BY RALPH WOODROW
In 1929 it was called Bib-label Lithiated Lemon Lime Soda. Today, we know this soft drink as 7-UP. But this message is not about a carbonated beverage. Instead, we want to give you some meaty morsels, a spiritual shish kebab, as it were, regarding seven “ups” of the Bible. Our title may not sound too deep, theologically speaking, nevertheless
messages with simple titles may be long remembered when others fade into obscurity. There are seven points to this message which I will state et the outact (1) Wake up, (2) Shake up, (3) Pay up, (4) Make up, (5) Fire up, (6) Cheer up, and (7) Shut up.
1. WAKE UP. “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness” (Romans 13:11, 12). Paul says it is time to wake up.
It is through the church that God can do “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Yet, the church has sometimes been asleep–as a sleeping giant. The potential is there. The power is there. The authority is there. But a sleeping church will not get the job done.
In Ephesians 5:14, we read: “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Normally we would assume a quotation such as this is from the Old Testament. But these words are found nowhere in the Old Testament. It has been conjectured they may have been a part of a Christian hymn that
was then in use. In any event, the message is that people must wake up.
The prophet Joel said: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain” (Joel 2:1). What is the purpose for an alarm? It is to wake people up. An alarm clock is a clock that wakes people up. Ministers who fail to sound the alarm, to give the warning, to wake us up, do not measure up to God’s standards. Isaiah had a name
for them: “They are dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” (Isaiah 56:10). Imagine having a watch dog that sleeps all the time–a dog that does not bark when some intruder comes near!
Jesus told a parable about “a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way” (Matthew 13:24,25). Had these men been awake, they could have stopped this trespassing and prevented the disaster that resulted later on. So is it with us. While we sleep, spiritually
speaking, the enemy plants his seeds. We do not realize what has happened at the time, but later these seeds become weeds!–weeds of compromise, bitterness, malice, envy, variance, jealousy, and strife. They grow and begin to chock out the good in our lives.
Jesus said to his sleeping disciples, “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Needless to say, the flesh is weak. As the disciples, we all need that spiritual reinforcement that is ours through prayer. When the church has gotten so worldly, and the world has gotten so churchy, we must wake up and take a look at our spiritual condition. For some, religion becomes a fad–comparable to reducing or collecting antiques. They have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). We must remember that “not every one that says Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that
doeth the will the Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). It is more than a little hot chocolate in the church basement. Sermonettes for Christianettes are not the answer. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We need to wake up!
Isaiah preached: “Awake, awake…shake thyself from the dust” (Isaiah 52:1,2). It was not “shake and bake,” but “awake and shake”–which brings us to our next point.
2. SHAKE UP. Ezekiel once saw the house of Israel as a valley “full of bones, and lo, they were very dry.” His description could well fit the spiritual condition of many churches. They need more than a “revival,” it will take a resurrection for them! As Ezekiel told those dry bones to “hear the word of the Lord,” there was “a noise and behold
a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone…and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
You may remember the words of a negro spiritual about “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, now hear the word of the Lord!” As the pitch of the song rises, it tells how the foot bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the hip bone,
etc., and they all hear the word of the Lord!
What a shaking there was in that valley of dry bones! The breath came into them. They became a great army. So today, the church must have a shaking, a mighty infilling of the Holy Spirit, to become a great army for God. Such was the “shake up” experienced by the church in the book of Acts. On one occasion, not only were they shaken, but
“the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
I used to have a song leader who would read the instructions on a bottle of salad dressing: “Shake well before using.” Then, before using the dressing, he would proceed to shake. Of course it got a lot of laughs–and a few funny looks! Shaking the body will not make one more spiritual, but many Christians today need a good old-fashioned shaking
by the power of God–to shake off lethargy, deadness, wordiness, unbelief, a critical spirit, and any other debris that robs us of spiritual victory.
3. PAY UP. It should be recognized by all that we cannot buy the blessings of God. We are “not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18). When the Samaria sorcerer offered Peter money, supposing he could buy a gift of God, Peter said: “To hell with you and your money!
How dare you think you could buy the gift of God?” (Acts 8:20). These words are from the Phillips translation which adds a footnote: ‘These are exactly what the Greek means. It is a pity that their real meaning is obscured by modern slang.” The point is, Peter had no time or patience with the idea that money could buy the gift of God.
