In explaining what has become one of his personal catch-phrases, “Stay close and clean,” Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., taught on the transition from hearing to receiving so that believers can be doing the word of God.
Hunt, an alumnus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., spoke to the student body of Southeastern on March 25. He serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. During his time as the pastor of FBC Woodstock, Hunt has coined the phrase, “Close and clean,” in relation to his spiritual walk, praying daily, he said, that the Lord would keep him close and keep him spiritually clean.
Preaching from James 1:21, Hunt taught that, as the verse says, to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Hunt said that when he first became a believer, he had to make the transition from merely hearing the word of God to receiving it – that is, implanting it into his heart.
“Some of our people don’t receive the word of God and don’t welcome it into their lives,” Hunt said. He said that in the current situation many believers find themselves in – be it financial distress or spiritual distress – all should be asking the question of the prophets of old, “Is there a word from God? God will speak into these crises,” Hunt said.
Hunt said this verse in James first addresses the abundance of wickedness in the world. “This wickedness, we often don’t deal with it,” Hunt said. “James is talking to those who have already been saved. There is so much that can mess you up in ministry – it’s a long way from here to where God wants to take you.
“Ask him to keep you close to him and clean.”
Speaking of his own salvation and sanctification experience, Hunt said, “Who would have guessed God would take a high school drop-out, a drunk and a pool-room hustler and raise him up? God had to do it.”
Hunt compared taking putting off the filthiness to taking off dirty clothing or a snake shedding its skin. For those things that might not be clearly, biblically sin, he said they are likely a “weight. I just don’t see how God is going to be glorified. (Unbelievers) don’t want somebody to crawl down in their pit with them – they want someone to lift them up, because they’re standing on a firm foundation.
“Before God can produce his righteousness in us, we must first lay aside the sin that stands between us and his righteousness.”
“Moral filthiness is a serious barrier to hearing the truth of God’s word. I don’t want to be a hindrance because of filthiness – there’s a lost and dying world out there!”
Hunt said putting off filthiness and wickedness must be a daily occurrence, like pruning the weeds from a garden. He said the best way to do this is to daily ask the Lord to reveal individual “weeds” or sins in their lives. “If it’s just one more in the middle of all the rest, you just get overwhelmed,” Hunt said.
Secondly, Hunt says this verse instructs believers to receive the implanted word of God with meekness. “Putting off ‘filthiness’ deals with the sin itself,” Hunt said, “while putting off ‘wickedness’ deals with the motivation to sin.
“James begins by talking about the spirit of receiving - with meekness, that is, free access to all parts of a person’s life,” he said. “Then, the substance of what we receive is the implanted word in the heart of the believer.”
Hunt said it is only once a person actively puts away the filthiness and wickedness in his life that he will be able to receive and do the word of God.
“There are some things you must give up. You can’t just pray, ‘Take that from me.’ You must say, ‘I give it to you,’” Hunt said.
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.