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Text Sermons : Chuck Smith : Servant Leadership - A Commitment to Holiness

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A certain psychologist has written to me because several Calvary Chapel pastors had gone to him
for counseling. He sought to analyze the problems that they were having and the reasons for the
problems. Many of them were marriage problems. Some of them were pornography problems.
These pastors were willing to go and bare their hearts to the psychologist. He wrote to me and
said, “There are a lot of troubled pastors that maybe you are not aware of, but I see them in my
practice.”
As we got together to plan this conference, I brought a copy of the letter from the psychologist
with me and I gave it to each of the men who had come to help us in the planning of the
conference. We came to the realization that one of the greatest needs that we have is for a real
sense of holiness before the Lord.

There is a danger when we use the term “holiness” because there have been holiness groups and
holiness has been defined in many different ways. So often, holiness is defined as sort of an
outward form of dress or things of that nature. Many times I feel that I am holy because of what I
do not do, rather than truly understanding what holiness is. Holiness is a response of my heart to
the awareness of who God is. And the closer I get to God, the greater the realization of my own
sin, my own sinful state, my worthlessness, and my total dependency upon His grace and upon
His mercy. I realize that I must never presume upon the grace and the mercy of God.

I feel like a father to most of you. I feel like Paul. You are my sons, my “Timothys” in the faith. I
have a heart for you, a concern for you. When one of the pastors falls, my heart breaks and I am
disturbed. Unfortunately, we have had so many this past year who have fallen that we felt it was
important that we talk very straight about these issues and give a warning. We cannot be there
next to you day by day; but we can help set principles, as the Bible gives us certain principles.
Peter said, “And if you do these things, you will never fall” (cf. 2 Peter 1:10). There are
guidelines and principles that we can establish in our lives that will keep us from the edge. I do
not want to live near the edge at all. I am anxious to live close to the center, just as close to God
as I can.

When you are living as close to God as you possibly can, then you are not concerned about where
the edge is. There are so many people who want to live next to the edge. In fact they come to me
all the time with questions—“Can a Christian do this and still be a Christian? Where is the edge?
How close can I get? How much can I dabble? How much can I do? How far can I go and still be
on the safe side?”

A king named Asa in 2 Chronicles had a tremendous encounter in experiencing the delivering
power of God and the victory that God had wrought for them. Coming back flushed with the
victory, the prophet came out to meet them and said unto the king, “The Lord is with you while
you will be with Him” (2 Chronicles 15:2). And yes, the Lord is with us. We have just seen God
work. Oh, it is glorious to have the Lord with us. And if you seek Him He will be found of you.
We sought the Lord and He gave us victory. Glory to God! You are flushed with God’s working.
But then the prophet went on to say, “But if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chronicles
15:2). Maybe Asa was thinking, “Oh well, yes, of course. Thanks but why would I forsake God
after what God has done? Are you kidding? No way! I appreciate the warning, but surely it is not
necessary.”

You have to be careful about that. God is faithful and God warns us. The problem is that many
times we do not feel the warning is necessary. God never warns you unnecessarily, though you
may think so at the time. I have to confess that whenever I have fallen, God was faithful and He
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warned me in advance of the fall. Many times I felt like saying, “Lord, thank You. It was nice of
You, but really, there is no problem there, Lord. I had that area wired a long time ago. I do not
need the warning; but thank You, Lord.” And invariably, when I have ignored the warnings, I
have fallen.

Because of what God had done and because of the excitement over seeing the work of God, they
decided to initiate even further spiritual reforms. Though they had gone through once and
cleansed the land of the high places and the altars of the pagan gods, they went through again to
remove any possible remaining idols or places of worship. They all made a covenant together to
serve the Lord. These were great and exciting times. As a result, God blessed and prospered the
kingdom under Asa. As long as he sought the Lord, God made his ways prosper. God was sought
and found by Asa.

Then we read that in the later years of Asa’s life, the king of Israel decided to invade the kingdom
of Judah. He began to build fortified cities. The purpose was to cut off the supplies coming south
and to set siege against Judah. We read in 2 Chronicles 16 that Asa took money out of the
treasury and sent messengers up to the Syrian king, Ben Haddad. And he said, “We have a
covenant and I want you to attack Israel from the north.” Asa sent money to hire the mercenaries
to invade Israel from the north so that Baasha, the king of Israel, would have to stop the building
of these fortified cities to defend the northern borders. So the Syrian troops attacked the city of
Dan, the northern outpost of Israel. Baasha was forced to take the troops building Ramah and
these fortified cities next to Jerusalem, and send them north to defend the northern borders. King
Asa sent his troops out and they dismantled these fortified cities. They took the materials that
were being used and they reinforced and fortified the cities of Judah. It was a successful, brilliant
strategy, and it worked.

