Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BATTLE SMART

Whenever opposition arises, God’s grace thrives in us. Think about what happens to a tree when a great storm beats violently against it. The wind threatens to uproot the tree and carry it away. It breaks off branches and blows away its leaves. It loosens its roots and blows off its buds. And when the storm is over, things look hopeless.

Yet, look closer; the same storm that opened crevices in the earth around the trunk of the tree has helped the roots go deeper. The tree now has access to new, deeper sources of nutrition and water. And it has been purged of all its dead branches. The buds may be gone, but others will grow back more fully. I tell you, that tree is now stronger, growing in unseen ways. And just wait till harvest—because it’s going to bear much fruit!

Maybe you’re in a storm right now. The wind is blowing hard, shaking you violently, and you think you’re going down. Beloved, don’t panic! You’ve got to know that in the midst of the tempest, you are putting down deep spiritual roots. God is developing in you a deepening humility, a greater mourning and sorrow for sin, a heightened hunger for his righteousness.

God is making you a seasoned soldier of the cross—battle-scarred, but battle-smart and courageous. You may get down on yourself at times—but the Lord never does. The fact is, he could have acted sovereignly at any time to pluck you out of your struggle. But he didn’t—because he saw it producing in you a greater thirst for him!

Romans 5:3 says, “Tribulation worketh patience.” The word worketh means “to accomplish.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:17 we read, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The word worketh in this verse is the same as in Romans 5:3.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SPIRITUAL GROWTH

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

What a great compliment Paul paid the Thessalonian Christians! Here’s the full essence of what he was saying: “It’s incredible to see how much you’ve grown, both in your faith in Christ and in your love for one another. Everywhere I go, I brag to others about your spiritual growth. How I thank God for you!”

In this short passage, Paul gives us an amazing picture of a body of believers who were growing in unity and love. The Greek phrase Paul uses for “groweth exceedingly” means “grows over, above and beyond that of others.” Both individually and corporately, the Thessalonians’ faith and love outshone that of all other churches.

Obviously, these Thessalonian Christians weren’t just trying to hang on to their faith till Jesus returned. They were learning, moving, growing—and their lives offered evidence to that fact. According to Paul, they were the talk of every church in Asia.

Apparently, the preaching these people heard was provoking them into an ever-deeper walk with Christ. It was melting their fleshly ambitions and convicting them of un-Christlike habits. And the Holy Ghost in them was tearing down all ethnic barriers and color lines. They were discovering how to embrace any person, whether rich or poor, educated or not. And they offered great care to each other, preferring one another in love.

If you’re being watered and fed by God’s Word, you should have continual spiritual growth in your life. It should be happening automatically.

I don’t know if everyone in our congregation is “growing exceedingly,” as Paul knew about the church at Thessalonica. Yet, I believe it is true for many of our people. Why? The anointed preaching of the pure Word of God always produces growth. And the apostle Peter says that all who desire the pure milk of the Word will grow.

Paul describes our spiritual growth as a work of the Holy Ghost. He says the Spirit is ever at work, changing us from glory to glory. He’s constantly renewing our minds, mortifying our flesh and bringing forth purity in our inner man. He works in our hearts to put off anger, bitterness, resentment and evil of all kinds. And he produces in us kindness, tenderness and forgiveness toward one another. He’s growing us up in Christ—teaching us that everything we say and do has to be worthy of our Lord!

Paul further urges us, “Let a man examine himself…” (1 Corinthians 11:28). The Greek word for examine here means “scrutinize, test.” The apostle is saying, “Test yourself—see if you’re walking according to God’s Word.” We’re to constantly ask ourselves, “Am I changing? Am I becoming more loving and tenderhearted? Am I treating my family and friends with godly respect? Is my conversation becoming more righteous?”

Monday, December 29, 2008

SOMETIMES WE GROW AND DON’T KNOW IT

Some believers can tell you all about their spiritual growth. And you can clearly see the changes in their lives. They testify to you about how the Holy Ghost has vanquished the enemy for them, and you rejoice with them in their victory.

Yet these kinds of Christians are the exception. Most believers are totally unaware of any spiritual progress in their lives. They pray, read the Bible and seek the Lord with all their hearts. There’s no obstruction to spiritual growth in them.

But they can’t discern any growth in themselves. I’m an example of this type of believer. I know I walk in the righteousness of Christ, yet I never sense I’m making progress. In fact, I occasionally get down on myself whenever I do or say something un-Christlike. It causes me to wonder, “I’ve been a Christian for years. Why don’t I ever learn?”

I think the Thessalonian Christians were stunned when they heard Paul’s glowing assessment of them (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3). They probably thought, “Me, growing exceedingly? Paul must be kidding.”

Yet Paul knew that spiritual growth is a secret, hidden thing. Scripture likens it to the unseen growth of flowers and trees: “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5–6).

God is telling us, “Go to the lilies! Just try to watch them grow. I’m telling you by day’s end you won’t see any growth whatsoever. But know this; I water the lily every morning with the dew I send—and it’s going to grow.” The same is true of most spiritual growth. It’s imperceptible to the human eye!

When some people get saved, they never seem to struggle with a besetting sin. They testify, “The moment I came to Jesus, the Lord took that temptation out of me. And I’ve been free ever since.” I know many former drug addicts who’ve had this experience.

But for multitudes of Christians, it’s a different story. Years after their conversion, an old corruption has broken loose in them—something they hated and never wanted to see again. Yet no matter how hard they struggle, that one remaining lust simply won’t let go. Over time they grow discouraged. Their soul cries out, “How long, Lord? When will this chain ever be broken?” And eventually the devil comes to them, saying, “You’ll never make it. You know there’s no way you could grow spiritually in this kind of condition.”

Take heart, friend—I’ve got good news for you. You are growing in the midst of your struggle! In fact, you may be growing by leaps and bounds because of your struggle.

