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← Spiritual Stability - Nathan Rages

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Showing Revision 31 created 05/06/2018 by Carrie Spradlin.

  1. Well, let's pray.
  2. Heavenly Father,
  3. how good it is
  4. to be gathered with the saints
  5. on the Lord's day.
  6. To be able to look around the room
  7. and even though I don't know
    a lot of people here,
  8. to know that I belong
  9. among the saints;
  10. that I'm part of Your people.
  11. Lord, we're glad to be gathered
  12. among the precious saints of God.
  13. We're glad to worship
    the Lord Jesus Christ today.
  14. We're glad to lift up His name.
  15. We're glad to exult
  16. in the gospel of our salvation.
  17. We thank You for the blood
  18. and righteousness of the Lord Jesus
  19. in which we place our only hope
  20. for time and eternity.
  21. Lord, we thank You for Your
    Word that You've given us.
  22. And we thank You for the Holy Spirit.
  23. And we pray for the
    help of the Spirit today
  24. that the Spirit may apply the Word;
  25. that He might give us understanding;
  26. that He might open our eyes
  27. to spiritual reality in some way.
  28. Lord, for each one, that
    You'd have something for us
  29. from this particular hour.
  30. Oh Father,
  31. our eyes are upon You,
  32. and our confidence is in You today.
  33. Glorify Thyself, we ask.
  34. In Jesus' name we pray.
  35. Amen.
  36. Well, I remember back,
    I guess a few months ago

  37. when things started brewing
  38. between Evan and Charity.
  39. I did have the thought:
  40. "Well, maybe this will be the year
  41. we'll finally make it down
    and visit San Antonio."
  42. And sure enough, in the
    providence of God, here we are.
  43. So glad to be able to be here today.
  44. To be among you precious
    brothers and sisters
  45. to worship the Lord Jesus.
  46. I suspect most of us here would
    say that we're Christians.
  47. And so, I'd ask you that are Christians
  48. to participate in a little exercise
  49. with me this morning,
    right at the beginning.
  50. Over here, I know you all
    have a screen used for songs.
  51. Imagine that projected on that screen
  52. was a chart of your Christian life.
  53. On the left side, beginning
    when you were converted
  54. all the way over to the
    right side being today.
  55. And there's a squiggly line on there
  56. representing your sanctification.
  57. Your growth in grace.
  58. Your relationship with the
    Lord Jesus over time.
  59. I'm asking you to
    imagine that for yourself.
  60. Everybody's got a different chart, right?
  61. Our lives have been unique -
  62. our walk with the Lord.
  63. What does your chart
    look like this morning?
  64. What does your chart look like?
  65. Now some of you are going to have a line
  66. that just kind of steadily
    goes up over time.
  67. That's really great!
  68. Praise the Lord if that's the case.
  69. Some of you might have a chart
    where the line starts upward
  70. for a little ways,
  71. and then just falls off
    the table and disappears.
  72. That's really bad.
  73. You're probably not even
    a Christian in that case.
  74. But then I suspect a
    bunch of us have a chart
  75. where the line is really jagged.
  76. It's up and down, and up
    and down, up and down.
  77. Peaks and valleys, hit and miss,
  78. herky-jerky.
  79. Wild, volatile swings.
  80. At times, you're a blazing
    fireball of zeal for Jesus,
  81. and other times
  82. you're down in the dumps of depression
  83. and disobedience and unbelief.
  84. Or just think about, more recently
    in your Christian life.
  85. Just think the last year or two.
  86. How consistent has your walk with
    the Lord been recently?
  87. I want to speak to you this morning
    on the subject of spiritual stability.

  88. Or the long title would be:
  89. "The Underappreciated
    Virtue of Spiritual Stability."
  90. Stability in the Christian life.
  91. I mean we usually appreciate steadiness,
  92. consistency, stability,
  93. in other areas of life, don't we?
  94. We like to have a spouse
  95. that's really stable and loyal
  96. from day to day.
  97. We like to have co-workers at our
    jobs that are that way.
  98. That are consistent,
    steady, reliable, stable.
  99. We even appreciate this
    in ball-players, don't we?
  100. That they're stable and consistent.
  101. You know, just a few years ago we lauding
  102. Cal Ripken Jr. and then Brett Favre
  103. for their steaks of
    consecutive games played.
  104. Just the fact they played so
    many games in a row.
  105. That was a big deal.
  106. We appreciate it in those fields.
  107. This message is about
    how we should strive
  108. for those same qualities
  109. in our Christian walk.
  110. Let me describe a certain type of brother,

