Monday, December 31, 2012

EGYPT IN THEIR HEART by Gary Wilkerson

Nehemiah was a shepherd to Israel—a king, a pastor, a leader and a restorer who had taken Israel back to Jerusalem where they began rebuilding the walls that had been destroyed. Nehemiah left Jerusalem to visit the king of Persia and when he returned, he said, “In those days I saw . . .” (Nehemiah 13:15).

When Nehemiah got back to the city, he saw the children of Israel doing the exact same things their fathers had done that had caused them to be put into exile and bondage in the first place. They had been set free and were rebuilding their home city, but once again they were practicing the things that had caused the walls to be torn down. Does that make sense to you? While they were rebuilding, they were practicing the identical sins that had caused the walls to fall.

With one hand they were rebuilding the city and with the other hand they were destroying the city. With one hand they were building up their lives and with the other hand they were destroying their lives.

And so it is with many of us today! With one hand we come to the altar and cry out to Jesus and with the other hand we practice the same old sins. On one hand we pray, read Scripture and go to church; on the other hand, we still go to bars and clubs, we still watch pornography on the computer, we still compromise. With one hand we glorify God and on the other hand we live out the practices of the world.

The Israelites were returning to their old patterns. They were building something new but something old was still in them. It has been said that the children of Israel, under Moses, got out of Egypt but some of Egypt was still in them (see Acts 7:39). Some of us are getting set free from the things of the world but some of the world is still in us.

God wants us to come to a place of humility and repentance. He wants us to have a constant walk of victory—a walk of conquering the enemy—always!

Friday, December 28, 2012

A SMALL STEP

What a small, easy step it is from doubting a father's love to taking matters into our own hands. But what a tragic one! The moment you force things according to your will, you expose your heart to an avalanche of evil.

The first thing that changed in Joseph's brothers after they began to doubt their father’s love was the way they talked. Listen to them: "Come, let's kill him. No, cast him into a pit. Better yet, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and make a little money!" Their hearts swelled with contempt and betrayal and out of those corrupted hearts burst a stream of wicked words—the language of the world.

Unholy speech is a sure sign of a hardened heart. Joseph's brothers became insensitive to sin and their corrupted conversation led to criminal behavior. First they talked like the wicked and then they began to act like them. Before long, they became cold, calculating criminals. Not only did they sin, they covered it up and then went about their business of tending sheep as though nothing had happened.

How low we go when once we doubt our Father's love. How corrupt and insensitive we become. Malachi the prophet warned the children of Israel concerning the hardness of their hearts. Like Joseph's brothers, the Israelites had fallen prey to doubt and had wound up calloused to their sin. The book of Malachi begins, "The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?" (Malachi 1:1-2). Incredible! They dared to tell God, "We see no evidence in our lives that You love or care for us."

Show me a Christian who begins to doubt God's love and decides to take matters into his own hands, and I will show you a Christian whose conversation is becoming corrupted. Almost overnight there will be a noticeable change. The more he doubts, the more unholy his speech will become. The way some Christians talk is absolutely shocking. Once, they spoke with godly awe and reverence, uttering words of faith and joy. Once, they spoke softly, with speech that edified. Now they speak bluntly, irreverently. Their words betray what is in their hearts: fear, unbelief, and despair.

Throw off all evil, unbelieving thoughts. Do not continue to doubt God’s great love!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

FORGIVING LOVE

The Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers holds a potent message for New Testament Christians. Joseph is a type of Christ and his brothers are a type of God's chosen people on earth. (Remember, God promised Jacob in Genesis 35:11: "Kings shall come out of thy loins.") Joseph's method of dealing with his brothers is a clear type of God's way of dealing with us today. This story of one man's forgiving love for his sinful brothers is a beautiful picture of God's love and grace for sinful man.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is one of the saddest tragedies in all of God's Word. This generation of chosen men never could believe they were loved. The devastating flood of sin and sorrow caused by their skepticism should serve as a solemn warning to us all.

Jacob felt exceptional love for Joseph, the child of his old age, and made special provisions to care for him. His older sons construed this extra attention to mean that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them: "And when his brethren saw that their father loved him [Joseph] more than all his brethren, they hated him" (Genesis 37:4).

Now the fact that Jacob loved Joseph so dearly did not mean that he loved his other sons any less. He had faithfully cared for and blessed all his children. They had received the same loving guidance and discipline, yet the older sons became jealous over what appeared to be one brother's favored position. Joseph seemed to get everything his heart desired, including a fancy coat of many colors. He was more blessed, more favored, more coddled—and it made them angry and jealous.

Have you ever been guilty of envying a brother in the Lord who seems to get everything he wants? His prayers always seem to be answered quickly. He never appears lonely, unloved or unneeded while you feel forsaken and alone. The roots of bitterness and jealousy begin to grow.

Beloved, this is dangerous ground. The moment we believe our heavenly Father loves us less than He loves someone else, we open ourselves to all kinds of evil. Whenever we complain about our circumstances, whether aloud or silently in our hearts, we accuse God of neglect.

Beware! This is the very attitude that brought so much trouble to Joseph's brothers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THE SIN THAT MAKES GOD CRY

Let me give it to you straight—no beating around the bush and no soft-pedaling. The sin that makes God cry is being committed daily, not by pagan workers of iniquity but by multitudes of Christians—the sin of doubting God's love for His children.

Do you think it makes God sound too human and vulnerable to say that He cries? Then ask yourself how a God of love could not cry when His own people doubt His very nature. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and according to the book of John He wept when those closest to Him doubted His love and concern. That was God incarnate at the tomb of Lazarus, crying over friends who failed to recognize who He was.