Rest assured—if you have the fear of God in your heart, you’re going to emerge from the storm much stronger. You see, when you’re doing battle with the enemy, you’re exercising and calling forth all the graces and powers of God. And even though you may feel weakened, those graces and powers are strengthening you. For one, you’re becoming more urgent in your praying. And, second, you’re being stripped of all pride. So, the storm is actually putting you on “spiritual guard” in every area of your life!

Friday, December 26, 2008

KNOW, BELIEVE AND KEEP TRUSTING IN HIS LOVE

Anyone can keep his joy when he’s riding high in the Holy Ghost, not being tried or tempted. But God wants us to keep ourselves in his love at all times—especially in our temptations.

The apostle John tells us very simply how we can keep ourselves in God’s love: “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). In short, if we “dwell in God’s love,” we’re keeping ourselves in God.

The word dwell here means “to stay in a state of expectancy.” In other words, God wants us to expect his love to be renewed in us every day. We’re to live every day in the knowledge that God has always loved us, and will always love us.

In reality, most of us flit in and out of God’s love according to our emotional ups and downs. We feel safe in his love only if we’ve done well. But we’re unsure of his love whenever we’re tempted or tried, or the time we’ve failed him. That’s especially the time we’re to trust in his love. He’s telling us in these passages, “No matter what the trial you face, you must never doubt my love for you. If you’re actively trusting in my love, then you’re living the way I want you to live.”

Jeremiah 31 offers a wonderful illustration of God’s love. Israel was in a backslidden state. The people had grown fat and prosperous and were indulging in all kinds of wickedness.

Then suddenly, their lusts turned sour. They lost all pleasure in fulfilling their sensual appetites. Soon they cried out, “Lord, we’re lost. We need you to turn us around.” God heard their cry of repentance, and his loving heart went out to them. He chastened the people with his rod of correction—and Israel cried, “Thou hast chastised me…turn thou me, and I shall be turned…. Surely after that I was turned, I repented” (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

Listen to God’s words at this point: “…since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him…” (v. 20). “…with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (v. 3).

Here is what you must know of God’s love: God was telling his people, “I had to chasten you and speak hard words of truth to you. Yet even then you sinned against me, doing so despite the grace and mercy I extended to you. You turned against my love, rejecting me. Nevertheless, my bowels of compassion were moved deeply toward you, I remembered you in your struggle—and I will surely have mercy on you. I’ll freely forgive and restore you.”

Thursday, December 25, 2008

WALKING IN THE GLORY

One thing that can keep us going in the coming hard times is an understanding of God’s glory. Now, this may sound like a high, lofty concept to you, one that’s best left to theologians. But I’m convinced the subject of God’s glory has very real, practical value for every true believer. By grasping it, we unlock the door to an overcoming life!

The glory of God is a revelation of our Lord’s nature and being. You may recall from the Old Testament that Moses got a literal glimpse of God’s glory. Before then, the Lord had sent out Moses with no explanation of himself other than the words, “I AM.” But Moses wanted to know something more of God. So he pleaded with him, “Lord, show me your glory.”

God responded by taking Moses aside and putting him in the cleft of a rock. Then, Scripture says, he revealed himself to Moses in all his glory (see Exodus 34:6–7). The way God wants us to know his glory is through the revelation of his great love toward humankind. And that’s just what he revealed to Moses.

I believe this passage is absolutely essential to our understanding of who our Lord is. Often when we think about the glory of God, we think of his majesty and splendor, his power and dominion, or some manifestation in his people. All such things can be a result of seeing God’s glory. But this isn’t the glory he wants us to know him by. The Lord is forever waiting to show us his love, to forgive us, to shower us with his mercy and to restore us to himself.

The revelation of God’s glory has powerful effects on those who receive it and pray for an understanding of it. Up to this point, Moses had viewed the Lord as a God of law and wrath. He trembled with terror in the Lord’s presence, petitioning him, crying out to him, pleading with him on behalf of Israel. This had been the basis of his face-to-face relationship with the Lord.

Yet now, at the first sight of God’s glory, Moses was no longer fearful of the Lord. Instead, he was moved to worship: “Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (Exodus 34:8). He saw that God wasn’t just the thunder, lightning and piercing trumpet that had made him shrivel in fear. On the contrary, God was love and his nature was one of kindness and tender mercy!

Do you see the incredible truth Scripture is showing us here? True worship arises from hearts that are overcome by a vision of God’s unmerited love for us. It’s based on the revelation that God gives us of himself, of his goodness, his mercy, his readiness to forgive. So, if we’re to praise God both in spirit and in truth, our worship must be based on this awesome truth about him.

Once we receive a revelation of God’s glory, our worship can’t help but change. Why? Seeing his glory changes the way we live! It affects our countenance and behavior, changing us from “glory to glory,” making us more like him. Each new revelation of his love and mercy brings supernatural change.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

GOD’S LOVE IS CONVEYED TO US ONLY THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

According to John, all of God’s love dwells in Jesus, He writes, “And of his fullness have all we received…” (John 1:16). How have we received the Father’s love? We’ve obtained it by being in Christ.

But, you may ask, what’s so important about knowing God’s love is conveyed to us through Christ? How does this affect our everyday lives?

How does God’s love impact our lives? We have to look to Christ as our example. Jesus has already told us the Father loves us in the same way he loved the Son. So, what impact did the Father’s love have on Jesus?

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us…” (1 John 3:16). Here was the fruit of God’s love in Jesus: He gave of himself as a sacrifice for others. The second half of this verse tells us the purpose of God’s love in our own lives. It reads, “…and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” God’s love leads us also to present our bodies as living sacrifices.

Have you ever thought about what it means to truly lay down your life for your brothers and sisters? John isn’t talking about becoming martyrs on foreign soil. He isn’t referring to being an organ donor. And he doesn’t mean we’re to take the place of some condemned criminal on death row. Christ alone made that sacrifice. No, the only kind of Christian who can bring life and hope to his brethren is a dead one. Such a servant has died to this world—to all self, pride and ambition.

