Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GOD’S RICHES IN US

When the Lord takes up residence in us, he brings with him all his power and resources. Suddenly, our inner man has access to God’s strength, wisdom, truth, peace, everything we need to live in victory. We don’t have to cry out to him to come down to us from heaven. He’s already in us. Paul tells us just how powerful we are in Christ.

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:14-20).

What an amazing passage. Paul lists but a few of the incredible treasures the Lord has made available to us. Indeed, all of God’s riches are available to us in Christ Jesus.

Some Christians have created an image of a self-centered God whose only pleasure is in receiving praise. May that never be said about our Lord because that isn’t at all why he has come to abide in us. He has come to show us that he’s a God who is not far off. The Lord wants us to know he isn’t just out in the dark expanse of the cosmos somewhere. He’s very present in us. He doesn’t flit in and out of our lives at will. No, he never leaves his abode in us.

Paul notes, “Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). The apostle makes it absolutely clear: God is here now, abiding in us. When the Father made his dwelling in our temple, he brought to us a strength in our inner man, a deep rooting and grounding in love, as well as access to ask him for all things. He has made all things possible, through his divine power at work in us (see Ephesians 3:16-21).

Monday, September 29, 2008

A NEW CREATURE

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live…” (Galatians 2:20).

“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).

You may say, “I know I’m in Christ by faith. I realize I’m a new creature, but I still struggle terribly with a habit. It makes me so discouraged.” Satan would love to convince you that God has given up on you. He wants you to think God sees you as dirty, filthy with sin. But it’s all a lie. What you’re experiencing is the flesh battling against the Spirit in you. This battle is common to all believers. And while you’re in the midst of it, Satan wants to convince you that the “old man” is still in control.

No matter what your condition, God does not waver in his love for you. He never stopped loving Adam’s race, in spite of all its wickedness, idolatry and lustful ways. He preserved them throughout history to the last days, when he stepped in with his rescue plan. Through the cross, it was possible that all of Adam’s race could be reconciled.

You have to know that your standing with God is based on one thing: you are victorious because of the cross. This victory doesn’t come through any good thing you do. As Paul says, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). Our victory comes solely through repentance, faith, belief, trust in God’s care for us. And our part is to stand firmly on the position he has graciously given us in Christ. His Word assures us, “You may fail at times. But when I look at you, I see only my Son, Jesus. You’re going to come through this battle victorious, with no guilt or condemnation.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

GOD’S PROMISED REST

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

You may wonder, “What does it mean to enter this promised rest? What should it look like in my life?” I pray that God will remove the scales from our eyes and allow us to grasp this. Simply put, entering into his promised rest means fully trusting that Christ has done all the work of salvation for you. You’re to rest in his saving grace, by faith alone.

This is what Jesus means when he urges, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It means the end of all your fleshly striving, all your human efforts to obtain peace. And it means relying totally on Jesus’ work for you.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood. It takes place in the spiritual realm. The Old Testament makes this crystal clear. Time after time, Israel made empty, futile promises to God: “We want to serve you, Lord. We’ll do whatever you command us.” But history proves they had neither the heart nor the ability to follow through on their word. God had to strip them of all faith in themselves. Everything we need is to come from our precious Lord’s presence.

Paul states, “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This speaks of uninterrupted fellowship. Through the victory of the cross, our Lord has made himself available to us every hour of the day or night. We have to make a decision: “I want Christ in my life. I want to be set free from all flesh. So I’m going to move forward, into his presence and claim my possession. I want Jesus to be my all, my only source of satisfaction.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

THE TRUE MEANING OF THE PROMISED LAND

God gave our forefather Abraham the land of Canaan “for an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8). In Hebrew, the word everlasting means never-ending. You might think, “Abraham had to rejoice over this. God promised his descendants a permanent homeland, as far as they could see, and it would last into eternity.” However, the New Testament tells us the world will be destroyed by fire, burnt completely out of existence, after which the Lord will bring about a new heaven and earth.

You may wonder: How could God’s “everlasting possession” to Abraham be a mere piece of real estate? How could it be eternal? The fact is, this land of promise was symbolic of a place beyond the earth. I believe Abraham knew this in his spirit. The Bible says that as Abraham moved about in Canaan, he always felt alien: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country” (Hebrews 11:9). Why was this so? It was because Abraham’s heart longed for something beyond the land itself.