Time and time again Christ's dearest associates on this earth doubted His love for them. Think of the disciples in a storm-tossed boat that was taking on water. Jesus was in the stern of the boat, sound asleep. Fearing for their lives, His followers shook Him awake and then accused Him of outright unconcern. "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). How their accusation must have grieved the Lord! That was God Almighty in their boat! How could He not care? But whenever men take their eyes off the Lord and concentrate instead on their circumstances, doubt always takes over. Jesus was astounded! "How can you be afraid when I am with you? How can you question My love and care?"

Christians today grieve the Lord in this matter even more. Our unbelief is a greater affront to Him than the unbelief of Mary, Martha, and all the disciples, for our sin is committed against greater light. We stand on a higher mountain and see more than they could ever see. We have a completed Bible with a full and detailed record of God's trustworthiness. We have the written testimonies of almost twenty centuries of Christians, generation after generation of godly fathers who have passed down to us unshakable proofs of God's love. And we have countless personal experiences that testify to God's tender love and affection for us.

Let us look for His exceeding mercy and love, admit the sinfulness of our unbelief, and recognize who He is!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A HEALING WORD FROM HEAVEN

Jesus was drawn to an impotent man lying by the pool of Bethesda. "And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?" (John 5:5-6). This unnamed crippled man has many faces and represents multitudes of impotent Christians who feel hopeless.

Impotence comes in many forms: physical, spiritual, mental—or all of these at once. Mentally and spiritually you may be that man lying by the pool. You are in a situation that seems hopeless and you see no way out. No one really understands the depth of your suffering; not a single friend or loved one seems to have the time, love or energy to really touch the hurt in you.

Take a good look at that impotent man and think of the years of struggle, the hurts heaped upon him by uncaring, insensitive people. How often he must have lifted a withered hand to those rushing by to get their own needs met, crying, "Someone, help! Please! I can't do it on my own!"

Multitudes of Christians are spiritually helpless and impotent because of a lingering battle with some besetting sin that has robbed them of spiritual life and vitality. They lie helpless on the bed of depression and despair, always hoping for a miracle, always waiting for someone to stir things up and make something happen. They drag themselves to meeting after meeting, counseling sessions, seminars, waiting for that one great, life-changing miracle. But nothing changes.

I believe God's great love is revealed in response to a cry from the heart—and I believe Jesus came to this man in answer to a deep and agonizing cry to the Father. The Bible has much to say about this cry from the heart. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears" (Psalm 18:6). A cry to God from the heart will always be answered by a merciful, healing word from heaven!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A DIVIDED CHURCH by Gary Wilkerson

The Corinthian church had many problems: division, gossip, backbiting, envy, strife and sexual sin. There was compromise and tolerance in the church and the attitude attitude of the people seemed to be, “Well, we all slip or stumble at times. We’re not really so bad.” In 1 Corinthians 3 the apostle Paul writes to the church.

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1, ESV). Paul was not attempting to give them a word of encouragement but was preaching a strong word that would convict them and tear up the fallow ground of their hardened hearts.

Paul went on to say, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready” (verse 2). Paul longed to speak a meaty word to them that would fill their souls and nourish them in ways that would raise them up in Christ to new development and stability. Because of their immaturity, however, he had to keep giving them milk.

“For you are still of the flesh” (verse 3). The Bible uses the word flesh (carnal), which means “having the spirit of the age.” This fleshly, carnal spirit that we are talking about can be described as not having the Holy Spirit’s power but, instead, doing things in your own strength.

“For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (verse 3). Paul describes some of the ways this human, fleshly spirit works. It is always jealous. It is always envious. It is always causing strife and division in the house of God. The fleshly spirit accuses others or has an attitude that says, “I’m better.”

God is using Paul to call this church to repent and say, “God, I want all that You have!” If we repent and become willing to lock ourselves in the secret closet alone with God, we will become old-fashioned men or women of prayer.

Friday, December 21, 2012

HOW CAN WE KNOW WE ARE TRULY “IN CHRIST”?

(Please note: These evidences are contingent upon your first repenting of sin, forsaking all wickedness, trusting in Christ for eternal salvation, and allowing Him to translate you out of darkness and into His kingdom of light.)

1. You are in Christ if you are continually being renewed. Those who are "in Christ" do not rest on a one-time conversion experience. Rather, they constantly cry out to be changed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Their daily prayer is, "Lord, take out of me everything that is unlike You.”

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Titus 3:5-6).

2. You are in Christ if you govern your life by the Scriptures. Do you revere and fear God's Word?

"Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (1 John 2:5). The Bible makes it clear: We know we are in Christ if we love and obey His Word.

3. You are in Christ if your faith is mixed with charity. Scripture says if you do not have charity, or unconditional love, you cannot be in Christ.

"Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2). Nothing in Greek here means, "I am nothing now nor will I ever be anything." In other words, "Without unconditional love for all, I am a nobody and I will always be a nobody."

You can be a gifted preacher, a powerful evangelist, or an anointed teacher of God’s Word who walks in great faith, but if you do not have love for others, you are nothing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

FOCUSED FAITH

Jesus prayed to the Father: "All mine are thine, and thine are mine; I am glorified in them" (John 17:10). "The love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (verse 26).

Jesus makes it very clear: When we are one with Him, we enjoy the very same love of the Father that He enjoys. God delights in us as much as He does in His own Son.