This “dead” Christian has allowed the Holy Ghost to take a spiritual inventory of his soul. He sees through the corruption and ungodliness in his heart. And he willingly goes to God’s altar, crying, “Lord, consume me. Take it all.” He knows that only through being cleansed by Christ’s blood can he give his life for his brethren.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

THE REVELATION OF GOD’S LOVE

I was stirred recently by the Holy Spirit and he led me to this passage: “Ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20–21). As I read these verses, I heard the Spirit whisper to me: “David, you’ve never yet come into the fullness and joy of my love. You have the theology right—but you haven’t yet experienced the ecstasy and rest of keeping yourself in my love. Up to now, you’ve only been in it up to your ankles. But there’s a whole ocean of my love for you to swim in.”

The Bible is filled with the truth of God’s love. But at times I allow myself to wonder how the Lord could ever love me. It’s not that I doubt his love; it’s more a failure on my part to keep myself in the knowledge and assurance of his love to me.

The revelation of God’s love comes in part when we are born again. If you were to ask most Christians what they know of God’s love for them, they’d answer, “I know God loves me because he gave his Son to die for me.” They would quote John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

It’s a wonderful moment when you grasp this truth. You suddenly realize, “God loved me when I was lost, undone, a stranger. And he proved his love for me by sacrificing his own Son on my behalf.”

Few Christians, however, learn how to be kept in God’s love. We know something of our love toward the Lord—but we seldom seek the revelation of God’s love for us. In fact, if you were to ask most Christians to find biblical passages on God’s love for us, they could point to only a few. Yet, understanding the love of God is the secret to an overcoming life. Multitudes grow spiritually cold and lazy because they’re ignorant of the Lord’s love for them. They don’t know that their greatest weapon against Satan’s attacks is to be fully convinced of God’s love for them, through the revelation of the Holy Ghost.

In his final prayer on earth, Jesus said, “Father…thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). What an incredible thought; Christ was greatly loved by the Father before creation.

Then Jesus prayed this remarkable prayer. “Thou, Father…hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (vv. 21, 23). He also prayed, “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (v. 26). Christ was saying, “Father, I know you’re going to love those I bring into my body, just the way you’ve loved me.”

The implication here is that when the Father loved Jesus before eternity, he loved us too. Indeed, when man was still only a thought in God’s eternal mind, the Lord was already numbering our parts and planning our redemption: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).

How long has God loved you? He’s loved you since he has existed—because God is love. It is his very nature. He loved you as a sinner. He loved you in the womb. He loved you before the world began. There was no beginning to his love for you—and there is no end to it.

When will God stop loving you? He’ll stop loving you when he stops loving his own Son—which is impossible. Christ says, “The Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

Monday, December 22, 2008

KEEP YOURSELF IN THE LOVE OF GOD

Years ago, God put it on my heart to start a boys’ home on Long Island. I truly sensed the Lord was behind this work. Yet, after just eighteen months, state officials imposed such stringent regulations on the operation of the home that we had no option but to close it down.

We’d taken in four boys during the brief time we were open. After we closed down, I lost touch with them. I had always thought that venture was one of the greatest failures of all time. For more than three decades, I wondered why God ever allowed us to move forward with it.

Recently I received a letter from a man named Clifford. He told the following story:

“Brother David, I was one of the four boys sent to the home on Long Island. Your houseparents were so loving and kind. They taught us the Bible and took us to church. One day they took us to a church that was holding a tent revival. I was so bitter and despondent. It was there, under the tent, that the Holy Spirit began tugging at my heart. I heard the preacher say, ‘Jesus loves you.’ All the years of pain, confusion and hopelessness came to the surface. I got on my knees and prayed. That was thirty-five years ago. Now God has called me to preach, and he’s moving me into full-time ministry. This ‘thank you’ has been brewing in me all this time. I just want to thank you for caring. I know what the love of God is.”

This man’s letter proves to me that nothing we do for Christ is in vain. That boys’ home was not a failure—because one lost, confused Jewish boy discovered the meaning of God’s love.

Friday, December 19, 2008

SATAN USES SUBTLE DEVICES

“And the king of Assyria sent…Rabshakeh…to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem” (2 Kings 18:17). The Assyrians represent today’s “guides to prosperity.” The devil will parade his army around your walls: people who are powerful, beautiful and seemingly successful in all they undertake. When you see them, you will feel walled in like a prisoner!

The first trick of the man of sin is to question a believer’s commitment to trust the Lord fully. Rabshakeh, whose name means “drunken envoy,” was the king’s ambassador. He mocked the godly with a taunt (see 2 Kings 18:19–20). The accusation was, “God is not going to get you out of this mess. You are going down! You are in real trouble, and your faith is not going to work.”

Satan then adds another twist; he tells you that God is the one behind all your troubles. Assyria’s messenger claimed, “The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it” (2 Kings 18:25). Satan will try to convince you that God is getting even with you, that he is mad at you. This is his slickest lie! He makes you believe God has forsaken you and turned you over to trouble and sorrow. He wants you to think all your problems are the result of God’s punishment for your past sins. Don’t believe it! It is Satan who is out to destroy you.

Our Lord is a deliverer, a fortress. Isaiah said he comes “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).

No, dear saint, you are not going down. You are simply under attack, being barraged by the enemy’s lies because you have set your heart truly to trust in the Lord. Satan is trying to destroy your faith in God.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

HE CALLS US TO FIGHT

“What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage [delegation], and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:31–33).

Enoch once prophesied, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (Jude 14). Scripture says we are kings and priests unto the Lord, and we represent these tens of thousands going out to battle Satan’s army. Satan wars against us because he hates us greatly (see Revelation 12:17).