  111. I imagine you have many in the church
  112. here in San Antonio.
  113. He's a brother that seems
    like a pretty ordinary man.
  114. An ordinary sort of job.
  115. Ordinary sort of family.
  116. He's a guy who does not
    do open-air preaching.
  117. He is not a foreign missionary.
  118. He's not a theology expert.
  119. He maybe doesn't say a whole lot
  120. in your church meetings even.
  121. But listen.
  122. Listen, this brother,
  123. he reads his well-marked
    Bible through every year.
  124. Every morning, you can
    find him alone with God
  125. pouring out his heart in prayer.
  126. He shows up at just about every
    single church meeting
  127. he can possibly be at.
  128. He wants to be there!
  129. He wants to be an
    encouragement to the brethren
  130. without causing trouble.
  131. He's generous, he's helpful
  132. in every way he can be.
  133. His family is a joy to be around!
  134. He walks with God with a clear conscience
  135. from day to day.
  136. I tell you there is glory
  137. in that ordinary brother's life.
  138. There is great grace from God in his life.
  139. What is it? He's stable.
  140. He's consistent.
  141. He's pressing on!
    He's enduring.
  142. He's running the race
  143. with endurance to the end.
  144. That's what we're talking about today.
  145. Praise God for that grace!
  146. Some of you here

  147. are maybe like that brother.
  148. Maybe some of you
    are actually discouraged;
  149. actually thinking,
  150. "Well, this year looks an
    awful lot like last year.
  151. There's not a lot of big
    things changing here!"
  152. Well, maybe this message
    can encourage you.
  153. It's a good thing to be stable
  154. in your walk with Jesus.
  155. Or maybe the other hand,
  156. some of you here are unstable unbelievers.
  157. Maybe everything spiritual for you
  158. is all hit and miss, herky-jerky.
  159. Up and down, hot and cold, inconsistent.
  160. And you realize,
    "Yeah, that's a need in my life!"
  161. Well, we're going to talk about
    some ways to get better at that -
  162. to become a more stable Christian,
  163. in you're walk with the Lord.
  164. So, there's just so much Scripture on this
  165. and you start looking for it,
    it's like, there's all these different
  166. Bible verses really pointing
    at this basic thought.
  167. But, I'm just going to look today with
    you at a few Scriptures
  168. and along the way I want to point out
  169. seven characteristics
    of stable Christians.
  170. So let's start by turning to Psalm 1.

  171. The first psalm. Psalm 1:1.
  172. "How blessed is the man
  173. who does not walk in
    the counsel of the wicked,
  174. nor stand in the path of sinners,
  175. nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
  176. but his delight is in the law of the Lord.
  177. and in His law, he
    meditates day and night.
  178. He will be like a tree,
  179. firmly planted by streams of water
  180. which yields its fruit in its season,
  181. and its leaf does not wither.
  182. And in whatever he does, he prospers.
  183. The wicked are not so.
  184. But they are like chaff,
    which the wind drives away.
  185. Therefore the wicked will
    not stand in the judgment,
  186. nor sinners in the
    assembly of the righteous,
  187. for the Lord knows
    the way of the righteous,
  188. but the path of the wicked will perish."
  189. So the righteous man here is
    described in verse 3 as what?

  190. He's described as a tree -
  191. a tree planted by streams of water.
  192. A tree with roots that go down
  193. into that perpetually moist soil
  194. around that stream.
  195. He's always nourished from that water
  196. that's coming past all the time.
  197. He is stable and he's thriving there!
  198. By contrast, we have
    the wicked in verse 4.
  199. It says, "They're like the chaff
  200. that the wind drives away."
  201. What a picture. Just little dry husks.
  202. The wind just drives it away.
  203. It's a contrast, isn't it?
  204. Between the stability of the
    righteous man, like the tree,
  205. and the chaos of the lost man.
  206. If you are not a Christian today,
    this is how God pictures your life!
  207. This is reality for you!
  208. You're like chaff that
    the wind drives away.
  209. There is no stability
    outside of Jesus Christ.
  210. That's the big problem in your life!
  211. You need to know Jesus!
  212. You need to become a Christian.
  213. And turn from your sin,
  214. put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  215. You can be like this tree.
  216. Well, what can we learn from this picture

  217. then about spiritual stability?
  218. Well, the first thing to point out
  219. is that stable Christians are fruitful.
  220. Stable Christians are fruitful.
  221. This tree isn't just there,
  222. but it's a fruitful tree, right?
  223. Verse 3 says,
  224. "It yields its fruit in its season."
  225. And then it says, "In whatever he does,
  226. he prospers."
  227. So, there's life. There's growth.
  228. There's fruitfulness.
  229. There's progress happening
  230. in the life of this saint.
  231. Fruitfulness. What does fruitfulness
  232. look like in our lives as believers?
  233. I assume the first text we
    think of in that regard
  234. is Galatians 5.
  235. The fruit of the Spirit, right?
  236. These character qualities
  237. that the Spirit produces within believers.
  238. The fruit of the Spirit is love,
  239. joy, peace, patience, kindness,
  240. goodness, faithfulness,
  241. gentleness, self-control.
  242. The stable Christian
  243. will be producing more love,
  244. more joy, more peace, and so on.
  245. Will be producing these
    character qualities
  246. in their life.
  247. But you know, it's also biblical

