lot of people that say, "Well, we like the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was a good man." Friend, you have to come to grips with either He was who He said He was, or He is the greatest charlatan that ever lived because He said this: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Those verses, He said, "Except you believe that I AM you will die in your sin." Today a great opportunity is extended to you. Now I don't know why God has chosen it, but this is what He has chosen that people will be saved through the foolishness of preaching. He could have worked some other way out, I suppose, but He didn't. This is the only way it comes. You hear the message of the gospel, you believe it in your heart, you take a step of faith, and you put your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. That is how salvation comes, friend. And, again, the great news: It is not about a bunch of empty tradition. It's about walking and talking with God. And today I want to extend an invitation to you. The choice is yours. Will you open your heart and put your trust in Jesus, who died on that cross, was raised from the dead on the third day that you might be made right with God. Will you give your life to Him today and enter into that relationship with God the Bible calls salvation? He is rich to all who call upon Him. Jesus said, "The one that comes to Me, I will in no way cast out." I don't care how bad you've been, how far you've gone. Friend, Jesus stands before you with His arms open wide today. John's gospel, the fourth chapter, a very familiar story, but perhaps it takes on a little more meaning with the background we have just spoken of. John 4. I want you to look in verse 5 with me. It is talking about Jesus. John 4:5, So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." Now He recognized her filling that vessel of honor, and He asked her for a drink of water. Verse 8, For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." Jesus basically likened Himself unto that vessel of honor. He said, "Look, I asked you for a natural drink. But if you knew who I was and you would have asked Me for a drink, I would have given you living water." And, friend, as vessels of honor, we are to give the water of life to anyone that is thirsty. Wherever we happen to meet them, we are to pour out to them. We should give anyone a reason for the hope that is in us. Any time we run into people who are thirsting, spiritually, we are to serve as vessels of honor, pouring out the waters of eternal life where people are dry. Now where do we find the vessel of honor today? The same place: Either coming from the spring on its way where you gave a thirsty person a drink or in the home or in the temple.

The first place of service, the first place of priority for the vessel of honor is in the home. We must pour out in service to our family members, to our spouses, to our children. I am called to wash the feet and to serve my wife and my children. I am called by God to help quench their thirst for more of God and to help lead them into spiritual things. And it's not just because I'm a preacher. Just as the head of the home and as a member of this household, I am called as a vessel of honor to serve my family members. It must be my priority. My first mission field was my family. And when my kids got saved, they became my first church. Song of Solomon 1:6 says, "They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept." The first priority is to the family, friend. There was a country preacher at a small church, less than 100 members, and the congregants had the habit of if they wanted to get a visit from the pastor, they would drop a little note in the offering plate as it would go by. And so he would visit people throughout the week. And one day he got a note that really got his attention. It said, "I am your most faithful church member. I am the biggest giver in the church, but I'm dying of loneliness. Will you please visit me?" It was signed his wife. It's not a luxury to spend time with your wife, with your children. It is a priority. And my priorities go like this: Number one, it's my relationship with God. Just being his son. I'm God's kid. Number two is this woman sitting on the front row named Janet. Number three are my children. Number four is you guys. And, number five, if there is any time left over, a good game of golf. And maybe this will help some of you: Sometimes I feel like I'm spinning plates. Do you ever feel that way? You see the guys, they've got these sticks and spin a plate. They spin one here, then here, whoa! Back over to that one. You see, I just want to please God. But I want to be a good husband, too. And I've got three teenagers, and I want to be involved in their lives. I want to be a good father, and so I'm involved in all these events doing things. And then, man, I've got to be a pastor. So I've got to spend time studying, and I've got to preach, and I've got to minister to people. And then I think it's a priority, as well, to get out and play golf and get a little recreation and recreate and rejuvenate. It's not just a luxury in itself. You need to do those things. And sometimes I feel like I am constantly juggling. And so life tends to be a reassessment and a reevaluation of my priorities. And am I spending a lot of energy in something that maybe I shouldn't be doing? Am I spending that time with God? Am I being a good husband? Am I being a good father? Listen, men, it's not a luxury for you to shoot baskets with your boy. You must do it. You need to take that boy fishing. You need to take your daughter out on a date. You need to take long walks with your wife, and you need to sit down and talk with her over a cup of coffee or whatever it is. It is not some luxury. It is an absolute necessity that you do that. As a vessel of honor, your number one priority is to pour out in service and in love to your own family. We must do it. And sometimes you may feel like you are spinning plates a little bit. Well, welcome to the club. But it is just a matter of reassessing and reevaluating things and saying to some things, "Hey, you are just going to have to take a number because I have got to spend my time with my heavenly Father, and I must spend time with this woman I'm married to… or this man I'm married to; I must spend time with my children. And, of course, you can't just quit your job. You have got to do those things. So we have always got that adjust and readjust thing going on. But to be a vessel of honor, you must pour out to your family. All right, the second place we find that vessel of honor is in the temple. For us, it is in the church. It is where you pour your life out in service, in teaching, in prayer, in encouragement, in mentoring, in serving others in the church. And there is a huge need within the church for us to do that. There is a great need for vessels of honor in God's house. And it is not God's plan that just a