We must be prepared for what is coming. We must be ready to spend our days in spiritual warfare, knowing that a flood of iniquity is aimed against the people of God. If we are determined to lay hold of Christ, then we need to realize that we are invincible in Christ. It is written, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God says we are guaranteed victory over all the power of the enemy; we have all the host of heaven fighting for us!

May God give us more Holy Ghost fight so that each of us can shout to the world and all the hordes of hell, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37–39).

This is the battle cry of those who hunger for Jesus.

Every man or woman of God is going to become the target of hell’s evil devices once a commitment is made to become a living sacrifice for Christ. The hordes of hell will be unleashed against the one who sets his heart to walk in holiness of faith.

Satan will afflict and set up roadblocks because you have become a real threat to his program of deception. You can resign the warfare, give up, quit, and become a dull, fruitless wanderer.

For me, I choose to resist the devil’s plot, rise up in faith, and resume the fight. Satan cannot keep down one who truly trusts in the Lord.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

HE CALLS US TO SEE IT THROUGH

“Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28–30).

Christ knew many of his followers would not have what it took to see them through. He knew they would turn back and not finish the race. I believe this is the most tragic condition possible for a believer—to have started out fully intending to lay hold of Christ, to grow into a mature disciple and become more like Jesus and then to drift away. Such a person is the one who laid a foundation and could not finish because he did not first count the cost.

What a joy it is to meet those who are indeed finishing the race! These believers are growing in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ. They are changing daily, from moment to moment. Paul says to them encouragingly, “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is not heaven these believers seek, but Christ in his glory!

I know that many who read this particular message are in the process of pausing or taking a step backward. It may seem like a small step, but it will cause a swift descent away from his love. If this is true of you, realize the Holy Spirit is calling you all the way back—back to repentance, self-denial and surrender. And at this very moment, time is a big factor. If you ever intend to lay hold of Christ, do it now; see it through!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

LOVE AND HATE

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

The Greek word for hate means “to love less by comparison.” Jesus is calling us to have a love for him that is so all-inclusive, fervent and absolute that all our earthly affections cannot come close.

Think about it: Do we know what it is like to come into his sweet presence and ask nothing? To reach out to him only because we are grateful that he loves us so completely?

We have become selfish and self-centered in our prayers: “Give us…meet us…bless us…use us…protect us.” All this may be scriptural, but the focus remains on us. Even our work for the Lord has become selfish. We want him to bless our service to him, so we can know our faith is genuine. The Lord is more interested in what we are becoming in him than in what we are doing for him.

Someone reading this may be hurting because doors of ministry have closed. He or she may feel “put on the shelf.” Someone else may think he would be more useful to the Lord on some needy mission field. But I say we cannot be more useful to the Lord than when we minister love to him in the secret closet of prayer. When we seek the Lord, when we search his Word endlessly to know him, then we are at the peak of our usefulness. We do more to bless and satisfy God by being shut up with him in loving communication than by doing anything else. Whatever work he might open up for us to do, at home or abroad, will flow effortlessly out of our communion with him. He is more interested in winning our whole hearts than in our winning the world for him.

This is not to demean fervent soul-winning labors, but to state that all Spirit-blessed evangelism is birthed in communion. The witness who is often with the Lord in prayer will be given the wisdom, the Holy Ghost timing, and the power to do the will of God.

Monday, December 15, 2008

COMING TO HIS TABLE

An old gospel song has profound meaning for me. It says, “Jesus has a table spread / Where the saints of God are fed / He invites his chosen people, come and dine.”

What an exciting prospect: The Lord has spread a table in the heavenlies for his followers! Jesus told his disciples, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luke 22:29–30). Hungering for him means that, by faith, we also are seated at this table.

When the apostle Paul instructs, “Let us keep the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:8), he means let us understand clearly that we have been assigned a seat in the heavenlies with Christ at his royal table. Paul is saying, “Always show up. Never let it be said your seat is empty.”

The sad truth is that the church of Jesus Christ simply does not comprehend what it means to keep the feast. We do not understand the majesty and honor accorded us by having been raised by Christ to sit with him in heavenly places. We have become too busy to sit at his table. We mistakenly derive our spiritual joy from service instead of communion. We do more and more for a Lord whom we know less and less. We run ourselves ragged giving our bodies and minds to his work, but we seldom keep the feast.

The one thing our Lord seeks above all else from his servants, ministers and shepherds is communion at his table. This table is a place for spiritual intimacy, and it is spread daily. Keeping the feast means coming to him continually for food, strength, wisdom and fellowship.

Ever since the Cross, all spiritual giants have had one thing in common: They revered the table of the Lord. They became lost in the vastness of Christ. They all died lamenting that they still knew so little of him and his life.

Our vision of Christ today is too small, too limited. A gospel of “vastness” is needed to overcome the complicated and growing problems of this wicked age. You see, God does not merely solve problems in this world—he swallows them up in his vastness! Someone with an increasing revelation of Christ’s vastness need fear no problem, no devil, no power on this earth. He knows that Christ is bigger than it all. If we had this kind of revelation of how vast he is, how boundless, measureless, limitless and immense, we would never again be overwhelmed by life’s problems.

Paul is an example to us. He was committed to having such an ever-increasing revelation of Christ. In fact, all he had of Christ came by revelation; it was taught to him at the Lord’s table and made truth to him by the Holy Spirit. Remember, it was three years after his conversion before Paul went to spend time with the apostles in Jerusalem, and he stayed with them only fifteen days before continuing his missionary journeys. He later said, “By revelation he made known unto me the mystery” (Ephesians 3:3). The Holy Spirit knows the deep and hidden secrets of God, and Paul prayed constantly for the gift of grace to understand and preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

The Lord is looking for believers who are not satisfied with sifting through all the conflicting voices to find a true word. He wants us to hunger for a revelation of him that is all our own—a deep, personal intimacy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

FROM THE BATTLEFIELD OF FAITH

When Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, it wasn’t because he’d heard revival was breaking out there. He wasn’t a discouraged preacher looking for someone to impart something of God to him. No—he states clearly, “I went up…to Jerusalem…by revelation and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach” (Galatians 2:1–2). Paul went to Jerusalem to share a mystery that God wanted to reveal to his people.

