Tuesday, September 1, 2015

FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF GOD

"I am sure that, when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:29). Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Rome. He was telling them, "I have no doubt that when I meet you, it will be in the fullest measure of Christ's blessing."

The apostle's words here imply something that every believer must know. That is, there are various degrees, or measures, of Christ's blessing. Some believers obtain a full measure of this blessing, which is the goal. We're all meant to come into a full measure of the Lord's blessing. Yet, other Christians enter into only a small measure of Christ's blessing.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges everyone to pursue the fullest measure of this blessing: "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . . . To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 4:7, 13, 3:19).

Note the word "fullness" in these passages. The Greek word Paul uses here means "to complete the task of filling up to the full." That is the task God has given us: to pursue the fullness of Christ's blessing in our lives.

Paul elaborates on this, writing, "There is . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). In short, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit abides in all His children. Jesus promised, "We will come and make our abode in you" (see John 14:23). Paul is making clear that we all have the same access to the Lord. Therefore, we all have an equal opportunity to obtain His ever-increasing blessing. Indeed, our lives should continually increase in what Paul calls "the blessing of Christ."

Consider the incredible measure of Christ's blessing in Paul's life. This man received revelations from Jesus personally. He writes that Christ revealed Himself in him. Of course, Paul knew he hadn't attained perfection. But he also knew, without a doubt, that there was nothing in his life hindering the flow of Christ's blessing.

Monday, August 31, 2015

SPECTATORS by Gary Wilkerson

As the family of God, we gather in churches to worship, sing, listen and give. But if we’re not careful, we can end up being spectators when it comes to living as Jesus would have us live. Often when we see people in sin, rather than helping them out of it, we harbor a secret hope they’ll be caught. And when they are, we feel justified, thinking, “I knew it. That person’s life always seemed a little off.”

Why do we do this? It could be because we feel guilty about our own sin. We all have something in our lives that others could throw a stone at. The truth is, those Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus (see John 8:3-11) could have dragged anyone out of the crowd and stoned her. Nowadays, accusing people do that very thing through social media.

Jesus’ way is different. “Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more’” (John 8:10-11, NLT).

As a preacher of the gospel, I love those three words: “Neither do I.” Jesus didn’t condemn her. And that was a radical thing for Him to do. It still is today, when He tells each of us who repent, “Neither do I condemn you.” Yet Jesus got even more radical when He told the religious leaders, “I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t” (John 8:26). Wow! That sounds like an insult, but in fact Jesus had a whole laundry list of things He could condemn them for. He has a similar list about our lives today. But instead of condemning, He says, “Neither do I condemn you.”

What an amazing moment. It revealed the powerful love behind God’s grace— that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Friday, August 28, 2015

A CRY WITHOUT A VOICE

Just before Jesus healed the deaf man in Mark 7, we read, "Looking up to heaven, he sighed" (Mark 7:34). The word for sigh here signifies an audible groan. Evidently, Jesus grimaced and a groan came out of His heart. Of course, the man couldn't hear it, because he was deaf—but what was this groan about?

I have read many commentaries about this scene. Yet none bears witness to what I believe God's Spirit is telling me. I'm convinced Jesus was looking into heaven and communing with the Father. He was quietly weeping in His soul over two things. First, He wept over something that only He could see in this man. And second, He wept over something He sees today, locked in the hearts of so many people, especially the young.

What did Jesus see, both then and now? What was He hearing, both in this deaf man's heart and in the hearts of multitudes today? He was hearing a cry without a voice. He was hearing a cry of the heart, bottled up, unable to be expressed. Now Christ Himself groaned with a cry that could not be uttered. He was giving voice to the cries of all who cannot cry out.

Think of the many nights this deaf man cried himself to sleep because nobody understood him. Not even his mother or father could comprehend what he spoke. How often he tried to explain how he felt, but all that came out were painful, awkward sounds. He must have thought, "If only I could speak, just once. If only my tongue were loosed for a minute, I could tell someone what's going on in my soul. I would scream, 'I'm no dummy. I'm not under a curse. And I'm not running from God. I'm just confused. I've got problems, but nobody can hear them.'"


Yet Jesus heard the thoughts of this frustrated man's heart. He understands every inward groan that cannot be uttered. The Bible says our Lord is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. And He felt the pain of this man's deafness and tongue-tied condition.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

SIGN LANGUAGE

What's the first thing Jesus did when the deaf man was brought to him? "He took him aside from the multitude" (Mark 7:33). Christ knew immediately what this deaf man wanted. He longed for his own touch, his own experience. He couldn't settle for something "they" had found—it had to be real for him. He wanted Jesus to open his ears and set his tongue free. And it had to happen between the two of them.

