David Brandt Berg
It’s good for you to make a mistake; it keeps you humble! I make lots of them. If I didn’t make some mistakes, I’d probably get really proud and think I was very wholly sanctified and couldn’t sin. If I didn’t make some mistakes, I’d probably get proud of my sanctimonious holiness! But it seems like the Lord makes me one of the biggest mistake-makers in the world to keep me humble.
Even St. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, which he said he figured was to keep him humble. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a rabbi. After his tremendous conversion—which helped to humble him, even being blind for a while—then he became a Christian and such a powerhouse for the Lord and such an evangelist, such a missionary—he even had revelations, trips to heaven and whatnot—he might have gotten pretty proud over being such an outstanding Christian, undoubtedly the greatest of the apostles.
So St. Paul said he figured that’s why he had that thorn in the flesh. And what was it? Was it actually a sticker in his side? We’re not exactly told what it is, but from other scriptures about, “Behold with what large characters I write unto you” and “Some of you would have given me your own eyes,” it sounds like he had very poor eyesight, and that could have been a part of his thorn in the flesh (Galatians 6:11; 4:15).
It says he was buffeted by a messenger of Satan, an evil spirit that plagued St. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7). He was pestered by it, annoyed by it; it just kept bothering him! Evil spirits cannot possess Christians, because we are the possession of the Lord! We are possessed by Christ and He has promised He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will never allow us to fall; we will always be His. All kinds of promises guarantee that you belong to Jesus and that the Devil cannot have you. But he sure as hell can pester you, tempt you, and test you, just as he did Job!
So St. Paul had to admit he was being plagued by a demon, “buffeted about by a messenger of Satan.” Here he was the greatest Christian in the world at the time, the greatest leader of the Christian faith, greatest missionary, evangelist, teacher, and rabbi; it seemed like he had it all. He’d had all kinds of revelations, he was a lawyer of the Word, he was brilliant. And yet he had this thorn in the flesh that kept bothering him to keep him humble. He confessed that he figured that’s what it was for. He said, “Lest I be exalted.”
Job and self-righteousness
Look at all the trouble the Devil caused poor old Job! He destroyed his home, he destroyed his cattle, all his wealth, he killed all his children, and then he made him so sick his wife wished he’d curse God and die (Job 2:9). But it finally humbled him. He thought he was pretty good up until that time; he thought he was pretty righteous, and he goes on arguing with his so-called “comforters.” They weren’t very comforting; they were constantly accusing him of some kind of sin. “You must have done something wrong or you wouldn’t be in this shape!” And they were right.
Even God was bragging about Job, how good he was! But the Devil is the prosecutor, the accuser of the saints (Revelation 12:10). He’s a snoop, and he noses around and finds what your weakness is and what your problem is, and he does his best to aggravate it. And what was dear Job’s problem? Self-righteousness.
One of his accusers really hit the nail on the head when he said, “Job, can a man be found to be righteous with God?” (Job 4:17). Job was contending and arguing that he was righteous and saying, “How come? Why me, Lord? Why did You do this to me when I’m so good?” He had been thinking he was pretty good, pretty righteous, and that in itself was a sin!
Self-righteousness, thinking you’re good and righteous and holy, is the most abhorrent of all sins because you think you know better than God, that you would do things differently; that you’re even more righteous than God. That’s the way Job seemed to be thinking: “God, if I were You, I wouldn’t do this to me. How come You’re not as righteous as I am? How come You’re doing these things to me when I’m so good?”
So poor old Job had to finally confess that he wasn’t righteous. And he finally confessed that he had to just trust the Lord, not his own righteousness. When his wife told him to just curse God and die, he said, “Though He slay me,” even if God slays me, “yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). In other words, he was attesting to the righteousness of God. “Even if God kills me, I will trust that He knew best and that He was righteous in so doing.”
So that was the worst sin of all, the sin of the scribes and the Pharisees, hypocritical self-righteousness!
How do we know we’re not righteous? The best answer you could give is: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And another verse that goes right with it: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).
