Friday, July 29, 2011

HUNGRY TO BE HOLY by Gary Wilkerson

There was a young Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne who died at 29. Before his passing he brought a great awakening to his church. This week I read a quote from this man of God, he said, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness.”

We have a plethora of eloquent preachers, an over abundance of charismatic personalities, more than sufficient number of high profile leaders. What we are in want of are holy men of God. People need to see more than ministry skill from their leaders; they need to see a godly heart.

A pastor cannot take his congregation into the depths of Christ any further than he has gone first himself.

What’s the outcome of a church that has astonishing programs, brilliant leadership, edge of the seat presentations and state of the art building but has no vision at its core to be a holy people? What good can come from engaging speakers conducting entertaining events if that leader is not a man desiring to bow in brokenness and humbly recognize how estranged he and his congregation are from a holy and awesome God?

Our churches are often full of frivolity and we know it but it is not changed because leaders tolerate it rather than grieve over it. The situation in the church is simply a reflection of the reality that is within the pastor’s heart. The light pouring from a single broken vessel far outshines the productions of a thousand religious entertainers. Paul said you have many tutors but few fathers. Today he might have said you have many church experts but few holy men.

R.M. McCheyne’s word is more necessary today than when he first spoke this to a compromised, liberal, nominalist church in Scotland. But not just his words but his example, the power of his pulpit and the effect of his ministry empowered his words. His word contained power behind a life that contained purity.

Are you hungry to be a holy man or woman of God? There is only one way to see this happen. It is to lay down both human efforts to strive at your own righteousness and be fully cloaked with the garments of Christ and to simply receive the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

This holiness is far more than self-willed negating of sin; it is an absolute surrender to Christ who releases a great and glorious passion for holiness. I don’t want to spend my life trying to wrestle with my old man. I want to see Christ form in me the fullness of the new man he has created.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Believe it or not,
That is the question.
Did Jesus really walk on water?
Heal lepers?
Raise the dead?
Make the blind to see?
Cause the wind and waves to obey?
Cast out devils?
Heal lunatics?
And turn water into wine?
To believe all of that
A man would have to believe in miracles!
Yet a man cannot believe in Christ at all,
Unless he believes in miracles—
His resurrection
And ascension.
He is either dead or alive,
And if alive—
It is a miracle!
And all He ever did was miraculous.
Believe it all.
That is faith!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

YOU HAVE A COMFORTER

I am learning something very wonderful about the Holy Spirit. He has a unique characteristic: He does not like to talk about himself. He does not make himself the primary object of our attention.

I have tried earnestly to study the Holy Spirit, digging into entire volumes about him written by respected authors. Some of these books are very deep and often hard to understand—books about his nature and personality. They are all very interesting—but not always edifying. The fact is, they can’t be edifying because you can only understand what the Spirit himself reveals and he won’t talk about himself!

I have tried digging into the meaning of the Holy Spirit’s names—Comforter, Paraclete, Advocate, Intercessor—looking for some insight as to who he is. But I finally realized that we Christians don’t have to understand the person of the Holy Spirit—because he doesn’t want to tell us hidden things about himself. All we need to know is that he is one of the Godhead: eternal, the very Spirit of Christ, sent down to this earth to live in us who believe. And his eyes are always on Christ!

The Holy Spirit doesn’t want us to know about him so much as to know about his mission, and that mission is to bring us to Jesus and keep us in purity and holiness. He is always at work, making Christ known in our hearts, and he delights in our seeking knowledge about why he has come.

Jesus said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you (John 16:13-14).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BREAD OF STRENGTH

I once spent a week weeping before the Lord, crying out to him for a message of comfort and hope for all the hurting believers who write to our ministry. While working in New York City with addicts, alcoholics and the homeless, I have prayed, “Lord, everywhere I look I see pain, distress, grief and trouble. What message can I possibly give to those in such dire need? What is your word to them? Surely you care for these precious people. Surely you long to bring them a word that can set them free.”

The Lord gave me assurance that he has provided a way to strengthen every child of his to resist the enemy. This strength comes only from eating the Bread sent down from heaven. Our spiritual health depends on getting this Bread into us.

Listen carefully to the words of Jesus: “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:57). Jesus was in such close communion with the Father, and was so committed to doing only his will, that the Father’s words became his very food and drink. Jesus was sustained daily by hearing and seeing what the Father wanted, which was the result of spending much time alone with him.