“He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham could see the true significance of the land blessing and he realized, “This place isn’t the real possession. It’s just an illustrated sermon of the great blessing to come.” Abraham grasped the true meaning of the Promised Land; he knew Canaan represented the coming Messiah. Jesus himself tells us, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

The Holy Spirit enabled this patriarch to see down through the years, to the day of Christ. He knew that the meaning of his Promised Land meant a place of total peace and rest. And, as Abraham knew, this place of rest is Jesus Christ himself. That’s right, the Lord Jesus is our promised possession. We are his, but he is ours as well. And God invites us to obtain our everlasting possession by simple faith.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WHERE ARE THE TIMOTHYS?

It was to the Philippian Christians that Paul first introduced the truth, “Let the mind of Christ be in you.” Paul wrote this message to them while he was imprisoned in Rome.

It was from a jail cell that Paul declared he had the mind of Christ, casting aside his reputation to become a servant of Jesus and his church. Now he wrote, “I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state” (Philippians 2:19).

This is the thinking, the outworking, of the mind of Christ. Think about it: Here was a pastor, sitting in jail, yet he wasn’t thinking of his own comfort, his own hard situation. He was concerned only about the spiritual and physical condition of his people. And he told his sheep, “My comfort will come only when I know you’re doing well, in spirit and body. So I’m sending Timothy to check up on you, in my behalf.”

Then Paul makes this alarming statement: “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state” (2:20). What a sad statement! As Paul wrote this, the church around him in Rome was growing and being blessed. Clearly, there were godly leaders in the Roman church. But, Paul says, “I have no man who shares with me the mind of Christ.” Why was this so? “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (2:21). Evidently, there was no leader in Rome with a servant’s heart—no one who had cast aside reputation and become a living sacrifice. Instead, everyone was set on pursuing his own interests. None had the mind of Christ. Paul could trust no one to go to Philippi to be a true servant to that body of believers.

Paul’s words here cannot be softened: “Everybody’s out for himself. These ministers seek only to benefit themselves. That’s why there’s nobody here I can trust to naturally care for your needs and hurts, except Timothy.”

Our prayer should be: “Lord, I don’t want to be focused only on myself in a world that’s spinning out of control. I don’t want to be concerned about my own future. I know you hold my path in your hands. Please, Lord, give me your mind, your thinking, your concerns. I want to have your servant’s heart.” Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UNDER THE RULE OF GRACE

The prodigal son needed what the apostle Paul calls the “renewing of the mind.” I love reading these words from the parable: “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet…bring out the fatted calf, and kill it; let us eat and be merry” (Luke 15:22-23).

The prodigal had a mindset of condemnation, and it was put on him by Satan. Today, the same thing happens with many of God’s children. Our Father rejoices over us, embracing us with loving arms. Yet we think humility means telling God how bad we’ve been, digging up our past sins rather than trusting his expressions of love. And all the while we think guiltily, “He has to be angry with me. I’ve sinned worse than others.”

When the father’s servants brought forth the best robe in the house and put it on the son, it represented his being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Then the father put a ring on the boy’s finger, signifying his union with Christ. Finally, he put shoes on the boy’s feet, representing being shod with the gospel of the peace of Christ. This loving father was showing his child: “Away with those rags of flesh, those shreds of self effort to please me. Let me show you how I see you. You are coming into my house and into my presence as a new, kingly, royal child. You’re not coming as a beggar or a slave, but as my son, who delights me! Now, enter in with boldness and assurance.”

The same is true for us today. We have to be renewed in our thinking about how God receives us into his presence. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22 italics mine).

The word for “boldness” here is derived from a root meaning “an emancipated slave.” It means no longer being under the law of sin and death, but under the rule of grace. In short, it is by the love of the Father—by his mercy alone—that we are qualified to go into his presence. And here is the qualification: “Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet (qualified) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13 italics mine).

Monday, September 22, 2008

THE NEW MAN

As followers of Christ, we are to take God at his Word and accept as true what he says we are. This means our “old man” represents a man who still seeks to please God in the flesh. Such a man hates sin, he doesn’t want to offend God, and yet his conscience continually brings him under guilt. So he pledges to overcome his sin problem: “I’m going to change! I’ll start today to fight my besetting sin, no matter what the cost. I want God to see how hard I am trying.”