The Bible also tells us God is our Father, just as He is Christ's Father. Jesus testified: "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).

So, how hard are you striving to please God? Do you go through seasons in which you feel you are delighting Him? And do you have "low" seasons when you feel you are displeasing Him?

Beloved, you have to put facts ahead of your feelings. And the fact is, God's pleasure in you has nothing to do with your strivings, intensity, good intentions or actions. No, it all has to do with your faith.

I believe God wants us to have what I call a "focused faith" that says, "All your faith may be focused on the principle that if you wish to stand holy before God, you must come to Him in Christ."

The writer of Hebrews warns against having ". . . an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). This is an issue of faith! When we move away from the foundational doctrine of being accepted by God through Christ, we are turning back to the law, the flesh and spiritual bondage!

"We which have believed do enter into rest . . . For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his" (4:3, 10). Scripture makes it clear: The evidence of faith is rest.

The only way to bring your striving, sweating, troubled soul into peace is to convince yourself, "I am in Christ and I am accepted by God. He delights in me, regardless of whether I am up or down. No matter how I feel, I know my position in Christ—that I am seated with Him in heavenly places!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

STANDING BEFORE A HOLY GOD

"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:6-7).

The Israelites in this passage were asking a good question: "How can any human approach a holy God? How can we ever please Him and be accepted by Him? What kind of sacrifice does He want from us? Our blood, our bodies, our children?"

God's answer appears throughout the Scriptures: "I do not want your sacrifices, your good works, your promises, your moral deeds. Not one of these fleshly things is acceptable in My sight. Nothing can please or delight Me except My Son and all who are gathered in Him."

Think of the most moral, upright person you know. Even he or she is not accepted in God's presence outside of Christ. All of that person's good works, kind nature and generosity are filthy rags in God's sight.

So, how are we accepted by God? Paul writes, "He hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). Our good works come as a result of being in Him.

If you have given your heart fully to Jesus, you have probably voiced the same questions Israel asked: "Oh, God, how can I please You? How can I be a delight to You? I've made promises and tried my best, but every time I think I'm making progress, I take two steps back. Should I read more of the Bible? Should I spend more time in prayer? Should I do more witnessing? Lord, what do You want from me?"

God answers us as He did Israel: "I don't want any of your sacrifices or good works. I recognize only the work of My Son, who delights and pleases Me. I chose you from before the foundation of the world to be wed to My Son. I wooed you, convicted you and through my Spirit I brought you into Him. I cannot hate My own flesh!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

GOD DELIGHTS IN HIS SON

God spoke to Isaiah about a certain servant who delights His heart: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth" (Isaiah 42:1). Who is this One whom God sustains and upholds, guarding His every step? Who is His chosen, His elect, the One in whom He so delights?

We find the answer in Matthew's gospel: "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16-17).

The Hebrew word for I am well pleased here is "delight." God was saying, "My soul delights in My Son, Jesus Christ!"

Throughout the Old Testament, untold numbers of sheep and cattle were offered to the Lord as sacrifices. Rivers of animals' blood flowed for centuries. Yet the Bible says none of these sacrifices brought the Lord any pleasure: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. . . . In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure" (Hebrews 10:4, 6).

In the very next verse we read these wonderful words from Jesus: "Then said I, Lo, I come . . . to do thy will, O God" (verse 7). Christ came to earth to do what no animal sacrifice could do.

"Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me" (verse 5). God had prepared a physical body for Jesus here on earth, a body that would provide the final, perfect sacrifice.

In short, God abased Himself for our sake. Encasing Himself in a human womb, He took on our nature. And He gave up the riches of heaven to become poor, giving His life to ransom us.

Monday, December 17, 2012

TAKE ALL OF ME, JESUS by Gary Wilkerson

In the 1800s, after a visit with a couple and their eight children, a young woman wrote an anointed song. All the family members attended church but during her five days with them, she sensed a coldness in their hearts toward the things of God. They seemed to lack spiritual fervor and there was no reverence for Him.

Deeply burdened, the young lady prayed fervently for her hosts the entire time she was with them, believing that God would deal with their hearts. She also spoke the truth in love and boldly warned them. Before she left, a revival had broken out in that house of ten people. They wept for hours as they rejoiced at what the Holy Spirit was accomplishing in their lives!

The composer of the song, Frances Havergal, said, “I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration. These little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with 'Ever, ONLY, ALL for Thee!'"

CONSECRATION HYMN

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Would you ask God to fill you afresh with the power of the Holy Spirit? I invite you to pray, “Take all of me, Jesus. I want my life to be fully consecrated to You!”

Friday, December 14, 2012

GETTING BACK THE SHOUT OF VICTORY

King David committed adultery and then arranged for a faithful soldier to be murdered so he could lay claim to his young wife. He brought shame on Israel and on his heavenly Father's name. He hid his horrible darkness for a whole year and came to the brink of total ruin. Yet, even after all this, God called David “a man after mine own heart" (Acts 13:22). How could this be? The secret is that just before David was about to fall, he humbled himself and repented.

"I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin" (Psalm 38:18). "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4).

“Create in me a clean heart, O God . . . and take not thy holy spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10-11).

Are you troubled and grieved by your besetting sin? Do you feel you are on the brink of falling under the heavy load of it all? If so, then you are on your way to healing and deliverance. You see, when David repented, he was finally able to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel.

"I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my trangressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. . . . Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance" (Psalm 32:5, 7).