We’re all a mess! We’re all sinners. We all harbor evil in our hearts except for the Lord. “The heart of man is desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). God’s Word says you’re even born in sin. But that doesn’t mean it’s a sin to be born. It says, “And in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
Probably a lot of people tried to worship King David because he was such a great man and so wonderful and did such wonderful things, in spite of all his evil. He was a murderer, a wife stealer, a liar, a cheat, a hypocrite; he was just about everything you could think of that was evil in those early days. I like to think, according to his Psalms, that he vastly improved later, so there’s some hope for me too!
Angels have choice
The quicker you find out that you’re not God, the better. And you’re not even a god, as the Devil promised (Genesis 3:5)! You’re sons of God and we will become like gods, like the lesser gods, so to speak, like angels, even greater than angels. Man was made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stay there.
We’re even going to judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). If a third of the angels could fall along with Satan, and he could lead a third of them astray, I therefore disagree with the preachers I’ve heard saying that angels are like automatons or robots and have no will of their own; they just do the will of God. I’ve heard preachers preach like that, that they’re not like us, that we are the only ones upon whom God conferred the majesty of choice and decision to choose to serve the Lord.
We’re the only ones whom God saved this way. But if the archangel of all angels, Satan, the right hand of God, could choose to go against God, and then a third of the angels choose to follow him, don’t tell me the rest of the angels don’t have any choice! It wouldn’t be to their credit that they stayed with the Lord, would it? About the only thing to your credit for being saved is that you made the choice. You reached out the hand of faith and accepted the gift. That’s not much credit, but God will give you credit for it by saving you. So I believe angels must have choice.
We keep learning
If you didn’t have that human frailty, that human weakness to make wrong decisions and to fail, then there would not be the freedom of choice, the majesty of free will that God implanted in every heart, including, apparently, in the hearts of the angels, to make a choice, to voluntarily love and serve Him. Jesus said, “I have not called you servants, but friends. For the Master doesn’t tell everything to His servants, His slaves” (John 15:15). He wanted you as friends. He wanted you as His beloved; not only friends, but His bride!
Do you mean, then, that if angels and holy spirits have choices, that they may also have temptations and maybe they make a mistake once in a while? Those holy spirits, the saints, are human just like you and me! And just because you suddenly get a spirit body in the next world and you suddenly have some powers you didn’t have before, such as appearing and disappearing and walking through walls and flying and a few things like that, sorry to have to tell you this to your great disappointment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never again make a mistake or never again make the wrong choice.
In the next world we are still learning, still developing, and we are not yet perfected. We will be the spirits of just men—in other words, good men—made perfect (Hebrews 12:23). But when? We’re being made perfect. It’s a continuative tense; it means, “I am being made perfect!
We use this verse for salvation a lot, that if you believe in your heart in Jesus, that God’s raised Him from the dead, it says to confess Him: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9–10). The Greek literally says, “If thou shalt keep on confessing.” If you’re saved you’ll keep on confessing Christ; you’ll continually confess Christ. That tense in the Greek is used many times in the Bible. There’s not a verb conjugation for it in English; there’s no way of saying it except to use words like I have: You’ve got to keep on confessing and we’re going to keep on learning and keep on being made perfect. We’ve got a long way to go before we become perfect, if ever!
Did you think that the minute you died and went to heaven you were going to be absolutely perfect? How could you be when you’ve been so imperfect down here? You’re the same person with the same thoughts, the same mind. That’s a part of the marvel and the wonder of this process of being made perfect, that it continues. And who knows, maybe there’s no end to it.
It’s wonderful to be able to make progress and continue. Even St. Paul said, “I do not count myself to have arrived”—and he probably hasn’t arrived yet, except in heaven (Philippians 3:13)!
Life is a learning process
Life is a learning process. And you don’t learn it by snapping your fingers or suddenly getting an injection!—Or like you’ve seen in some of these sci-fis where they put a skull cap on one guy and drain his brain and put all of his knowledge in your head. Wouldn’t that be nice? It would be so easy! But look what you would miss—this trial-and-error process, this trying-and-learning process.