faithful few will hold things together and do all the serving, and yet in most churches that is the case. And, to a degree… maybe to a lesser degree, but to a degree, it is true here. You have got the faithful few; they are just serving all the time. And you know what? They got worn out after awhile. Many hands make a heavy load light. And God wants to get everybody plugged in and everyone serving somewhere. And, friend, if you are saved, you have the potential to be a great blessing to the family of God as you begin to serve. I don't know how many made the last Sunday night service. It was packed, and we had overflow rooms filled. We had Philip Baker here from Perth, Australia, and he shared a very funny, but a very powerful message, as well. And we had a great time of worship. And then on Wednesday morning I asked Phil to share with the staff. And he shared something I thought was very good. He talked about what they call at their church the "journey". It is what they endeavor to do, how they endeavor to assist people on the road to spiritual maturity. And I wrote the points down because I thought they were very apropos. Number one in assisting people on the journey, the number one thing is awareness. They want to make people aware of the church, aware that there is a God thing happening. And so they sit down and strategize and pray and say, "How can we let the community know that we are even here? That there is a place where they can find help, where they can find solace and find comfort in their times of distress, where they can find guidance in times of darkness. How do we make them aware? Because it doesn't do any good if nobody knows we're here." And so their first step is to make people aware. The second step is to get people to attend. And though they do a lot of things, and we do a lot of things, the number one way people come to a church is they get invited by someone they trust. The majority of people, far and above any other way they come to church, is because someone they know invited them. Somebody reached out and said, "Hey, why don't you come with me? We'll sit together. We'll do lunch afterwards; or, whatever. And so the second step on the journey is attendance. The third step is belonging. They try and get people connected relationally somewhere. They form a relationship with someone or a group of people in the church. But there is a sense of belonging. And then after that, the next step is growing. And, for them, they call them cell groups. We call them life groups. They try and get people plugged into a small group or taking a class or a course, something the church is offering in more of a small group context so they can begin to grow spiritually. And they feel that that is very important, and we do, as well. That's why we have Life Groups, why we do a lot of the things that we do, to get people plugged in and growing. And then the next step is serving. Get people serving… as vessels of honor, if you would, pouring out somewhere in the church. And, you know, I think that some people have maybe misunderstood or taken a wrong slant on things because we talk a lot about destiny and the fact that… it is true… God has a destiny for you, individually. Certainly, corporately, together we have a destiny in God as a family, as a local church to impact our community, our nation, and the world. But, as an individual, you have a destiny. You have a calling. You are not excess baggage. You weren't dropped on the planet with no giftings. God has put some unique things in you, and you will find great fulfillment in life, and you will be your greatest blessing when you begin to operate in the niche that God created you for. And so we talk about that, but I think some people have this idea that, "Well, until I find the 'thing', I'm not going to do anything." It's like some people say, "Well, I know I'm created to do something, and I'm just waiting for that."

And, you know, when you find out what you are called to do, work is really no longer work. You are on a mission. You can't wait to get back to work, and the benefit is: you get a paycheck on the side. It's not like this job that you hate to go to. But when you are doing what you are called to do, there is great joy in it. There is great excitement. I mean, you are going out to conquer every day when you get up. But, in the meantime, until you work out what that thing is, you need to get a job. You can't just sit at home and let your wife work or whatever, you need to work. Even God can't steer a parked car. You've got to get moving. And He will shift you and get you into that place. And I think that same mentality is carried over into the church. We talk about destiny and you have got something to give, and some people think, "Well, until I figure out the thing, I'm not going to do anything." Just get involved somewhere, and then God will steer you into the place where you can be the greatest blessing. And so part of that journey for them is serving, a journey toward spiritual maturity, and I would say a journey toward being a vessel of honor. And then the final step for them is sharing where people are sharing their faith with others and sharing of their finances and sowing toward the vision of the church and sowing towards changing humanity throughout the world. And if you are traveling on that journey toward spiritual maturity, I would say you are a vessel of honor. Awareness, attendance, belonging, growing, serving, and sharing. All right, look back with me, if you would, at Second Timothy, chapter 2… or chapter 20, if you prefer, but we are going to read from chapter 2. Second Timothy 2. And we want to look at these two verses once again. 2 Timothy 2:20-21, But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Now the vessel of dishonor basically was the Judean garbage can. It was made to be a vessel of honor; but when it came out of the fire of the kiln, the potter saw that it was pockmarked or flawed in some way, and so he would put it for sale at a reduced price in the pottery yard, and people bought them regularly. And it served two basic functions: Number one, the dirty water after people's hands were washed, or whatever, the soiled water was poured into it. It was a container for dirty, used water. And then it was used in the kitchen as a garbage can where leftovers and scraps and such were thrown into it. But I want you to listen to me: It is not God's will that anyone be a vessel of dishonor. Did you notice what he said? "If anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel of honor, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." And, friend, that's what I want to be. You know, when God blesses someone, He does it generally through another person. Did you know that? We pray, "God bless this person. Do this…" Generally, those blessings don't fall out of the sky. God finds a vessel that is prepared, that is useful, and if He wants to bless someone financially and meet their need, He will do that through another person. If He is going to bring encouragement and comfort to someone, He does that through another person. If He brings guidance, it is generally going to come through another person. If God brings healing, it is generally going to be through a vessel that is prepared and useful. And the Bible says we can all fit in that category. None of us have to be vessels of dishonor if we will cleanse ourselves from the latter, talking about the things previously mentioned in that chapter. Now though there are a lot of things that could apply, the main idea that is carried throughout the chapter up to this point has to do with words… when he talks about cleansing himself from the latter.