Christ told his disciples, “I have meat to eat that you know not of…. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:32 and 34). He also instructed them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27). We dare not miss this secret of strength; even as Christ lived by the Father, we must also receive our life by feeding on Christ.

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the manna that sustained them was dispensed daily. Through this example God is telling us that what we ate of Christ yesterday will not supply our need for today. We must admit we will starve spiritually and become weak and helpless without a daily supply of fresh heavenly Bread. We must come to the Lord’s Table often.

Monday, July 25, 2011

WHERE IS THE VICTORY?

Most of us know that sin is at the root of all our problems—our fear, guilt, anger, depression. We know it robs us of spiritual courage and vitality, but what we do not know is how to overcome the “sin which doth so easily beset us” (see Hebrews 12:1).

We know that victory over all our enemies comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. But how do we get the power out of his vine into our puny little branch? How does this work? I love Jesus, always have, and I know that he has all power. I also know he promises me victory, but just what does that mean and how does the victory come?

I am just beginning to see a little light on this mystery of godliness. God is asking me to do the following three things in my own search for total victory over all my besetting sin.

  1. I must learn to hunger for holiness and hate my sin. Sin pollutes me and God cannot look upon sin; he cannot condone it. The fear of God is the basis of all freedom. Don’t expect to be excused or given special privileges. My sin must be confessed and forsaken.
  2. I must be convinced that God loves me in spite of my sin! God hates my sin with a perfect hatred, while at the same time he loves me with an infinite compassion. His love will never compromise with sin, but he clings to his sinning child with one purpose in mind—to reclaim him.
  3. I must accept the loving help of my Father in resisting and overcoming. Sin is like an octopus with many tentacles trying to crush my life. Seldom do all the tentacles loosen their hold on me at once. It is one tentacle at a time, one small victory at a time. God dispatches the Holy Spirit to me with clear direction on how to fight, when to run, where to strike next. The battle against principalities and powers is his—not mine. I am just a soldier, fighting in his war. God wants me to totally believe in him. My part in this war is to believe that God will bring me out of the battle victoriously!

Friday, July 22, 2011

BRINGING CHRIST INTO YOUR CRISIS

In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar erected a huge, golden image ninety feet tall and summoned every leader from his far-flung empire to a dedication ceremony. Once they arrived, however, Nebuchadnezzar commanded that they all bow in worship before the image and if they defied the order, they were to die.

Three of Daniel’s friends—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—refused to bow. These men, along with Daniel, had been taken captive from Jerusalem. It was not unusual in those days to punish violators of the king’s decrees by casting them into a burning oven (see Jeremiah 29:22).

When the guards brought the three Hebrew men before the king, he bellowed at them, “So! You refused to bow before this image? I am going to give you one more chance. If you don’t bow this time, you’ll be thrown into a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:14-15).

The three Hebrews were finally cast into the furnace. But the king was puzzled. There had been no sudden flash of roasting bodies, no smell of burning flesh. He peered into the fire—and was astonished at what he saw!

The three Hebrew men were walking about on top of the coals. The fire had only burned the ropes they had been tied with—and now their hands were raised, praising God. Nebuchadnezzar turned to one of his associates and said, “How many men did we throw in there?”
“Three, O king,” came the answer.

“But I see four! And none of them is burning. None is even hurt. And one of them has the appearance of the Son of God!” (See Daniel 3:24-25)
Jesus came into these men’s crisis for one reason—for their sake alone! He came to comfort and rescue them because he loved them. The Lord of glory committed himself to them in their hour of crisis—because they were totally committed to him!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

OUR DEPENDABLE ADVISER

I don’t give financial advice—but I am in touch with the world’s one and only dependable adviser! For every question I have on any matter, my trusted adviser has an answer. He has been with our ministry since the very beginning. When we moved our offices back to New York City, he moved with us. And he has directed every real estate transaction we’ve made here. He helped us buy the historic Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway, where Times Square Church now holds services.

Yet he’s not only our financial and real estate adviser, he’s also our attorney, family adviser, counselor and travel guide. Indeed, he guides us in literally everything we do and face. The last time I talked with him (which was this morning), he assured me he would continue to provide steady guidance for us throughout the coming difficult times. He told me we had nothing to worry about.

Best of all, my adviser doesn’t mind if I call him every day and at any time during the day. My adviser encourages me, “You don’t have to worry about a thing. I’ve been through these kinds of things many times before.” It is amazing to see throughout the Bible that time after time, in every kind of crisis, God has always been intimately involved with his people.