Such a man brings to the Lord much sweat and many tears. He prays and fasts to prove to God that he has a good heart. He’s able to resist sin for days at a time, and so he tells himself, “If I can go for two days, then why not four, why not a week?” By the end of the month he feels good about himself, convinced he’s working himself free. But then his old sin surfaces, and down he goes, deep into despair. And that starts the cycle all over again. Such a man is on a treadmill that will never end, one he can’t get off.

May it never be! His man-in-flesh was crucified along with Christ, killed in the eyes of God. Indeed, Paul tells us that the old man was pronounced dead at the cross. Jesus took that old man into the grave with him, where he was left for dead and forgotten. Just as the prodigal’s father ignored the “old man” in his son, the Lord says of our old man, “I won’t recognize or deal with such a one. There is only one man I recognize now, one with whom I’ll deal. That is my Son, Jesus, and all who are in him by faith.”

The new man is the one who has given up all hope of pleasing God by any effort of the flesh. He has died to the old ways of the flesh. And by faith he has come to know there is only one way to please God, one way to delight him: Christ must become all. He knows that there is but One whom the Father recognizes: Christ and all who are in him.

This new man lives by faith alone: “The just shall live by faith.” He believes God’s Word so completely he leans on nothing else. He has found his source of everything in Christ, who is all sufficient. And he believes what God says of him: “Your old man is dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” He may not feel it, or comprehend it fully, but he won’t argue with his loving Father’s Word. He accepts it on faith, believing the Lord is faithful to his Word.

Friday, September 19, 2008

TEMPTING GOD?

As Jesus stood at the highest point of the temple, Satan whispered to him, “Go ahead—jump! If you’re really God’s son, he’ll save you.”

“And [the devil] saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6).

Do you see Satan’s deviousness in this? He isolated a single promise from Scripture—and he tempted Jesus to cast his whole life upon it. He was suggesting, “You say God is with you. Well, show me the proof. Your Father has already allowed me to harass you. Where was his presence in that? You can prove he’s with you right now by jumping. If God is with you, he’ll provide a soft landing. Then you can base your confidence on that. If not, you might as well die rather than go on wondering if you’re on your own. You need a miracle to prove the Father is with you.”

How did Jesus respond? He stated, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7). What exactly does Jesus mean here by “tempting God”?

Ancient Israel is an example. Ten times the Lord had proved himself faithful to the Israelites. God’s people received visible proof that their Lord was with them. Yet, every time, the people asked the same question: “Is God among us or not?” God calls this “tempting him.” Jesus uses this same phrase—“tempting God”—in his reply to Satan. What does this tell us? It shows us it is a grave sin to doubt God’s presence; we’re not to question whether he’s with us.

As with Israel, God has already given us an entire body of evidence. First, we have in his Word multiple promises of his closeness to us. Second, we have our own personal history with God—a testimony of his many past deliverances in our lives. Third, we have a Bible full of witnesses to God’s presence in past centuries.

The Bible is clear: We’re to walk with God by faith and not by sight. Otherwise, we’ll end up like faithless Israel.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

HE BROUGHT US OUT TO BRING US IN

Before the cross, there was no access to God for the general public; only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. Now Jesus’ cross made a path for us into the Father’s presence. By his grace alone, God tore down the wall that blocked us from his presence. Now he could come out to man, to embrace his prodigals and sinners of all sorts.

Consider Israel’s miraculous deliverance. As God’s people crossed over on dry land, they saw the waves crash down on their enemy behind them. It was a glorious moment, and they held a mighty praise meeting, with dancing, singing and thanksgiving. “We’re free! God has delivered us from the hand of oppression.”

Israel’s story represents our own deliverance from the bondage and guilt of sin. We know that Satan was defeated at the cross, and we were immediately set free from his iron grip. Yet there is more to God’s purpose in saving and delivering us. You see, God never meant for Israel to camp there on the victory side of the Red Sea. His greater purpose in bringing them out of Egypt was to take them into Canaan, his land of fullness. In short, he brought them out in order to bring them in: into his heart, into his love. He wanted a people who were totally dependent on his mercy, grace and love. And the same is still true for his people today.

Israel’s first test came just a few days later, and they ended up murmuring and complaining, totally dissatisfied. Why? They had known God’s deliverance, but they hadn’t learned his great love for them.