Dearly beloved, you can get back your joy. Simply confess and forsake your sin and the Lord will pardon and deliver you. He is ready to kiss your neck, clothe you in a robe of righteousness, and spread before you a great feast. Then you will be able to testify with David:

"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart" (Psalm 32:10-11).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TAKING SIN LIGHTLY

The prophet Ezekiel gives us a vivid illustration of what happens to a people who take their sin lightly. In this account, the seventy elders of Judah came to Ezekiel to receive a word from the Lord. These men were all in the service of the temple, and as they gathered with the prophet to worship, Ezekiel was given an amazing vision:

"As I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me . . . the hand of the Lord God fell there upon me. Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire . . . as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem" (Ezekiel 8:1-3).

The Holy Spirit fell on this gathering, and God's holy fire filled the place with light: "And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there" (verse 4). Whenever God's fiery presence appears in a meeting, sin is always exposed. Suddenly, the prophet saw that these men's minds were filled with ". . . every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts" (verse 10). He is describing demonic strongholds, evil beings. And they had infiltrated God's house through the ministry!

There sat the seventy elders, calm and placid, appearing as worshipers seeking guidance from the Lord. In truth, however, they were covering hidden sin. They had been going through the outward worship procedures of the temple ministry, when in reality they all belonged to a secret society of sun worshipers. They employed prostitutes in the temple and as part of the worship ritual, these supposedly godly elders took part in fornication.

Worst of all, these men were not convicted of their horrible idolatry. They had convinced themselves that God winked at their idolatry. David was heavily burdened by his sin but these seventy elders felt no arrows of conviction, no loss of physical strength, no emotional pain. Instead, they were deceived by what Moses called a "false peace."

"And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst" (Deuteronomy 29:19).

In other words: "A deceived person is like a drunkard; he has lost all ability to discern. He can't even distinguish between thirst and drunkenness."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

THE BURDEN OF HIDDEN SIN

The burden of hidden sin King David carried for an entire year cost him dearly. It broke his health, plagued his mind and wounded his spirit. It created havoc in his home, disillusionment in God's people, mockery among the godless. Finally, he cried out, "I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me" (Psalm 38:17). The Hebrew word for halt here means "fall." He was saying, "I am about to fall from this heavy load of sorrow."

Some Christians might look at David in his time of turmoil and think, "What a tragedy Satan was able to bring upon David. How could this once-tender psalmist come to the brink of a fall? God must have been terribly angry with him."

No! It was not the devil who made David's sin so heavy, it was God. In His great mercy, God allowed this man to sink to the depths, because He wanted him to see the magnitude of his sin. He made David's unconfessed sin so heavy, he could no longer bear it and he was driven to repentance.

The truth is, only a righteous man like David could be so powerfully affected by his sin. You see, his conscience was still tender and he felt the sharp pains of every arrow of conviction God thrust into his heart. That's why David could say, "My sorrow is continually before me."

That is the secret of this whole story: David had a godly sorrow, a deep and precious fear of God. He could admit, "I see the Lord's disciplining hand in this, pressing me down to my knees, and I acknowledge that my sin deserves His wrath.”

The writer of Lamentations says, "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. . . . He hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me. . . . He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. . . . He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone" (Lamentations 3:1-9).

The writer's point is clear: When we live with hidden sin, God Himself makes our chains so heavy, chaotic and terrifying, we are driven to open confession and deep repentance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS

The Christians at Ephesus walked closely with the Lord. As I read through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, I am amazed at the gospel these people heard and lived. In fact, Paul compliments them at length. He addresses them as, "The faithful in Christ Jesus . . . blessed . . . with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . . . chosen . . . before the foundation of the world . . . predestinated . . . unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (Ephesians 1:1-5).

What a description of a blessed, holy people! Jesus also compliments the Ephesian Christians in the book of Revelation: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience" (Revelation 2:2). In other words: "I know all the good things going on in your lives. You patiently labor for Me without complaining and you will do anything for others. You're diligent in your good works and that is very commendable."

Jesus points out something else in the hearts of these Ephesians, something He notes is deeply wrong. He says, "I see all your works—your hatred for sin, your love for truth, your righteous courage. And yet somehow in all your labors, you've allowed your first love to wither. Your affection for Me is dying."

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (verse 4). Beloved, I have read and reread this verse and have concluded that its seriousness cannot be overlooked. The word somewhat here—indicating something that might be taken lightly—does not appear in the original Greek text. Instead, the original phrase is translated, literally, "I have something against you!"

I would like to think I am an Ephesian-type Christian, a faithful laborer. I want to believe that my suffering is for Jesus' sake, that my good works glorify Him, that I practice righteous living, that I am seated with Him in heavenly places. But when I read of Jesus walking among such well-taught believers as the Ephesians and telling them, "I have something against you,” it grips my soul. I have to ask my Lord, "Jesus, do You have something against me? Have I also lost my affection for You?"

Monday, December 10, 2012

YOU CAN HAVE AS MUCH OF JESUS AS YOU WANT by Gary Wilkerson

My father, David Wilkerson, taught me a lesson when I was a little boy and I believe it is the most important lesson I have ever learned. “Gary,” he said, “you can have as much of Jesus as you want.”

Every one of you reading this article can have as much of Jesus as you want! God does not just randomly say, “I’m picking you and not you.”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (filled)” (Matthew 5:6, ESV). This verse is speaking of the man or woman who says, “I want all that Jesus has to offer. I am going to be ravenous in my spiritual hunger to get everything He has to give.”

The Bible says that God is looking for men and women whose hearts are completely His that He might show Himself strong. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NKJV).

