What Comes First?

It’s matter of reckoning within ourselves as to what has to have priority – every one of us has these areas that we cling to.

Scripture: 1 Peter 3


Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends, how in the world are you? You doing alright? Yes, I wait for you to answer, I know many of you do. [chuckle] We don’t have an individual television back and forth. It’s probably a good thing. Some winter mornings, you might have seen me sitting here in my bathrobe, shivering a little because it’s cold in this ground floor apartment until I get it warmed up. And I suppose on the other hand, some of you listen either while you’re just sleepily waking up or you ladies are buzzing about the kitchen, your hair is still up in curlers, you haven’t put on your face yet, you’ve got an old, torn robe on, and you’re trying somehow to get the family fed and out the door to work and school. And you’re busy, I know. And some of you listen when the day is over. I get regular cards and letters from folks who listen near the midnight hour. So, different circumstances, and as I say, it’s probably a good thing that we don’t see each other always in various situations as life goes by.

But the wonderful thing about it is that as I speak with you and where you are, sometimes you answer back. Though sundered far, as the song said, by faith, we meet around one common mercy seat, and the miles drop away and we’re together because we’re sitting at the feet of Jesus. I like that, don’t you? And I feel, in a very strange and inexplicable way, very close to you, as I speak with you these times on the radio. We share the very essence of eternal things, and that’s what is the most important of all, isn’t it? Well, God bless you, thanks for being there, and let’s look at 1 Peter chapter 3.

Peter said you’re unsinkable if you’re in the will of God. And that doesn’t mean that you won’t have some troubles. If you suffer for righteousness’ sake, you’re blessed. He uses the Greek word “makarios” blessed, happy. There is blessedness and fruitfulness… That “makarios” term also means fruitful. There’s blessedness and fruitfulness in going through testings with your Lord. That’s a truth that I don’t always like to think about. When I’m in times of testing, I tend to pray, “Lord, get me out of this.” [chuckle]

I remember, oh, I suppose six, seven, eight years ago, whenever it was, they thought I ought to have some tests. And so I was in the hospital there in Tarrytown, New York for two, three days. And the gentleman who shared this two-bed hospital room was old and he didn’t quite understand what was going on with him. I think he’d had a partial stroke or something, I don’t remember just what his condition was, but he was there and he didn’t like it, didn’t like anything about it. And so, I woke one night along about I suppose 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning out of a rather sound sleep, and I heard this rustling in the bed next to me and moving and checking. And so I called him, I said, “Hey, buddy, what is it?” He said, “I’m getting outta here.” [chuckle] “I’m getting outta here.” Well, they had to put him back in bed and tie him down, he didn’t like that, either.

But oftentimes, we’re in trials and we say, “Ooh, I gotta get out of this. God, get me out of this!” Well, there’s blessing and there’s fruitfulness. Mark this down in the notebook of your mind, beloved. There’s blessing and there’s fruitfulness and there’s actual happiness in going through testings and trials with Jesus. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, if you suffer,” said he, “if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” Our Savior Himself said “blessed,” same word, “blessed, happy, fruitful are you when men shall persecute you and revile you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely.” Dr. Pettengill used to add, “Just be sure it’s falsely, just be sure it isn’t true.” “All manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” He said, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you, for great is your reward in Heaven.” Jesus said that.

Oh, let me fasten this in my mind and you do the same in yours, will you? Going through testings with Christ is a blessed, fruitful, happy experience. Why? Because you know He’s with you, because you know He’s in control, because you know the results of all of this are going to be eternally worthwhile and God-glorifying. Oh, that’s a truth that we need to learn. We look at trouble of any kind. You have a fender-bender on the way to work, or you’re being transferred and you don’t like the new kind of work to which you’re being assigned, or sickness strikes just when you had some plans ready. I heard of a couple just the other day who had planned a trip and just as they were about to embark on this trip for which they had planned for months, the man of the house got terribly sick and they had to cancel it, and how disappointed they were. Your plans have to be changed and your dreams are shattered and people put upon you circumstances that you don’t like. And here comes Brother Cook saying it’s a blessed and fruitful experience. It’s hard for you to accept that if you’re just now going through a test. Yes, beloved, I can understand and my heart goes out to you, but truth is truth, and our God says that He’s with us, “I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and he shall glorify Me>”

He says He’s with us, He says He’ll take us through it, “When thou passest through the waters, they shall not overflow thee. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow, I will fear no evil.” He says He’s with us, He’ll go with us through the experience, and He says He’ll get the glory. He’ll get the glory. Would you look at your own situation with that in mind today, my beloved friend? Yes, it’s not pleasant. Yes, your tears may be falling. Yes, your body may be hurting. Yes, your job situation may be difficult. Yes, your children or in-laws or other human beings may be not just difficult but impossible. Yes, all of these things may be true of different ones of us, but at the point where you feel the pressure, give yourself to Jesus with the knowledge that there’s blessing and there’s fruitfulness in going through it with your Lord. Boy, that’s a tremendous truth, isn’t it?

Now Peter goes on in verse 15. He says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, and do it with meekness and respect for the other person, having a good conscience that whereas they speak evil of you as of evildoers, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good lifestyle in Christ.” Now, let’s look at that 15th verse for a moment, and we won’t get finished with it in this broadcast, but we can pick it up the next time the Lord spares us and we can go on. “Sanctify” means set apart for a special use for God. The vessels in the temple were sanctified. The places where offerings were to be offered were sanctified, they were set apart as holy unto the Lord. Now in the New Testament, the concept of being sanctified is transferred right to the believer so that your body and mine become the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own for you’re bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, both of which belong to God,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.

And he prays in another place, “Now may the very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” entirely. Wholly sanctified. So that that concept of being set apart for God’s exclusive use is brought from the official temple setup right into a human being so that our bodies are the temples in which God Himself dwells and through which He expresses His will and His truth. He says, “Set aside a special place for God in your heart,” sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. You see, the real place of sincerity is not in what you say or do, it’s in your heart. “This people worshippeth me with their lips,” said the prophet, “but their heart is far from me.”

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is this one. It says “they feared the Lord and worshipped their own gods.” They feared the Lord and worshipped their own gods. That dreadful dualism where God is given a slice of time, but not all of my loyalty. And this happens in so many lives, doesn’t it? Well, he says you give God His place as God in your heart. Now, how do you do that? How do you put Him on the throne of your heart, mindful of the fact that what happens in your heart determines what happens in your conduct, in your speech?

Well, first of all, there’s the decision of commitment. “The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne and worship only Thee,” said the songwriter. It’s a matter of reckoning within ourselves as to what has to have priority. And every one of us has these areas that we cling to. We cherish certain things or certain relationships or certain concepts, and they belong peculiarly and privately to us. We may not talk much about them with other people, but there they are. And God wants to be God over all of that. It’s not enough for you and for me simply to profess faith in Christ. He wants to be Lord of your life. Jesus said,”Many shall say unto me in that day,” that’s Judgment Day, “‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied,'” that’s our word “preached,” “‘preached in Thy name and in Thy name cast out demons, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess onto them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Not every one that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven,'” Jesus said, “but he that doeth the will of My Father.” It has to be more than profession. That’s the first fact that stares us in the face: It has to be a personal commitment of the areas which I have previously tried to manage myself.

Before we get together again, would you make a list of those areas for yourself and talk to God about them? There’d be a lot of blessing in it, I promise you.

Jesus, we love Thee, we worship Thee, we want to serve Thee with all our hearts, we want Thee to be God in our hearts. Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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