  248. to think of our fruitfulness
  249. in terms of what we do;
  250. in terms of our service to the Lord -
  251. what we do for Him.
  252. The Apostle Paul says in
    1 Corinthians 15:58 -
  253. that last verse in that long chapter -
  254. he says, "Therefore, my brothers,
  255. be steadfast, immovable,
  256. always abounding in the work of the Lord."
  257. You see how he combines the two thoughts
  258. of stability on the one hand
  259. and fruitfulness on the other.
  260. Be steadfast and immovable
  261. that you might be abounding
  262. in the work of the Lord.
  263. You see at times ministry,
  264. at times service to the Lord,
  265. there's times it's not as fun
  266. as other times.
  267. There's times where
    you're discouraged, right?
  268. And you think, what's the use?
  269. Why are we messing around with this?
  270. And you start casting your eyes about
  271. at different greener pastures perhaps.
  272. Well, very often, the right
    answer is just be stable.
  273. Just be where you're at.
  274. Just be fruitful right there
  275. where God has you in that place.
  276. I thought too of this application.

  277. And I don't know how it
    is here in your church,
  278. but I know in many churches,
  279. there's some young men
  280. that have thoughts -
  281. I was in this spot once -
  282. have these thoughts about,
  283. maybe I'm going to be
    a preacher someday.
  284. Maybe the Lord is calling me
  285. to some kind of ministry work
  286. in the future.
  287. If you're in that spot;
  288. if anybody's here in that spot,
  289. my question to you, brother,
  290. is how stable is your Christian life?
  291. How stable is your basic walk
  292. with the Lord Jesus?
  293. If it's all up and down;
  294. if it's unstable,
  295. you're not going to be
    producing much fruit.
  296. And that instability of your life
  297. is going to hold you back
  298. from doing all this stuff for the Lord
  299. that you imagine yourself doing.
  300. It's going to hold you back way more
  301. than your Greek skills will hold you back
  302. or your ability to cobble
    together a sermon
  303. will hold you back.
  304. Is your walk with the Lord stable?
  305. Is it consistent?
  306. Is it solid like this fruitful tree here?
  307. Well, the second thing we see here

  308. about stable Christians
  309. is that they avoid bad influences.
  310. You see that in verse 1.
  311. It says, "How blessed is the man
  312. who does not walk in the
    counsel of the wicked,
  313. or stand in the path of sinners,
  314. or sit in the seat of scoffers."
  315. You see, if you want to be a stable,
  316. fruitful Christian,
  317. you've got to be careful
  318. about who is influencing you.
  319. We are all affected by
    the people around us,
  320. the friends we have,
  321. the things we're listening to,
  322. the things we're taking in from the media,
  323. the entertainment stuff
  324. that we're into,
  325. the websites we read.
  326. We're affected by all these things.
  327. The Bible talks about it a bunch of places
  328. and it can affect the stability
  329. of your walk with the Lord.
  330. If you've got bad influences,
  331. it can cause you to doubt God.
  332. It can cause you to become discontent.
  333. It can defile your
    conscience with foul stuff.
  334. It can cause a worldly way of thinking
  335. to begin to influence you
  336. and change how you think
  337. about spiritual things.
  338. It makes a difference for us.
  339. You start to lose touch
    with spiritual reality
  340. and before long,
  341. the chart over there
    kind of takes a nosedive.
  342. Why? You're hanging out
    with scoffers too much.
  343. It's affecting you.
  344. And so in order to become
    more spiritually stable,
  345. you might have to cut off certain things -
  346. certain habits where you say
  347. this is not good for my soul.
  348. I need to change this.
  349. And so you maybe lay aside -
  350. maybe you have to lay aside some friends
  351. or some of the media you consume.
  352. Of course, we want to be
    evangelizing lost people.
  353. That's what people say.
  354. I want to witness to my lost friends.
  355. And of course, we want to be doing that.
  356. Jesus hung out with sinners
  357. that He might witness to them.
  358. The crucial thing is who is
    influencing who in this deal.
  359. Be careful.
  360. Maybe scoffers are
    influencing you too much
  361. rather than vice versa.
  362. There's actually a similar thought to this

  363. over in Proverbs 24:21.
  364. It says, "My son, fear
    the Lord and the king.
  365. Do not associate with those
  366. who are given to change."
  367. Interesting verse.
  368. Do not associate with those
  369. given to change.
  370. Who are these people given to change?
  371. Well, it's unstable people.
  372. It's up and down people.
  373. Have you noticed this often?
  374. That unstable people tend to gravitate
  375. towards other unstable people?
  376. And they don't help each other very much.
  377. It's so much better;
  378. so much better if the shaky person
  379. would seek out the solid, mature saints,
  380. like that brother I
    described at the beginning.
  381. Maybe he's not the
    coolest guy in the church,
  382. but if you'd seek him out;
  383. if you'd hang out with him,
  384. you could learn a lot.
  385. He'd be really good for your soul
  386. in a lot of ways.
  387. A third thing about stable Christians