God does not want 10 percent or 75 percent of His church to be consecrated, to live a set-apart, sacred life. He wants 100 percent of His body, His believers, to be sold out wholeheartedly.

It is not God who is holding back the anointing of His Spirit, it is our lack of response to what He is pouring out. God has rent the heavens and come down and manifest His Holy Spirit in these last days. The man or woman who responds to what God is willing to give will rise up and say, “In this last hour I choose to be filled with God’s Spirit. I choose to live a consecrated life. I will not be dissuaded from this; I will not be held back. Nothing can keep me from the destiny that God has for me of being on fire for Him, totally filled with His Spirit.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

IS YOUR LOVE ALIVE?

If you can go about your daily life facing all sorts of interruptions and demands, and yet not spend ten minutes in God's presence, your love is dying.

Think about it: If you love someone exclusively above all others, you will make that person feel he is the most important being on earth. Everything else will pale in comparison to him.

Is this not how you first loved your spouse when you were courting? If she called while you were busy, you dropped everything just to talk to her. If anyone intruded on your time alone together, you resented it. Everything else took second place in your efforts to develop the love between you.

Many Christians today go for weeks, even months, without spending quality time with Jesus. How can they love Jesus with a whole heart when they neglect Him for days on end?

In Song of Solomon, the bride could not sleep because her beloved ". . . had withdrawn himself . . ." (Song of Solomon 5:6). This woman arose in the middle of the night, saying, "My soul failed . . . I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer" (same verse). So she quickly ran into the streets, looking everywhere for her lover, crying out, "Have you seen my beloved?"

Why was this such a serious matter to her? Because, as she said, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend" (verse 16). "I am sick of love [faint with desire for him]" (verse 8). She could not be without her beloved.

How does Jesus feel when He spreads the table and anxiously awaits our company, yet we never show up? The Bible calls us His bride, His beloved, His one great love. It says we were created for fellowship with Him. So, what kind of rejection must He feel when we continually put others before Him?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

WHAT HOLDS YOUR HEART?

What holds your heart right now? Does your soul yearn for Jesus, or for the things of this world?

A woman on our mailing list wrote this distressing note: "My husband was once on fire for God. For years he gave himself faithfully to the Lord's work but today he's all wrapped up in a new pursuit. He no longer has any time for the Lord. I worry for him, because he's grown so cold."

Jesus told a parable about this very kind of legitimate pursuit. A wealthy man sent his servant to invite all his friends to a great feast he was holding. But, Scripture says, the man's friends "all with one consent began to make excuse" (Luke 14:18).

One friend told the servant, "I just bought a piece of land, sight unseen, and I have to inspect it. Please tell your master I won't be able to come." The next friend told the servant, "I just bought a yoke of oxen and I haven't had time to test them. Tell your master I can't come, because I have to go into the field to plow with them." Yet another friend told the servant, "I just got married and I'm about to take my honeymoon. I don't have time to come to the feast."

This man had invited all his friends to enjoy an intimate time of fellowship with him. He had made all the arrangements for their comfort and convenience. The table had been set and everything had been prepared, but no one came. Everyone was simply too busy or preoccupied.

Each person had a good, legitimate reason for not coming. After all, they were not avoiding their friend so that they could go partying or bar-hopping. On the contrary, the Bible commends everything these people were doing: Buying and selling can provide security for one's family, and testing a major purchase is a sound business practice. Finally, marriage is a blessing that the Scriptures encourage.

Yet, how did this wealthy man react? Scripture says, "The lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper" (verses 23-24).

Jesus makes a very clear point in this parable: Each of these good, legitimate things becomes sinful when it takes priority over the Lord.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

JESUS AND THE EPHESIAN CHURCH

In John’s amazing vision as recorded in the first three chapters of Revelation, he sees Jesus walking in the midst of the seven New Testament churches of Asia. Christ's eyes are aflame, and He is wearing priestly clothes. It is clear that He has come to judge these churches in righteousness.

Peter writes, "Judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17). And now, as Jesus appears among the seven churches, He begins to judge them according to both the good and bad He beholds. These judgments appear in Revelation 2 and 3, both red letter chapters, meaning every word comes directly from Jesus' lips.

Now, these seven churches were actual congregations in real localities: Ephesus, Smyrna, Laodicea, and so on. Yet John hears God's voice speaking not only to these particular churches, but to the church universal — indeed, to every believer who looks for Jesus' soon return.

Jesus begins His judgments by listing the many good things about the churches that bless Him, and He compliments each church on these things. But He also sees several things that grieve Him deeply and He issues a warning to each church.

His first message is to the Christians at Ephesus, a church founded on the godly teaching of the apostle Paul. Jesus' judgment of the Ephesians is, "Thou hast left thy first love" (Revelation 2:4).

When Jesus uses the words first love here, He is not speaking of the immature love we experience when we are first saved. Rather, He is talking about exclusive love: "I once occupied first place in your heart but now you have lost the exclusivity of your love for Me. You have allowed other things to take My place."

It is significant that of all the sins Jesus points out in these seven churches — adultery, covetousness, lukewarmness, false teachings, Jezebels in authority, dead worship, spiritual blindness — the first sin He names is the one that grieves Him most: a loss of affection for Him. Our God is a jealous lover and He will not allow anything to come before our love for Him.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

BACK TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).

I believe this warning to the Ephesian church is intended for every Christian living in these last days. Simply put, the Lord is telling us, "It's not enough for you to be a caring, giving, diligent servant who grieves over sin and preaches truth. It's not enough for you to uphold moral standards, endure suffering for My sake, or even be burned at the stake for your faith. This is all part of taking up My cross.

