Jack Carroll - Jesus' Words are Eternal - Urach, Germany - 1950

The most important words ever spoken on earth fell from the lips of Jesus. He was preeminently the "teacher who came from God." Hebrews 1, "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." He, Himself, said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away." His Father from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." Your hope of heaven and mine too, depends on our attitude towards the words and sayings of Jesus. If we love Him, we will keep His words. He said, "He that loveth Me not keepeth not My words."

 

There are seven of these words of Jesus I would like to leave with you this morning. They are easy to remember and will help us every day of our lives as they find a place in our hearts. You will find these words in Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God." Something or somebody is first in every heart and life. We are responsible as individuals for deciding who that person is or what that thing may be. In the days of Jesus, some were hindered from entering the Kingdom because of not being willing to put the Kingdom first. One said, "My farm has the first claim on my time and affection;" another said, "My business has the first claim on my time and affection;" another said, "My wife, my family, my home have the first claim on my time and affection." None of those who excused themselves entered the Kingdom of God.

 

Some have been hindered from following in the pathway of discipleship by permitting their relations, or business, or possessions to take the first place in their hearts and lives. If we are to enter this Kingdom and to follow in the pathway of true discipleship, we must be willing under every condition and circumstance to put first things first. It is a good wholesome spiritual exercise for all of us as the servants and people of God to ask ourselves frequently the question, "What am I really seeking? What is the ruling purpose and passion of my life? Can I honestly say that I am seeking 'first the Kingdom of God?'" To ask God to search our hearts when on our knees is good for all of us, so that we may be moved - no matter what it may cost - to put God's interests first in our hearts, first in our homes, and first in our business.

 

Those of us who are the servants of God need to examine ourselves frequently and ask God to search our hearts. We who are older in the work are tempted more often than those who are younger to "seek our own things not the things of Jesus Christ." If those of us who are older in the work and service of God fail in this, we are giving to those who are younger an example which will produce a dreadful harvest in years to come. I know nothing more vital, more important, to the servants and people of God today in this land, and every other land, than to have this matter settled once and forever in our hearts that in every choice we make, and every step we take, the Kingdom's interests are first.

 

Those words of Jesus, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God" throughout the years, in every land, have saved many of God's servants and God's people from making wrong choices and taking wrong steps. During the last fifty years, I have seen some of God's servants, and God's people too, taking wrong steps and making wrong choices. The root reason for this is unwillingness to "seek first the Kingdom of God." Jesus Himself lived out before His own disciples and before the World what those words were intended to mean. In every word He spoke, in every act of His life, in every journey that He undertook, the interests of the Kingdom of God were first in His mind and in His heart. In this, He left a good example for every child of God, young and old.

 

His first recorded words were these, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" From an open heaven at the beginning of His ministry, His Father spoke and said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." For eighteen years, His Father's business and interests were first in His heart and life. Three years later, His Father from heaven spoke and said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him!" Well pleased with the words that fell from His lips; well pleased with every act of His life, Jesus Himself said, "The Father has not left Me alone because I do always those things that please Him." On that last night, He could look into His Father's face and say, "Father, I have glorified Thee on earth, I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do." If we want to understand the real meaning of these words of Jesus, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God," we should study carefully the record of His life and ministry and hear again those words He spoke to the disciples of old,"Follow Me!"

 

We have in the life of one of His servants another example of what it means to "seek first the Kingdom of God," the Apostle Paul. In his life and ministry, from beginning to end, he demonstrates before the servants and people of God what it really means to "seek first the Kingdom of God." We might read a few verses in his own words, which will help us to understand the purpose and passion of his life: Romans 1:14-16, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also." Acts 20:24, referring to bonds and afflictions awaiting him he wrote, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God." Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," 20th verse, the purpose of his life was that "Christ be magnified in his body whether by life or death." Philippians 3:7-8, "…but what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. I have suffered the loss of all things that I may win Christ." At the end of his life, in II Timothy 4:6-8, he gives his last testimony, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."