Whenever you have an idea or a brilliant strategy and it works, you feel sort of proud about
yourself. The prophet Hanani came unto Asa and said,

Because you have relied on the king of Syria and not relied on
the Lord your God, therefore the host of the king of Syria
escaped out of your hand. [And he reminded him] In the
beginning of your kingdom, when the Ethiopians came, were
they not a huge host? And you called unto the Lord and the Lord
delivered you. But now, you are not relying on the Lord. Do you
not realize that God is looking throughout the whole world to
find people in harmony with Him that He might bless them? (cf.
2 Chronicles 16:7-9)

Asa’s response was that he was angry with this prophet. He had him thrown in prison. He was in
a rage and he began to oppress some of the people at the same time.

How is it that a man starting out so well, starting out so right, can end up so wrong? It is a tragic
thing, but prosperity is probably one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your
ministry. We all pray for success and for God to prosper our ministries. But the more prosperous
your ministry becomes the greater the danger of no longer trusting and relying on God, like Asa.
Instead you begin to rely upon your devices, your schemes, and the resources that God has begun
to supply you with. There is no longer that sense of the necessity to rely on God. “We have to
trust God. We do not know what else to do. We have written to Calvary Chapel and they cannot
send us any money. What are we going to do? We are going to have to trust God.” That is a good
position to be in. What is so bad about trusting God? What are you telling these people to do all
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the time? It does not hurt us to trust God. It keeps us close. And that time of necessity is a good
time. It is growth time.

God has such a difficult time though, blessing and prospering His people, because it seems like
when the blessings and the prosperity come then we sort of feel independent. Like Asa we start
thinking, “Well, I can take money out of the treasury. I will just send it up to Ben Haddad and
have him send his troops. We do not have to call on the Lord for this one.” Read the tragic story
of Asa. In the end he became diseased in his feet and he sought the aid of physicians who did not
seek the Lord. And Asa died of the diseased feet (2 Chronicles 16:12).

The intimation in the Scripture is that had he sought the Lord, the Lord would have healed him. It
is possible to work with God, to see the power of God, to experience the work and the blessing of
God, to make that commitment, and to feel that you would never, ever, turn away from it. You
think that because of your full, total, long commitment, God blesses you. The church grows.
Things are prospering. In this period somehow we do not feel the same necessity of keeping so
close to God. Somehow we think that we can now do it ourselves and we begin to forsake the
Lord. Before we know it, we are doing things that we never dreamed that we would ever do. We
have been caught in Satan’s grip and with the prosperity and the notoriety have come groupies,
hangers-on, and temptations.

There have been too many pastors who have fallen this past year because somehow, some way,
that commitment to holiness, that commitment to serve God has completely diminished.
Somewhere Satan made an inroad. Somehow Satan got in and destroyed their marriages, and
destroyed their ministries. Thank God He loves His church. The churches are going on. These
pastors have lost everything and they do not know where to go, they do not know what to do.
They are wondering, “Where do I go from here?” God help us. I want to keep you from that place
if possible. I am tired of these guys coming, crying, and repenting. Oh, they have to do that and I
know that, but I do not want to hear it. I would rather hear, “We are just serving the Lord and God
is so good. I am walking close to Him.” I want to hear about continued blessings. I do not want to
hear of the break-ups, of the pain, of the misery, of the hurt, of the lostness when everything has
gone down the tubes.

We have to be on guard because Satan is out to destroy you and he is out to destroy the ministry
that God has given to you. He wants to put you on the shelf. He wants to remove you out of the
loop. You cannot give any foothold. You cannot open the door even slightly. Do not even give
the slightest little opening because he will take it and use it as a beach hold. He will seek to
expand it in your life. You must not open the web to the pornography that is available—not even
out of curiosity. You do not need to know what is there. The Bible tells us to be simple
concerning evil (cf. Romans 16:19). I am not even interested in what might be available to titillate
my senses. That is not my desire. My desire is to live close to God, to walk with Him as closely
as I possibly can.

Paul gives some good rules for a continuous walk. He said, “You are not to walk as the other
gentiles walk” (cf. Ephesians 4:17). You are not to walk as the world. And he seeks to describe
the way the gentiles walk in the vanity or in the emptiness of their minds.