This godly man had his own full, glorious revelation of Christ. He didn’t learn the doctrines he preached by shutting himself in a study with books and commentaries. He wasn’t some isolated philosopher who dreamed up theological truths, thinking, “Someday my works will be read and taught by future generations.”

Let me tell you how and where Paul produced his epistles. He wrote them in dark, damp prison cells. He wrote them while wiping the blood from his back after being scourged. He wrote them after crawling from the sea, having survived another shipwreck.

Paul knew that all the truth and revelation he taught came from the battlefield of faith. And he rejoiced in his afflictions for the gospel’s sake. He said, “Now I can preach with all authority to every sailor who’s been through a shipwreck, to every prisoner who’s been locked up with no hope, to everybody who has ever looked death in the face. God’s Spirit is making me a tested veteran, so I can speak his truth to everyone who has ears to hear.”

God hasn’t turned you over to the power of Satan. No—he’s allowing your trial because the Holy Spirit is performing an unseen work in you. Christ’s glory is being formed in you for all eternity.

You’ll never get true spirituality from someone or something else. If you’re going to taste God’s glory, it’s going to have to come to you right where you are—in your present circumstances, pleasant or unpleasant.

I believe one of the great secrets of Paul’s spirituality was his readiness to accept whatever condition he was in without complaining. He writes, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

The Greek word for content here means “to ward off.” Paul is saying, “I don’t try to protect myself from my unpleasant circumstances. I don’t beg God for relief from them. On the contrary, I embrace them. I know from my history with the Lord that he’s doing something eternal in me.”

“That ye may be able to bear it…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The word bear which Paul uses here implies that our condition isn’t going to change. The point is for us to bear up under the situation. Why? God knows that if he changes our condition, we’ll end up destroyed. He allows us to suffer because he loves us.

Our part in every trial is to trust God for all the power and resources we need to find contentment in the midst of our suffering. Please don’t misunderstand me—being “content” in our trials doesn’t mean we enjoy them. It simply means we no longer try to protect ourselves from them. We are content to stay put and endure whatever is handed to us, because we know our Lord is conforming us to the image of his Son.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

THE PRESENT GENERATION KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT ENDURANCE

To endure means “to carry through despite hardships; to suffer patiently without giving up.” In short, it means to hold on or hold out. But this word means little to the present generation. Many Christians today are quitters—they quit on their spouses, their families and their God.

Peter addresses this subject by saying, “This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19). Then he adds, “What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:20–23).

The apostle Paul commands, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Finally, the Lord himself gives us this promise: “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

I ask you—what is your hardship? Is your marriage in turmoil? Is your job in crisis? Do you have a conflict with a relative, a landlord, a friend who has betrayed you?

We are to take hope. You see, just as Paul’s suffering never let up, neither did his revelation, his maturity, his deep faith, his settled peace. He said, “If I’m going to be a spiritual man—if I really want to please my Lord—then I can’t fight my circumstances. I’m going to hold on and never quit. Nothing on this earth can give me what I get from God’s Spirit every day in my trial. He’s making me a spiritual man.”

Paul’s life “breathed” with the Spirit of Christ. And so it is with every truly spiritual person. The Holy Ghost pours forth out of that servant’s inner being the heavenly breezes of God. This person isn’t downcast; he doesn’t murmur or complain about his lot. He may be going through the trial of his life, but he’s still smiling—because he knows God is at work in him, revealing his eternal glory.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A PERSONAL REVELATION OF CHRIST

If you are a preacher, missionary or teacher, think about this: What are you teaching? Is it what a person taught you? Is it a rehashing of the revelation of some great teacher? Or have you experienced your own personal revelation of Jesus Christ? If you have, is it ever-increasing? Is heaven opened to you?

Paul said, “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts17:28). True men and women of God live within this very small yet vast circle. Their every move, their entire existence, is wrapped up only in the interests of Christ. Years ago I knew the Holy Spirit was drawing me into such a ministry, one that preached Christ alone. Oh, how I yearned to preach nothing but him! But my heart was unfocused, and I found the circle too narrow. As a result, I had no flow of revelation to sustain my preaching.

To preach Christ, we must have a continuous flow of revelation from the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we will end up repeating a stale message. If the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God and searches the deep and hidden things of the Father, and if he is to well up as flowing water within us, then we must be available to be filled with that flowing water. We must stay filled up with a never-ending revelation of Christ. Such revelation awaits every servant of the Lord who is willing to wait on him, believing and trusting the Holy Spirit to manifest to him the mind of God.

Paul said Christ was being revealed in him, not just to him (see Galatians 1:16). In God’s eyes it is unfruitful to preach a word that has not already worked its power in the preacher’s life and ministry. It may seem all right for certain shallow ones to preach Christ with contention—but not so for the man or woman of God. We must preach an ever-increasing revelation of Christ, yet only as that revelation effects a deep change in us.

Paul also voiced a personal concern: “Lest…when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul certainly never would have doubted his security in Christ; that was not in his mind here. The Greek word used for castaway means “unapproved” or “not worthy.” Paul dreaded the thought of standing before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged for preaching a Christ he did not really know or for proclaiming a gospel he did not fully practice. This is why Paul speaks so often of the “living Christ” or “Christ living in me.”

We cannot continue another hour calling ourselves servants of God until we can answer this question personally: Do I truly want nothing but Christ? Is he truly everything to me, my one purpose for living?

Is your answer yes? If you mean it, you will be able to point to a dung heap of your life, the one that Paul spoke of when he said, “I…do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Have you counted all things as loss for the revelation of him? If you want nothing but Christ, then your ministry is not a career—your ministry is prayer! You will not have to be prodded to seek him; you will go often to your secret closet, knowing that the moment you walk in you are seated at his table. You will worship him, sitting in his presence unhurried, loving him, praising him with upraised hands, yearning after him and thanking him for his wisdom.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A PERFECT HEART IS TRUSTING

The Psalmist wrote, “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Psalm 22:4-5).