 

The need of the world, the need of Germany this morning, the greatest need of all, is Gospel preachers with the same spirit and purpose as this man, who, in the long ago, made so clear what it meant to "seek first the Kingdom of God," as he followed closely in the footsteps of his Master and Lord. This is our responsibility today as the bondservants and handmaidens of the Lord, but it is also the privilege and responsibility of the people of God to "seek first the Kingdom of God." Read John 12:1-8, we have here a four-fold picture of the children of God who were willing to "seek first the Kingdom of God." These verses tell of a feast in the home of Simon, the father of Judas Iscariot, to which Jesus and His disciples were invited. There were two homes in the village of Bethany to which Jesus was welcome: the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and the second home, the home of Simon, whose son dishonored his father's name and disgraced his father's home.

 

There are four things we see in this home on this occasion; first, a home that was consecrated to God; we see in Martha consecrated service (she might have preferred to serve in her own home, as she had done on other occasions, but she was willing to serve gladly in the home of another); we see in Lazarus a picture of consecrated fellowship (he sat at the table to eat and drink with Jesus); we see in Mary consecrated sacrifice (she was willing to give all to anoint the body of Jesus for His burial). I have been in homes in different parts of the world where this scene was lived out. God's people willing to consecrate their homes to His Service, willingly glad sometimes to serve in the homes of others, having true and hearty fellowship with Jesus, and willing to sacrifice for His sake. We would like to think that the homes of the people of God represented here this morning have these marks of consecration, service, fellowship and sacrifice. "Seeking first the Kingdom of God" is not limited to the servants of God. His people too can share in this privilege and responsibility. The happiest homes I have ever visited are homes after the pattern of Simon, in that little village of Bethany.

 

What then is this Kingdom of God we are to seek first? The phrase itself occurs over one hundred times in the Gospels. Every word that Jesus spoke, every act of His life, every journey that He undertook, had just one purpose: the extension of God's Kingdom in the world. That is the reason why He could say on that last night of His life, "I have glorified Thee on earth and finished the work Thou gavest me to do."

 

There are three characteristics of this Kingdom that I would like to leave with you this morning. It is, first of all, a Kingdom of sacrifice, founded by sacrifice and can only be maintained by sacrifice. This sacrifice began in the very courts of heaven when the Father gave His Son, and continued on earth when the Son gave Himself so fully, so utterly, for your salvation and mine. During those three and a half years of His public ministry, He not only "gave Himself” but called others and taught them to give themselves in the service of God and man. It was this spirit of sacrifice in the lives and ministry of the servants and people of God in those days that enabled the Gospel to be carried to the "uttermost parts of the earth" in the first thirty years after the resurrection. There were no railroads in those days, no steamboats, no printing presses, and yet the Gospel spread in those first thirty years more quickly than ever since.

 

What we need in this land, and in every other land today, is the same spirit of service and sacrifice that characterized these first Gospel preachers. If the spirit of self-seeking and self-pleasing takes the place of the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice for the Gospel's sake, we may have a name to live, but we are actually and literally dead. We must never forget, as the servants and people of God, that the salvation of men, the spread of the Gospel, the extension of the Kingdom of God in the world depends upon the mutual sacrifice in this our day of the servants and people of God.

 

If the world is to see Jesus in this generation, it can only be through the fulfillment of John 12:24-26 in our lives and ministry. We might read these words over together, "Verily, verily I say I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me." Those words of Jesus should be read over often. All would be helped by memorizing and meditating upon them.

 

A few years ago, a young worker came to me at the beginning of Convention. I knew that he and his companion had had a hard time during the year. I knew that their hearts were well nigh broken. As I looked into this young man's face, I knew he was discouraged and felt almost like giving up. Mentioning his name, I said, "I will speak to you when the Convention is over." When the Convention was over, he came to me and said, "I see it all now! What I need most is a deeper death and greater sacrifice for the Gospel's sake, and I am willing for this." This morning, he is eight thousand miles from home, preaching the Gospel in another land and to people of a different colour, and rejoicing in the privilege of "a deeper death and greater sacrifice" for the Gospel's sake.