The Lord was involved with David, the psalmist, when he fell on hard times. David returned home with his army to Ziklag and found his town reduced to ashes by a band of raiders (see 1 Samuel 30). David’s home had been destroyed and his family taken captive—there was nothing left. Everything he worked for—his cattle, his furnishings, his possessions—were gone. David had no one to turn to in that moment, as his own soldiers were ready to stone him because they blamed him for leading them into battle and leaving their loved ones unprotected.

Scripture says David turned to his adviser (and mine): “David inquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (1 Samuel 30:8). David followed his adviser’s counsel—and he did recover all!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

THE RIVER OF LIFE

The prophet Ezekiel was given an incredible vision. Scripture says the hand of God carried him to a very high mountain, where a man appeared to him “whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” (Ezekiel 40:3)

Of course, the man was none other than Christ himself. He ushered Ezekiel to the door of God’s house where he gave the prophet the amazing vision of the future of God’s people. It revealed what the body of Christ will become as the end-times draw to a close. “He brought me again unto the door of the house [the temple]; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward…” (Ezekiel 47:1).

Images of water in the Bible almost always represent the Spirit of God. This vision clearly reveals a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. The vision was so overwhelming in scope, Ezekiel couldn’t comprehend it. He couldn’t even comment on its meaning; all he could do was report it. In fact, before the vision was finished, the Lord stopped and asked Ezekiel, “Hast thou seen this?” God was asking, “Do you grasp the magnitude of what you’re seeing? Do you see what these rising waters speak of? I know this revelation is awesome and mind-boggling to you, but I don’t want you to miss the true meaning. The waters indicate the way all things will end.”

The prophet Isaiah had a glimpse of the same river that appeared in Ezekiel’s vision. Yet Isaiah saw even more. According to Isaiah, in the last days God’s people will enjoy great protection against all satanic attack: “No galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby” (Isaiah 33:21).

Isaiah is speaking here of slave-driven warships. He’s giving us a picture of the enemy, the devil, as he tries to launch an attack on all who swim in the river. And it’s a picture of total confusion.

God is making it clear to us in these passages that his living waters are off- limits to Satan. As the psalmist testifies, “Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul; let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt…let the angel of the Lord chase them…let the angel of the Lord persecute them” (Psalm 35:4-6).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CONTINUE TO WORSHIP

Moses had a disposition like many of us today so there was only one way for him to stay in victory. He continually communed with the Lord: “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). I believe the secret to holiness is very simple: Stay close to Jesus! Keep looking into his face, until you become like the image you behold.

One evening a hysterical woman stopped me on the street and blurted out a desperate confession. “Mr. Wilkerson,” she cried, “I’m facing the darkest hour of my life and I don’t know which way to turn. My husband has left me and it’s all my fault! I have failed God and my family. What in the world am I going to do?”

I was moved to tell her, “My friend, lift up your hands right here on this street corner, and begin to worship the Lord. Tell him you know you are a failure, but you still love him. Then go home and get on your knees. Don’t ask God for a thing, just lift your hands and your heart and worship him.”

I left that lady standing on the street with her hands raised to heaven, tears rolling down her cheeks, praising the Lord and already tasting the victory that was surging back into her life. “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3). The Lord makes his dwelling with his people who are worshipping, and where the Lord is, victory follows.

Christ says: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

“Come unto me, all ye [failures] that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Don’t be afraid of failure. Keep going in spite of it. Worship God until victory comes! This may sound like an oversimplification, but the way past failure actually is simple.

Monday, July 18, 2011

THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death: if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

What I’m about to say may come as a surprise to you. That is, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about power. When I say this, I don’t just mean the divine power that raised Jesus from the dead. Of course, that kind of power is absolutely miraculous, and it could come only from God himself.
Christ’s resurrection speaks of another power in addition to that supernatural event. And this power could only come from God as well. I’m talking about a power that causes us to live holy lives…to be free from sin’s dominion…to overcome every habit and lust known to man…to walk in a righteousness that comes from God alone, by faith.
To obtain this power is to know Christ in the power of his resurrection.

The apostle Paul speaks of this kind of resurrection power. He had a profound inner longing to know Christ and that hunger came from his own deep cry for holiness. The apostle had a revelation about the resurrection of Christ and this revelation had to do with power. He writes: “Jesus Christ our Lord…was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4).