"You can do all these things in My name, but if your affection for Me does not increase in the process of doing them, if I am not becoming more and more the one great delight of your heart, then you have left your first love. If your affection for Me is no longer a matter of great concern to you, then I have something against you."

Consider David's words: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Psalm 73:25). These are strong words, yet David is not saying, "I don't have human love." Rather, he is saying, "There is no one I love exclusively in my heart as I love my Lord. I desire Him above all others."

David also writes, "O God . . . my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is" (63:1). "As the hart [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God" (42:1-2).

David says, "I thirst deeply for the Lord, the way a deer thirsts after it has been chased. A deer will go past the point of exhaustion to find the water it seeks."

Likewise, Jesus is telling the Ephesian Christians, "You no longer seek Me as the deer seeks. I am no longer the chief object of your desire. You may be willing to do things for Me, but I'm not at the center of your heart anymore!"

Go back to your first love today. Ask Jesus for grace and strength to begin again to guard your affection for Him!

Monday, December 3, 2012

BARNABAS, SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT by Gary Wilkerson

I have a lot of respect for Barnabas, a gentle, loving man whose name meant encouragement. Barnabas had been traveling with Paul evangelizing and planting churches, but a conflict arose. We read in Acts 15:36-41 that Paul and Barnabas stopped working together over a young man named John Mark.

Paul felt that John Mark had hurt their ministry by unexpectedly departing and leaving them short-handed. Barnabas wanted to be kind to John Mark and give him another chance, but Paul said no.

Barnabas was a man of a different spirit. When the whole world was willing to reject somebody who seemed like a failure, he did not react in that way. Barnabas stood up to Paul and said, “I’m not going to reject that young man.” That is boldness — that’s a different spirit!

When Saul was pouring out accusations against the church, imprisoning Christ’s followers and putting them to death, who went to him? And when Saul had an experience from heaven (Acts 9), who went to him? It was Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. Barnabas had the boldness in his heart and the different spirit inside him to say, “I don’t care if this is a false rumor, it is worth the risk to see if Saul really got saved.”

Barnabas is an example of a man of a different spirit. This spirit has nothing to do with whether you are a Type A personality. You can be a quiet person, mellow and calm, and still have what Barnabas had. And most of all, you can have what Jesus had.

It does not matter if you are young or old, male or female, for God is no respecter of persons. The Holy Spirit is longing to fall upon you. You may be reading this today and inside you are saying, “What are you talking about, having a different spirit? My spirit is a spirit of alcohol or drugs; my spirit is a spirit of desperation. I’m lost!”

You know what? God has His eyes on you. God has ordained that you read this because He is calling on you to rise up and be a person of a different spirit. Not the spirit of this world, not the spirit of sin, not the spirit of alcoholism or drugs, but the spirit of God. The spirit of Christ, the Son of God, can transform your life and make you into a person of a different spirit.

Friday, November 30, 2012

BEING IN CHRIST

Christians today live in a time of great light. The Holy Spirit has revealed to us the meaning of Jesus' powerful work on the cross and the incredible blessings of His sacrifice. Yet there was a time known as the Dark Ages when Christ's wonderful work was obscured from the world.

Most sermons during the Dark Ages focused on damnation and God's wrath. The popes and priests preached a gospel of works and the people performed a variety of deeds to try to find peace with God. They traveled for miles to bow to shrines, knelt in worship before stone icons, repeated long prayers, fondled prayer beads. Yet all these things only increased their bondage and brought deeper darkness to their souls.

People then knew nothing of the benefits and blessings available through Christ's victory at Calvary. Even today, with all the teaching available on the subject, the majority of Christians still do not understand many important aspects of Christ's work for us, that is, what it means to be "in Christ."

As a shepherd of the Lord's flock, I occasionally preach on hell, damnation and God's wrath. But more and more I have become convinced that the only way I can lead God's people to victorious living is to preach the blessings and benefits of "being in Christ."

The fact is, being in Christ is the only foundation upon which true holiness and righteousness can be built. Without this foundation, we will rely on our flesh to try to produce a form of holiness in ourselves. But true holiness is obtained only through knowing the riches of God in Christ Jesus.

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). Only God's grace can teach us the kind of theology that leads to holiness—and no works can ever produce that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

KNOWING THE JOYFUL SOUND

The reason so many Christians today live in fear and confusion is because they do not understand the joyful sound of Jubilee. Yes, they know Jesus died and rose again and His blood has power to save. But they have not yet understood the joyful sound of all that He has provided that they might live in freedom.

"Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound" (Psalm 89:15). The joyful sound we hear today is the trumpet of God proclaiming our deliverance, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Here are the other blessings of the joyful sound of Jubilee:

1. "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance" (Psalm 89:15). The Hebrew meaning here suggests, "They shall walk in cheerfulness, secure in God's promises, at ease in His presence." Simply put, we no longer have to walk in darkness or confusion, because we will behold the light of His face.

2. "In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted" (verse 16). We know our own righteousness is as filthy rags and so we are to take courage by rejoicing in His righteousness — which is ours by faith alone.

3. "For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted" (verse 17). We know that Christ alone is the source of all our strength and we do not have to live under the devil's thumb anymore. All we have to do is look upon Satan's back, where we will see the heel print of our Savior. Jesus has crushed our enemy!

