“By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. . . . By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).
Moses could have had all the gold and silver, the horses, the harem, all the luxuries and pleasures of materialistic Egypt! He was a prince in Egypt, from the royal court of Pharaoh. But he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.” And that decision cost him everything. He considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt, preferring to suffer with God’s people. Moses had his eyes on Jesus his Lord and not on the things of this world.
Does it pay to obey? Does it pay to heed God’s message? Compare these two men of the Bible: Solomon, looking over his life, said, “Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy. . . . Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought . . . and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Solomon went on to say in Ecclesiastes:
“Therefore I hated life” (2:17).
“[My] heart taketh not rest in the night” (2:23).
“I praised the dead . . . more than the living” (4:2).
“There is a sore evil . . . namely, riches kept for [my own] hurt” (5:13).
“I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands” (7:26).
But look at Moses: At one hundred and twenty years of age, his eyes were ablaze and all his physical forces were at full strength when God called him home. God personally took the body of Moses!
Here is God’s testimonial left to mankind concerning Moses: “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh” (Deuteronomy 34:10-11).
It pays to obey!
Disobedience to God’s Word will eventually end up in a breakdown of morals and Christian character.
It all begins with an act of blatant disobedience to a clear word from God. Add to that a half-hearted conviction for sin, a half-hearted repentance, and you will end up like Solomon: an absolute degenerate! “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God. . . . For Solomon went after Ashtoreth . . . the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord. . . . And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:4-9). These words send chills up my spine!
Solomon was now gospel-hardened. The Word of God had no impact on him whatsoever. He was so pathetic! Where once he built a house for one strange woman, there now stood a huge harem. The daughter of Pharaoh had become but one of a thousand lovers! Solomon himself was now old and haggard, while God was silent and angry with him. He no longer prayed to God and he had no joy left. His heart was sick as he wrote pitiful prose about the vanity and uselessness of life. Jerusalem had become polluted with heathen temples, built with high taxes. The king drank heavily, bored by all his gorgeous houses and gardens. His heart was full of idolatry, the days of touching God but faint memories. “All is vanity—it’s all for nothing” (see Ecclesiastes 1:14).
Is this the same man who once prayed so eloquently at the temple dedication? “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man . . . which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: then hear thou in heaven . . . and forgive . . . and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest . . . that they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” (1 Kings 8:38-40).
So go ahead—cling to your idols! Justify your areas of disobedience and excuse your little sins! One day it will break out into a raging, uncontrollable fire of immorality and apostasy.
Solomon compartmentalized his life: half for God and half for his pleasures. The Word of God halfway convicted him. He experienced halfway sorrow, halfway repentance—with halfway changes! I don’t know what happened, but Solomon got halfway convicted about his heathen wife living in the holy place near the ark. So he decided to move her out—halfway across town! “Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David . . . because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come” (2 Chronicles 8:11).
The truth was that Solomon didn’t want to give her up! He knew in his heart it was all wrong and it was nagging him on the inside. I can hear him saying, “Yes, I’ve got to do something about this. I’m going to show the Lord I want to do the right thing.” But did he ship her back to Egypt?
Our churches today are filled with half-and-half Christians—halfway convicted by the Word and halfway repentant—making halfway changes in their lives. There is little of “trembling at the Word.” I hear so many who are still living in blatant sin, still doing the same old things. They say, “God knows I mean to do well. He sees my heart. I really love the Lord. I’ve made some changes and I’m doing better.” It’s not enough to mean well. We must do it!
Solomon had built the temple and had finished all his building projects. But he was still living in disobedience in these areas, seeing no danger in it. Yet God was so merciful that He continued answering his prayers. Solomon was still going up three times a year to offer sacrifices and was joyful and glad in the presence of the Lord.
I believe this is the most dangerous position a Christian can be in: His prayers are still getting through and there is joy and gladness. There remain, however, areas of disobedience where the Word is not the absolute authority, while the believer is blind to the deterioration taking place.
God again appeared to Solomon with a strong sermon, a powerful Word: “Walk in integrity. Obey My Word.” All the while, Solomon was slipping away from God, growing hard and insensitive to the Word, blinded by His blessings and mercies. How many Christians get blessed, feel God’s Spirit, get happy in Him, and say, “Everything’s all right because God is blessing me”?
To be sermon-proof is to hear God’s Word, claim to love it, profess to obey it, but then not act on it! It is to become so hardened, the heart is no longer moved and is totally unaffected by what is preached. Some call it “gospel-hardened.”
Think of all the old Bible stories and Bible characters. Who do you think was the most sermon-proof? Who sat under the clearest, strongest word and was totally unaffected by it?
Was it Saul? He heard a clear, strong word: “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3). Saul disobeyed this message. Instead, “Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good” (1 Samuel 15:9). Then Samuel appeared and Saul became a liar! “Saul said unto him . . . I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:13). Samuel was horrified because he could hear the bellowing of the sheep that were spared. “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but did what was evil in His sight?” (see 1 Samuel 15:19).
Was Saul hardened? Was he sermon-proof? Why else would he tell such bold-faced lies to a prophet of God who had the goods on him? Listen to him lie again with the evidence of his lying all about him: “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me” (1 Samuel 15:20). Caught red-handed, Saul blamed others and contrived incredible excuses for his sin: “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen . . . to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God” (1 Samuel 15:21).
Samuel got to the heart of the problem. He knew that Saul was sermon-proof because his heart had already been given over to witchcraft. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee” (1 Samuel 15:23). Sermon-proof Saul ended up getting guidance from a witch and died an early, cruel death.
God is behind every glorious work and He will not share His glory. He will not allow any obstacle to get in the way of the shining brilliance of His Son. Therefore, He needs clean vessels to do His work. At the peak moment when His blessings and power are flowing freely through His people, He tells them, “Pause now and put it all on hold. I want you to examine your heart.”
That is the word I sensed God wanted me to preach when our church celebrated our third anniversary. You can imagine my hesitation. I pictured the whole congregation staring at me, puzzled, thinking, “Wait! You’re telling us we’re all great, but then you turn around and say we need to change.” It would be like the husband who takes his wife to dinner for their anniversary and says, “Honey, I was hoping to talk about the extra weight you’ve put on.”
That’s not exactly what it’s like when God asks us to examine ourselves. After all, we’re aware that our righteousness is as filthy rags, that we need His grace. But the fact is, just when we’re poised on the brink of God’s greatest work in our lives, He asks us to reflect on these questions: “Is there anything in my heart that’s displeasing to the Lord? Have I neglected to do something He has asked of me? I want nothing in my life to hinder what God wants to do.”
God is forever bringing His people to this point. Why? Because before He can bring about His best, He has to do something deep in us. He wants to give us His victory, but He also wants our complete devotion to Him.
What is the Lord putting His finger on in your life? Is it to take away one small thing? Or to add something you’ve neglected? Don’t delay in your response to the Spirit’s faithful voice. Dealing with one small thing can determine your whole future. Will you examine it? If so, you can know God’s best is ahead—and you can rest assured that you have pleased the One who wants to bless you.
“Let us test and examine our ways” (Lamentations 3:40, ESV).