  388. is that they are consistent
  389. in spiritual disciplines.
  390. Look at verse 2.
  391. It says of this stable saint,
  392. it says, "his delight is
    in the law of the Lord
  393. and in His law, he
    meditates day and night."
  394. This guy's in the Bible, isn't he?
  395. He's in the Bible.
  396. I mean, we're happy to get somebody
  397. reading the Bible once a day.
  398. This guy's in it day and night.
  399. I mean, his life is saturated
  400. with the Scriptures.
  401. Now, there are Christians -
  402. maybe there's some even here -
  403. who if you had to give a report publicly
  404. of your Bible reading over the last year,
  405. you'd be ashamed.
  406. You'd be ashamed for others to know
  407. your own Bible reading.
  408. Maybe you go days at a time
  409. and don't read anything at all.
  410. And maybe it's just
    kind of this haphazard,
  411. just sort of jump around
    here and there in the Word.
  412. I was that way for awhile in my life.
  413. I know there were seasons like that.
  414. And you know what was
    going on during those seasons?
  415. The chart was looking real bad.
  416. It was going down.
  417. When you're inconsistent in the Word,
  418. it's like everything else suffers.
  419. Brethren, there's some of you
  420. that haven't read certain wonderful books
  421. of the Old Testament
  422. since the Bush Administration
    or something.
  423. There's wonderful things in that Bible.
  424. If we don't see them regularly,
  425. we forget they're there.
  426. There's just riches in God's Word.
  427. But look at this guy in Psalm 1.

  428. It's not just that he's disciplined,
  429. but he's also delighting, right?
  430. Those are the two things
    you have to hold on to, right?
  431. Both discipline and delight.
  432. Verse 2, "his delight
  433. is in the law of the Lord."
  434. How is it that he's able
    to enjoy the Bible?
  435. It says, "in His law, he
    meditates day and night."
  436. I think that's the key to it.
  437. He's meditating on the Word.
  438. He's not just grinding along.
  439. "I'm going to read my two chapters today."
  440. Not just reading across
    the tops of the words,
  441. like we often do,
  442. but he's meditating on the Word.
  443. He's stopping. He's praying over it.
  444. He's seeking to apply it to himself.
  445. He's seeking to obey the Word of God.
  446. He's meditating on it,
  447. and it's become his delight now.
  448. And now he can't get enough of it.
  449. He's soaking in the Word day and night.
  450. It's a wonderful picture here.
  451. The daily feeding on Scripture.
  452. It's like the streams of water
  453. that keep supplying this tree
  454. that's planted by the stream.
  455. Now, I know Psalm 1 here -

  456. it's just talking about
    consistency in the Bible,
  457. but could we broaden
    the application a little bit
  458. and just include spiritual
    disciplines generally?
  459. I assume you guys are familiar
  460. with Don Whitney's book
    on spiritual disciplines?
  461. Really, a fine, helpful work.
  462. I think he covers like
    a dozen things in there.
  463. I mean, who's going to keep
    track of a dozen things?
  464. I tend to talk about three things
  465. with the guys in our church,
  466. if you'll do these three things,
  467. you're probably going
    to be pretty solid:
  468. Bible, prayer, and church.
    Bible, prayer, and church.
  469. If you're in the Bible every day,
  470. if you have a time of private prayer -
  471. real private prayer,
  472. not just saying a couple
    sentences in the car,
  473. but real private prayer with God -
  474. and then thirdly, if you're involved
  475. in church life an a thorough,
  476. healthy way,
  477. if you do those three things consistently,
  478. you'll probably grow like crazy.
  479. There's great grace that comes
  480. through just doing
    the basic means of grace
  481. that God has given to us.
  482. So, anyway, this fellow in Psalm 1,
  483. he's consistent in
    the spiritual disciplines.
  484. A fourth thing about stable Christians