4. "For the Lord is our defense; and the Holy One of Israel is our king" (verse 18). We are utterly helpless in our flesh and so we totally trust in the victory of Jesus' cross. He defends us against every enemy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CHRIST ASCENDED TO MAKE INTERCESSION

Just as the high priest ascended the stairs to the holy place on the day of atonement, our High Priest ascended into the heavenly tabernacle, " . . . a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands" (Hebrews 9:11). Jesus ascended not merely to enjoy the glory He deserves but to do a work on our behalf.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus' work in heaven is all for us: "He ever liveth to make intercession for [us]" (7:25). Christ does it all for us! What exactly does it mean that "He lives to make intercession for us"? I believe Jesus intercedes for us in three ways:

First, some of us imagine Jesus standing before the Father, pleading with Him to show us mercy when we fail. But that is not the case. Christ's intercession for us has to do with Satan's accusations against us. You see, the devil comes to God's throne to accuse us of every failure and transgression. He cries, "I want justice. And if You are a just God, You will damn and destroy this person. He deserves it."

But then, Jesus steps in. He does not have to persuade the Father of anything. Rather, He simply declares the victory of His cross. Then He turns to Satan and says, "Didn't you hear the trumpet sound? You have no claim over this child of Mine. Keep your hands off My property!"

Second, Christ's intercession for us means He makes certain that we obtain and enjoy all the benefits provided by Jubilee. Just as the Levites enforced the law that provided every man with his just blessings, Jesus today enforces the privileges of Jubilee for us. He makes sure we know we are legally free.

Third, Jesus intercedes in our own hearts, reconciling us with the Father. He continually answers our doubts and fears, and reminds us that we forgiven. We can trust in God's faithfulness to provide us with all the power and strength we need.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A ROD OF IRON

The apostle Paul writes of Christ's ascension into heaven: "And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:15). That's right! Staggering behind our Lord's triumphant procession was the prince of darkness himself, bound in chains. And behind the defeated devil — underneath the wheels of the heavenly hosts — were all the powers of darkness, bound and vanquished. They were being put to an open shame before all those who had died in faith before the cross.

“And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Revelation 2:27). Jesus entered the gates carrying in His hand a scepter of righteousness, His "rod of iron" with which He rules all nations. Then, after His triumphant entrance, He took His rightful place on the throne in full possession of all power, authority and dominion.

What a glorious picture! Satan is not in control. Communism is not in control. Atheism is not in control. No, the enemies of Christ exist only by His permission. And right now they only continue to fill up their cups of iniquity. Jesus is in control of all things and one day, when He is ready, He will "break them with a rod of iron; [He] shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Psalm 2:9).

Beloved, our understanding of Christ's victory over Satan and the dominion of sin cannot be a vague, confused theology. We must know and understand that Satan is totally defeated. He cannot hold us prisoner, and Christ has freed us by His blood from every bondage. Now He sits on His throne with all power and authority, offering us peace, joy and freedom.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A DIFFERENT SPIRIT by Gary Wilkerson

“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit . . .” (Numbers 14:24, ESV).

What was it about Caleb that caused the Bible to say he had a different spirit?
Are you a man or woman who hungers and thirsts and cries out to God, “Make me a man or woman of a different spirit”? Or are you a middle-of-the-road Christian, willing to wander in the wilderness, willing just to spend your life in mediocrity?

What was it within Caleb and Joshua that set them apart? Why did they have a different spirit? What sets apart any man or woman who has a different spirit? Why do they not seem ordinary? What do they have and why do some of us not have it? How do these men and women get this different spirit? And the most important question of all, how can I get it?

A young man in our church has set his face like a flint to follow Jesus. When I am with him I say to myself, “Jesus, I want the kind of desperate spirit this young man has. I want more of that fire and that unction, that purity and that holiness.”

This young man says, “I have determined to follow Jesus, not in my own strength but in the power of the Holy Ghost.” His heart says to me, “I have determined to walk with clean hands and a pure heart.” In an age of compromise, he has determined to keep His eyes on Jesus. When others around him are willing to put on a light show with smoke and mirrors to draw a big crowd, he is crying out, “Lord, I don’t want that. Yes, I want to have thousands saved, but I’m hungry for something more of You.”

When I am around this young man of a different spirit, I am provoked to jealousy. The Holy Spirit allows us to be jealous or envious of someone who has more of Jesus!

Friday, November 23, 2012

JESUS IS OUR JUBILEE!

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn . . . 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 61:1-3).

We are familiar with this passage as a proclamation of Christ's victory over death and sin. Yet Isaiah is using the language of Jubilee here. He is saying, "Let the trumpets blast announcing the cheerful, joyous year of liberty our Savior has given us!"

This passage also refers to the scene of Christ's ascension into glory. The heavenly Father, after beholding the awful sufferings of His blessed Son, prepared for Jesus a glorious entrance into heaven. Indeed, as Christ made His ascension, He was escorted by a host of angels and multitudes of chariots: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high" (Psalm 68:17-18).

Our finite minds cannot begin to conceive of this glorious event. As Christ approached the eternal city of God, riding on His white horse, He was escorted by this huge procession. And as He entered the gates, the trumpets of God began to sound: "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet" (Psalm 47:5).

This was the joyful sound—the trumpets blaring, announcing the believers’ year of Jubilee! The sound proclaimed to all humankind, "I have made provision for you to walk out of prison, to be restored to your family, and to have everything you need for a fulfilled life. You are free to live without fear of any enemy. Enter now into My joy!"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE JOYFUL SOUND OF FREEDOM

When the year of Jubilee came, every debt was wiped out. All leases and possessions reverted back to the original leaseholder, which meant that the farmer would get his land and his family back. Read about it in Leviticus 25.