Here is the key to this teaching: You cannot come into joy and peace—indeed, you cannot know how to serve the Lord—until you see his delight in your deliverance…until you see the joy of his heart over his communion with you…until you see that every wall has been removed at the cross…until you know that everything of your past has been judged and wiped away. God says, “I want you to move on, into fullness that awaits you in my presence!”

Multitudes today rejoice in the wonderful benefits of the cross. They have moved out of Egypt, and they are standing on the “victory side” of their Red Sea trial. They enjoy freedom, and they thank God continually for casting their oppressor into the sea. But many of these same believers miss God’s greater purpose and benefit to them. They miss why the Lord has brought them out—which is to bring them in to himself.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BOLDNESS TO ENTER GOD’S PRESENCE

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil…. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22).

There are two sides to Christ’s work at Calvary. One side is to the benefit of man, and the other side is to the benefit of God. One benefits the sinner, while the other benefits the Father.

We are well acquainted with the benefit on the human side. The cross of Christ has provided us with forgiveness of our sins. We are given the power of victory over all bondages and dominion over sin. We are supplied with mercy and grace. And, of course, we are given the promise of eternal life. The cross has given us the means of escape from the terrors of sin and hell.

I thank God for this benefit of the cross to mankind, and for the wonderful relief it brings. I rejoice that it is preached week after week in churches all over the world.

Yet there is another benefit of the cross, one that we know very little about. And this one is to the benefit of the Father. You see, we understand very little about the delight of the Father that was made possible by the cross. It’s a delight that comes to him whenever he receives a prodigal child into his house.

If all we focus on about the cross is forgiveness—if that is the end-all of our preaching—then we miss an important truth that God has meant for us about the cross. There is a fuller understanding to be had here, and it has to do with his delight. This truth provides God’s people with much more than just relief. It brings liberty, rest, peace and joy.

In my opinion, most Christians have learned to come boldly before God for forgiveness, for supply of needs, for answers to prayer. But they lack boldness in this aspect of faith—an aspect that is just as crucial in their walk with the Lord.

The Lord has great joy that the cross has provided us with open access to himself. Indeed, the most glorious moment in history was when the temple veil was rent in two, on the day that Christ died. It was at this very moment that the benefit to God burst forth. In the instant that the temple veil—separating man from God’s holy presence—was torn asunder, something incredible happened. From that point on, not only was man able to enter into the Lord’s presence, but God could come out to man.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dearly Beloved

Today, when panic strikes in America – when the ominous news begin to send shock waves of fear across the land, and hysteria mounts – God’s people won’t be able to avoid feeling the huge wave of human anxiety. That’s right – I will feel it, you will feel it, all Christians are going to feel it. Such feeling is inevitable; it’s simply human to have this kind of reaction to such terrible chaos. Yet, at the same time, God will put within us the resources needed to take immediate control of every fearful thought and bring it into obedience to the truth of Christ. And his Spirit will fill our very beings with his perfect peace.

The upheaval that’s coming to America is not meant as a judgment on the church – but as a purging of the church! Indeed, those who love Christ and cling to him, the coming holocaust won’t be a judgment at all. You see, although God comes to the wicked as an avenger, he comes to the righteous as a redeemer.

God’s greater purpose in breaking down the American money machine is to deliver his redeemed children from the contagious spirit of materialism and worldly-mindedness now engulfing our nation.

Yet, in the midst of such time, God’s people are promised strength and peace. Indeed there is no confusion in the hearts and minds of praying, trusting believers.
Isaiah prophesied “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” Isaiah 26:3)

No matter what happens to the economy, no matter what crisis we face, no matter what sorrow or trouble may come our way, - OUR BLESSED LORD IS LEADING AND CARING FOR US EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.

Monday, September 15, 2008

WALK AS A NEW MAN

You know the story. A young man took his portion of his father’s inheritance and squandered it on riotous living. He ended up broken, ruined in health and spirit, and at his lowest point he decided to return to his father. Scripture tells us, “He arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

Note that nothing hindered this father’s forgiveness of the young man. There was nothing this boy had to do—not even confess his sins—because the father had already made provision for reconciliation. Indeed, it happened all by the father’s initiative; he ran to his son and embraced him as soon as he saw the boy coming up the road. The truth is, forgiveness is never a problem for any loving father. Likewise, it’s never a problem with our heavenly Father when he sees a repentant child.