  485. is that they can
    handle the trials of life.
  486. And I get that from verse 3
  487. where it says that,
  488. "its leaf does not wither."
  489. Its leaf does not wither.
  490. So picture this time of terrible drought
  491. in the land,
  492. and all around this tree,
  493. there are plants that are withering.
  494. There are even trees that
    are dropping their leaves
  495. and about to die.
  496. It's a bad scene out there.
  497. And then you look over at this tree
  498. by the water,
  499. and he's still doing just fine.
  500. His leaves aren't dropping.
  501. His leaves aren't even withering.
  502. He's continuing to thrive
  503. in the midst of the drought.
  504. There in Jeremiah,
  505. the prophet uses a really
    similar picture to this.
  506. I'll just read it - Jeremiah 17:7.
  507. He says, "Blessed is the man
  508. who trusts in the Lord,
  509. for he will be like a tree
    planted by the water
  510. that extends its roots by a stream
  511. and will not fear when the heat comes,
  512. but its leaves will be green;
  513. it will not be anxious
    in a year of drought
  514. nor cease to yield fruit."
  515. That's it exactly.
  516. The tree that's stable
  517. can handle the drought;
  518. can handle the hard times,
  519. the trials of life.
  520. See, spiritual stability is not the idea
  521. of, well, I'm doing okay now,
  522. and I'll do okay as long
    as nothing bad happens.
  523. See, that won't get you very far
  524. because bad stuff is going to happen.
  525. It's promised to us.
  526. There will be tribulation.
  527. There will be hard trials.
  528. A verse on that - 1 Thessalonians 3:3.
  529. Paul says, "that no man may be
  530. disturbed by these afflictions,
  531. for you yourselves know
  532. we've been destined for this."
  533. He says you've been destined - for what?
  534. Destined for afflictions.
  535. He says I'm telling you this so that
  536. you'll not be disturbed by them;
  537. you'll not be destabilized
  538. by the afflictions when they come.
  539. I'm telling you in advance,
  540. you're destined for this
  541. that the Lord might sustain you
  542. when it arises.
  543. You see this sometimes though.

  544. Somebody seems to be a Christian;
  545. they seem to be doing okay,
  546. but some crisis happens.
  547. Something happens in their family.
  548. Something happens with their kids
  549. or their job or something,
  550. and it's like they just fall apart.
  551. You know, they start missing meetings,
  552. stop communicating, become distant
  553. and disappear.
  554. It doesn't have to be that way.
  555. Psalm 55:22 is such a wonderful promise.
  556. Do you know this promise?
  557. It says, "Cast your burden upon the Lord
  558. and He will sustain you.
  559. He will never allow the righteous
  560. to be shaken."
  561. So here's this burden, right?
  562. Here's this problem
  563. that is weighing down on you.
  564. What does it say to do?
  565. It says cast your burden upon the Lord.
  566. Put it upon Him.
  567. Lord, You take it.
  568. I can't handle this, Lord.
    I'm putting it on You.
  569. I'm trusting You with this.
  570. And then the promise
  571. that He'll not allow
    you to be shaken by it;
  572. the promise that He will sustain you
  573. in that trial.
  574. Stability, consistency, fruitfulness
  575. can continue right through the trial.
  576. And you know how it is
    with many Christians.
  577. Their life becomes sweeter
  578. and more fruitful
  579. as they go through hard things.
  580. There's more glory to God
  581. coming from those times.
  582. God is sustaining them.
  583. Similar verse - Psalm 112:6
  584. says, "For he will never be shaken;
  585. the righteous will be remembered forever.
  586. He will not fear evil tidings.
  587. His heart is steadfast
    trusting in the Lord.
  588. His heart is upheld.
  589. He will not fear."
  590. Just saying it again and again,
  591. God will sustain you.
  592. You don't have to be shaken by this.
  593. You can be steadfast and stable
  594. through the trial
  595. because God is sustaining you in it.
  596. That's spiritual stability.
  597. That's encouraging, isn't it.
  598. So that's four things from this psalm,
  599. but I'd like to add a few more thoughts
  600. if I could from the New Testament
  601. and kind of build this
    out a little further.
  602. A fifth thing that we see -