Look how a baby learns. Why didn’t God have babies born like some of the animals, where they could just get up and walk around right off the bat? Baby goats and lambs and cows and horses can stand up within a few minutes after they’re born and walk around and follow their mothers—because they have to. Their mothers are busy wandering all over the pasture eating grass and can’t just stay there all the time letting them nurse.
Human babies are almost the most helpless babies in the world. Lots of other babies are made so they can almost shift for themselves as soon as they’re born. But isn’t it wonderful to watch a baby learn and grow? Even while he’s still in his mother’s tummy the baby is learning; he’s hearing sounds, voices, music, recognizing voices, even recognizing music.
They learn so many things! It’s so marvelous to watch them learn, and watch them learn the difference between doing it right and doing it wrong. There are a few things God puts innately in you as instincts, they’re called. An instinct is a talent that is not acquired; you don’t have to learn it. It’s a knowledge of something that God put in you that you just know how to do without it ever being taught or learned.
Don’t you think God enjoys watching you learn things? Even by mistakes, trial and error? And don’t you learn things better that way and for sure that way? Isn’t experience really the best teacher? Sometimes it’s the hardest, but you know, about the only mistakes I never made again in school—some of the only ones I ever remember—are the ones I made on a test, facts or figures where I made a mistake and got the answer wrong. I never forgot that again, let me tell you!
But some people are “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge” (2 Timothy 3:7). As the old Indian used to say, “The difference between white man and Indian is, Indian no make same mistake twice!”
The learning process is a marvelous thing! That’s what we’re here for. That’s what Adam and Eve in the Garden was all about. Why didn’t God just create them with the knowledge of good and evil and how to be good and not be bad? What was the surest way to learn, to really know and never forget? Of course, some people never seem to learn and they never seem to even try; they always forget!
Even when you make mistakes once in a while, it helps you to learn that it feels so good when you don’t. Because we all make them! We’re all sinners! “There’s none righteous, no, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Nobody’s perfect.
That’s what life is all about! It’s all about, believe it or not, not being perfect. The Christian life is a constant learning process. I don’t mean you learn to be saved; you’re saved the minute you believe and Jesus comes into your heart. You believe the Word and you receive Christ, and you’re saved then and there. Because that’s a gift; you had nothing to do with learning it or earning it!
It’s a miracle of God. He does it all for you, He’s already done it, and it’s finished! But that is just the beginning of learning how to be a Christian and live a Christian life, to love others, and even how to love God and how to be faithful and how to be loyal, how to be diligent.
Learning in eternity
Then you have to die, and then you’ve got a thousand years and all eternity to learn all the things you didn’t learn while you were a flesh-and-blood human being. I think God has an awful lot of things to teach us, to learn all the things we didn’t learn in this life.
Not only this life, but the Millennium and eternity are a constant learning process, another grade, another step. Aren’t you glad you’ve got eternity to learn it? I’m going to look forward to the Millennium to learn a few things I haven’t learned yet. I’ve got a lot of questions to ask, for one thing, but I’ve probably got a lot of bad habits to cure and a lot of my failures to make up for. There’s so much!
How could you possibly think you could just somehow get a shot in the head the minute you die and go to heaven and suddenly you know it all? You’d be like God! Suddenly you’d have it all, know it all, be all-powerful. If you were that way you’d be God Himself. He’s the only one who is omniscient; that means He knows it all. He’s the only one that’s omnipresent; that means everywhere. He’s the only one that’s omnipotent; that means all-powerful. Not you, not me.
Now doesn’t that challenge you more than sitting on a cloud playing a harp for eternity? Why eternity if you know it all the minute you get there? What’s it for? We can call it time, but it’s eternity. What’s all that eternity for? If you’ve made it, you have arrived, you’ve got it all, you know it all and you’re all-powerful, what’s the use of living? What’s the challenge? What’s all that time for? I call it time for lack of a better word, but what’s all that eternity for? What’s it all for if you’ve arrived and got it all and know it all the minute you get there and it’s all over, no more problems?
There are a lot of things there aren’t going to be any more of: pain, death, sickness and sorrow (Revelation 21:4). He doesn’t say there’s not going to be any more tears, but He says He’s going to wipe away our tears. I think there’s still going to be some pain and obviously death. It says a child will die in the Millennium and there will be sorrow and tears in this world, but not with us.