So forgiveness simply is not the issue in this parable. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t enough for this prodigal merely to be forgiven. The father didn’t embrace his son just to forgive him and let him go his way. No, that father yearned for more than just his son’s restoration. He wanted his child’s company, his presence, communion.

Even though the prodigal was forgiven and in favor once more, he still wasn’t settled in his father’s house. Only then would the father be satisfied, his joy fulfilled when his son was brought into his company. That is the issue in this parable.

Here the story gets very interesting. The son clearly was not at ease with his father’s forgiveness. That’s why he hesitated to enter his father’s house. He told him, in essence, “If you only knew what I’ve done, all the filthy, ungodly things. I’ve sinned against God and against your love and grace. I just don’t deserve your love. You have every right to cut me off.”

Note how the father responds to his son. He utters not a single word of reproof. There is no reference to what the prodigal had done, no mention of his rebellion, his foolishness, his profligate living, his spiritual bankruptcy. In fact, the father didn’t even acknowledge his son’s attempts to stay outside, unworthy. He ignored them! Why?

In the father’s eyes, the old boy was dead. That son was out of his thoughts completely. Now, in the father’s eyes, this son who had returned home was a new man. And his past would never be brought up again. The father was saying, “As far as I’m concerned, the old you is dead. Now, walk with me as a new man. No need for you to live under guilt. The sin problem is settled. Now, come boldly into my presence and partake of my mercy and grace.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

INTO ARABIA

If I seek to please man, I simply cannot be a servant of Christ. If my heart is motivated by the approval of others—if that’s my mindset, influencing the way I live—my loyalties will be divided. I’ll always be striving to please someone other than Jesus.

A few years after the apostle Paul was converted, he went to the church in Jerusalem to try and join the disciples there. “But they were…afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).

The apostles knew Paul’s reputation as a persecutor. “[I] was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (Galatians 1:22-23).

Barnabas helped the apostles get over their fear of Paul, and they offered him fellowship. But Paul decided to itinerate among the Gentiles. Indeed, Paul is careful to describe his calling very clearly. He states that it came “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (1:1).

He then adds emphatically: “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I nether received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ…. I conferred not with flesh and blood” (1:11-12, 16).

What Paul is saying here applies to all who desire to have the mind of Christ: “I didn’t have to read books or borrow men’s methods to get what I have. I received my message, my ministry and my anointing on my knees.” In Galatians 1:17, Paul points out that, “I went into Arabia.” He’s saying, in other words: “I didn’t get my revelation of Christ from the saints in Jerusalem. Instead, I went into Arabia, to the desert, to have Christ revealed to me. I spent precious time there, being emptied of self, hearing and being taught by the Holy Spirit.”

Paul was not some proud, arrogant, lone-ranger preacher. We know he had a servant’s heart. He had emptied himself of self ambition, and had found total satisfaction in Christ.

When your mind is set on pleasing Christ, you will never need the applause and approval of men.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

IN THE SECRET PLACE

The Holy Ghost came to a godly man living in Damascus named Ananias. The Spirit instructed Ananias to go to Judas’ house on Straight Street, lay hands on Saul and restore his sight.

Of course, Ananias knew of Saul’s reputation and he realized this was going to be dangerous. Yet, here is how the Holy Spirit recommended Saul to Ananias: “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:11).

The Lord was saying, in essence, “Ananias, you will find this man on his knees. He knows you are coming. He even knows your name, and why you’re being sent to him. He wants his eyes opened.”

When did Saul receive this inner knowing? How did he receive this vision, this pure word from God? It came through fervent prayer and supplication. In fact, I believe the Spirit’s words to Ananias reveal what moved God’s heart about Saul: “Behold, he prayeth.”

Saul had been shut in with God for three days, refusing all food and water. All he wanted was the Lord. So he continued on his knees all that time, praying and seeking God.

When I was growing up, my preacher father taught me, “God always makes a way for a praying man.” There have been periods in my life when the Lord has provided indisputable evidence of this. I was called to preach at eight years of age, when the Holy Spirit came upon me. I wept and prayed, crying out, “Fill me, Lord Jesus.” Later as a teenager I prayed until the Spirit came upon me in divine intensity.