Jump back with me to verse 14, and I will show you what I mean. 2 Timothy 2:14, Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Verse 16, But shun profane and idle babblings… It means empty chatter. …for they will increase to more ungodliness. It doesn't stop with empty chatter. It leads to worse things. Verse 17, And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Talking about false doctrine that these individuals were holding for. Now, for the most part, vessels of dishonor are those that have an open ear for gossip and idle talk. And they have a propensity to run others down, and they are quick to repeat any story they hear. They are quarrelsome, and they create strife, whether by gossip or by holding to and disseminating doctrine that is contrary to the fundamental beliefs of the church they belong to, and I want you to hear that. They are quarrelsome, they create strife, either through gossip, repeating a story, or by holding onto and disseminating doctrine that is contrary to the fundamental beliefs of the church they belong to. And rather than changing their beliefs to line up with the Bible and to line up with the core beliefs of the church, rather than changing, or rather than moving on to some other place, they will bend anyone's ear that listens, undermining leadership and undermining people's faith in the core values and doctrines of that church. In short, they become a depository for and a dispenser of garbage. They pollute their own lives and the lives of anyone that will listen to them. And, basically, if a vessel of dishonor is allowed to continue operating, three things will happen: Number one, a natural separation takes place in the church because vessels of honor don't want to get soiled. They want to stay holy. They don't want to get involved in that stuff. So there is a natural division that takes place. If the vessels of dishonor are allowed to continue on, there are those that don't want to have any part of it. There becomes a separation. Number two, other vessels of dishonor will gather round. You know the old saying, "Birds of a feather flock together?" There is a lot of truth to that. I don't know how it is, but some people, they've just got radar. You get one disgruntled person in the church, and it's like if there is anyone else that is upset, man, they find them, and then they talk back and forth about how horrible everything is. And it's just like unhappy people tend to find one another. It's the most amazing thing in the world! And they begin talking and running this person down and running that person down, and the garbage gets thicker and thicker. It piles higher and higher, and they will share this juicy story or run this person down or gossip about this person or criticize the pastor and his message or some department leader they don't like and the way this is run or maybe criticize the whole church altogether. What do you do with it at that point? You do the same thing that the Mideastern person would have done with their vessel of dishonor if it just got too foul to deal with and too, too smelly. They wouldn't try and dump it out and wash it out. If it just got too rank, they would take it, and they

would chuck the whole thing out. And the Bible teaches us to do the same thing. If someone doesn't repent, if they won't change, if they continue on creating division and strife, you need to say, "Adios," and you need to ask them to leave. Won't you keep your finger here because we'll come back to this general vicinity, and look with me in the Book of Proverbs, if you would. Proverbs 22:10, Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease. Now a scoffer is someone that you've gone to, you've tried to correct them in love, you've tried to bring them some instruction, but they have an attitude. They scoff at it. It's not somebody who just does something one time, but it's somebody that you've gone to that qualifies as a scoffer. And the Bible says, "Cast out the scoffer; and when you get rid of the scoffer, something else leaves with them: Contention. Yes, strife and reproach will cease." Now that's pretty plain language, isn't it? Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave. Unless you get rid of the scoffer, the contention doesn't go. Look with me at Proverbs 26:20. Here is a pretty deep theological statement: Where there is no wood, the fire goes out… That's deep, isn't it? Take away the wood, fire stops. …And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body. When they get down there, they do a lot of damage. But you know what? The words of a talebearer… when you hear a juicy story, it's like a tasty trifle. I mean, it is like a double cappuccino chocolate truffle that just tastes so good. I don't know about you, but in my flesh I love to hear a juicy story, especially if it's about a preacher. It's like, "He did?! When did this happen? How long did it go on?" I've got to guard myself against that. And maybe you are not that way at all. But if my flesh is allowed to run unchecked, I mean, it wants to hear a juicy story. And then it wants to repeat it! Even if it's unsubstantiated, it wants to repeat the stupid thing. That's why we're commanded to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh because, friend, that sin nature is still resident in your flesh. What do you do if you realize that, in one degree or another, you have been operating as a vessel of dishonor? What can you do? The Scripture said cleanse yourself, repent, put a lid on it, and guard your ears. Don't listen to garbage. Stop listening to doctrine that you know is contrary to the core beliefs of the church, that you know is contrary to the heart of the gospel. And if somebody wants to come share a juicy story or run somebody else down, I'll tell you what you need to do. I had somebody ask me this just the other night. In fact, it was Thursday night. We had New Members Night. I met a bunch of people who had been through Membership Class. And we're having pie and coffee, and I'm talking to a few people in the kitchen. And this one brother says, "Pastor, where I work…" Apparently there are some Christians who work there. Says, "They are always running people down and wanting to criticize this person. And I feel like jumping in there and correcting them, but I'm not sure. What do I do?" I said, "This is what you do: The next time somebody wants to run somebody else down or share a gossip about someone, you grab their hands and say, 'Let's pray.' And then you pray for that person." See, I discovered something long ago: You never pray for people that you gossip about, and you never gossip about people you pray for. So I said, "You grab their hands, look into their eyes, and you pray a really strong prayer. And pray that God will change that person and help