Have you ever noticed how many things of the world are just so mindless? On Halloween I was
watching the news on television and it gave a report about how Halloween was being celebrated
in San Francisco. As you can probably imagine, in San Francisco there were strange people out in
the street with crazy costumes. I saw men out there dancing with tutus and all. That is mindless. I
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mean, who in their right mind would dress up like that and parade in the streets of San Francisco?
That is just mindless.

To be perfectly frank with you, I have a problem with the robes that the Pope wears and his tall
hat, and the Masons who put on their little bit with the robes and costumes. It does not make
sense! People do not seem to stop to consider why they are doing these things. To me it is
mindless.

Isaiah said, “The problem with people is that they do not think.” And that is true of the world—
they do not think. Isaiah said,

They have not known or understood, for God has shut their eyes
that they cannot see, their hearts that they cannot understand.
And none considers in their heart, neither is there knowledge or
understanding to say, “Well, I took this branch of a tree. I burned
part of the branch in the fire to keep the house warm. I put part
of the branch in the oven so I could bake my bread. And then I
took my knife and I carved out a little god from the rest of that
branch. And I covered it with gold and I set it on the table and I
bowed down to it and I said, ‘You are my god.’” [Isaiah said,]
They do not stop to consider that is just a branch of a tree. Part of
it you burned in the oven, or burned in your fireplace to keep
your house warm. Part you put in the oven to bake your bread.
And with part of it you make your god. (cf. Isaiah 44:14-19.)

It is mindless. It does not make sense. When you really look at sin, it does not make sense
because it is so destructive. As someone has shared, we need to stop and consider the possible
consequences when we begin to even entertain sin in our thoughts. Temptation starts with the
thoughts. And then when the will embraces it, you are in trouble.

We need to put up safeguards because we want to continue to be ever closer to the Lord. May you
never be in that state as the Ephesians where you have left your first love or you have grown cold.
May you be ever closer to the Lord.

In Ephesians 4:18, speaking of the gentiles, Paul said that they were walking in the emptiness of
their minds, having their understanding darkened.

In Romans he said,

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Their
foolish hearts were darkened because the god of this world
blinded their eyes. Because they did not want to retain God in
their mind, God gave them over to reprobate minds. (cf. Romans
1:21-22)

The world does not stop to think. Being alienated from the life of God through the mindless
ignorance that is in them, they are living in that fallen state of the two-dimensional man—body
and mind. The mind is absorbed only with the body and there is no awareness or consciousness of
God. And thus, they are dead in their trespasses and sins.

Jesus said,
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Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the
blind lead the blind, both fall in the ditch. (Matthew 15:14 )

Paul gives us the key:

That you put off concerning the former manner of living, the old
man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. (cf.
Ephesians 4:22)

Lust is so deceitful. The mind is where things seem to start. The genesis of sin begins so many
times in the imagination. You begin to fantasize, and the problem with fantasy is that it can never
be fulfilling. Reality is never as exciting as fantasy. Fantasy is exciting but reality is always
disappointing. You were hoping, you were dreaming, you were thinking that it was going to bring
so much more than it does. Lust is a deceiving thing. To give into it is not going to bring you all
that you were thinking, hoping, and believing that it was going to do. It was a sham. So we “put
off the former manner of life which was corrupt according to the deceitful lust.”

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, that you might put on
the new man. (cf. Ephesians 4:23-24)

So, here is the thing with holiness: it is not only what you don’t do, but it is also what you do
(emphasis added). In other words, there is the negative and the positive side to holiness. Too
many times we only hear the negative side of holiness emphasized. When we were kids growing
up, we used to recite, “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do.” That was
our way of saying, “I am holy.” Holiness is far more than just what I do not do; it is what I am
doing.

We put off, but then we put on. Paul said,

You put on the new man, which after God is created in
righteousness and true holiness. (cf. Ephesians 4:24)

It is not true holiness until you “put on” the positive aspects.

He goes on to say, “Therefore, put away lying.” That is the negative side. What is the positive
side? “Speak every man the truth with his neighbor.” The negative is put off lying, but you do not
stop there. You begin to speak the truth every man with his neighbor (cf. Ephesians 4:25).

In (Ephesians 4:28), he said, “If you have been stealing, do not steal anymore” (paraphrased).
That is the negative side. The positive side is: “But rather, let him labor, working with his hands
the things which are good that he might have to give to those who are in need” (paraphrased).