As a young pastor a deep hunger rose up in me that caused me to pray diligently. Something in my heart told me, “There’s more to serving Jesus than what I am doing.” So I spent months on my knees—weeping and praying for hours at a time—when finally the Lord called me to go to New York City to minister to gangs and drug addicts.

I was also on my knees twenty years ago, seeking God with tears and loud crying, when he called me back to New York to start a church in Times Square.

If I have ever heard from God—if I have any revelation of Christ, any measure of the mind of Christ—it came not through Bible study alone. It came through prayer. It came from seeking God in the secret place.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CONFESSING CHRIST

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

The Greek word for confess in this passage means covenant, assent or agreement. Jesus is speaking of an agreement we have with him. Our part is to confess him, or represent him, in our daily lives. We are to live by his promises of protection and personal care for us. And we are to testify of his marvelous blessings by how we live.

Confessing Christ means more than believing in his divinity. It’s about more than stating he’s the Son of God, crucified, buried, resurrected and seated at the father’s right hand. The Bible says even demons believe this, and tremble at the knowledge. So, what does Jesus mean when he says we are to confess him before men?

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me…” (10:32, italics mine). By using the word therefore, Jesus is saying, in essence, “In light of what I’ve just said…,” or, “Because of what I’ve just told you…” What had Christ just told his listeners? He had said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father” (10:29). Jesus was telling them, “Think of the millions of birds throughout the earth. Now think of all the birds that have existed since Creation. To this day, not one bird has died or been snared without your heavenly Father knowing it.

Then he pointed out, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (10:30). Christ was emphasizing, “God is so great, he’s beyond your ability to comprehend. You’ll never be able to grasp how detailed his care for you is.”

Jesus concluded by saying, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” 10:31). He sums everything up by saying, “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (10:32). He is saying, “Think about what I’ve just revealed to you about the Father’s all-seeing, all-knowing care. You’re to confess this truth to the whole world. You’re to live, breathe and testify, ‘God cares for me.’”

Believe in the Father’s love for you and accept his intimate care for you. And lay down all your fears and doubts. Live before men with the faith that God hasn’t overlooked you. Confess to everyone, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

FULL CONTROL

There is no formula for living wholly dependent upon the Lord. All I can offer to you is what God has been teaching me in this area. He has shown me two simple things about how I’m to give him full control.

First, I must be convinced the Lord is anxious and willing to make his will known to me, even in the smaller details of my life. I have to believe that the Spirit who abides in me knows God’s will for me, and that he will guide me, lead me and speak to me.

“When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).

Maybe right now you are in the midst of some affliction, perhaps one that has been caused by too quick a decision. Even so, the Lord promises you, “Your inner ear will hear my Spirit speaking to you, ‘Go that way. Do this. And don’t do that…’”

Secondly, we have to pray with unwavering faith for power to obey God’s direction. Scripture says, “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7). When God tells us to do something, we need power to stay the course and obey him fully. Over five decades of life in ministry, I have learned that Satan and the flesh will always plant doubts and questions in my mind. And I need strength from heaven not to say “yes” to any situation when Jesus has said “no.”

Many of us pray, “Lord, I know what you told me. But I’m still not sure that was your voice speaking. I’m not sure I’m spiritual enough even to recognize your voice. Please, just open or close the door for me on this matter.”

That is not the faith response he’s looking for from his children. You can pray all you want, for hours or even days at a time. But if you don’t pray with faith—believing the Holy Spirit will guide you, as Jesus has promised—you will never have the mind of God conveyed to you. He waits until he sees you’re committed to accepting whatever he says, and to obeying it without question.

Monday, September 8, 2008

LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

In this exhortation the apostle Paul is telling the people of God, “Let the mind that is in Christ—the very thinking of Jesus—be your thinking also. His mindset is the one we all are to seek.”

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Simply put, it means to think and act as Jesus did. It means making Christ-like decisions that determine how we are to live. It means bringing every faculty of our mind to bear on how we actually can have the mind of Christ.

Every time we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we’re to ask ourselves: “Does what I see about myself reflect the nature and thinking of Christ? Am I changing from image to image, conformed to Jesus’ very likeness by every experience that God brings into my life?”

According to Paul, here is the mindset of Christ. “(He) made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

Jesus made a decision while he was still in heaven. He made an agreement with the Father to lay down his heavenly glory and come to earth as a man. He was going to descend to the world as a humble servant. And he would seek to minister rather than be ministered to.