that person. And I guarantee the next time they want to share a juicy story, they are not going to come find you." See, we need to be vessels of honor. Determine that we are going to be useful and prepared for every good work, pouring out to people who are thirsty, whether it is at the daughter's soccer game or on the neighbor's driveway or at the local market or the gas station or wherever it might be… at the coffee shop today after you leave church. We need to be pouring out in our homes to our wives, to our husbands, to our children… serving them, washing their feet, as it were. We need to be pouring out in service in the local church and helping the local family here as vessels of honor. I want to do something with you this morning. I would like for you to stand to your feet, if you would. We are going to pray. I want to pray a prayer. I'm just going to lead you in this prayer. I'll give you the words, but you tie your heart around them as tight as you can. We just want to present ourselves as vessels of honor to God today. And it will give you a chance to get rid of any dishonoring thing that has been going on. If it helps you to close your eyes when you pray, go ahead and do that right now. I want you to just say these words after me, say: Dear Heavenly Father, I stand before You today, a vessel. I desire to be a Vessel of Honor. I ask You to use me. May I pour out to those who are thirsty for the truth. I want to pour out to my family. I want to pour out in my local church fellowship. So, Lord, I ask You to pour into me. Fill me with Your wisdom. May Your love flow to overflowing. May I be able to counsel those who are in the dark. May I encourage those who are distressed. Lord, use me as a vessel of honor. And today I repent of anything I have done or said that would dishonor You or dishonor Your family. Lord, I do not want to be a vessel of dishonor. So I ask You to cleanse me right now with the precious blood of Jesus. Lord, I'm a vessel for You, and You alone. Help me be prepared. Help me be useful for every good work. And it is in Jesus' name I pray. Amen. Wonderful! Fantastic! Last week we talked about vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor. And today we want to share with you how honor is lost, how some people sabotage the honor that God puts on their lives; and how once it is lost, how it might be retrieved and regained. I want to share with you five simple things. The first one is this: Pride will sabotage your honor. Pride has the potential to destroy honor. The Bible says, "Before honor is humility. And a haughty spirit comes before a fall." And here we open up in story that is really quite an amazing story about Nebuchadnezzar. He was the world ruler at that time, the king of Babylon, and Babylon did rule the world. And he was lifted up in his heart because of all that he had achieved, all of the wealth that he had, and Daniel encouraged him, said, "Look, King, you need to break off your sins. You need to humble yourself. You need to repent. You need to acknowledge God." And he wouldn't do it. And we pick up the story in verse 30 of Daniel, chapter 4. It says, At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. That's verse 29. Verse 30, The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the

field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. So Nebuchadnezzar, instead of honoring himself, he finally acknowledges God, and he begins to place honor where honor is due with God. Drop down to verse 36, At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down. I guess so! When you lose not only your honor but also your sanity so that your fingernails grow out like birds' claws and you eat grass like a cow, I reckon you know what humility and abasement is about. Here in this story… I think God put it in there. And it really may be I think a bit over the top in some people's thinking, just sort of out of the box a bit, but God put it there because he wants to get our attention concerning the dangers of pride and the need for humility if God is indeed going to honor us. Friend, the Bible doesn't say God just tolerates the proud. The Bible says God resists the proud. In Proverbs it says there is seven things God hates, yea, even eight. And at the top of the list is a proud look. God hates a proud look. God resists the proud, not something He just tolerates. Friend, if you have lost your honor through the pride of your own stubborn heart, there is only one avenue for recovery, and that is to humble yourself. There is no other way to regain it. Jesus said, "Everyone that exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone that humbles himself will be exalted." You will learn sooner or later that the way up in God's kingdom is down. The one that would be the master must be the servant of all. That's the way it works. We need to follow the example of Jesus who came, not to be served, but to serve. All right, I want you to look with me, if you would, in another place. Second Chronicles, chapter 26. I want to move on to a second thing that can potentially undermine and destroy God's honor in your life. Some of you may be surprised by this one. Second Chronicles 26. Intruding into an office to which God has not called you can sabotage your honor. Intruding into an office to which God has not called you. And the motivation for such an intrusion may be pride, as we're going to see from this story, but it is a sure way to lose honor. We are going to be reading about Uzziah, one of Judah's greatest kings. He was a Godly man. But when he became successful, he got prideful. As we see here in verse 16 of Second Chronicles 26: But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD--valiant men.

And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated… (That literally means who are set apart for this office.) …to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God." Isn't that an interesting thing to say in such a setting? Uzziah, you are intruding into an office that belongs to the priest. It doesn't belong to you. You are a king. Be content with being a king. Don't intrude where you don't belong and where God hasn't called you. He said, "You will have no honor from the Lord." Now Uzziah could have humbled himself and repented and backed away, said, "You know, you guys, you are right." But he didn't. Verse 19, Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him. King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. He lost his honor. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that after he died people remembered him, not for all the great things, but for being a leper. He intruded into an office that he didn't belong. The New Testament tells us in Hebrews 5:4, speaking of ministry, it says, "And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God." Talking about ministry. Don't take the honor to yourself. You have to be called by God. In First Corinthians 12:28 where it talks about ministry gifts like apostle, prophet, teacher, it says that they are set in the church by God. Not appointed by man; appointed by God. Not voted in by a deacon board or some eldership, but appointed by God. In Ephesians 4:11, talking about the five-fold ministry… apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher… it says that they have been given to the church through the hand of the ascended Christ. Set in the church. Appointed in the church by God. Given by the hand of Christ. Not something that you just decide that you want to do. And, understand, all of us are called just by virtue of being part of Christ's body. All of us are ministers in one sense of the word. All of us are called upon by God to go out and share the gospel with others and to help people. To honor God and to help people. However, all are not called to full-time preaching ministry. And you cannot just assume the office of one of these ascension gifts or five-fold ministry gifts because you want to. Friend, that's holy ground. And to willfully intrude into such an office, if God hasn't called you there, if God hasn't set you there, is an invitation for judgment; and it is a certain way to lose your honor. Uzziah didn't mistakenly intrude into the priest's office. It wasn't an ignorant blunder on his part. We read in verse 16 that it was because of pride. It also said in that verse that he transgressed against the Lord.