The Hebrew root word for trust suggests “to fling oneself off a precipice.” That means being like a child who has climbed up into the rafters and cannot get down. He hears his father say, “Jump!” and he obeys, throwing himself into his father’s arms. Are you in such a place right now? Are you on the edge, teetering, and have no other option but to fling yourself into the arms of Jesus? You have simply resigned yourself to your situation, but that is not trust; it is nothing more than fatalism. Trust is something vastly different from passive resignation. It is active belief!

As we hunger for Jesus more intensely, we will find that our trust in him is well founded. At some point in our lives we may have thought that we could not really trust him—that he did not really have control over the big picture and that we had to stay in charge. But growing closer to him and getting to know him better changes that. It means that we do not just come to him for help when we are at the end of our rope; instead, we begin to walk with him so closely that we hear him warning of the trials ahead.

The trusting heart always says, “All my steps are ordered by the Lord. He is my loving Father, and he permits my sufferings, temptations and trials—but never more than I can bear, for he always makes a way of escape. He has an eternal plan and purpose for me. He has numbered every hair on my head, and he formed all my parts when I was in my mother’s womb. He knows when I sit, stand or lie down because I am the apple of his eye. He is Lord—not just over me, but over every event and situation that touches me.”

A perfect heart is also a broken heart!

The Psalmist David said, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite [crushed] spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Brokenness means more than sorrow and weeping, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to mankind—greater than power to raise the dead or heal sickness and disease. When we are truly broken before God, we are given a power that restores ruins, a power that brings a special kind of glory and honor to our Lord.

You see, brokenness has to do with walls—broken down, crumbling walls. David associated the crumbling walls of Jerusalem with the brokenheartedness of God’s people. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart…. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness” (Psalm 51:17–19).

Nehemiah was a brokenhearted man, and his example has to do with those broken walls of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:12–15). In the dark of the night, Nehemiah “viewed the wall.” The Hebrew word shabar is used here. It is the same word used in Psalm 51:17 for “broken heart.” In the fullest Hebrew meaning, Nehemiah’s heart was breaking in two ways. It broke first with anguish for the ruin, and second with a hope for rebuilding (bursting with hope).

This is truly a broken heart: one that first sees the church and families in ruin and feels the Lord’s anguish. Such a heart grieves over the reproach cast on the Lord’s name. It also looks deep inside and sees, as David did, its own shame and failure. But there is a second important element to this brokenness, and that is hope. The truly broken heart has heard from God: “I will heal, restore and build. Get rid of the rubbish, and get to work rebuilding the breaches!”

Monday, December 8, 2008

WALKING WITH GOD

“Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24). The original Hebrew meaning for walked implies that Enoch went up and down, in and out, to and fro, arm in arm with God, continually conversing with him and growing closer to him. Enoch lived 365 years—or, a “year” of years. In him, we see a new kind of believer. For 365 days each adult year, he walked arm in arm with the Lord. The Lord was his very life—so much so that at the end of his life, he did not see death (see Hebrews 11:5).

Like Enoch, who was translated out of life, those who walk closely with God are translated out of Satan’s reach—taken out of his kingdom of darkness and put into Christ’s kingdom of light: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

Enoch learned to walk pleasingly before God in the midst of a wicked society. He was an ordinary man with all the same problems and burdens we carry, not a hermit hidden away in a wilderness cave. He was involved in life with a wife, children, obligations and responsibilities; Enoch wasn’t “hiding to be holy.”

“Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). We know from Hebrews that this verse speaks of Enoch’s translation, the fact that he did not taste death. But it also means something deeper. The phrase he was not, as used in Genesis 5, also means “he was not of this world.” In his spirit and in his senses, Enoch was not a part of this wicked world. Each day as he walked with the Lord he became less attached to the things below. Like Paul, he died daily to this earthly life and he was taken up in his spirit to a heavenly realm.

Yet while he walked on this earth, Enoch undertook all his responsibilities. He cared for his family: he worked, ministered and occupied. But “he was not”—not earthbound. None of the demands of this life could keep him from his walk with God.

Hebrews 11:5 says clearly: “Before his [Enoch’s] translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” What was it about Enoch that pleased God so much? It was that his walk with God produced in him the kind of faith God loves. These two verses cannot be separated: “Before his [Enoch’s] translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:5-6). We hear this latter verse often, but rarely in connection with the former. Yet throughout the Bible and all of history those who walked closely with God became men and women of deep faith. If the church is walking with God daily, communing with him continually, the result will be a people full of faith—true faith that pleases God.

All around Enoch, mankind grew increasingly ungodly. Yet as men changed into wild beasts full of lust, hardness and sensuality, Enoch became more and more like the One with whom he walked.

“By faith Enoch was translated.” This is an incredible truth, almost beyond our comprehension. All of Enoch’s faith was focused on the one great desire of his heart: to be with the Lord. And God translated him in answer to his faith. Enoch could no longer bear to stand behind the veil; he just had to see the Lord.

Our brother Enoch had no Bible, no songbook, no fellow member, no teacher, no indwelling Holy Spirit, no rent veil with access to the Holy of Holies. But he knew God!

“He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). How do we know that Enoch believed God was a rewarder? Because we know that is the only faith that pleases God—and we know that Enoch pleased him! God is a recompenser, a remunerator, that is, one who pays well for faithfulness. How does the Lord reward his diligent ones?

There are three important rewards that come by believing God and walking with him in faith.

1. The first reward is God’s control of our lives. The person who neglects the Lord soon spins out of control as the devil moves in and takes over. If only he would fall in love with Jesus, walking and talking with him! God would soon show him that Satan has no real dominion over him and this person would quickly allow Christ to control him.