Others give to God in a way that is almost like playing the stock market. They have been taught that what you plant is what you’ll get–if you plant potatoes you will get potatoes, and if you plant dollars, God will give you dollars, lots of dollars! While it is true that God does bless some people financially–and we would not exalt poverty as a goal–yet true giving is not giving to get. These are abuses that have been taught Nevertheless, the Bible does teach giving. God has already done so much for us and, in a definite sense, we need to pay up!
As in Malachi’s day, we might well ask the question: “Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8). It is not that God needs the money. How could he? He owns everything. But there is a principle here, an attitude that is involved. Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Interestingly, this quotation is nowhere in the gospels, as we might suppose. We only know these words of Jesus because Paul quoted them while speaking to the Ephesian elders.
Some people have never learned how to give to God. When the offering plate comes by, they pull out a little coin, squeeze it so tight that Abe Lincoln would think the Civil War was still on! Grudgingly they look at their “offering” and, as it were, sing: “When we part I cannot grin; God be with you till we meet again.” But God loves a cheerful giver! (2 Corinthians 9:6,7). “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). God wants us to be a generous people–not stingy.
4. MAKE UP. You may have heard sermons against makeup–about how Jezebel painted her face. Others point out, however, that she also took a bath and combed her hair. And there is the story about a man who had an old dilapidated barn. One day he painted it bright red. It looked better. So, it is countered sometimes a little paint helps an old barn!
But our subject here is not cosmetics. By make up, we are talking about people making things right! Christians should pay up, but even their offering is not acceptable to God if they need to make up. When bringing a gift to the altar, Jesus said, “first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:24). Wrongs must
be made right.
We must not harbor an unforgiving spirit. I recall years ago a woman who had been wronged by a preacher over some financial dealings. She told me: “I will never forgive him!” But who did this attitude hurt? The preacher had moved to another state and was no longer in contact with her. Her unforgiveness did not hurt him–he knew nothing
about it one way or the other. This refusal to forgive hurt her!
A Christian lady once said to me: “You don’t know all the lies they tell on me!” I told her: “Well, half the lies they tell on you are not true anyhow! ” It took her back for a moment, but she was good natured and smiled.
How often should one forgive? Jesus, using what has been termed “high voltage vocabulary,” said to forgive–not only seven times, but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22). Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” It would not be very consistent for us to ask God to forgive
us, if we refuse to forgive others. Paul put it this way: “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). The concept of forgiveness is at the very heart of the gospel. God wants us to make up!
5. FIRE UP. “I would you were cold or hot,” Jesus said to the Christians at Laodicea. “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth”” (Revelation 3:15,16). Like those Christians at Laodicea, there are many today who are lukewarm in their spiritual dedication. They have not rejected God totally; but they are lukewarm. They need to fire up!
Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8). Many are lukewarm in their witness for Christ. Oh if someone backed them up against the wall they would not deny the Lord, but they never go out of their way to share the gospel with others. I am reminded of a Christian young man who spent several months working in a remote logging area. Knowing he would be among many rough and ungodly men, the church back home continually held him up in prayer. When he returned, they asked him how he had survived this time, being a Christian and all. “Oh just fine,” he replied, “they never found out!”
Some church members are lukewarm in honesty. They would not go out and rob a bank. But suppose they are given too much change as they go through the checkout counter at the market. They shove the money in their pocket and out the door they go! While professing to be “saints,” they act like “ain’ts”! Dad gets so mad at mom that he picks up a chair and throws it at her. She and the children duck just in time for it to crash into the wall plaque that says: “God Bless Our Home.” Then we wonder why there is not more blessing on many homes!
People always like to go see a fire. It has been said, “Get the church on fire and the city will turn out to watch us burn!” Some people are so afraid of wildfire, they have no fire at all. We should not fear wildfire, there are always “wet blankets” around that will put it out.
A man described a church he attended once as The First Church of the Frigidare. It was so cold, the chandeliers were made of icicles, the pews were lined with frost, and as he looked around, sitting next to him was a polar bear! At offering time, the ushers skated up and down the aisles on ice skates collecting cold cash! Everything about that church was cold.
God makes his ministers “a flame of fire” (Hebrews 1:7). Jeremiah was so aflame with the word of the Lord, it was like a fire shut up in his bones. Even when he became discouraged, and at one point thought he would quit preaching, he could not: “I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.
But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9). The word was like a fire–he had to let it out. He couldn’t quit preaching, even if he wanted to!
