How to Be Unknown
sermon preached by Dr. Jack Hyles
“After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priest of the high places.” I Kings 13:33a
All of us know Christians who got off to a good start in the work of the Lord, but who, suddenly, without explanation, have drifted away and have not continued in the work of the Lord. Now, here is one reason. I want five minutes of complete attention, for this story is a very unusual one and one that most of us do not know.
Jeroboam was a wicked king. Nothing good, in my opinion, could be said about Jeroboam. A man of God came from Judah, his name is not given. Hence, the title of the message, “How To Be Unknown.” The man of God comes from Judah, and he prophesied against Jeroboam and the wickedness of his kingdom. Jeroboam was raising his hands at the altar when, suddenly, the prophet began speaking to the altar. He says something like: “Oh altar, you are going to see on you the bones of the priests. Wicked men will be killed and slain on you, and you will be the object of God’s wrath.”
When that took place, Jeroboam pulled his hand back and said, “Lay hold on that man of God!” Here was a prophet. A man who wasn’t afraid to stand against the king. Jeroboam said, “Lay hold on that man of God!” And when he pulled his hand back, it withered. The Bible says his hand was dried up. The man of God saw that Jeroboam’s hand had been dried up. The altar was torn in two. After it was all over, the man of God spoke and Jeroboam’s hand that was dried up and withered was restored to normal.
Jeroboam, realizing this was a true man of God, realizing that God had withered his hand and had cured his hand at the word of this man of God, said: “Say, I want you to go home with me. I want to honor you. I want to give you something. You’re a man of God.” And the man of God said, “No, if you gave me half your kingdom, I would not go home with you; for God has spoken to me and God has told me not to turn right or left, not to eat bread nor drink water, until my job is done. I’ll not go home with you.”
Fame began to spread about this man of God. This man that would buck the king. This man that could speak and the king’s hand would wither. This man that could speak again and the king’s hand be restored to normalcy and health. Who was he? We don’t know. He is just called the man of God.
Down in Bethel there was an old prophet who heard about this man of God. His sons came home and told him what this man of God had done. This old prophet saddled his animals and got some clothing and took a journey. He came where the young man of God was and said, “Look, I want you to come home with me. I want to feed you and honor you.” The man of God said, “No, I can’t do that. God has spoken to me. I am not to turn to the right or the left until my job is finished. I’m not to ea bread nor drink water. I’m sorry. I cannot come home with you.”
The Bible says the old prophet said something that was a lie. He said, “I, too, am a prophet.” Now that was true, but here’s the lie. He said, “An angel of God came to me and that angel of God told me to tell you to come to my house and eat bread and drink water with me.” “Well,” said the man of God, “put her there.” (That’s a Hebrew expression, by the way. You won’t find it in the English language.) He said, “Put her there. You’re a prophet. Wonderful! I’ll come home.”
So the man of God turned to the right, turned to the left, broke the commandment of God and followed the old prophet back to Bethel. There they are together and they drank water together. And while they were there, God revealed to the old prophet that he had done wrongly. He had caused the man of God to leave the perfect will of God for his life. After the meal was finished, the man of God went back and found a lion in his path. The lion slew him and that’s the end of the story about the man of God.
Now, hear me. His name is never given. The name of the old prophet is never given anywhere in the Bible as far as we know. “How to be unknown.” Now listen carefully. Here’s the story. The story is simple and yet profound. Here is a man of God who stood against the king and revival was started under this man of God. But because he wanted something extra, other than what God had given him, he finds himself slain by a lion and his ministry nipped in the bud.
Now, how sad. There are three lessons I want to give you. The man of God made three mistakes. Listen carefully. In the first place, he wanted too much good. Now here is a mistake that many Christians make. He wanted too much good. Let me read for you I Kings 13:18. “He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.”
He wanted too much good. Now listen. Of course, when a person is saved, the temptations of the old life will come back to haunt him. But many a person has won the victory over the temptations of the old life to find the temptations of the new life have tripped them. I don’t mean the fact that he doesn’t do good, but he does too much good.