  603. a fifth characteristic
    of stable Christians
  604. is that they embrace sound doctrine.
  605. Stable Christians embrace sound doctrine.
  606. Truth is a big deal.
  607. Maybe we could turn in the New Testament
  608. to Ephesians 4.
  609. Ephesians 4 is talking about
  610. at the beginning of the chapter
  611. about how Christ has given gifts
  612. to all these preachers
  613. for the building up of the body of Christ
  614. that we might become a mature man,
  615. it says in verse 13.
  616. And then the next verse, verse 14,
  617. he says, "As a result..."
  618. So, as a result of these ministries
  619. of teaching and proclaiming truth to us,
  620. enabling us to become mature -
  621. as a result of that,
  622. Ephesians 4:14,
  623. "We are no longer to be children
  624. tossed here and there by waves
  625. and carried about
  626. by every wind of doctrine,
  627. by the trickery of men,
  628. by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
  629. But speaking the truth in love,
  630. we are to grow up in all aspects
  631. into Him who is the Head,
  632. even Christ."
  633. What imagery this is in verse 14!
  634. Children, tossed here and there by waves;
  635. carried about by every wind of doctrine.
  636. I picture little kids in a rubber raft
  637. out in some storm at sea or something.
  638. It just is this horrible, scary position.
  639. I mean, they're just
    being blown everywhere.
  640. They can't do anything about it.
  641. They're up and down
    and all over the place.
  642. And there's people
    whose lives are that way
  643. because they're not grounded in truth.
  644. See, the issue here is truth.
  645. It's sound teaching.
  646. It's truth that will settle us down
  647. and make us stable.
  648. Hebrews 13:9 says,
  649. "Do not be carried away
  650. by varied and strange teachings."
  651. Carried away.
  652. Drawn off course by varied
  653. and strange teachings.
  654. Have you met a Christian before
  655. that seems pretty solid,
  656. seems to love the Lord a lot,
  657. but they have this strange teaching?
  658. It's like there's this one
    thing that's just weird
  659. that they're into.
  660. And that one thing never
    helps them, does it?
  661. They think it's a big deal,
  662. but it's not helping them.
  663. It's drawing them off course.
  664. It's getting them away from
    the things that matter -
  665. Christ and Him crucified,
  666. the gospel essentials.
  667. Varied and strange teaching.
  668. When the Apostle Peter warns
  669. about false teachers, he says
  670. in 2 Peter 2 - he says that they entice
  671. unstable souls.
  672. He says false teachers are actually
  673. looking for unstable people
  674. and they prey upon them.
  675. So the person that's unstable
  676. because they don't have truth,
  677. now the false teacher comes after you
  678. and now you get worse.
  679. It's like this downward spiral into error.
  680. Fearful picture.
  681. Peter says something
    similar in the next chapter.

  682. We probably ought to turn over to this.
  683. This is 2 Peter 3:15.
  684. 2 Peter 3:15.
  685. So here Peter is talking about
  686. these letters from our
    beloved brother Paul.
  687. And he mentions in verse 16
  688. that in his letters are some things
  689. hard to understand,
  690. and we know what he's talking about there.
  691. We've encountered some of those things
  692. in Paul's letters that are
    hard to understand.
  693. But what he has to
    say is really very serious.
  694. It says, "Which the untaught
  695. and unstable distort."
  696. Untaught and unstable.
  697. That always goes together -
  698. just about always goes
    together, doesn't it?
  699. Untaught people tend
    to be unstable people.
  700. And what do they do?
  701. Well, the verb is distort.
  702. They distort those difficult things
  703. as they do also the
    rest of the Scriptures.
  704. So, they're distorting Scripture.
  705. The untaught person;
  706. the spiritually unstable person;
  707. the person not grounded in truth,
  708. they're distorting the Bible.
  709. They're taking it out of its
    proper proportion, right?
  710. They're majoring on minor stuff often.
  711. And it's like why do you
    think that's a big deal?
  712. Can't you see the big
    picture looks like this?
  713. It's distorted. It's twisted.
  714. But the consequence
    of this is big, isn't it?
  715. It says, "to their own destruction,"
  716. at the end of verse 16.
  717. It's not just their
    theology's a little wrong,
  718. but no, they can be destroyed
  719. for distorting the Scripture,
  720. not understanding truth.
  721. And then he goes on in verse 17,
  722. "you therefore, beloved,
  723. knowing this beforehand,
  724. be on your guard."
  725. He says we need to be careful about this.
  726. "Being carried away by the error
  727. of unprincipled men,
  728. you fall from your own steadfastness."
  729. It's like you think you're solid.
  730. You think you're doing well now.
  731. Well, just be careful,
  732. you don't get enticed
  733. by some of this false teaching out here
  734. and you lose your own steadfastness.
  735. You can be steadfast and then lose it
  736. when you get into error.
  737. That's what he's warning against.
  738. So truth matters, right,
  739. you cannot separate good doctrine
  740. from right living.
  741. The more grounded in truth you are
  742. the more stable and consistent
  743. your Christian life ought to be.
  744. Well, that leads us to a sixth thing

  745. about stable Christians,
  746. and that is that stable Christians
  747. resist the devil
  748. with the whole armor of God.
  749. Stable Christians will resist the devil
  750. through the whole armor of God.
  751. See, there's things that come at us
  752. to try to destabilize us.
  753. So false teaching tries to do that.
  754. Trials seek to do that.
  755. Well, here's one more. Here's the devil.
  756. The devil's coming at us
  757. to try to destabilize us;
    to knock us down;
  758. to make the chart go crazy.
  759. Ephesians 6. Let's just
    read that paragraph
  760. about the armor.
  761. Ephesians 6, and as we read this,
  762. I want you to look for all the references
  763. to stability in these familiar verses.
  764. Ephesians 6:10, he says,