Paul saw something incredible in the resurrection and while it overwhelmed him with joy, it also answered his lifelong cry for holiness. In short, Paul saw that Jesus had come to earth as a man, with the power of heaven resting upon him. Christ had demonstrated this divine power while on earth: healing the sick, setting captives free, raising the dead, giving eternal life. Jesus had been raised from the dead himself and his resurrection was accompanied by a divine proclamation that he was “the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

Friday, July 15, 2011

LOVE ALIGNED TO THE WORD

When our love is aligned with God’s Word—when we embrace his love for us and love one another unconditionally—we live without fear. We will be able to live in the here-and-now as Christ lived and stand before him with boldness on the day of judgment.

When all fear is gone, we are in perfect love. Listen to these words sung by David: “Glory and honor are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place” (1 Chronicles 16:27, my italics). The root word for “gladness” in the Old Testament means “jumping for joy” and enjoying the fullness of perfect love.

Right now, the world is drowning in fear. Humankind trembles over global warming, terrorism, nuclear warfare, a shaky economy, AIDS, mass murders, the rise of Islam, political chaos, widespread addiction to drugs, alcohol and porn. I ask you: How can we make any impact for Christ if we are beset with the same spirit of fear the world has? What kind of hope can we offer—indeed, what kind of gospel do we preach—if it doesn’t change us and deliver us from fear?

God brought in the New Covenant to assure his church of his love and full pardon of sin…to bring us into the knowledge of his delight and gladness over us, that we might know his heart of love for us and live all our days without fear. Consider: “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?... Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear” (Psalm 27:1, 3).

It is long past time for God’s people to give everything into his hands. I urge you to stop trying to think your way out of trouble. Instead, rest in the power of God’s Word. Let the Lord put gladness in you now, today. Your glad heart will “shock and awe” all those who are fearful around you: "The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand" (Deuteronomy 28:12).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE BATTLE

Numerous Christians, including pastors, have told me they are continually harassed by former sins. They say, “Brother Dave, if you only knew what I once did, how I sinned, you would understand why I’m so down. My sin still hangs over my head, and I battle constant guilt over it. I believe the Lord has forgiven me, that his blood is sufficient to cover my iniquity, but I don’t have the peace that comes from that knowledge.”

Others tell me, “I believe I’m forgiven, but my mind is continually bombarded with hellish thoughts. It can happen anywhere, even in church, and it makes me feel so unclean. I have a hard time believing I am pure in God’s sight.

These believers forget that Satan also tempted Jesus with awful, ugly thoughts during his wilderness testing. Today, the devil sends little foxes into your life to make you think you’re hopeless, that God is mad at you. They inject thoughts into your mind meant to destroy your faith in the power of Christ’s blood over you.

Dear saint, you are not to listen to those mental invasions. You have to cut them off, crying, “Holy Spirit, I know you’re beside me. Help me!”

All who take up the cross and fight the good fight of faith are in a constant battle. We all face evil thoughts—thoughts that come because of our past, or because of a sense of rejection, or simply because we live in wicked, sensual times. Yet when we apply Christ’s blood to these roots of doubt, it reaches into every cell of our being, including our minds, and thoroughly cleanses us. And that brings freedom and true rejoicing.

You are not alone in your struggle. He has sent you the Holy Spirit, who knows how to deal with the enemy and free you from all bondage. He is the still, small voice that will guide you and empower you through all your battles.

Pray with me: “Holy Spirit, I want to grow in spiritual fruitfulness. I want to be rid of all hypocrisy, and I want gentleness, patience and love. I know you still love me, in spite of my lack of these things. So, stand by me and help me. Amen.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS HERE

At Times Square Church, we sing a hand-clapping song that goes this way:

Send him on down, Lord, send him on down.

Lord, Let the Holy Ghost come on down.

We need him, Lord, send him on down.

The truth is, the Holy Spirit is already here. He came down from heaven at Pentecost and he never left!

Jesus promised, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he many abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17).
Consider a phrase Jesus uses here: “But you know him.” Recently, as I read those words, I could not shake them off. I realized I really don’t know much about the Holy Spirit.

The church talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. We talk about being filled with the Spirit, living and walking in the Spirit, having the gifts of the Spirit, receiving the comfort of the Spirit.

Yet it is possible to know all the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and still not know him. If I were to ask you, “Have you received the Holy Spirit?” how would you answer?