If you've served God over the years, let me ask you: Isn't it true you can look back to a time when you had a supernatural encounter with Jesus? He touched you, and you knew it. You didn't get the experience from someone else; it wasn't instilled in you because you heard someone preach it; you experienced Christ for yourself. That's why you're confident in what you have with Him.

Jesus knew the deaf man needed this kind of encounter so He spoke to the man in his own language: sign language. "[He] put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue" (7:33).

Can you imagine what went through this deaf man's mind? He must have thought, “He's not questioning me or accusing me. He knows exactly what I've been going through. He knows I haven't rejected Him. He knows I want to hear His voice and speak directly to Him. He knows my heart wants to praise Him. But I can't do any of these things unless I receive His miraculous touch. He must know I want this."

Our Savior shows the same kind of compassion to our unsaved loved ones. He won't make a spectacle of anyone. Think of how patient and caring he was with Saul of Tarsus. This well-known man was destined to have a miraculous encounter with Jesus. Christ could have come to him at any time; in fact, He could have struck Saul down while Stephen was being stoned in front of the multitudes. He could have made an example of Saul's conversion. But he didn't (see Acts 9:1-19).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

HIS ONLY HOPE

The deaf, tongue-tied man’s only hope for healing was to get to Jesus (Mark 7:31-35). He had to have a personal encounter with Him.

Let me note that this man was not like those Paul describes: "Having itching ears . . . they shall turn away their ears from the truth" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Nor did this man have "the spirit of slumber . . . and ears that they should not hear" (Romans 11:8). He was not like those described in Acts 28:27: "Their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears." Nor was he like those present at Stephen's stoning, people who "stopped their ears" (Acts 7:57).

The fact is, this man wanted to hear. He wanted desperately to be healed. Yet, we read, "They bring unto him one that was deaf" (Mark 7:32, italics mine). This man didn't get to Jesus on his own, he had to be brought to Him. Clearly he must have known who Jesus was and that He had power to heal.

Moreover, this man knew how to communicate, either through sign language or writing, and he could get around on his own. Yet he never made the effort to come to Jesus himself—"they" had to bring him.

Who were "they" in this verse? I can only speculate that they were the man's family or loving friends, people who cared enough to bring him to Jesus. I believe this scene says so much about the situation with our young people today. They won't go to Jesus on their own. They have to be brought to Him by their parents, their friends, their church family. Like the deaf man's parents, we also must bring our children and loved ones to Christ. How? Through daily, believing prayer.


There's only one cure, one hope, for our children and loved ones to hear truth and that is a personal encounter with Jesus Himself. "And they beseech him to put his hand upon him" (Mark 7:32). The Greek word for beseech here means to implore, to pray. These parents begged Christ, "Please, Lord, touch our son. Put Your hand on him."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

LESSONS FOR US

In Mark 7, we find Jesus performing a great miracle. The whole dramatic scene takes place in just five verses:

"Departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plain" (Mark 7:31-35).

Picture the scene. As Jesus arrived on the shores of Decapolis, he encountered a man who was both deaf and tongue-tied. The man could talk, but his speech was unintelligible. Christ took the man aside, away from the crowd, and as He stood before the man, He placed His fingers in his ears. Then Jesus spat, and touched his tongue, speaking two words: "Be opened!" And instantly, the man could hear and speak clearly.

Just prior to this scene, Jesus had also delivered a woman's demon-possessed daughter. By merely speaking a word, He cast the evil spirit out of the girl. Why are these two miracles recorded in Scripture? Are they included as just two more scenes from the Lord's life on earth?

The vast majority of Christians believe such stories are preserved in Scripture because they reveal much to us. They are intended to show God's power over Satan and sickness. They're meant as proof of Christ's deity, to establish that He was God in flesh. And they're meant to encourage our faith, to show us that our God can work miracles.

I believe these stories were recorded for all these reasons, and much more. Jesus tells us every word He spoke came from the Father. He said and did nothing on His own, but by His Father's leading. Moreover, every event of Christ's life holds a lesson for us (see 1 Corinthians 10:11).

Monday, August 24, 2015

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD by Gary Wilkerson

It was the Passover season and Jesus was teaching in the temple. A large crowd gathered to hear Him due to His reputation for speaking profound words of love and performing powerful works of God. Yet no sooner had this crowd of commoners gathered than the religious leaders showed up.

“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:3, NLT). These leaders saw Jesus as a threat to their authority. He represented a new phenomenon whose teachings exposed their rigid, self-justifying practices. Now “they were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him” (8:6). They asked Him whether the woman should be stoned according to the Law.

The scene unfolds dramatically: “Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more’” (8:6-11).

What a powerful moment. Not only had Jesus defused a highly charged situation but He had literally saved a person’s life. Everyone on the scene was transformed by what happened—not just the accused, but also the accusers and even the audience.

Jesus used the moment to deliver one of His most famous teachings: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (8:12). God’s light in that moment transformed everything.