My sister and I were enjoying a “fun day” in Atlanta when we decided to have lunch at a spot from our childhoods. We knew almost exactly where this particular drive-in was located, so we headed out to find it. Unfortunately, the city of Atlanta has grown a lot in the more-than-we-care-to-admit years since we were children, and the new modern buildings in the area fooled us into thinking that we had gone too far and had reached the downtown area. So we stopped, turned around, and retraced our route. Still there was no drive-in, so we turned around again and made another attempt. Eventually, we decided that we must have miscalculated and just kept driving even though we felt that we were too close to metropolitan Atlanta. And there, much to our chagrin, was the restaurant—just a couple blocks further down the road from the place where we had turned around several times. At that point, I suggested to my sister that if we are ever looking for the place again that we will need to remember, “When you think that you’ve gone far enough, you haven’t.” Her immediate response was, “There’s a sermon there somewhere.” So here it is: Why haven’t we gone far enough?
First, we haven’t gone far enough because we have the wrong viewpoint of the material world. Jesus called it “little faith.” We have faith, but our faith is in little things—not a big God. We look to the world around us for our needs—such as food, clothing, and protection—and even our emotional, social, and psychological support. Jesus addressed this problem in two different places with identical words, but within significantly different contexts.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)
This statement comes in context of the explanation in verse twenty-four that we serve riches, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Luke 12:28)
This time the statement is made in the context of the rich farmer whom God called a fool because he trusted in his wealth. (verses 15-21) Here the implication is that we think that riches will serve us. Whether we think that we must serve riches or that they must serve us, we’re still wrong! We must not serve this world nor be served by it. Instead, we need to see it in perspective of our God. This world and the riches in it are not nearly significant enough for us to serve, nor are they big enough to truly serve us.
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. (Isaiah 40:15)
The second reason we don’t go far enough is that we have the wrong viewpoint of God. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus tried to give us the true perspective on our heavenly Father, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” All too often, we read parables like the story of the unjust judge in Luke chapter eighteen or the one of the unwilling neighbor in Luke chapter eleven through faulty filters that make us think that the stories are trying to tell us that we should view God as symbolized in these unsavory characters. The result of this viewpoint is that we feel that we have to beg and plead with God to get anything from Him. Certainly, the poor widow and the humiliated friend had to audaciously and shamelessly implore their resistant benefactors until they unwillingly granted their requests. However, these parables are not intended to teach us that God is nasty, stingy, grumpy, or lazy. Rather they are intended to give us the black canvas of the worst of humanity as a backdrop upon which to paint the brilliant portrait of our heavenly Father who is more willing to bless us than we are desirous of receiving or even able to imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) Jesus wants us to understand that even the best of human fathers are still evil in comparison to our heavenly Father. If these evil human fathers know how to give us good gifts instead of booby prizes, what can we anticipate from our gracious, loving Father? We must stop comparing God to our own human standards of abusive fathers, deadbeat dads, or even caring fathers who simply can’t afford to give their children good gifts. We have to erase our mental images of fathers who couldn’t and those who wouldn’t and replace them with a biblical view of our God.
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (II Chronicles 16:9)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:8)
The third reason we don’t go far enough is that we have a wrong view of what we need.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13)
We think that we need things when what we need is God and His kingdom. Matthew 6:33 tells us that if we will seek God’s kingdom that everything else will come automatically. The problem we have is the old cart-before-the-horse scenario. We’re looking for physical solutions when God is trying to get us to focus on the spiritual dimension first and wait for the physical to manifest as fruit of the spiritual root. I told an audience in Africa who were concerned because their highway system was little more than enough asphalt to hold the potholes together that they needed to pray for God’s kingdom to be manifest in their country. When that happens, corruption will go—and so will the potholes.
The next reason we don’t go far enough is that we have a wrong viewpoint about ourselves. Luke 12:24 tells us, “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” No matter how bad things get, we often have a hard time believing that we deserve any better. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) gives us some great insights into this dilemma. The younger son, after having wasted his inheritance, came back to the father asking to be a servant. It was the only logical position for him since he had reneged on his responsibility to the family enterprise, essentially considered his father as dead by asking for his inheritance ahead of time, shamed the family name through his lifestyle, and wasted all that was his. Why should he expect anything better? After all, he was no longer the son to a man he considered dead, and there was nothing left of his portion of the family wealth; anything that would come to him would have to be earned or else taken from the older brother’s share. On the other end of the spectrum, we can see that the older brother had a mentality that was just as faulty. When he complained that the father had never given him a kid so he could have a barbeque with his friends, he was expressing a poverty mentality even though he was living right in the midst of the abundance of the family’s wealth. All he could see was the duties and responsibilities that came with the family business; he could not see himself as enjoying any of the privileges and benefits. Certainly, he must have envisioned the day when the father would pass away and leave him the ranch, but in the meantime he had only a slightly higher perspective than that of his younger sibling. Rather than seeing himself as a hired hand, he saw himself as a manager; yet he still saw himself as an outsider to the blessings. Whether we stray or stay isn’t the problem. The issue is whether we see ourselves as sons.