Now here’s a fellow who was faithful to God. He was a man of God. He was true to God. He stood up against the king and led revival. Now this wasn’t a fellow who said, “Come with me. I run a tavern down here in Bethel. Come down and get drunk.” No, this was not a temptation like that. This fellow didn’t come and say, “Look, I’ve got a red light district down here. I want you to come and meet a wicked woman.” He didn’t say that. He didn’t say, “I’m a dope pusher and I want to sell you some marijuana.” He didn’t say, “I’ve got a dirty joke to tell you.” He didn’t say, “I want you to come and lay out of church.” He said, “I also am a prophet and I want you to com with me for an angel has spoken to me.”
This is a man of God. Here’s a man who says, “I’m a prophet, too. I’ve got problems, too, and I know your problems. I know your burden. Come down and talk to me; I’ll help you.” You see, this man was tempted not by evil but by too much good.
Now listen. When you get saved you can’t do everything good that’s offered for you to do. Young people, you have to choose what good you do. You have to decide. You can do so much good that you become perplexed and confused in the work of the Lord; and in so doing, you become a failure like this fellow did. This fellow wanted too much good.
Secondly, a lot of people stumble and fall because they want too much Bible. They want too much Bible! Look. Did not God tell this young man of God what to do? Yes, he did. What happened? It is exactly this. He wanted to listen to more than the word of God that was given to him. He wanted something else. He wanted too much Bible. Now in the first place, let’s get down to you. Do you know after a person is saved, he can get to the place that he wants more Bible than he is ready to take. Here’s what will happen. Somebody will knock on your door one day with a little record player. They’ll be offering a Twentieth Century Bible Course. They’ll say to you, “I’d like to play a record for you or show you some slides or a film. I’d like to give you a non-denominational Bible course.” And you’ll say, “Boy, I want to learn the Bible. I’m saved now and I get just enough Bible Sunday morning and Sunday night and Wednesday night from my pastor; but boy, I just want to get in the Bible and study the Bible.” And that’s why, often times, a zealous new convert is an easy prey for a cult. Now hear me carefully.
Unconverted people do not want the things of the Spirit. Unconverted people do not want the things of God. Here’s a person that comes down the aisle of an evangelistic church like this and gets born again. When he does get born again, the Holy Spirit comes in him to live. Suddenly he wants the Bible. But here’s what happens; he wants more Bible than for what he’s ready. So he enrolls in some Bible course, and a cult parasites off of the soul-winning churches. You see, nobody joins a cult unless they have a desire for the Word of God. The cults parasite off the churches that go out and get people saved. You know, that’s from where the tongues crowd comes. People that go to Baptist churches oftentimes and get born again want more than for what they are ready. They want something deep, something never seen before. They want some revelations that just came in from out in left field. They want an angel to fly over. They want to tingle. They want to see something written in the sky. All you need, my friend, is the Word of God when you get saved. That’s all you need.
Here’s a fellow. If this fellow had done what God said, he would not have gotten into any trouble. But somebody said, “An angel spoke to me.” Hear me and hear me well. Are you a Christian? All right. Between these two covers, there is all you need. You don’t need anything else. There is enough for your spiritual diet. I’ll go a step further than that. You will get enough for your diet here at First Baptist Church without having to go outside and feed at somebody else’s trough or from Herbert W. Armstrong or some Seventh Day Adventist or Jehovah Witness’ Kingdom Hall.
Here’s a tragic thing. In many churches, there is so little Bible taught and so little Bible preached, that people, if they get any Bible at all, have to go out to some cult where they at least do read the Bible. Herbert W. Armstrong at least reads the Bible. He doesn’t understand it, but he reads it. He has his Bible courses for people who want the Bible but don’t get it at our Baptist churches. God pity us.
I picked up the newspaper last Friday; and I started to preach from the newspaper tonight, but I was preaching this sermon on stay in the Bible, and I thought I had better not. I picked up the Friday newspaper; and do you know some time if you want to see what’s wrong with our churches you just read what’s going on in our churches. Here’s one church having a review of this book; here’s one church having a spiritual ballet. I don’t know how the fellow does it, but a spiritual ballet. Here’s a church having a drama on Sunday evening.