For Christ, this meant saying, “I go to do your will, Father.” Indeed, Jesus determined ahead of time, “I am laying down my will in order to do yours, Father. I subjugate my will so that I may embrace yours. Everything I say and do has to come from you. I’m laying down everything to be totally dependent upon you.”

In turn, the Father’s agreement with the Son was to reveal his will to him. God said to him, in essence, “My will won’t ever be hidden from you. You will always know what I am doing. You will have my mind.”

When Paul states boldly, “I have the mind of Christ,” he is declaring, “I too have made myself of no reputation. Like Jesus, I have taken on the role of a servant.” And Paul asserts that the same can hold true for every believer: “We [all can] have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Friday, September 5, 2008

TEMPTING CHRIST

“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.” (1 Corinthians 10:9).

What does Paul mean here when he speaks of “tempting Christ”? Simply put, tempting the Lord means putting him to a test. We tempt him whenever we ask, “Just how merciful will God be to me if I move forward into this sin? How long can I indulge my sin before his anger is stirred? I know God is merciful and this is an era of grace, with no condemnation toward sinners. How could he possibly judge me, when I’m his child?”

Multitudes of Christians casually ask the same question today, as they toy with a wicked temptation. They want to see how close they can get to hell-fire without facing the consequences of sin. In short, they’re tempting Christ. And all the while, such believers are casting off conviction from God’s Word.

Any time we go against truth that God’s Spirit has made clear to us, we’re casting off Paul’s warning: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall…. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand” (1 Corinthians 10:12, 8).

Ask yourself if you are testing the limits of God’s precious gift of grace. Are you tempting Christ to indulge your sin in the face of your outright rebellion? Have you convinced yourself, “I’m a New Testament believer. I’m covered under the blood of Jesus. Therefore, God won’t judge me.”

By continuing in your sin, you are treating Jesus’ great sacrifice for you with utter disregard. Your present willful sin is putting him to an open shame, not just in the world’s eyes, but before all of heaven and hell (see Hebrews 6:6).

In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul describes a way of escape from all temptation: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

What is this means of escape? It’s a growing knowledge and experience of the holy fear of God.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

Most of America knows that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed in any government courthouse. This landmark decision has been covered exhaustively by the media. But what does the ruling mean?

A courthouse is where laws are enforced. The Ten Commandments represent God’s moral law, which never shifts or changes. It is as fixed as the law of gravity. If you defy that law, it’s like stepping off a high building. You can deny that the law affects you, but there are consequences sure to be paid.

Simply put, the Ten Commandments are eternal laws designed by God to keep society from destroying itself. Yet, amazingly, many sand-blasting companies are at work right now grinding away those Commandments—as well as God’s name—wherever they’re engraved in courthouse marble or concrete.

What a telling picture of the state of our society. These unchangeable laws were originally engraved in stone by the finger of God. And now they are being erased from stone by the law of man.

Some Christians are saying, “What’s the big deal? We are not under the law. Why should this be an issue?” No, we are not under the Hebrew law, meaning the 613 additional commandments added by Jewish rabbis. But every Christian is under the authority of God’s moral law, which is summed up in the Ten Commandments.

I wonder what goes through God’s mind as these sand-blasters erase his laws from before our eyes. Some believers claim, “We don’t need these displays of the Commandments. All that’s really necessary is for us to have them written in our hearts.” That’s not what God’s Word says. Consider the very visible presence God intended for the Commandments as they were delivered to his people:

“These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart… and [thou] shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

THE BLINK GENERATION

Many Christians read the Bible regularly, believing it is God’s living, revealed Word for their lives. Over and over in the pages of Scripture, they read about generations who heard the voice of God. They read of God speaking to his people again and again, with this phrase repeated time after time: “And God said…” Yet many of these same Christians live as though God doesn’t speak to his people today.

An entire generation of believers has come to make decisions completely on their own, without praying or consulting God’s Word. Many simply decide what they want to do, and then ask God to validate it. They move ahead forcefully, their only prayer being, “Lord, if this is not your will, then stop me”

We are now living in a time referred to as the “blink generation.” People are making major decisions in the blink of an eye. A best-selling book has been written on this concept, titled Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The theory is, “Trust your instincts. Blink-of-the-eye decisions prove to be the best.”

