Interview: Luis Palau on Misunderstandings of the Christian Life

Interview: Luis Palau on Misunderstandings of the Christian Life

The other thing is this, I was chatting with our guys as we were traveling, that you can know it intellectually, you can know it very well, you can even experience it at one period in your time. And now that I'm a senior citizen, I've come to realize that even in old age that it is not I but Christ living in me. It's the vine and the branches. The head on the body. You don't sever the head. With 50 years of me walking with the Lord, I have to today walk with the indwelling power of Christ. If I began to get confident and say, "I know this stuff. What do you want to talk about? I can spit it out for you. I know the Bible verses. I can give you an outline. Just ask me and I can give it to you." Then, I'm relying on myself, even experiences from the past. Day after day, it's not I but Christ living in me. Christ in you, the hope of glory, partakers of the divine nature, we are temples of God, temples of the Holy Spirit. That, I must never forget! It's not an obsession. It's a reality.

CP: You've written about temptations in your book. There are a lot of pastors and Christians leaders who have built big megachurches, led great ministries and led many people to Christ. Then one day, you read the news about a disgraceful scandal or their downfall. For you, what is your personal accountability structure?

Palau: Well, you know, I tell you, I believe in small groups and I belong to one. In Portland, Oregon, where I have been living for many years, we have a group of about nine fellows. We've been meeting for 24, 25 years. We meet every Wednesday. When I'm in town, I go. They're busy guys, businessmen, lawyers, judges so we're not always there but we love each other, we support each other. I belong to Cedar Mill Bible Church all my life. My in-laws were part of the beginning of the church and I've been there since I've met my wife Pat.

But you know something? It all boils down personally, me and the Lord on a daily basis. I am convinced if I wanted to fool the members of my group, I could fool them. I mean, they look at me and I'm the only "full-time" minister of the group, I mean they are all great servants of the Lord, but they look at me and they say -- Oh Luis is a saint, he travels for Jesus, and he preaches the Gospel and he wins thousands. So they think I'm...I'm not. But I have to walk in the light with God today. And I could slip if I get careless or get self-confident, or you know, yes, I do my devotions and I do my daily thing and that's good but if I take it professionally, I could say I remember that one and I could say it off my heart and I have an outline for it and I preached it in Hong Kong -- that kind of a thing.

If I'm Luis Palau because he's been at it so many years, because he has learned so much, because he's had the best teachers, I'm a candidate for failure tomorrow or today. So I think it's something for young people to remember. Yes, experience is a blessing and all that. But the walk with God is dependent on my relationship with Him and no amount of buddies around me, however honest they may be, we are so wicked that we can hide it from our best friends and our best loved ones. Now, it's me and the Lord. Now, I believe in the body of Christ. I'm a member of my church. I'm an elder in my church or have been until January. I have a team around me, all sorts of friends and layers of friends, who are a blessing. But the only true protection from messing up, even into old age, is my walk with God today. And we got to be plain about that because sometimes we have a lot of sincere things we talk about. Having an accountability group is good but any smart guy can outdo his accountability group if he is determined to fail or if he gets careless. We can sincerely sit around this table and have a prayer, meditation, and love each other, and we're not hypocrites. But if I depend on me, I'm in trouble.

CP: How do you keep yourself humble when you've preached the Gospel to 1 billion people in 75 nations? Is there something you pray before you take the stage? Is there a passage you read that helps you keep that fire, that love alive for Jesus?

Palau: Well, to keeping the fire alive and it is a biblical concept, again goes back to same old thing. People say to me, after all these years of experience, how do you keep the fire going or how do you keep from self-destruction and so on. There is no secret. And people will often say to me, what's the secret? The first answer is: There ain't no secret. It is a revealed simple truth that it is not I but Christ.

Either it's a big crowd or small crowd -- I get more nervous with a small crowd because big crowds are far away -- but to me the crowd numbers are exciting but I know I failed the Lord if I'm not filled with the Spirit at that moment. In my mind, in my youth I've written about ten things for when I feel under pressure even when I'm disturbed by the noise, by the confusion, or mistakes that are made on a big platform because of crowds or something:

First, I'm here by God's appointment.
It is not I but Christ in me.
I know the Gospel and I'm going to preach the basic Gospel.
I'm not going to worry about what people think (because sometimes you are under pressure to think that.
If there is going to be any lasting fruit, it's the Lord who's going to do it.

So, often I'm really thinking as the music is going on and I know I have two or three minutes before I have to go. I just remind myself, you know, this is God's goodness; this is His pleasure; He could cut me off any moment and it's an honor to be here in His name. I don't spend time thinking about wow, what a crowd, usually, I look at a video when it is over and I can't believe the crowd that was there. But usually, I'm thinking: I've got to deliver the Gospel, I've got to keep it tight, and I've got to give a good invitation. You're thinking of your responsibility and consciously relying on Him and say, Lord if you don't use me, this is finished, it's going to be shameful.

So you just have to keep reminding yourself of the basics. There is no secret. It's all revealed in Scripture.

CP: You've preached in a lot of countries and probably have seen many things affecting and threatening Christians. In the U.S., a lot of evangelical leaders are concerned about same-sex marriage, abortion, and divorce. What do you feel is the biggest concern or threat facing Christians today?

Palau: We all run that risk, you know, to allow the culture around us to set our agenda. And we have to be very careful that we are on God's agenda, not the world's agenda. And it isn't that the world's agenda is evil or wrong, necessarily. All these issues you've mentioned plus others are realities that we have to face but where does God want us to focus. That's why the book, Out of the Desert. We've got to get people out of the desert because unconsciously the culture is very strong in America.

What is God's intent for me and the church? Our calling is to lift up the Son of God, to point to him and his redemptive work, to point to him and his promises. We are getting away. You've mentioned America because we live here obviously. America, in a way, still leads the world. What happens here people imitate and think it's the way to go in other nations even though in some other nations the Christians understand God's principles are better than we do over here.

My wife often has been saying lately that we have more seminars on family, counseling on marriage, relationships, upbringing children, and we have more problems than we do in the past. We keep bombarding and bombarding ourselves with these things. Nothing wrong with it but unless we stay on point, which is, centered on Jesus Christ, his presence with us, that he never leaves us or forsakes us, that he will use us for his purposes, that God is accomplishing his purposes in the world.


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