Listen, brother, what every church in this area and in this world needs is to realize we don’t’ need any drama. We don’t need any ballet. We just need to return to the old-fashioned teaching of what is between the covers of God’s blessed book. That’s what we need.
Did you know that the faster you grow in grace, the more the cults want you. They love to parasite our best people. A person walks down the aisle and gets on fire for God and gets a bus route and starts winning souls. He leads his wife and his children to Christ, and he leads his neighbors to Christ. He reads the Bible. He loves God. He starts a family altar. That’s the crowd that is easy prey to this kind of a thing.
That leads me to this thing—lop-sided fundamentalists. You know old prophets like this are everywhere. There are old prophets in every city in America who do nothing for God except try to get the best Christians to come off to their little Bible study clubs and quit doing anything for God. I could call a list of a dozen names tonight of people who have come to this church. They’ve been saved. They have grown in grace. They have become our best people but then some old prophet sitting off somewhere doing nothing says, “I’ve got a special revelation from God. Did you know that I’m a five-point Calvinist?” “Oh, five-point Calvinist. Our pastor likes John Calvin.” “Yea. And did you know that I believe that some are elected to go to Heaven and some are elected to go to Hell?”
And the doctrine sounds interesting to you, and you’ve always wanted to study pre-destination anyway. This old prophet says, “I have a doctrine Brother Hyles doesn’t know about. Brother Hyles is all right, but he’s a little shallow, you know. But I have a doctrine he doesn’t know about, and I’d like to talk to you a little bit about that doctrine.” “If you’ll come to my house every Friday night to our little Bible study club, I’ll teach you about that doctrine.”
So you come and worship the Bible every Friday night. You quit your bus route. You quit your soul-winning. You did the same thing this prophet did, and you’ll be an unknown as far as God is concerned because you wanted too much Bible.
Let me go a step further. There are old prophets all over the country who say, “Look, this soul-winning is all right. It’s a little shallow. Brother Hyles is a bit shallow. But I am having a prophetic study in my living room on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Now you come to my living room.” The first thing you do, you find out whether that old prophet is sitting down or standing up or going. Because if you sit at the feet of someone who’s already sitting, you can be in no place but the gutter. If he’s sitting, and you sit at his feet, you’ve got to go mighty low to get there.
Now, here’s a fellow who said, “Now, young man, I want to tell you something. I am a prophet, too. I know something you don’t know. An angel spoke to me and told me to have you come down to my house.” And that did it. Look, I’m not against prophecy but you’ll get all the prophecy you need for your spiritual diet here at First Baptist Church—all you need. I’m not a great theologian, but I’ll tell you what. You’ll get all the Bible study you need here at First Baptist Church.
There is nothing that will destroy a new Christian, and especially one who’s active for God, any more than being led astray. Now this man was not a wicked man. This is no bookie. This is no man who sells the bodies of fallen ladies. This is no man who’s trying to start a gambling racket in town. Here’s a man who is a prophet. He is sitting down now doing nothing for God except trying to entice the men of God to come and sit at his feet and learn something that he knows that they do not yet know. I think I know hundreds of Christians who have come to churches like this, and they have gotten enthused. But you see, Brother Hyles just keeps preaching the same old thing all the time. I just keep preaching right down the line in the same thing all the time. I don’t mean the same sermon but the same simple gospel. The same simple way to live the Christian life is through prayer, Bible study, behaving yourself, clean living, dedication, thankfulness, tithing, loyalty, obedience, faith, spiritfulness. These are the things that Christians need. This person says, “Now Brother Hyles is okay. I like Brother Hyles. In fact, Brother Hyles is a fine young man.” (I like that—young man.) The prophet says, “Actually, we have a deeper life course.” “Well, I want to be as good a Christian as I can and I want the deepest life I can get. I think I’ll take it.” Before you know it, you have subscribed yourself to too much Bible study.