  765. "Finally, be strong in the Lord..."
  766. Be strong.
  767. "...And in the strength of His might.
  768. Put on the full armor of God
  769. that you may be able to stand firm..."
  770. There's the stability term.
  771. "...Stand firm against the
    schemes of the devil.
  772. For our struggle is not
    against flesh and blood,
  773. but against the rulers,
    against the powers,
  774. against the world forces
    of this darkness,
  775. against spiritual forces
    of wickedness
  776. in the heavenly places.
  777. Therefore take up the full armor of God
  778. that you may be able
    to resist in the evil day
  779. having done everything to stand firm.
  780. Stand firm therefore,
  781. having girded your loins with truth;
  782. having put on the
    breastplate of righteousness;
  783. having shod your feet with the preparation
  784. of the gospel of peace,
  785. in addition to all,
  786. taking up the shield of faith
  787. with which you'll be able to extinguish
  788. all the flaming missiles of the evil one.
  789. And take the helmet of salvation
  790. and the sword of the Spirit
  791. which is the Word of God."
  792. So the devil is constantly attacking us.
  793. He's trying to destabilize us with lies,
  794. with slanders, with temptations,
  795. with all sorts of unbelieving
    thoughts and ideas.
  796. However he can get those into our heads.
  797. Ultimately, he's trying
    to make us casualties.
  798. He's trying to get
    you off the battlefield.
  799. He's trying to destroy your soul.
  800. Christ on the other hand,
  801. He wants us to stand firm
  802. against the devil's schemes.
  803. To resist. Resist him.
  804. Resist the doubts and temptations.
  805. How are we going to do that?
  806. Verse 13, "Take up the full armor of God."
  807. The full armor.
  808. I emphasize that "full" part.
  809. We're not going to go through,
  810. we don't have time to go through
  811. each of the parts of the
    armor that he mentions here.
  812. The point is that God has
    given us the equipment.
  813. God has given us sufficient means
  814. whereby we don't have
    to be exposed to him.
  815. When somebody keeps being attacked
  816. by the devil and brought down,
  817. it's often the case that they're just not
  818. applying the spiritual armor.
  819. They're leaving themselves exposed somehow
  820. and the devil's going
    right after that thing
  821. again and again.
  822. They're in trouble.
  823. Their life is unstable as a result.
  824. God's armor is sufficient to protect us;
  825. to enable us to stand firm.
  826. He's provided all the means necessary,
  827. but it's up to us to put on the armor.
  828. That's what it says.
    You've got to do something here.
  829. You've got to apply this.
  830. You've got to put it on yourself.
  831. You've got to walk in this reality.
  832. And if we do, we'll stand firm.
  833. We can stand firm against him.
  834. We can resist the devil
  835. and he'll flee from us, it says.
  836. Very encouraging words.
  837. We can resist him
  838. through the armor that He's given us.
  839. So six things so far
    about stable Christians.

  840. We'll see if I can remember them.
  841. The first is that stable
    Christians are fruitful.
  842. They're fruitful.
  843. You might think of stability
  844. as being something kind of boring.
  845. You think a person that's real stable,
  846. I bet they're not really
    accomplishing much for God.
  847. No, just the opposite.
  848. The stable Christian is going to be
  849. the one abounding in fruitfulness.
  850. He's going to be the productive Christian.
  851. So fruitfulness is first off.
  852. Secondly, stable Christians avoid
  853. bad influences.
  854. They're not hanging out
    with scoffers all the time
  855. and being brought down by that.
  856. Thirdly, stable Christians are consistent
  857. in their spiritual disciplines.
  858. Just read your Bible and pray every day.
  859. Just that kind of stuff.
  860. Fourthly, stable Christians can handle
  861. the trials of life without
    being destroyed by it;
  862. without being brought down by it.
  863. Fifthly, stable Christians embrace
  864. sound doctrine.
  865. You've got to have truth
  866. if you're going to stand firm.
  867. Then sixthly here, stable Christians
  868. resist the devil through
    the whole armor of God
  869. that He's provided.
  870. And that leaves us with one more.

  871. Stable Christians make it to heaven.
  872. Stable Christians will make it to heaven.
  873. I want you to be clear.
  874. I'm not preaching about these things
  875. just so your pastors will
    have an easier time
  876. counseling you in your life.
  877. Though it may have that effect.
  878. But I'm talking about these things
  879. because they're essential
  880. for you making it to heaven at all.
  881. Without this stability,
  882. I doubt whether we can make it.
  883. If the chart is just volatile,
  884. if it's just up and down
    and up and down,
  885. maybe at some point, it just crashes,
  886. and you're never heard from again.
  887. You see, a true Christian
  888. doesn't just make a profession of faith,
  889. but he also steadily perseveres
  890. in that profession.
  891. He perseveres. How long? How far?
  892. All the way to the end.
  893. Jesus talked about it again and again.
  894. Jesus made a big emphasis
  895. that it's not in how exciting;
  896. it's not in how much drama there is
  897. when you become a Christian,
  898. but it's continuing on steadily
  899. in that walk with the Lord
  900. that gets you there;
  901. that gets you to heaven in the end.
  902. Jesus says repeatedly really,
  903. but here's Matthew 10:22,
  904. "It's the one who endures
    to the end who'll be saved."
  905. Jesus kept saying that.
    Endure to the end.
  906. Endure to the end and you'll be saved.
  907. How about there in Luke 9
  908. where Jesus says,
  909. "No one who puts his hand to the plow
  910. and looks back...
  911. is fit for the kingdom of God."
  912. If you become a Christian -
  913. if you put your hands on the plow,
  914. you go right straight on across the field.
  915. Don't keep looking back.
  916. Don't keep looking back to Egypt.
  917. You press on with the Lord.
  918. Jesus' parable about the
    sower and the soils.