 

I would like to think that those of us in the work and service of God, whether young or old, are willing for this "deeper death and greater sacrifice." These verses which we have just read prove that the law of the natural harvest is the law of the spiritual harvest. Wheat must be scattered, must be sown, must die, if a harvest is to be produced. By example and precept, Jesus taught clearly and unmistakably that this Gospel which we love, and which means so much to us, can only be preached by dying men and dying women, men and women who are willing for death to work in them so that life might be brought to others.

 

Every servant of God in this meeting is free to choose to lose or to save his life; in other words, we can choose to be this corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, or we can keep and save our lives, suit ourselves and please ourselves.

 

Paul said, in writing to his friends, "I die daily." He wrote, "Death worketh in me but life in you." There never was and never will be any other way of bringing the Gospel to the sons and daughters of men. It is not easy for the bondservants and handmaidens of the Lord to "die daily." They have taken steps which have blighted and blasted every earthly prospect. In their first consecration and first love, they have renounced everything that naturally men and women would enjoy in this world. We would like to think that every servant of God here today is willing to maintain this first consecration and first love, and have purposed in their hearts that they will not allow anything or anybody to hinder them from being as this corn of wheat that dies.

 

(1) It isn't easy to die to a "certain dwelling place," I Corinthians 4:11. Jesus said, "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head," Luke 9:58. The homelessness of the servants of God is as vital to the Kingdom of God as the church in the home, and only in the home. These two truths are part of the foundation of all that we teach - the church in the home and the preacher without a home. When we depart from these two foundation truths we are taking steps in the direction of Babylon, the mother of harlots. Paul died to a certain dwelling place, to a home of his own.

 

(2) It is not easy to die to earthly possessions, to make oneself poor for life for the Gospel's sake. Luke 12:33, "Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth." Matthew 19:22, "But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions."

 

(3) It is not easy to die to the claims of our earthly relatives and friends. Luke 9:59-62, "And He said unto another, 'Follow Me.' But he said, 'Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.' Jesus said unto him, 'Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.' And another also said, 'Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.' And Jesus said unto him, 'No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'" Mark 3:31-33, "There came then His brethren and His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, 'Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee.' And He answered them, saying, ‘Who is My mother, or My brethren?’"

 

(4) It is not easy to die to the natural inclinations of our own flesh and our own hearts. I Corinthians 9:24-27, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

 

If we are to follow heartily in the footsteps of our Master and of Paul, the servant of God, we must be willing for this "daily dying." Apart from this, no true foundation can be laid in any land. I would like to think that in this meeting, we in particular, as the servants of God, are willing to be true to our first consecration and our first love, and give ourselves heartily unto death - as the corn of wheat - so that life may come to men and women who are "dead in trespasses and sins."

 

During the Revolutionary war in America, one of the American patriots was arrested as a spy. He was sentenced to death and before his execution he was asked the question, "Have you anything to say?" He replied, "I have but one regret, that I have only one life to give for my country." Some of us feel that way, too. We would like to have more lives than one to lay down for the Gospel's sake and for a perishing world.

 

There are two other characteristics of this Kingdom I would like to mention before closing. It is a Kingdom of service, where every citizen of the Kingdom lives to serve and not to rule. Jesus said to those first disciples, on that last night of His life, "I am among you as One that serveth."

 

In the Old Testament, we see leadership and service united in the life and ministry of Moses. In the New Testament, we see leadership and service perfected in the life and ministry of Jesus. The truly great in this Kingdom of God are those who serve. It is the spirit of service in the lives and ministry of the people and servants of God that will enable them to be truly great in the Kingdom. This Kingdom of God is one in which all serve and none rule.

 

Third: it is a realm of love and not of law. The citizens of this Kingdom are expected to obey the law of love — the love that includes all the graces and excludes all the vices; the love that is so beautifully defined in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. As we live in obedience to this law, Jesus Himself said, "By this, shall all men know that ye are My disciples." I hope you will remember these characteristics of the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingdom of sacrifice; it is a Kingdom where all serve and none rule; it is a realm of love and not law. This love includes all the graces and excludes all the vices. May God grant that every one of us in the work and in the church will "seek first the Kingdom of God" in coming days.