Any lady here in this house will tell you that if you just east one particular food, it is not good for you. You need a well-rounded diet. You want Bible so much before you know it you get unbalanced. Some little group meets in the attic somewhere or in the basement somewhere. I’m not opposed to that except that they don’t get anybody saved, there’s no breath of Heaven, there’s no anointing of the Holy Spirit, there’s never the cry of newborn babes in God’s family. You, because you were so zealous to learn more about it all, wanted too much Bible and were led astray by some prophet sitting down in Bethel. Before you know it, your life is not doing much for God. You are a lop-sided fundamentalist.
I travel a great deal. I preach a great deal, and I have some people who live to hear me preach. I’m sure that comes as a great surprise to many of you, but they love to hear me preach. I see, oftentimes, the same people at conferences across America. I was in Springfield, Missouri, and I saw a fellow and his wife there who were in Kansas City when I was there a few months ago. They were in Dallas when I was there a couple of years ago. They were in Tennessee when I was there not long ago, and they were in Chattanooga when I was there last week. They just go from one conference to another getting fatter and fatter all the time. They never get anybody saved an never do anything for God. They are just wanting to know the latest thing the angel said.
Here’s a man who had his orders from God. God told him what to do but he left the will of God and left the plan of God to go down to the prophet who was sitting down in Bethel and wanted too much Bible. I call it lop-sided fundamentalist, deeper truth. I am sick up to here of these so-called deeper life Christians. Almost everywhere I go, somebody walks up and says, “Do you live the deeper life?” I don’t say it but I want to say, “No, but if you do, I don’t want to.” I am weary. God has given us a Bible full of what to do! We don’t need to seek anything else other than what’s in the pages of the Bible. So the lop-sided fundamentalist and the fellow wanted too much Bible.
By the way, let me stop and say this, too. Did you know that you can fall by the wayside by too much Bible study? You can be a poor Christian and study your Bible all the time. Too much Bible study is a danger. I realize that tonight I’m going to make a few folks mad and if I don’t I’ll be somewhat disappointed. I know this is true. You college students understand what I’m saying. If you don’t, that’s okay, too—but try to understand me.
I know Christians who have come down the aisle of this church and gotten converted. They got on fire for God. They started winning souls. They got a bus route. They got a Sunday School class. They knocked on doors. They came on Wednesday night, and they said, “Oh I love to hear Brother Hyles preach the Bible. I just love to hear the Word of God.” They came back on Sunday morning and Sunday night and said, “Boy, that’s what I like!” then one day they decided that they wanted more Bible than they were getting at the local church. So what did they do? They enrolled in an evening class and took their soul-winning evening to study more Bible. They took a correspondence course to study more Bible. What they were doing was becoming lop-sided in one particular phase of the Christian life.
Here’s a fellow who says, “Boy, I sure do like to eat.” He goes from restaurant to restaurant. (We have some folks on the platform tonight who look like perhaps they have done something like that—Brother Colsten and Brother Streeter, for example.) I sure like to eat. He goes to a restaurant at six o’clock in the morning and eats scrambled eggs and bacon. At seven o’clock he goes to another and he has a tall stack with sausage. At eight o’clock he goes to another and has waffles with Canadian bacon. Before noon, it is pizza and hamburgers and steak. “I just love to feed my body.” That’s all right.
There is nothing wrong with eating. I practice it myself quite often. Did you know you can eat and eat and never exercise and never expend any energy and never do anything good and not be healthy? Did you know that you could study your Bible, you could come to prayer meeting on Wednesday night, back to Sunday School on Sunday morning, stay for preaching and come back on Sunday night, and take an evening course at Moody and a correspondence course from Bob Jones University, and spend all your time in the Word of God because you love the Bible? Why sure, any Christian loves the Bible.