Some might say, “I received the Spirit when Jesus saved me. It was the Holy Spirit that brought me into Christ’s kingdom.” Others would answer, “Yes, I have received the Spirit, because I spoke with tongues when he came into my life. I pray in the Spirit, and tongues are an evidence that I have received him.”

However, to receive the Spirit is more than a one-time experience. The word “receive” means “lay hold of that which is given.” In short, receiving is to desire an expanding capacity for greater knowledge of who the Spirit is and what his ministry is about. In fact, the Holy Spirit is not received by someone until he is allowed to take full control of that person’s temple.

Paul asked the Galatians, “How did you receive the Spirit? Did you not receive him by faith?” He then declares, “You stated by faith that what you know of the Spirit you received by faith. So, has there been a continued ‘ministry of the Spirit’ to you by faith? Are you exercising faith to go deeper in the Spirit?”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

THE FATHER’S DELIGHT

The account of the Prodigal Son is very familiar, so I won’t go into the details of the story. I do want to say, however, that it is not primarily about a lost son. Rather, it is about the delight of the father.

Certainly the parable of the Prodigal Son is about returning (Luke 15:11-31) but it is not just about the son’s finally coming home. It is also about what keeps the son home. It is about grace, forgiveness and restoration. Read the story again, and you’ll note that the story doesn’t end when he returns—and this is significant.

What is it that keeps the son home? It is the knowledge that his father delights in him! “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry…[with] music and dancing” (15:24-25).

The Prodigal’s father never rebuked him, never condemned him, never even spoke about his running away. Instead, he threw a great party and invited all the family’s friends and neighbors. This father had been longing for his son to come home, and now it had come to pass.

The Prodigal protested at first, telling his dad, “No, no, I’m unworthy.” But his father ignored him, calling for a robe to be put on his shoulders, rings on his fingers and shoes on his feet. Now everything that the father owned was once again made available to the son. And there was great rejoicing, with music, dancing and feasting.

I believe that love brought this young man home. But it was the father’s delight that kept him there! You see, the Prodigal was kept with the father by the simple act of waking up each day to see that his dad was pleased to have him home. His father delighted at having him present with him. Moreover, everything in that young man’s life that had been eaten by the cankerworm was being restored.

I have known many former addicts who are like the Prodigal. They can focus only on what was lost years ago because of their habit: a spouse, children, a ministry. They feel the Lord’s chastening, and that can be grievous, but Jesus tells them in this parable, “Nothing is lost in my kingdom. You are going to be made stronger through this. You are home now and my grace will restore you in full.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

LIVING WITHOUT FEAR

God shows us how we can live without fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…” (1 John 4:18). In short, if we are living in fear, we are ignorant of perfect love. John is not saying, “Perfect love for God casts out all fear,” and he isn’t speaking of unwavering love or mature love in Christians, as some interpreters suggest. That isn’t where perfect love begins for true believers.

Certainly, we love God, a fact that is beyond doubt. But consider what John says about perfect love earlier in the chapter. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (4:12, my italics). According to John, the first consideration of perfect love is unconditional love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A Christian can say that he loves God, that he is doing the Lord’s will, that he is faithfully performing the work of the kingdom. Such a person may be a worshipper and even a teacher of the Word. But if he holds a grudge or speaks against another—if he shuts out anyone in the body of Christ—he walks in darkness, and a spirit of death is on him. All life, all good works, are out of order in this person. Consider what John says of him: “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9).

If you are interested in living a life without fear, John tells us there is a way to do so. Indeed, there is a perfect love that drives out all fear and this is the first step we must take: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Yes, we must first deal with our relationships in the body of Christ.

According to John we are commanded to love others as Christ loved us in order for love to be perfected in us. What is meant by this kind of love? It is more than forgiveness, much more. It means to forgive all transgressions toward us and then offer our fellowship. We are to esteem the ones who sinned against us as highly as we do other members of the body. When we let God’s love dwell in us and perfect us, all fear will be cast out.

Friday, July 8, 2011

LIVING AND LOVING AS JESUS DID

“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. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:16-17).

Note the last part of this passage. John tells us we are now living as the Lord lived: forgiving and loving our enemies. There is nothing left in us of revenge, of grudges, of racial prejudice—nothing to condemn us. And now we must know and fully believe the love of God toward us.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Do you see what John is saying? Our love for God is a given, but perfect love also means knowing and believing God’s love toward us.