2. The second reward that comes by faith is having “pure light.” When we walk with the Lord, we are rewarded with light, direction, discernment, revelation—a certain “knowing” that God gives us.

3. The third reward that comes with a walk of faith is protection from all our enemies. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). In the original Hebrew, this verse is translated as: “No plan, no instrument of destruction, no satanic artillery shall push you or run over you, but it will be done away with.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S PURPOSE IN OUR TAKING SPOILS

While David and his army were away, the Amalekites raided his village of Ziklag. These marauding invaders took all the women and children and burned down the whole town. When David returned, he “was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him…but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).

Talk about spiritual warfare! This wasn’t just an attack against David. It was an all-out assault against God’s eternal purpose. Once again, the devil was after God’s seed.

This is the focus of all spiritual warfare: The enemy has always been determined to destroy the seed of Christ. And that fact hasn’t changed even 2000 years after the Cross. Satan is still out to destroy God’s seed, and he does this by attacking us, the seed of Christ. David felt threatened when he heard the grumbling of his men. But David knew his heart was right with God, and Scripture says he encouraged himself in the Lord. Immediately, this man of faith took off in pursuit of the Amalekites. And he quickly overtook them, rescuing every person and possession that had been taken (see 1 Samuel 30:19–20). David not only recovered what was taken from Ziklag but everything else the Amalekites had plundered.

What did David do with all these spoils of war? He used them to maintain the purposes of God. In addition, he sent gifts of the spoils to the elders of Judah and to the towns where he and his men had been hiding (see 1 Samuel 30:26 and 31). This is another example of God’s purpose in our spiritual warfare. We’re to take spoils from battle not just for ourselves, but for the body of Christ. The resources we gain are meant to bring blessing to others.

The Syrian army besieged the city of Samaria during a famine. The Syrians simply camped outside the city, waiting for the Samaritans to starve. Conditions got so bad within the city walls, a donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver. Things grew so desperate that women were offering their children to be boiled for food. It was sheer insanity (see 2 Kings 6).

Four lepers who lived outside the city walls finally said to themselves, “Why sit we here until we die?…Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (2 Kings 7:3–4). So they set out for the Syrian camp.

When they arrived, everything was deathly still. Not a soul was in sight. So they searched every tent, but everyone was gone. Scripture explains: “The Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses…even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (7:6–7).

When the lepers realized this, they went throughout the camp eating and drinking and then they went back to the city and called out, “Come with us. You won’t believe it, but the Syrians have fled their camp” (see 7:10). The Lord turned the whole situation around. He took the spoils of warfare and used them to restore and refresh his people, maintaining his cause on earth.

Are you getting the picture? Are you beginning to understand the reason for your present battle? Those who put their trust in the Lord are promised glorious victory over all power of the enemy. God wants you to know, “Yes, you’ll come through victorious. But I am going to make you more than an overcomer. I’m working out an even greater purpose in you for my kingdom. You’ll come out of this battle with more spoils than you can handle.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

THE SPOILS OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE

“Out of the spoils won in battles did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 26:27). This verse opens to us a profound, life-changing truth. It speaks of spoils that can only be won in battle. And once these spoils are won, they are dedicated to the building up of God’s house.

I believe if we grasp the powerful truth behind this verse, we’ll understand why the Lord allows intense spiritual warfare throughout our lives. Many Christians think once they’re saved, their struggles are over, that life will be smooth sailing. Nothing could be further from the truth. God not only allows our battles, but he has a glorious purpose for them in our lives.

What are “spoils of warfare”? Spoils are plunder, loot, goods taken in battle by the victors. The Bible first mentions spoils in Genesis 14, when a confederation of kings invaded Sodom and Gomorrah. These invaders captured the inhabitants and plundered their possessions: “They took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah…. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son” (Genesis 14:11–12).

When Abram learned that his nephew Lot was taken captive, he gathered his 318-man army of servants and pursued the enemy kings. Scripture says he overtook the invaders and “smote them…. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people” (14:15–16).

Picture victorious Abram here. He was leading a long procession of joyful people, and wagons piled high with goods of all kinds. And along the way, he met Melchizedek, king of Salem. Scripture tells us Abram was moved to tithe to this king of all his plunder (see 14:20). “Consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils” (Hebrews 7:4).
Here is the principle God wants us to lay hold of: Our Lord is interested in much more than making us victors. He wants to give us spoils, goods, spiritual riches from our warfare. We’re to emerge from battle with wagonloads of resources. This is what Paul refers to when he says, “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37, italics mine).

David had a reverent attitude toward spoils taken in warfare. We see it in a decree he set forth toward the end of his life. David had just appointed his son Solomon to follow him on Israel’s throne. And now he gathered the nation’s leaders together to set up a divine order for sustaining God’s house. What resources would they use for this holy work? “Out of the spoils won in battles did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 26:27).

Let me set the scene. After every military victory, David took back spoils and stockpiled them in abundance: gold, silver, brass, timber, money too vast to count. And he had one purpose in mind: to use these spoils as resources for building the temple.

When Scripture speaks of maintaining the temple, the original Hebrew means “to repair the house, to strengthen and consolidate what was built.” These resources were meant to maintain the temple’s original splendor.

Where is God’s temple today? It’s made up of his people—you, me, his church worldwide. According to Paul, our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost. And, like ancient Israel, our Lord still maintains his temple through spoils gained in battle. That’s why our trials are meant for more than just our survival. Through every battle, God is laying aside riches, resources, wealth for us. He’s stockpiling a whole treasury of goods from our warfare. And those spoils are dedicated to building up and maintaining his body, the church of Jesus Christ.