Listen, a Christian who spends all his time in Bible study and no time in service for God will be as unhealthy as a person who spends all of his time eating food and no time going to work. The Bible is food. Food is to be used up in energy and then you eat more food. Here’s a fellow who should have just stayed on the job and not gone down to get too much study. Now, I’ll say this. I hope you’ll not think I’m being critical. I thank God for Bible study groups. I’m thankful for some of them because many churches don’t preach enough Bible and, if it were not for Bible study groups, a lot of Christians would never learn any Bible. I’m not opposed to them. I’ll tell you what you can do. You can get enrolled in an evening Bible study class. I’m thinking right now of a preacher who got enrolled in an evening Bible study class and it ruined him. The class literally ruined him! I was talking about him a while ago. He got to where he was always looking for demons. They studied demons one time under one of these sitting Bible teachers. You say, “Brother Hyles, you must be criticizing Dr. So-and-So. If he is sitting doing nothing but teaching, and doing nothing for God and not winning souls and not trying to get something done for God, then I am criticizing! He has no right to teach, unless he is using what he teaches.
These little sitting prophets may be young prophets, young or old. Sometimes they are ladies. “God has given me the gift of teaching.” Well, I wouldn’t give you a dime for your teaching if you’re not winning souls for Christ and unless you are using what God has given you. This preacher heard about a Bible teacher; and, by the way, the fellow was a good Bible teacher. He was wrong on a few things. In fact, he was wrong on everything on which he and I disagreed. I recall that very distinctly!
He went to this Bible study, and the fellow was teaching a course on demons. Every time a little baby would cry in church, this preacher would say, “Demon possessed.” I can see him now. He’d say, “Oh, demons.” He’d look on the pews. “There they go now.” That just sort of always didn’t effect me very much. But, what did he do? He just kept eating and kept eating and kept eating; and before you knew it, he had drifted off because he thought that the sum total of the Christian life was just feeding and feeding and feeding and feeding.
Don’t misunderstand me. If you’ll come to this church for one year. And I’ve said this. If you’ll come to this church for one year, and you’ll be here in Sunday School and stay for preaching, come back on Sunday night, come back on Wednesday night, you will know more Bible at the end of the year than you’d ever dream you’d know in your life.
Take tonight, for example. I’ve taught you a story tonight that most theologians don’t even know. You’ve learned tonight a story about a man of God who came to Jeroboam and was tempted to go down to Bethel to an old prophet’s house and have the will of God and hear what an angel was supposed to have told him. Now you’ve learned that tonight. Now you multiply that by 156 and you’ll learn some Bible in a year’s time. I’ll say this much—I say it with all my heart—if you will get in an old-fashioned church like this, you will get the proper balance of service, stewardship, worship, soul-winning, prayer, bible Study, and you will grow to become a good Christian. If you decide you’re going to eat at somebody else’s trough and just eat all the time, always feeding on the Word, feeding on the Word, feeding on the Word, it is not all the Christian life. I’m not minimizing feeding on the Word. You are supposed to use that energy in service for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thirdly. Not only can you want too much good and want too much Bible, but you can also want too much service. You can serve God too much. What? You can serve God too much. I think this man wanted to serve God too much. Did you know when a person gets converted—and listen carefully to this—when a person gets converted and begins to grow in grace and serve the Lord, then the non-church parasites begin to nibble at him. Young Christians, please hear me now. As you become a great Christian for God as you grow in grace, what will happen is this. People outside the church will see that you have good prospects, and they will come and try to get you to belong to their organization. Here’s what I mean.
I know a man who was saved in this church and baptized. He became a great soul-winner. Most of you wouldn’t know his name. I doubt if any of you would. He came to our church. He was an outstanding man. He wore good clothes. He had a beautiful overcoat. I used to covet it. He was a good-looking fellow. I used to covet that, too. He was a nice, impressive fellow. He lived over in the south Chicago area. Word got around that this fellow is really a great Christian. He is one of the finest members at First Baptist. What happened?
It wasn’t long until the Gideons wanted him to be on their board. He got on the Gideon board. Now there’s nothing wrong with the Gideons, but did you know too much of good is also bad? What happened? The rescue mission over in a certain area decided they wanted him on their board. Well, he was a man of some education and of some means, and he was certainly a talented man and a born leader. Well, it wasn’t long until the Christian Businessmen’s Committee said, “Look, why don’t you get on our board?” Now, what happened? The man served God too much. Did you know that you can’t run the Christian Business Men’s Committee, the Gideons, the First Baptist Church, and the Rescue Mission by yourself? Somebody else is going to have to help you along that line. What happened is this. He quit his soul winning. Before you knew it, he was going to board meetings at night instead of coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday night. Before you know it, he got to be a big shot, and he outgrew the church and nobody ever has outgrown the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Nobody! There is no organization in the world as vital as the church! Don’t think for a single minute that you can outgrow the church and get into something bigger and get promoted. The next step you have of promotion when you leave the church is to Heaven.