Moreover, John says, there must be no fear in this love, no doubting it. Why? Because if we doubt his love for us, we’ll live in torment: “Fear has torment” (4:18). Believing in God’s love means knowing he is patient with our failures, day in and day out. He hears our every cry, bottles every tear, feels our anguish of heart, and is moved with compassion at our cries.

This aspect of God’s love is vividly illustrated in Exodus, where the Lord sought to reveal his loving nature to his people. He told Moses, “I am going to deliver Israel,” and Scripture says: “They cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning” (Exodus 2:23-24).

“The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt…for I know their sorrows and I am come down to deliver them” (3:7-8).
Do you believe God sees your need and condition, just as he did with Israel? We often glibly say, “Christ is all,” yet when we face a crisis—when one thing after another goes wrong, our prayers seem unanswered, and hope after hope is dashed—we descend into fear. Indeed, we succumb to fear. But the fact is, God never forsakes his children in their time of anguish, even when things seem absolutely hopeless. We can always trust Him!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

THE COMFORTER HAS COME

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Comforter.” It is one thing to know the Holy Spirit as our comforter, but we must also know how he comforts us, so we can distinguish what comfort is of flesh and what is from the Spirit.

Consider the brother who is overcome with loneliness. He prays for the comfort of the Holy Spirit and expects that comfort to come as a feeling. In fact, he imagines it as a kind of sudden breath from heaven, like a spiritual sedative to his soul.

This feeling of peace may actually come to him but the next morning it is gone. As a result, he starts to believe the Holy Spirit has refused his request. No, never! The Holy Spirit doesn’t comfort us by manipulating our feelings. His way of comforting is vastly different and is outlined clearly in Scripture. No matter what the problem, trial or need, his ministry of comfort is accomplished by bringing truth: “When he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The fact is, our comfort springs from what we know, not what we feel. Only truth overrules feelings! And the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit begins with this foundational truth: God is not mad at you. He loves you.

“Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). The Greek meaning here is even stronger than the translation suggests, saying that the love of God is caused to “gush forth” into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
An unbearable burden may be caused by fear, shame, sorrow, afflictions, temptations, or discouragement. Yet, no matter what the cause, comfort is needed.

Suddenly a voice is heard, echoing through every corridor of the soul—the voice of the Holy Spirit—declaring to the soul, “Nothing can separate you from the love of God.”

This truth—once you believe it—quickly becomes a gusher of living water, sweeping away every stumbling block. “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26, my italics).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A LIFE OF PRAYER

The Holy Spirit has come to lead us into a life of prayer. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

Consider what Paul is saying about the Holy Spirit’s role in our prayer life. We get so confused about prayer, making it seem so complicated. Go into any Christian bookstore and you’ll find countless books on the subject, replete with detailed formulas on how to pray.

These many theories can raise all kinds of questions about prayer:

  • When does prayer become intercession?
  • Is intercession measured by fervency, loudness, or the amount of time I spend on my knees?
  • I’m instructed to pray according to God’s will, but how do I know his will?
  • And how do I go about praying? Do mental prayers count?
  • What, exactly, do I pray for?

Such confusion can be so overwhelming that it causes many to avoid praying.

Never has there been a time when the prayers of God’s people are needed more than now. We live in a world gone mad. As global events worsen, conspiring to rob people of peace, societies everywhere are looking for a source of comfort. But they’re not finding it in psychotherapy, in dead religion, in causes, or even in charity.

The Bible has told us, “The world does not know Christ and they will not receive him. But you know him” (see John 14:17).

One of our greatest concerns should be that we maintain a prayer life. When we neglect prayer, we grieve the Spirit of God. Yes, it is possible for us to grieve the Holy Spirit. Paul writes as much when he says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30).

Indeed, the Spirit shares God’s grief over his people’s unbelief and prayerlessness. Consider just these few powerful ways the Holy Spirit plays a role in our prayers:

  • Through prayer the Holy Ghost manifests the presence of Christ in us.
  • Through prayer the Spirit seals God’s promises in our hearts.
  • Through prayer the Comforter speaks hope to us.
  • Through prayer the Spirit releases his rivers of comfort, peace and rest in our souls.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A TRIUMPHANT CHURCH

A triumphant church is rising up even now, coming out of great trials of faith. This last-days church is emerging from long days of affliction and fiery furnaces.

The Holy Spirit is at work bringing his people into a place of utter brokenness. He’s leading them to a revelation of weakness in their own flesh in order to show himself strong. His people are coming to the end of themselves, their stubborn wills crushed, until their mindset becomes only, “Thy will be done.” And through it all, they are becoming wholly dependent on the Lord.