Think about it: For years after Solomon built the temple, it was maintained in good order by the spoils taken in past wars. God’s house remained vibrant and alive, because his people had emerged from every conflict not just victorious, but rich in resources. We find this principle of “supply through battle” throughout God’s Word.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

THAT WHICH IS SPIRITUAL CANNOT BE DUPLICATED

Here on the streets of New York City, you can buy a Rolex watch for fifteen dollars. As every New Yorker knows, these watches aren’t truly Rolexes. They are simply “knock-offs”—cheap copies of the original.

There seems to be a duplicate for just about everything today. But there is one thing that cannot be duplicated and that is true spirituality. Nothing that is truly spiritual can be copied. The Lord recognizes the work of his own hands—and he won’t accept a man-made duplication of any of his divine workings. Why? Because it’s impossible for man to duplicate what is truly spiritual. That is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. He’s constantly at work doing something new in his people. And there is no possible way for us to reproduce that work.

This is the big mistake of modern religion. We think if we merely impart knowledge of the Scriptures and biblical principles to people, they’ll become spiritual. But the fact remains—no person or institution has the power to produce spirituality in someone. Only the Holy Ghost does that.

Very little of the work God’s Spirit does in us can be seen. This is why truly spiritual people rarely look for outward evidence of his work. Paul says, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

In the context of this passage, Paul is speaking of sufferings and afflictions. He saying, “No one knows all the things we face, except the Holy Spirit. And this is where true spirituality is manifested—in the crucible of suffering.”

Those who submit to the leading of God’s Spirit—who face their afflictions confident that the Lord is producing something in them—emerge from their crucible with strong faith. And they testify that the Spirit taught them more during their suffering than when all was well in their lives.

In all my years of walking with the Lord, I’ve rarely seen an increase in my spirituality during good times. Rather, any such increase usually took place as I endured hard places, agonies, testings—all of which the Holy Ghost allowed.

At one point in his walk of faith, Paul said, “The Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me that bonds and afflictions await me” (see Acts 20:21–22). Indeed, throughout Paul’s entire life, his afflictions never let up. They just kept coming.

“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). According to Paul, our afflictions and difficulties produce eternal values in us. He’s saying, “The suffering we go through on this earth will probably last our whole lifetime. But that’s only momentary compared to eternity. And right now, as we endure afflictions, God is producing in us a revelation of his glory that will last forever.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

WINNING CHRIST

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Paul was completely captivated by his Lord. Why would he feel the need to “win” Christ? Christ already had revealed himself clearly, and not just to the apostle but in his life. Yet, even so, Paul felt compelled to win Christ’s heart and affection.

Paul’s entire being—his ministry, life and very purpose for living—was focused only on pleasing his Master and Lord. All else was rubbish to him, even “good” things.

Is this scriptural, you may ask, this idea of winning the heart of Jesus? Aren’t we already the objects of God’s love? Indeed, his benevolent love extends to all mankind. But there is another kind of love that few Christians ever experience. It is an affectionate love with Christ such as occurs between a husband and wife.

This love is expressed in the Song of Solomon. In that book Solomon is portrayed as a type of Christ and in one passage the Lord speaks of his bride this way:

“Thou hast ravished my heart…my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one [look] of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love…my spouse! How much better is thy love than wine!” (Song of Solomon 4:9-10).

The bride of Christ consists of a holy people who long to be so pleasing to their Lord, and who live so obediently and so separated from all other things, that Christ’s heart will be ravished. The word ravish in this passage means to “unheart” or to “steal my heart.” The King James Version of the above passage says that Christ’s heart is ravished with just “one eye.” I believe that “one eye” is the singleness of a mind focused on Christ alone.

Monday, December 1, 2008

MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD

The story of Queen Esther is one of intense warfare, one of the greatest spiritual battles in all of Scripture. The devil was trying to destroy God’s purpose on earth, this time through the evil Haman. This wealthy, influential man persuaded the king of Persia to declare an edict calling for the death of every Jew under his rule, from India to Ethiopia.

The first Jew in Haman’s sight was righteous Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Haman had a gallows built especially for Mordecai, but Esther intervened, calling God’s people to prayer and laying her life on the line to countermand Haman’s order. God exposed the wicked scheme, and Haman ended up hanging on his own gallows. The king not only reversed the death order, but he gave Haman’s house to Esther, an estate worth millions by today’s standards.

Yet Haman’s mansion wasn’t the only spoil taken in this story. Scripture tells us, “The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour” (Esther 8:16). These were the true spoils gained in battle with the enemy.

You see, our trials not only gain us spiritual riches, they keep us strong, pure, under continual maintenance. As we put our trust in the Lord, he causes our trials to produce in us a faith more precious than gold. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

“Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).

Jesus plundered the devil at Calvary, stripping him of all power and authority. When Christ rose victorious from the grave, he led an innumerable host of redeemed captives out of Satan’s grasp. And that blood-bought procession is still marching on.

Amazingly, Christ’s triumph at Calvary gave us even more than victory over death. It gained for us incredible spoils in this life: grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, strength, faith, all the resources needed to lead an overcoming life. He has made every provision for the maintaining of his temple: “Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6).

The Holy Spirit is showing us a marvelous truth here: Jesus has supplied us with all the resources we need, in his Holy Ghost. But we are responsible for tapping into that treasury to maintain his temple. And the resources for maintaining the temple have to come directly from the spoils of our warfare.

Christ has given us everything necessary for this maintenance to take place. He has adopted us into his household. He stands as the cornerstone of the house and he has cleaned the entire house. Finally, he has given us access to the very Holy of Holies. So, by faith, we are now a fully established, complete temple. Jesus didn’t build a house that’s only half finished. His temple is complete.

This temple has to be maintained. It must be kept in good repair at all times. Of course, we know where the resources can be found: in the Spirit of Christ himself. He is the treasurer of all spoils. Those resources are released when we see our need and we cooperate with God.

That cooperation begins when we are in the midst of conflict. Our resources are the Christlikeness we win while immersed in battle. They’re the lessons, the faith, the character we gain from warfare with the enemy. There is value in the battle. And we can be confident that good will come out of it.