What you can do outside the church you can do better inside the church. I am talking about an old-fashioned, Bible-preaching church. What happened about the fellow? He got to serving God too much. He got to serving God too much. Where is he now? He is out of service. He no longer is on the board of the rescue mission; no longer is he on the board of the Gideons; no longer is he on the board of the Christian Businessmen’s Committee. And no longer is he even coming to this church or anybody else’s church. Why? He wanted to serve God too much. That’s a great danger.
This man of God had been called to go to Jeroboam and cry against his sins and lead revival. Jeroboam said, “I’ve got a reward to give you.” The man of God said, “If you give me half your kingdom, I wouldn’t go home with you.” Now wicked Jeroboam couldn’t get him, but the prophet did. The old prophet did. The old prophet said, “I’m a prophet, too. An angel came and told me something different.”
Could I say this? When the Lord delivers any new revelations from Heaven, would you believe me now? I have told the Lord when he does, I have a standing order for the first communication on it. That means you won’t have to go to any old prophet and get it on a Thursday night or a Friday night Bible group. I asked the Lord to put me on His regular mailing list. When any new communications or excathedra speeches come out, the Lord is going to send me a copy of it, and I’ll tell you. You don’t have to trot anywhere else. The honest truth is, the Bible is the complete revelation of God to man. In the covers of this Book, you’ll find all you need for the Christian life. I’ll say this much. If you will build your life around a church like this one, eventually you’ll be stronger, more mature, and more productive than you could be in any other way in this world. This fellow wanted too much service.
Organizations that are not a part of the church have to operate from the church. Could I say a word about my friend John Rice? Now, nobody doubts what I think about John Rice. Did you know The Sword of the Lord would go out of business if it weren’t for good soul-winning churches? Do you know where he gets his subscriptions? He gets them from the people that godly pastors win to Christ across the country.
Now, what am I saying? I don’t know what I’m saying! I’m saying that the old general practitioner, the New Testament church, is the answer. There are people here tonight who have outgrown this church. You went off in the tongues movement. You went off to the predestination movement. You went off the five-point Calvinist, limited atonement movement, Christ only died for a few people. He died just for the elect. You found some little study group somewhere that would take you off and tell you that an angel came and told them something Brother Hyles doesn’t know. You thought, “Well, Brother Hyles is all right. I’ve outgrown him. I’ve learned all I can learn from him now. I’ve gone as far as he can take me. I’ll go off somewhere else.” So you leave. Okay, go ahead.
However, you came back a few years later, didn’t you? What did you find when you came back? You found the First Baptist Church doing business just like she did when you left, didn’t you? The church was still on the main track, still teaching the bible on Wednesday night, and getting sinners saved Sunday morning. The church was preaching fire to Christians on Sunday night and having altar calls, and bus ministry, and soul-winning, and knocking on doors, and trying to get folks right with God. You found the First Baptist Church right where she was when you left, didn’t you? Of course, do you know why? The old general practitioner just keeps right on doing the whole job.
Don’t go off on some little flighty, fly-by-night deal that says she knows more than the church does. Let me give you an example here. Did you know that you can start to grow in grace and before you know it you want something else, something else, something else? Did you know you can even get called to preach, or think you’re called to preach, just because you want something more? You don’t need something more. You need more of the same thing you’re getting now: more Bible, more prayer, more soul wining, more well-rounded diet, more church attendance, more faithfulness to God’s house, more preaching of the Word of God, more teaching of the Bible on Wednesday night, more evangelism and soul winning on Sunday morning, more of what you’re getting now. Let me see if I can tell you what I mean.