We need that fire, that enthusiasm, that power of the Holy Spirit. Too long the Devil has pushed us around; it is time to massage his vertebra with some red hot religion. One preacher said: “I’m gonna that that Devil till I can’t stomp him anymore; I’m gonna punch him till I can’t punch any more; I’m gonna bite him until I don’t have any teeth, and then, bless God, I’ll just gum him to death!” The Bible says: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
A member of a certain church, who previously had attended services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the minister came to visit him one chilly evening. Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The minister made himself comfortable, but said absolutely nothing. In grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, he took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember, and placed it to one side of the hearth, all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all of this in quiet fascination. As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold. Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. Just before the minister was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the
fire, and immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it. As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for your fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next week!”
6. CHEER UP. In the midst of a severe storm, when the light of the sun or moon had not been seen in days, among 276 people on this ship at sea, Paul said: “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God” (Acts 27:25). Bravo! He had received a directive from the Lord; though the ship would be lost, their lives would be spared. One person can make a difference–someone who encourages people to cheer up!
People face all kinds of problems and adversity. Often we have no idea the heavy loads some carry. They may be near the breaking point. A kind word of cheer may help them make it; whereas negative, discouraging talk might push them further down–like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
The early Christians were filled with the Holy Ghost and joy (Acts 13:52). They didn’t go around with faces so long they could suck marbles out of a gopher hole. Long faces are OK on mules in Missouri, but no good on Christians in California! Cheering up is good for one’s health, too. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
God can give us that inward joy, even when around us there are trials and tribulations. It was in this context of severe trial and testing that Peter said he could rejoice “with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). It was such inward joy that caused Paul and Silas, though shut up in a Philippian prison, to sing praises unto God at midnight (Acts 16:25). “God…giveth songs in the night” (Job 35:10). Jesus said: “In the world YOU shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
7. SHUT UP. People who try to monopolize every conversation, who constantly interrupt others (as though they know more than anyone else), are very rude. They need to learn when to shut up. “A fool’s voice is known by multitude of words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3).”Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak”(James 1:19). Sometimes we all talk too much. We talk when we should listen.
Jesus said: “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36,37). I don’t know that I fully understand this, but it is evident that God looks on sins of the tongue very seriously. James wrote: “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…it defileth the whole body, and…is set on fire of hell”! (James 3:6).
More people are run down by gossip than are run down by automobiles! Sometimes even Christians will gossip about a host of people, and all the sins they are supposedly committing, and then end by saying: “I don’t want you to think I am ‘talking’ about these people. I’m just telling you this so you will know how to pray!
I recall years ago while holding meetings in a church, prior to the prayer time, requests were taken. One lady said: “Folks, let’s pray for Mr. Richards. That old reprobate really needs God. He’s a drunk, a womanizer, and just no good.” She did not know that Mr. Richards was sitting right behind her! He had not been inside the church in years.
In the embarrassment, he got up and walked out. The pastor of the church leaned over to me and explained what had happened. It was unfortunate.
Back in the 50s it was often debated whether a preacher, or any other Christian, should have a television set. Churches that had stood against the movie theatre, now felt the theatre was coming into the living room. Instead of “television,” some called it “hellevision.” Anyhow, in this setting, a woman phoned a certain pastor and said: “Did
you know that Pastor got him a hell-evision?” The other pastor, even though he did not have a television himself, asked her: “Is that so? Did someone tell you that on your hell-e-phone?” We will not attempt to judge this woman’s motives–God is the judge of that. The point is: a television or a telephone is but a channel. It can be a channel for
truth–or trash. If one sins by gossiping, it is sin whether it is done over the back fence to a neighbor or on a telephone to a person a thousand miles away.
If it is bad to gossip, it is also bad to listen to gossip. If someone says: “Did you hear what so-and-so did?” You can ask: “Was it good?” When their reply is negative, you can say: “Then I don’t want to hear it!” Jesus said: “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24). People who always put others down, must suppose that making others look small will
make themselves look BIG. But it is not big “I” and little “u” in God’s program. Each will give an account of himself to God. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6).
It has been said: “There are four parts to a good sermon: (1) Tell them what you are going to tell them, (2) tell them, (3) tell them what you told them, and then (4) shut up.” And with these words we will do just that!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY RALPH WOODROW, P.O. BOX 124, RIVERSIDE, CA 92502. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.