Thank God, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for; there are going to be a lot of things done and finished that we’ll never have to worry about again. We’ve got so many new things to do and new things to learn and new problems, that we can’t be afflicted with all those things we used to have.
We’re making progress
Thank God, when we get to the next life, we won’t have to relearn a lot of the things we’ve already learned. There are some things you’ve already learned and it’s past, and thank God it’s done! You don’t have to learn that anymore; isn’t that wonderful?
Aren’t there some things in your adult life, thank God, that you have learned and that you don’t have to learn anymore?—That you surely have learned and learned enough and made enough of those mistakes that you’re not going to make them any longer? Thank God there are some things that we have learned.
There’s one good thing about looking back, and about the only good thing about looking back. The Lord says, “Don’t look back; look forward to the things that are before” (Philippians 3:13–14)—except for one thing: to see all the progress you’ve made.
That’s one advantage to looking back, at least you can see where you’ve been. Don’t you feel like you’ve made some progress when you look back and you see how you used to be, things you used to do, what you used to be like? Thank God for the progress you have made! Thank Him for where you have been. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling of satisfaction, of fulfillment, of a certain amount of completion? Didn’t you always have a certain feeling of real satisfaction when you graduated from a grade in school or in college?
Don’t sorrow over what you are today. The Lord said not to worry about yesterday and not to worry about tomorrow. The trouble with a lot of people is, they’re not only worried about yesterday, the past, they’re also worried about the future; and worst of all, they’re worried about right now, lamenting over the way they are now. They can’t even correct the present—they certainly can’t correct the past—but you can change the future, your future in a sense, by trying to change your present.
Look how marvelous it is that you’ve come this far! Don’t you think the Lord rejoices over it too? Don’t you think He gets excited about it just like you do every time the baby takes a new step or learns a new word or makes a little progress or that child learns to read? I still don’t know anything compared to what I’m learning and hope to learn! All the things I still don’t know about the Bible, all the things I still don’t know about nature and creation and heaven and the future!
Thank God for the past—that it’s gone and over with and done, and you don’t have to go through that again. I still make some mistakes, bad mistakes sometimes, but I hope I’m learning. Don’t you hope you’re learning? Don’t you hope you’re not going to make any more of those mistakes again? That you’re going to learn here so that you won’t have to learn there because you still hadn’t learned?
That’s what the future is all about, to continue the process that you have begun here. We’ve got a lot not only to be thankful for, the past that’s over, but we’ve got a lot yet to learn!
Would you like to undo some of the things you did in the past but now it’s too late, you figure it’s impossible, the damage is done? What if God gives you another chance to meet that person over there and straighten that thing out and undo it and tell them you’re sorry and help them to undo the damage you did? Wouldn’t you like to do that?
Aren’t there some things in your past you’d like to undo if God gave you another chance? I believe God’s going to give you a chance to do some of the things you failed to do and make things right with some of the people you hurt. Doesn’t that give you a good feeling, to think God’s going to give you a chance to do some of the things you failed to do here and undo some of the things you did?
That’s what this life is about, that’s what the Millennium’s about, that’s what eternity is about! That’s what it’s all about, why God made you and created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden and all the rest. Because you’ve got a lot of learning to do, and it takes time to really learn.
It’s all a part of God’s plan and process to make you learn for yourself what you can, and He will give you what you can’t! So be thankful for the past, that it’s over with. Be thankful for the present, that you’re learning, even if you’re not always successful. And thank God for the future when you can finish the job, we hope, or at least keep on with the job and do even better!
Thank You, Lord, for the past, the present, and the future. Thank You for all Your blessings, both the good and the bad, even the bad that taught us things in the past, and all the good things, and for the present, the better things, and for the future, the best things! Give us a good day to learn whatever we need to learn today, or to lean however we need to lean today on You, and on others. And Lord, to rest in whatever way we need to rest, and to love in whatever way we need to love! In Jesus’ name we ask, for Thy glory. Amen.
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