  919. Really, it's the same thing, right?
  920. You guys are familiar with
    the four different types of soil.
  921. It's not the beginning that matters.
  922. In three of those cases,
  923. the seed germinates and grows
  924. and looks great at first.
  925. The issue is what's going to be fruitful
  926. in the end.
  927. There's only one of those four
  928. that actually makes it to maturity;
  929. actually becomes a fruitful plant
  930. in the end.
  931. That represents the real Christian.
  932. The book of Hebrews gives so many warnings
  933. about the danger of apostasy.
  934. One thing it says in Hebrews 10:23,
  935. it says, "Let us hold fast the confession
  936. of our hope without wavering."
  937. Without wavering.
  938. Without this up and down inconsistency.
  939. Hold it fast without wavering
  940. all the way to the end.
  941. You see, this is why spiritual stability
  942. is so important.
  943. A lifetime is a really long time.
  944. A bunch of you younger folks,
  945. you might need to follow Christ -
  946. if the Lord tarries,
  947. you might be following
    Christ another 50 years.
  948. A whole lot of stuff's going to
    happen in those 50 years.
  949. Things are going to happen to you.
  950. Things are going to happen in the world.
  951. We can scarcely imagine I suspect.
  952. How are you going to
    continue on with the Lord
  953. if there's not a settledness;
  954. if there's not a day to day consistency
  955. in your walk with Him;
  956. if you're just up and
    down and up and down.
  957. How are you going to make it that far?
  958. How are you going to make it that far?
  959. We want you to make it all the way home
  960. to Heaven.
  961. There's a race that's set before us

  962. the Bible says.
  963. There's a race. And it's not a sprint.
  964. It's not a sprint, is it.
  965. It's a long distance marathon.
  966. It's an ultra-marathon
    that is set before us.
  967. Those marathon runners -
  968. they're not flashy.
  969. They're not usually very muscular.
  970. They're almost mechanical.
  971. They just keep on going.
  972. They get to the pace
  973. and they maintain that pace
  974. until they reach the end.
  975. That's a picture of the Christian life.
  976. That's steadiness.
  977. That's consistency.
  978. That will get you to heaven.
  979. Paul could say at the end of his life,
  980. "I have fought the good fight.
  981. I have finished the course.
  982. I've kept the faith."
  983. He finished the course.
  984. He was consistent all the way to the end.
  985. Now, brethren, we know that it's God -

  986. it's God in His mercy
  987. that enables us to persevere, right?
  988. I mean, we're kept by the power of God
  989. it says in 1 Peter 1.
  990. We know that. We know it.
  991. Peter says in chapter 5 that it's God
  992. who perfects and confirms
  993. and strengthens and establishes us.
  994. Our perseverance is a
    miracle of divine grace.
  995. But this sermon's not about that.
  996. It's not about the
    sovereignty of God side.
  997. This is about the
    responsibility of man side.
  998. That God has given us the means;
  999. He's put it right in our hands
  1000. right in front of us -
  1001. means we can lay hold of
  1002. to become more spiritually stable
  1003. in our walk with Him,
  1004. and thus more fruitful;
  1005. thus more productive in the kingdom;
  1006. thus have more love and joy and peace;
  1007. thus know Him more, etc., etc.
  1008. God has put the means in our hands
  1009. if we'll be diligent to lay hold of them.
  1010. So that's our exhortation for today.
  1011. And as we do that,
  1012. our chart will start to smooth out.
  1013. Instead of the big ups and downs,
  1014. the ups and downs will get smaller.
  1015. And the line will start going upward.
  1016. There will be growth.
    There will be progress
  1017. with the Lord.
  1018. Are we all convinced that
    we can make progress?
  1019. We can grow in grace.
  1020. Are we all convinced
  1021. that we can become more sanctified?
  1022. That there's more of Christ to be known?
  1023. There's more reality to walk in?
  1024. There's more of Canaan to be conquered
  1025. and enjoyed in this life?
  1026. Are we still pressing on the upward way?
  1027. New heights I'm gaining every day?
  1028. Though some may dwell where these abound,
  1029. my constant aim is higher ground.
  1030. Can we say that?
    Is that a reality for us?
  1031. I hope so.
  1032. Amen.