The fifth reason we don’t go far enough is that we have a wrong viewpoint about our salvation.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life…But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many…For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ…Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Romans 5:9, 10, 15, 17, 20)
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
I almost fell out of my chair when a prominent Christian leader requested a particular song to be sung at his meeting, stating that it was one of his favorites. The song he wanted is based around the idea that Jesus could have saved the whole world with just one drop of His blood, yet He loved us so much that He went through the entire crucifixion. The thing that surprised me was that the minister has such a powerful comprehension of the gospel that it seemed incomprehensible that he could possibly have overlooked the glaring theological error at the song’s foundation.
First of all, the very fact that Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane for three hours begging the Father for an alternative to the cross should have been enough clue that just one drop would not have settled the score. If just one drop was all that was needed, the Father would certainly have responded immediately that all Jesus needed to do was stop by the local clinic and have the nurse prick His finger and draw a quick sample. More importantly, the whole theological issue of the crucifixion is based on the fact that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. (Matthew 5:17) Certainly, Jesus fulfilled the Law by living a righteous life that measured up to each of the Law’s requirements; however, there was another side to His need to fulfill the Law—that of fulfilling all the judgments of the Law. Since Jesus actually took upon Himself all the sins of the world (II Corinthians 5:21), He had to also bear the punishment associated with each and every sin listed in the Law. The Old Testament Law listed many forms of chastisement, including burning with fire, stoning, hanging, striking with a sword, scourging, and cutting off one’s hand. Anything less than the full brunt of the crucifixion would not have satisfied the need to totally fulfill the Law. Jesus was paying for every sin, sickness, injury, and injustice in the history of the human race—every rape, every murder, every abduction for human trafficking, every mutilation by warlords, every drug dealer’s entrapment—and it took the price He paid to cover the bill.
Yes, He paid the full price. But before we leave the topic with simply that, we need to consider another story. This one has to do with an old farmer who has gone to the bank to cash a check. The teller whipped out his cash and shoved it under the grate at the window, but the aged gentleman didn’t just take the wad of cash and walk away as she expected. Instead, he slowly and deliberately counted each bill and totaled all the coins. As the teller watched the folks in line behind him begin to fidget, she asked if she had given him the correct amount. In his slow farmer’s drawl, he responded, “Just barely.” Although I’ve heard this story used to explain that it did take the full torture of the cross to settle our sin debt, I want to quickly point out that there is just as big a flaw in this story as in the song about the singular drop of blood. It is true that if Jesus had given anything less, it wouldn’t be enough; however, when he did pay, He lavished His blessing on us. If I only have $9.99, I can’t buy a $10 item. But if I have a million dollar check, I can pay for the $10 item and anything else I want. That’s what Jesus did for us—He paid the full liability against us but also left a deposit on our account to cover far more that we can ever expend!
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
The next reason we don’t go far enough is that we have a wrong viewpoint about our covenant position and possession.
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory…For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. (II Corinthians 3:9, 11)
These passages speak of the glorious experience of Moses’ visitation with God on Mount Sinai. When he came back to the camp, the people demanded that he cover his face with a veil because the glow of the anointing was so strong that they couldn’t stand to look at him. Think about the point that Paul is trying to get across here: the Old Testament law was so spectacular that Moses had to put a veil over his face to mitigate the shining light, but we don’t recognize that what we have is even better than that. If the Old Testament covenant could give the multitude manna to eat for forty years, provide enough quail to give them protein for four decades, open the Red Sea, raise a dead man by simply touching a prophet’s bones, make the sun and moon stand still, and kill giants—just imagine what untapped blessings are available in our better New Testament covenant!
Another reason we don’t go far enough is that we have a wrong viewpoint about our prophetic place in the world. In I Corinthians 6:3, Paul wrote, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” Wow! What a revelation. Somehow, some day—we will be responsible for judging angels! More over—since God has entrusted such a significant position to us, we need to take responsibility for the lesser obligations He has left in our charge. But because we don’t understand the awesome authority of our decisions and words, we think that what we say and do doesn’t make a difference. On the contrary, our words and deeds are actually passing verdict on the world. One loving act of acceptance or word of kindness can actually change someone’s course in life and determine his eternal destiny; on the other hand, one thoughtless—or even intentional—act of condemnation or cruel word of rejection can seal his fate and doom him for eternity. That’s why we are held accountable for every idle word. (Matthew 12:36)
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (I John 5:16)
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:23)
One final area that I would like to discuss as to why we don’t go far enough is that we have a wrong viewpoint of God’s end-time plan.
Now if the fall of them [the Jews] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?…For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:12, 24)
Israel is God’s chosen people. When they are in position, history is made. When a Joseph, an Esther, or a Solomon rises up, things change. Today, the Jewish people constitute about one fifth of one percent of the world’s population, but they hold one out of every five Noble Peace prizes. Just think what will happen when the whole nation of Israel is saved (Romans 11:26) and they are grafted back into their rightful position of authority in the earth!
Once we begin to realize how much more God has in store for us, the only questions left to ask are, “How much more do I want?” and “How far will I go with it?” Today we stand at the interfaces of destiny. Let’s go through the open doors, anticipating the provisions of the open windows of heaven as we take back the gates of hell.
I’d like to conclude this challenge with the words of the great apostolic prayer that Paul entreated over his dear brothers and sisters in Ephesus:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:17-23)