I did a study on the word "transgressed". Hebrew scholars say that that is a very rare Hebrew word. It's not used in the Old Testament much at all. It is very rare. It doesn't mean to just misstep or make a mistake. It literally means to commit a willful act… when you no it's wrong… to commit a willful act because of selfish motives. To rage against. It even is translated treachery. It literally is an act of defiance or an act of rebellion that someone carries out because of selfish motives. And, you see, when Uzziah was challenged, he didn't back off, he didn't repent, he didn't humble himself. He became furious. The Knox translation said when they challenged him, that he threatened them. You know, in 25 years of ministry, I've seen a few things go around the block. And I have seen scenarios like this, or similar to this in different settings, take place over the last quarter of a century as I have been involved in ministry up to my eyeballs. And almost always there is someone that maybe is a power-hungry person that is after something. I've seen pastors… in fact, I've had personal friends that have been turned out of their churches, deviously removed from a church that they started, through some technicality in the church by-laws or whatever it is. It might be an eldership board or some bunch of deacons got him out. But there is generally one ringleader that is after authority. Generally one power-hungry person that is pushing the thing forward in order to get this person out of the way so they can seize that position. And it may be because of pride or some other thing motivating them; but it, quite literally, is an act of rebellion, and it fits this word "transgression". I have seen other cases where it is a church that, I don't know, the congregation may vote in the pastor. And maybe the pastor who was there has moved on to another place. So there is a short interim time where they are bringing the new pastor on. So they might ask like a Bible Study teacher or a Sunday School teacher to step up to bat and get some Bible lessons from the pulpit just during that interim time. And I have seen where the guy that… you know, the Bible Study teacher, the Sunday School teacher, who may be gifted in that arena, but is no more called into five-fold ministry than I'm called to go collect cheese on the moon… he gets a big head and decides he wants to be the chief hauncho, and so he closes the door to this other person and wins over people's hearts and literally usurps the position of pastor that he was never called to. And I've seen people called into prophetic ministry decide they want to be a teacher, as well. Now you can be called to be a prophet and a teacher. But, friend, just because you are a prophet doesn't mean you are called into teaching ministry. And, by the way, to be a prophet is a calling to full-time ministry. I hope you understand that. It's not something where somebody gives a word out at a Bible Study, and that makes them a prophet or a prophetess. It is a calling to full-time ministry. I'm going to say it again: It is a calling to full-time ministry. And if you don't have a calling to full-time ministry, you are no prophet or prophetess. Any member of the body of Christ who is full of the Holy Spirit can potentially prophesy: speak to men to edification, exhortation, and comfort. But being a prophet or a prophetess is a far different deal. And every person who is called to do a ministry of prophet also will have at least a preaching gift. In fact, that would be the predominant gift that would operate. So every prophet is a prophet and a preacher. You look through the Bible and see if that is not so, Old Testament and New Testament. A prophet also may be a prophet and a teacher. But if they don't have a calling to be a teacher, they get into trouble when they try and step into that office they don't belong. And I've seen it happen a lot of times. Someone used in a prophetic area… used to sort of preach in an inspirational way, but clueless when it comes to teaching… decide they are going to be it all and do it all. And people will warn them, say, "Look, just stay away from the teaching thing. You are not anointed there." And they get antagonistic about it. And they open their mouth, and it is the most confused mumble-jumble bunch of stuff you ever heard in your life. It creates division in the church… intruding into an office that they don't belong. And sometimes people in those positions, when they are challenged, they get hardened in their heart. They can get aggressive and defensive and not want to leave. And I'll tell you… now this is

my observation in 25 years… without fail, every single person that I have seen do that, that have intruded into an office and stayed there and sort of batted all the correction away, without fail, I have seen every time: They either die early or experience unusual tragedy or unusual illness, and always they end up being forced out of the office that they tried to usurp. And always they have lost their honor. Always. And that's my observation in 25 years. It's not too hard to do the math on. I know one guy who was in the situation with the interim thing at the church. And, you know, he did fine teaching Bible studies, but he wasn't called to be a pastor… but decided he liked it. So the new guy is supposed to come, and he shuts the door on the guy and rejects him and won't let him and wins the people's hearts over. He got involved in a sexual scandal, lost his marriage, lost his family, the church folded. And, to this day, I don't think the man even goes to church or is involved in the work of the Lord at all. He got into an office he didn't belong in. And, I'll tell you, I could tell you story after story after story. The moral is this: We must learn to be content to operate within whatever parameters God sets for our life. There are some things I'm good at, some things I'm gifted at, and I feel like I'm in my element when I'm doing certain things. There are other things I'm not very good at at all. And I realized a long time ago: I cannot do it all, I cannot be it all, nor will God permit me to do it all or permit me to be it all. And for me to try is dangerous. So I bring in other people who are gifted in areas where I'm not to pour into the body things that I can't pour in. Now it's true we have taken that and put that in a ministry scenario, but it is just wise to stay within the boundaries God sets for you. And God does set boundaries for every one of our lives. There are specific giftings and callings. But especially when it comes to this arena, it is a quick way to lose honor. All right, let's move on. Look with me, if you would, in the Book of Proverbs in the fifth chapter. Proverbs, chapter 5. This third area is sexual sin. It has the potential to destroy honor. And many a man, many a woman that was highly honored have lost their honor through immorality. Let me quote a verse to you first before we read from Proverbs 5 here. This is Lamentations 1:8. Just listen carefully: Jerusalem has sinned grievously, therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her because they have seen her nakedness. Any sin has the potential to turn honor into despising, but there is no sin like sexual sin that can do it. Proverbs 5:3, For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell. Lest you ponder her path of life-- her ways are unstable; you do not know them. Therefore hear me now, my children, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one; lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner. Getting involved in sexual sin can cause you to forfeit your honor: "Lest your honor go to others." Now he gives one of the great cures, if you would, for sexual temptation here. He is talking to married people. Look at verse 15:

Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Verse 18, Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress? In other words, enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with your wife or with your husband. It will help avoid temptation. If you are married, you ought to have sex a lot. You know, the Bible says in the New Testament… this might surprise you. It gives only one Scriptural reason for abstaining from sexual intimacy between husbands and wives. It says, "If you are going to give yourselves to prayer and fasting." That is your only biblical reason for not being involved with your spouse. It says, "And then come together again lest Satan tempt you for your lack of restraint." You know, if you are satisfied at home, you are not going to be tempted too much out on the street. Now it may seem like a curse to some of you, but the fact is: God has wired us up as sexual beings. Sometimes I think, "God, I'm not sure if this is a blessing or not." But the fact is, God created sex. It is a good thing. And He has wired us up that way. And I talk to my boys, and I just say, "Look, this is a good thing. God made us this way." And I always point them toward marriage. "It's a good thing, but it's for marriage. And when you get married, you can just enjoy it all you want." And I know it is hard for them to imagine this, but I said, "Your mother and I, we have been married 20 years, and we enjoy sex a whole lot." And I know they can't imagine their parents "doing it". Now they need to hear that from their father, not get their views on sex from Hollywood. And it's a good thing. I mean, God made it. And He made us that way. Now this isn't certainly the only cure for it. But if you're married, friend, this is one thing the Bible says to do. Now if you're single, I'll just tell you this: God does have grace for you. He does. Yes, He does. There is grace from God to live right. There is. I know. I got saved out of one world into the next. And I lived seven years as a single Christian before I got married, and I made it. So can you. Look at Proverbs 6 with me. Proverbs 6:32, Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away. Wounds and dishonor… and notice that his reproach will not be wiped away. Now it may not be right, it may not be just, but it is a fact that some people never forget. You may have been involved in something, truly repented from your heart and then lived right. I mean, it is so far back down the track, maybe even years… that incident that happened… I mean, so much water under the bridge you don't even relate to the person that you were back then. I mean, God has made you new. You've got the fruit to prove it. But some people will always remember you based on that event. Every time they view you, they will put on those glasses of your past history. It's not right; it's not mature on their part. But it's a fact. And it's one of the prices you pay for this kind of sin. Reproach not wiped away in some people's mind. Even though it's not with God and it's not with mature Christians; but some people always, in their mind, there will be a blot against you. There will be a check next to your name, saying, "Oh, yeah. I remember…"

Wounds and dishonor, reproach not wiped away. In fact, look at Ecclesiastes, the very next book in your Bible. Ecclesiastes 10:1. It says, Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. Something as small as a fly can ruin the perfumer's ointment. And just a little folly can ruin a lifetime of honor. Think about it. One sinful act can destroy the honor of a lifetime. There have been several men who at one time on the scene in our country were highly respected, influential preachers of truth, preachers of the gospel. They were tempted and fell to sexual sin. And though at one time they spoke to the conscience of our nation… I used to sit and watch one guy, and I would weep as I listened to this man preach on television, and I would thank God for such a gift, thank God for such boldness and a gift that would speak to the very heart and conscience of our nation. And he fell to sexual temptation. And now instead of respect, he is still the butt of late night comedian's jokes, lost all honor. A ministry that once impacted the world, now you hear virtually nothing about it. A fly in the ointment. It's a terrible thing to think about it. You know, 35 years or whatever of absolutely stellar ministry and holy living. All of that honor ruined… 35 years of honor… by 35 minutes of passion. All right, what can be done to retrieve one's honor if it has been soiled with the foul odor of sexual sin? Well, first, realize there is hope. That's why King David's story is in the Bible in its entirety. I like God. When He paints the picture, He paints it warts and all. And here is David. We see him ascend to the heights of honor and glory because of his character and his devotion and his loyalty to God. But we also see him backslide into adultery and murder and cover up and deceit. God tells the whole story. And even though David didn't come forward and confess his sin… it had to be called out and discovered by another. When his sin was revealed, David's repentance was genuine. His brokenness and trusting God for mercy was authentic and absolute. And because of that, even though David did do some terrible reaping for the seeds he had sown in his life, his final memorial was this: David was a man after God's own heart. God brought restoration to his life. And when we think of David, I mean, the whole world loves David. Man, we read his Psalms, and we read about his tests and his trials; and, I'll tell you, I can relate to David! And I read in the New Testament, and David is called a man after God's own heart! And, friend, if you've lost your honor in this way, you need to follow David's example of confession and repentance, and then trust God for mercy. Throw yourself over on the mercy of God, and realize there may be a bit of bitter fruit you are going to have to eat as a result of seeds that you've sown. But God can turn things around, and He can still bless your life, and He can still use you. It is not over. What a God we serve! Marvelous! All right, look with me at Numbers 22. Look at another story. This fourth thing… and there is just five in all… number four: Compromise in order to obtain honor from men will cause you to lose honor from God. Compromise… if you are called upon to compromise in order to obtain honor or position from men, you will lose honor from God. Jesus said in John 5:44, "How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, but you don't seek the honor that comes only from God?" In Numbers 22 we've got this story about a guy named Balaam. Balaam was a prophet. He was known for his words coming to pass. And Israel is now moving into the Promised Land. And the Moabites are very fearful. And the king of Moab, his name is Balak. So Balak sends these guys to hire Balaam to use his God-given gift to curse the Israelites. But God says, "Don't go with them, and don't curse them. They are blessed." So Balaam sends them on their way, says, "I can't do it."