I serve on many boards. I am on so many college boards, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many. My secretary and I don’t know how many boards on which I serve. I never go to a board meeting. I’ve been on the board of Norfolk Bible College for about twelve years. (I don’t even know where the Norfolk Bible College is located. I think it’s in Los Angeles or somewhere.) I know it’s in Norfolk, Virginia; that’s all I know. I know the president. I have confidence in him. He wrote me and said could you be on my board. I said, “Sure.” I’ve never been to a meeting. He sends me an annual report, a financial report. I use it for scratch paper. I’m on the Board of Bob Jones University and have been since 1959. I’ve attended one board meeting and that was because they were giving me an honorary doctor’s degree and I figured I ought to go the board meeting after I got my degree. As I walked in and they said, “All in favor,” and I said, “I.” Why? I have confidence in Bob Jones, Jr., you see. I’m on the pastoral advisory board at Tennessee Temple University, and I have not been to one board meeting. I have not read the minutes or hours. Do you know that I could keep myself so wrapped up doing good things until I forget to do the things that God has called me to do.
Here’s my temptation. My temptation is that I want to live about four lives. If I knew that reincarnation were right, I’d be the happiest fellow in this house tonight because I’ve got a lot of things I want to do. I want to spend one life just running a bunch of demonstrations across the country for good. I’d like to spend one whole life holding all the demonstrations and gathering millions of people across the country, and I think I could. I’d go from place to place just having demonstrations about good.
Gathering law-abiding, decent citizens, who respect authority and respect law and order, is what I’d like to do. Now hold it. I know I got three letters last week from people that said, “You should do that. You ought to do it.” No, that’s the problem. There’s nothing the devil would rather get me to do than start a bunch of demonstrations and quit winning souls and building a church like First Baptist Church. You see, that’s what I am talking about. I know people in this house, if they would get as concerned about lost people going to Hell as about political pet projects, they would be a whiz for God. But, you see, the devil is not going to use an alcoholic or a prostitute to bother you. He’s going to use something good.
Did you know there are so many things I’d like to do. I’d like to fight communism with one of my lives. I have an idea that the devil in Hell would be tickled to death if he could get me to fight communism and have me quit stressing soul-winning churches across America. You see, serving God too much is a danger.
I know people, and I suspect we have some folks here tonight, who have come to this church, gotten saved, fallen in love with the church, Christ, and the preacher and everybody else in the church. It’s a big church. After awhile you say, “Do you know what? I just believe I could do more good in a smaller church. I just believe I could do more good.” That’s not the issue.
In the first place, you don’t come to a church to do good. You come to a church to get good done to you so you can go out during the week and do good. The sermon you’re getting tonight is for you. You didn’t come tonight so you could serve God. You came tonight to get your battery charged, and get your tank filled so you can go out and serve God all week. That’s the place to serve God—out in the field.
A fellow came to this church. I suspect he’s here tonight. (I’m going to be preaching with my eyes shut for a few minutes.) He came to this church. He got right with God. Perhaps he got saved. He became a tremendous Christian. I recall one year in a big contest, he brought over 300 visitors to our Sunday School He is a great fellow.
He came to me one day and said, “Pastor, all we good Christians are here huddled up at First Baptist Church.” He said, “There are little churches out here that need help. I feel like I ought to go to a little church where I am more needed.” Did you ever hear that? He wanted to go where he was more needed. What happened? He went to that little church, but what he didn’t stop to realize was that he was getting spiritual food here at First Baptist Church that was vital and necessary to his Christian service. He didn’t know what made him a good Christian. He went to this little church. What happened? His home broke up. He went into sin and dropped out of church completely.
One day he decided to get right with God. He came back home to First Baptist Church and got right with God. Now he is coming all the time. He is one of the finest members we have in the church. What happened to him? He grew in grace. He got the idea he was God’s answer to save America or some little church somewhere. No, listen. I am going to give you a little advice here in a few minutes.
A fellow grows and grows in grace and then he says, “I want a big job. I want to be a deacon.” And what happens! He wants something that’s not for him. I am thinking about a man now that ran for deacon one year. He wanted to be a deacon. He didn’t get it. He ran the next year. He didn’t get it. He ran the next year. He didn’t get it. Then he called me on the phone and he said, “I just feel led to work in another field.” Don’t you see? He wanted to serve too much. He wanted to grow too fast and serve too much.