Think about all the hurried-up “blink language” we hear every day: “This is an offer of the century. You can make a bundle overnight. But you have only a short window of opportunity. Get on it now!” The driving spirit behind it all is, “Blink, blink, blink!”

Such thinking has begun to infect the church, affecting the decisions made not just by “blink Christians” but by “blink ministers.” Scores of bewildered parishioners have written to us telling the same story: “Our pastor came back from a church-growth conference and immediately announced, ‘As of today, everything changes.’ He decided we would become one of the popular trend churches overnight! He didn’t even ask us to pray about it...we’re all confused.”

Just a few years ago, the watchword among Christians was, “Did you pray about this matter? Have you sought the Lord concerning it? Are your brothers and sisters surrounding you in prayer? Have you received godly counsel?” I ask you, has this been your practice? In the past year, how many important decisions have you made where you honestly took the matter to God and prayed sincerely? Or, how many of those decisions did you make “in the blink of an eye”? The reason God wants full control of our lives is to save us from disasters—which is exactly where most of our “blink decisions” end up.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

FOLLOWING HOLINESS

God’s Word tells us in no uncertain terms: “Follow…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Here is the truth, plain and simple. Without the holiness that’s imparted by Christ alone—a precious gift we honor by leading a life devoted to obeying his every Word—none of us will see the Lord. And this refers not just to heaven, but to our present life as well. Without holiness, we won’t see God’s presence in our daily walk, our family, our relationships, our witness or our ministry.

It doesn’t matter how many Christian conferences we attend, how many preaching tapes we listen to, how many Bible studies we are involved in. If we harbor a cancerous sin, if the Lord has a controversy with us over our iniquity, then none of our efforts will produce godly fruit. On the contrary, our sin will only grow more contagious and infect everyone around us.

Of course, this issue goes beyond all lusts of the flesh, to corruption of the spirit as well. Paul describes the same destructive sin in this passage when he says, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10).

So, dear saint, will you allow the Holy Spirit to deal with all the lusts you may be harboring? And will you instead seek and trust in the escape that God has provided for you? I urge you to cultivate a holy fear and trust in these last days. It will keep you pure, no matter how loudly wickedness rages around you. And it will enable you to walk in God’s holiness, which holds the promise of his enduring presence.

It is all a matter of faith. Christ has promised to keep you from falling, and to give you sin-resisting power—if you simply believe what he has said. So, believe him for this godly fear. Pray for it and welcome it. God will keep his Word to you. You cannot break free from the death-grip of besetting sin by willpower, by promises, or by any human effort alone. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6)

Monday, September 1, 2008

GOD’S ULTIMATE PLAN

By the close of the book of Genesis, God had chosen a small, insignificant people to become a teaching nation. He wanted to raise up a people who would be living examples of his goodness to the heathen world. So, to bring about such a testimony, God took his people into places that were beyond their control. He isolated Israel in a wilderness, where he alone would be their only source of life, caring for their every need.

Israel had no control over their survival in that desolate place. They couldn’t control the availability of food or water. They couldn’t control their destination, as they had no compasses or maps. How would they eat and drink? Which direction would they go? And where would they end up?

God would do it all for them. He would guide them every day by a miracle cloud, one that glowed at night and dispelled the darkness before them. He would feed them with angels’ food from heaven and provide them with water from a rock. Yes, every single need would be supplied by the Lord, and no enemy would be able to defeat them.

“Out of heaven he made thee [Israel] to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee” (Deuteronomy 4:36). God’s people would hear his very words guiding them, and in turn they would testify, “Who is there of all mankind who has heard the voice of the living God?” (see 4:32-34).

The nations surrounding ancient Israel were filled with “other gods,” idols made of wood, silver and gold. These gods were mute, unable to see or hear, unable to love, guide or protect the people who worshipped them. Yet any one of the nations could look to Israel and see a special people whom God carried through a terrible wilderness. They would see a God who spoke to his people, who loved and felt, who answered prayers and provided miracles. Here was a living God, one who guided his people in every detail of their lives.

God raised up a people who would be trained by him. There had to be a people who lived under his authority, who would trust him completely, giving him full control of every aspect of their lives. That people would become his testimony to the world.

Why would God want full control of a people and insist on their complete trust at all times? It was because only God knew the way and he would perform the impossible that was needed to get them there.