Well, Balak sends other guys, more honorable than the first, and he says to Balaam, "Look, maybe you don't understand. I can give you great honor." Those are the very words he used. "I will honor you and give you anything you want." And Balaam says, "Hey, if you gave me this house full of silver and gold, I can't because it won't be on the word of the Lord. I can't do it. But," he says, "You guys just wait here. Maybe God has changed His mind. I'll go pray." He got to thinking about this honor that was being offered him, this gold and silver. And he goes and prays, and God says, "Look, Balaam, only if the men come and call you in the morning… only then go with them. And then, even at that, you can only speak what I say." Well, Balaam gets up in the morning, doesn't wait for them to come, says, "Come on, boys, let's go!" He disobeyed God and went, anyway. And the Bible says the anger of God was aroused against Balaam. Well, Balaam ends up there. They get up on top of a hill. "Look at Israel! There they are!" And Balak says, "All right, curse them." Well, Balaam opens his mouth to curse Israel, and instead blessing comes out. And Balak gets mad, says, "I'm paying you to curse them!" They go to another spot, and Balaam blesses them again. And they go to another spot, and he blesses them a third time. And we pick it up… actually, we'll pass over chapter 22. Look with me at chapter 24. I basically just told you the story I was going to read. It might have been quicker to read it, I don't know. Numbers 24:10, it says, Then Balak's anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, "I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times! "Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the LORD has kept you back from honor." Verse 25, So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way. Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel. Now I'm going to stop. Very interesting. I mean, Balaam wants to curse Israel because he wants the money, he wants the honor, the position, the prestige that Balak has offered him. But he can't do it. And so Balak says, "Just get out of here!" And the next thing we read is Israel, though they couldn't be cursed directly, has been put in a position to curse themselves. These pretty girls from Moab are coming over, getting the Israelite boys involved in sexual sin, and then enticing them to come and to bow down to idols, and the anger of the Lord… instead of the blessing of the Lord… the anger of the Lord is aroused against them. Now I wonder how Balak worked it out. How did he figure out to get Israel into such a position? I mean, he couldn't do it directly. He couldn't get Balaam to curse them. How did Balak come up with such a devious plan? Did you know the Bible tells us that answer? And, interestingly enough, it has to do with Balaam.

Look in the Book of Revelation with me, the last book in your Bible. Revelation, chapter 2, and verse 14. Jesus is speaking to some of His people. Revelation 2:14. Jesus says this: "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality." So apparently Balaam didn't stay at home. He got to thinking about all these rewards he was offered, and he went back to Balak, he said, "Look, God won't let me curse them. But this is what you can do: You need to get some women over there and get those Israelite boys involved in sexual sin, and then you can entice them into idol worship. And then they will be cursed, and then you might be able to overcome them." He caved into the temptation for the wealth and the position that Balak had offered him. And I want to tell you, my brother and sister, be careful of the temptation to compromise for promised honor, position, fame, or wealth because compromise is always a trap that will destroy you. Don't think it can't happen. Balaam was greatly used by God. He was a prophet. In fact, did you know that Balaam is the one that said these words: "God is not a man that He should lie nor the son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and shall He not do it? Has He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" I have preached from those words many a time. Throughout the centuries those words have brought comfort and strength in the faith of believers, and those words fell from the lips of Balaam. Those cherished words of truth about our God. And yet his final epitaph, from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, was one of dishonor and reproach because he compromised. He lost his honor. And now we know Balaam from Revelation 2:14, the last words said about him. Don't compromise in order to obtain some lesser honor or in order to obtain some wealth or position or whatever it is, friend. Now I know when I preach like that somebody will say, "Oh, Pastor Bayless, you are just against prosperity." I'm not. I believe God's people should prosper. And I'll just be frank with you: I want to prosper a whole lot more than I do now. I've got several motives. One, I want to give into the gospel, get it around the world; but, also, just some personal stuff. I've got some friends. There is one friend… I would like to give him twenty thousand bucks to get his teeth fixed. And I would just like to be able to do something like that and not have to think anything about it. Just be able to do it. And I've got some other friends that they could just use a blessing in some areas. I wouldn't mind giving somebody a down payment for a house, some friends that I've had that have always rented a place. I would just love to be able to do that. Frankly, at this point in my life, I'm not able to. And there are some things I would just like, myself. Stuff I want to do for my kids, some dreams I've got for my wife and I, just some things I'd like to be able to do. But, listen: when I get there, I want to have come the right way. I don't want to compromise to get there. So I'm sure not against it. I believe God wants His people to be prospering and to be blessed, but not to compromise along the way. The Bible says in Proverbs that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches and loving favor rather than silver and gold. If you have to compromise your good name or your loving favor to achieve your goals, friend, don't do it. It's not worth it, I don't care how great the promised reward is. It is not worth forfeiting the honor that comes from God. All right, look at one last place with me. First Samuel, chapter 2. We have the story here of Eli the high priest. He's got two boys. Their names are Hophni and Phinehas. Now I don't know why he named them that because one's name in English, the translation means pugilist, somebody that fights with his fists. And the other boy's name means serpent mouth. So those two boys, fist