It is more than just not stealing—it is getting a job so that I can help provide for those that are in
need, so that I can give.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, [That
is negative.] but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it
might minister grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

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It is not just that I quit telling dirty jokes and corrupt communication and so forth. The positive
side is that I am ministering to people when I speak to them. I seek to say those things that are
going to edify them, build them up, and enrich them in the things of the Lord in order to draw
them closer to Him.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put
away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31, NKJV)

That is negative. Put those things away and do not do that anymore. But the positive side is:

Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you. (Ephesians
4:32)

Holiness is not just what I don’t do anymore; it is what I am doing now, as I walk close to God
and I seek to emulate God in all things.

We sang the lyrics, “Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy.” How do we do this? We
accomplish this by getting close to God. Our God is a consuming fire and the closer you get to
Him, the more the junk, the dross, and the chaff will be consumed.

Draw close to God. Live close to God. Give no occasion to the enemy. Do not open the door even
a crack. Make that a purpose of your heart. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile
himself with the king’s meat. Make that the purpose of your heart. “I am not going to be defiled. I
am going to live holy. I am going to live for God. I am going to live a committed life. I am not
going to give any place for the enemy to come in.”

God has been good to us. I look around at the ministries and I see what God is doing, what God
has done, and I am overwhelmed. I know that it has just got to be a work of God. Man could not
do it. It is God’s work. We have had the joy and the blessing of seeing God give great victories,
but let’s not become complacent. Let’s not begin to rest upon the prosperity that God has given.
Let’s not begin to look to these things for security, but may we continue to look to the Lord and
trust in the Lord. Let’s not follow the pattern of other movements of God. God help us.

If you look at history you get extremely discouraged because there have been other great
movements of God throughout history. What happened to Asa is a pattern of movements of God
throughout history. They started out right. “You did start well. What did hinder you?” Paul said to
the Galatians, “Oh foolish Galatians, having begun in the Spirit are you going to be made perfect
in the flesh?” (cf. Galatians 3:3). Guard yourself. Keep yourself. Satan is out to destroy you. He is
out to destroy the work of God. And Paul said, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2
Corinthians 2:11). Well, I think sometimes we are. He speaks about the wiles of the devil. He is a
wily guy and he can come in where you are least expecting it. Keep close to God, as close as you
can. God will give you the wisdom that you need. God will give you the discernment that you
need. And Satan will not have a chance as long as you are close to God. It is when you begin to
drift that he moves in.

I think of when the sons of God were presenting themselves to God and Satan also came with
them and God said, “Oh where have you been?” Satan said, “Oh, I have been going up and down
throughout the earth, to and fro through it.” God said to him, “Have you considered My servant
Job? He is a good man, a perfect man. He loves God; he hates evil. Have you considered My
servant Job?” The word “considered” in the Hebrew, is a military term. It is a word that is used to
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describe a general studying a city to develop a strategy for attacking. “Have you been studying
that fellow Job? Are you looking for the weakness, looking for the place to attack?” And Satan’s
awesome response is “Yes, I have been studying him I am sure I found the place of weakness.
Does Job serve You for nothing? Look at how You have blessed him. Anybody would serve You
if You blessed him like You have blessed Job” (cf. Job 1:6-9).

Satan has been studying this movement, you can be sure of that. And as God begins to bless your
ministry, he is going to start studying you to develop the strategies to seek to destroy. These are
the wiles of the devil. Satan has desired you that he might sift you as wheat. Stay close to Jesus.
He said, “Peter, I have prayed for you” (cf. Luke 22:31-32). Stay close to Him. We do not have to
go the way of all movements. We do not have to turn to the flesh to be perfected. We can
continue in the Spirit. We must continue in the Spirit, or else the day will come when “Ichabod”
will be written over our doors and God will look for another group to use and to bless. Keep
yourselves in the love of God. Keep yourself in that place where God can continue to do what He
longs to do through you and in you. Do not let Satan put you on the ash heap wondering what
happened.

Father, we thank You for Your Word that is a guide to our lives.
May we follow after it, Lord, diligently. Lord, we look at this
past year and we see how Satan has come into the ranks. We see
those who have been put on the sidelines and are sitting there
just wondering what they are going to do next. How can they get
back in the mainstream? Lord, it hurts to see the pain that they
are going through. Lord, keep us. Help us. Lord, shake us. Do
whatever is necessary. Help us, Lord, because You have told us
to keep ourselves. And so, with Your help, with Your strength,
with the power of Your Spirit, may we keep ourselves close to
You. In the name of Jesus we pray, Father. Amen.






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