Now the question comes, “What should I do?” All right, let me give you four or five statements here and just fifteen or twenty minutes about each one. In the first place, don’t sit at the feet of sinners. Don’t learn your Bible from folks who aren’t producing. Don’t eat at the table of a lady who only cooks and never cleans house. Mrs. Barr, suppose that you became a good cook. (I mean, you are a good cook already.) Let’s suppose that you say, “Boy, I’m going to be the best chef or chefess in town.” You get all the menus and you learn how to cook, and you become the greatest cook. So you say, “My gift is just cooking and feeding. I just feed my family.” You don’t make the beds. You don’t wash the clothes. You don’t wash the dishes. You just cook. Oh, but you prepare the best food in all the world. Now, I’ll be honest with you. I’d like to eat at a place where they have a clean restaurant as well as a place where they have good food. I want a well-rounded cook. I want a place where they have a clean restaurant, where they have clean restrooms, where they have friendly waitresses, where they have a good atmosphere, where they have nice comfortable cushioned seats, and also where they have good food.
I want a church. I don’t want to go sit at the feet of some fellow whose feet stink, and his breath is bad, and he needs a shave and a haircut, and he sits in the corner somewhere with a notebook all the time learning more about the seven dispensations and the toes on the beast. When I go to learn the Bible, I want a good group like this to sing before I learn the Bible. Ii want the ushers to walk down the aisle with a plate on their arm. I want to feel like not only do you get good food here, but they’re well-rounded here also. When I grow up and be like them, I’ll be a well-rounded Christian.
I want to go where there’s something going on—something moving. Don’t you get your Bible at the feet of a sinner! Here’s this old prophet. He said, “I’m retired. I’m an old prophet in Bethel, and I’m retired. An angel talked to me. Come on down where I am.” That’s where the young man made his mistake. In the first place, a preacher hasn’t got any business retiring. I’ll tell you what, when I get about 62 or 65, the first deacon that talks to me about retiring is going to find out that I have a lot of kick left. I don’t plan to ever quit preaching. The first thing I want to do when I get to Heaven is I want to preach to Jacob, the sissy, soup-cooking, effeminate fellow. I hate a man who is cooking soup while his brother is out hunting. Anybody who wouldn’t go hunting with his brother and would stay home and cook chili is not for me, and I am going to get at him. I am going to preach. I am not going to retire.
Look. You get your Bible from a place that’s moving for God! Where people are being saved, and homes are made right, and lives are transformed and drunkards are made sober and harlots are made pure, and young folks are having their lives changed, and folks are going out in the ministry. There’s something moving for God: that’s where you get your Bible, and that’s where you get your spiritual food.
Number two. Don’t outgrow soul-winning. I was in Omaha, Nebraska, preaching a few days ago and after I finished my sermon, four or five preachers walked up to me. One fellow said, “I used to be like you are, and then I learned about the deeper life.” You college students think you’re so hot. You go from one charismatic conference to another. A world is going to hell, and you won’t even join a local church in Chicago while you’re in college! You’re not worth the powder it would take to blow you up! That’s what’s wrong with this nations now. Everybody wants deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper. Go down deep, stay down long, come up dry. Most of you drowned years ago.
The preacher said to me, “I used to be a soul-winner until I went down deeper.” I told him, “You could learn from Priscilla and Aquilla.” He said, “I’d like to be your Aquilla.” I looked at him and I said, “You act more like a Priscilla.” I said, “Leave me alone! I’m in no mood for somebody to stand up and say to me he’s gone deeper or higher or father than soul winning!” You are sitting in the deepest church in this area tonight. You quote me on that. Don’t you come to me and talk to me about a church deeper than this church.
Christ died for the souls of men. God gave His Son that men might be saved. Calvary took place that men might be saved. The empty tomb was there because of the need that men might be saved. God gave His Son for sinners to be saved. You’ll never get any deeper than soul-winners. Never!
Let us pray.