fighter and serpent mouth, the Bible says they were corrupt, and they did not know the Lord. Now that is not a good thing when the preacher's boys don't know the Lord. And they were stealing the offerings from the Lord's house and enticing the girls in church and apparently even having sexual relationships with them in or around the temple of God, the house of God. Not good news at all. We pick it up in verse 22 of First Samuel 2, and it says, Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people." Everybody is talking about it! "No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD'S people transgress." It was affecting the whole congregation. Verse 25, "If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?" Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them." Or it could be translated because of this or for this reason the Lord desired to kill them. And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men. There is just a contrast: Samuel to Eli's boys. Verse 27, Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire?' In other words, "I have honored you, and I've blessed you." But look at verse 29: 'Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?' Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.' But now the LORD says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.'" All right, this fifth point is this: When we allow our sympathy or our emotional attachment to someone… when we allow that to cause us to lay aside the truth of God, we are in essence honoring those people more than God. And we will eventually lose honor as a result of that. Eli honored his boys above God. He set aside the truth of the qualifications for ministry, even though these boys had disqualified themselves. They are involved in open sin. Yes, he rebuked them, but he didn't do anything after that. He let them continue on. And because of his attachment, "Oh, these are my boys." And because of his own greed, God took away his honor. In fact, both of his boys were killed in one day. The Ark of God was captured. When Eli heard the news about the ark, he fell over backwards and broke his neck, and he died, and his family was forever cut off from serving as priests before the Lord. They lost all honor before God.

When we lay aside God's truth because of our attachment, emotional or sympathetic to someone, we've honored that person more than God. Friend, it's an open door to trouble and The Judgment, for that matter. You have a preacher, divorces his wife, and is remarried again within the week. And people still flock to the meetings. And there is no period of restoration. There is no time of sitting down. I mean, it's like divorce wife… divorce is final on Tuesday, and you are married again on Thursday. And people say, "Well, we love him. We are just supporting him. We believe in his gift." It is good that you love him and support him and believe in his gift. Shouldn't we support him? Yes. Shouldn't we love him? Yes. Shouldn't we believe in him? Yes. But you need to do it while he works at secular employment for a season and goes through a period of restoration with measurable goals. Because to continue to flock and to support it is to lay aside all of God's requirements for ministry that must come first concerning family and concerning home and say, "God, we know better than You, and we just love him, and we want to…" It's honoring that person more than Almighty God who set the rules up, friend. God is smarter than you are, and He is smarter than I am. If a person goes through a period of restoration, hey! Wonderful! It's a good thing. And, I'll tell you, even if it was a situation where someone was divorced against their will… there are few things that will tear the fabric of your life like a divorce, that will turn your life inside out like a divorce. And even if it were something that you were the innocent party in it, there needs to be a season where you get fixed on the inside and you go through a time of restoration where there is accountability and vulnerability with others… before you are even ready to give out. And to lay those Biblical principles aside because of our sympathy or our emotional attachment, friend, is wrong. And it is just like we read in the story here: It is honoring others above God. I think the reason a lot of times people don't want to go through a period of restoration is because it can be slow. And sometimes they will lash out and say, "Well, those people don't know how to walk in love, and they want to take my ministry from me." That's not the case at all, friend. Love can be instantaneous. Forgiveness should have no strings attached. But trust always must be earned. There is a difference between the two. All right, let's say that a person has lost their honor… through what we are talking about here or any other things we've mentioned. How can it be retrieved once it's lost? Number one, first step, is you can't quit. You just need to realize there is hope in God. God is a God of Restoration. That is a marvelous thing about our Creator. God is a restoring God. Secondly, it is important to realize that people don't see like God sees. It's just the cold hard facts. God sees the heart; people have to see fruit. And fruit takes time to grow. And that has to do with the whole restoration thing. Some people have done something, any of these things we've mentioned, they've lost honor; and, man, they would say, "Okay, God, forgive me. I'm forgiven." And they expect everybody else to just place the same honor upon them. It doesn't work that way. And it's a foolish person who bases everything on the first apple the tree produces. Sometimes there has to be several seasons of fruit producing to prove the health of the tree. And you've just got to be patient with people and say, "All right… God, you know my heart. You know I'm changed." But one of the prices you pay is going through this season or time while God restores honor. It is kind of like what Jesus said in Revelation 2, verses 4 and 5. He said, "I've got something against you: You've left our first love. So therefore remember where you have fallen from, repent, and do the first works." Three things Jesus said to do when you have fallen: Remember where you have fallen from, repent, and do the first works. Remember how it used to be. Remember how sweet and clean and pure your relationship with God once was. Remember that innocence

and simplicity you had, and then repent. That is an inward change of heart resulting in an outward change of direction. And then do the first works. Go back and do those simple, basic, innocent things you once did… even if it is picking up that old beat-up guitar and singing, "This little light of mine. I'm going to let it shine." And worshiping Jesus in simplicity like you once did. Even if it's going out on the street and handing out tracts to people like you did when you first fell in love with Jesus, but now you have become a bit of a professional Christian. Go back and do the first things. And I'm telling you, friend, if you will do that, God will bring you back on a pathway of restoration to honor, and your latter end can be better than your beginning because of God's great mercy and His infinite kindness. But you have got to be willing to go His way.
Copyright Bayless Conley © 2003