Does this describe your situation? Perhaps you’ve been walking with Jesus for years, and you’ve never faced a test like the one in front of you right now. Things coming at you seem to be overwhelming, things that only God can do something about. And you realize that only he can bring you through.

Right now, Islamists are preparing for a final jihad to “take over the world” for Allah. Islamic training camps are rising up worldwide with a message of hate. Yet the Lord has a people in training, a people he’s going to use to face down the wrath of this world. He is training and equipping them in his loving-kindness and peace. Our God is a God of love, and he won’t use bombs, guns, or suicide squads, but an overcoming people who are fearless in the strength of the Lord of tender mercies.

All over the world, God’s people are experiencing suffering, afflictions and torture. I am certain there is a divine eternal purpose in the intensity of these spiritual and physical battles now being endured in the true body of Christ. “His tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).

Our Lord has had a plan all along. God himself came down and took on the form and condition of man, living among sinful men. He endured their hatred, experienced their rejection, faced unthinkable reproach, and through it all he never fought back.

Jesus never established armies of vengeful, hate-filled jihadists. He used no carnal weapons. Instead, he pulled down strongholds by his mighty loving-kindness. Our Lord had but one battle plan: tender, merciful love. Indeed, love drives all of his works on earth. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

Monday, July 4, 2011

ON THE PATH TO VICTORY

The tremendous spiritual letdown that follows a mountaintop experience of blessing or victory is common to every follower of Jesus. We call these experiences “dry spells” but they seem like a deep plunge into spiritual darkness, an immersion into great testing after we have known a special touch of God.

We can find these dry spells plaguing the lives of godly men and women throughout the Bible. This low period in the spirit comes mostly to those whom God intends to use. Indeed, it is common to everyone he trains to go deeper and further in his ways.

As you look back on your own dry experience, ask yourself if such a period followed a renewal of the Spirit in your life. Maybe you had experienced a fresh awakening, an earnest prayer, asking the Lord, “Touch me, Jesus. I feel lukewarm. I know my service to you isn’t moving forward as it should. I’m hungry to have more of you than I have ever known. And I want zeal to do your work—to pray for the sick, save the lost, bring hope to the hopeless. Renew me, Lord. I want to be used for your kingdom in greater measure.”

Because you got serious with God, your prayers began to get answers and you started to hear God’s voice clearly. Intimacy with him was wonderful, your zeal was increasing, and you sensed his movement in your life so strongly.

Then one day, you woke up and the heavens seemed as brass. You were cast down and didn’t know why. Prayer seemed like agony, and you didn’t hear God’s voice as you once did. Your feelings began to seem dead, your spirit dry and empty. You had to live only by faith.

Beloved, if this has happened to you, do not panic! And don’t beat yourself up. I know this kind of plunge personally, from the mountaintop to the lowest pit, seemingly in an instant. Peter speaks of it specifically, advising us not to think some strange thing is happening to us: “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The Lord allows our dry spells because he is after something in our lives. So rejoice and praise him, even though you may not feel like it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

BE READY

In Matthew 24 Jesus uses a parable to teach about being ready for his return: “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, who his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

“But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:44-51).

Note that Jesus is speaking about servants here, meaning believers. One servant is called faithful and the other evil. What makes the latter evil in God’s eyes? According to Jesus, it’s something he “shall say in his heart” (24:48). This servant doesn’t voice such a thought and he doesn’t preach it. But he thinks it. He has sold his heart on the demonic lie, “The Lord delays his coming.” Notice he doesn’t say, “The Lord isn’t coming,” but “he delays his coming.” In other words, “Jesus won’t come suddenly or unexpectedly. He won’t return in my generation.”

This “evil servant” is clearly a type of believer, perhaps even one in ministry. He was commanded to “watch” and “be ready,” “for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44). Yet this man eases his conscience by accepting Satan’s lie.

Jesus shows us the fruit of this kind of thinking. If a servant is convinced that the Lord has delayed his coming, then he sees no need for right living. He isn’t compelled to make peace with his fellow servants. He doesn’t see the need to preserve unity in his home, at work, in church. He could smite his fellow servants, accuse them, hold grudges, destroy their reputations. As Peter says, this servant is driven by his lusts. He wants to live in two worlds, indulging in evil living while believing he’s safe from righteous judgment.