You can imagine the rejoicing that took place in Israel and Judah when the trumpets sounded. At that moment, on the tenth day of the seventh month, while the high priest was making atonement, every bondservant who had been sold into slavery was set free. And every person who had lost property was given back everything. Families were reunited. Homes were restored. It was a time of liberty, freedom, deliverance!

I picture destitute farmers standing along the demarcation lines of their old property, waiting to step over as soon as the trumpets sounded. They had been waiting ten years . . . then five . . . then one . . . and now they counted the minutes to hear the joyful sound. They must have thought, "I'm getting back everything I lost. It's mine again—because this is the year of Jubilee!"

There was to be no planting or harvesting during the year of Jubilee. Instead, the time was to be spent rejoicing. Jubilee was an entire year of Christmas every day, of praising God for His grace, provision and freedom.

Please understand, the liberty proclaimed at Jubilee was not some nebulous idea founded on faith alone. It was the law of the land. All a debtor needed to do to have the law enforced was to stand on it. The Levites acted as monitors, or sheriffs, so that everyone was assured justice.

Occasionally, a master might say to a bondservant, "You're not leaving; you're still my servant! Get back to your labors." But that servant could laugh in the master's face and say, "We both know what that trumpet sound means. It's the joyful sound of my freedom. You have no legal rights to me anymore. I'm free!"

How the people waited and longed to hear that joyful sound. It meant having the freedom to say, "Nothing in my past can be held against me. I've been delivered and no one can rob me of my inheritance." Yet the person in bondage had to act in order to take possession of his freedom or his lost property. He could dance and shout in the synagogue all he wanted, crying, "I'm free! Everything has been restored!" But until he stepped out and claimed his rights, he could not enjoy any of it. Do you see the significance here? Most Christians have not claimed the Jubilee that Jesus Christ has given them. Many think the "joyful sound" today is merely hand-clapping or dancing in an emotional time of praise. But it is so much more. God calls us to appropriate the freedom, peace and glory He has provided for us through the forgiveness of sins. We are to step out and claim it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WHEN GOD SAYS “TRUST ME,” HE MEANS IT!

Think for a moment about all the ways God has met the needs of His people throughout history.

When Israel was in the wilderness, they had no supermarkets or grocery stores. There was not even a blade of grass in sight. But God rained down manna from heaven so the people would have bread, and He caused birds to fall by the bushel from the sky so they would have meat. He caused water to gush from a rock. And He supernaturally kept their shoes and clothing intact, so that they never wore out in forty years of use.

In the Old Testament, we read that a hungry prophet was fed by a raven. A barrel of meal and a bottle of oil supernaturally replenished themselves. And an entire enemy army fled upon hearing a strange noise—leaving behind enough supplies to feed an entire city of starving Israelites.

In the New Testament, we read that water was turned into wine. Money was found in a fish's mouth to pay taxes. And five thousand people were fed with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

All these miracles of supply cry out to us, "God is faithful. He can be trusted!" And in Leviticus 25, we read of another supernatural phenomenon—an especially ripe harvest in the year before the sabbath for the land.

Next, God commanded that the people observe seven consecutive cycles of sabbaths for the land: "Thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years" (verse 8). In other words: "You are to celebrate this sabbath every seventh year, for a period of forty-nine years—seven sabbaths times seven."

In biblical terms, the forty-nine-year period would comprise a whole generation. The implication here is that such a period would provide enough time for an entire generation to learn to trust the Lord. Over that time, parents and grandparents would build up a history of faith, so they could tell their children: "Yes, it's true! God supplied everything we needed the first six years, but when the seventh year came, many of us were afraid. Yet God's provision saw us through to the eighth year, and right up to the ninth. Sometimes it was frightening, but there was always enough. No one starved, and no one had to beg. Every need was supplied. God tested our faith—and He remained faithful!"

The point is, when God says, "Trust me," He means it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FESTIVAL OF JUBILEE

The history of the Jewish festival of Jubilee is found in Leviticus 25. This observance begins with the Lord's command that Israel allow the land to rest from cultivation every seventh year. The seventh year was to be a sabbath year, in which the land would lie fallow. During that year, the people were to do no planting, picking of fruit or harvesting of any kind: "Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard" (Leviticus 25:3-4).

God was literally shutting down all agricultural activity for an entire year. That meant Israel would have to live for that period without any visible means of support. They would have to put their lives completely into God's hands, trusting Him for all supplies.

Of course, this required a lot of faith. Think about it: For an entire year there would be no intake of crops for food . . . no harvest of grain to feed cattle . . . no work for farmers . . . no labor for vineyard keepers. Most Christians today would panic after only a week of this, much less a year. Indeed, the Israelites wondered: "What are we going to do for food during the seventh year? How will we feed our families, our cattle? We'll use up everything we have in the sixth year, just prior to the sabbath year. Are we supposed to sit idly by while our children go hungry? Does God really expect us to watch the grapes rot on the vine? "

Yet God had a clear purpose in commanding a sabbath year for the land. It was meant to reveal His faithfulness to His people. "If ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years" (verses 20-21).

What an incredible promise! God was guaranteeing Israel a triple harvest (see verse 22): "If you will just step out in faith and trust Me, I will give you a harvest during the sixth year that will provide you with enough provisions for three years."

I believe the Lord is saying something important here. And that is, no matter what our circumstances, He always provides for those who trust and obey Him.

Monday, November 19, 2012

GOD IS AT WORK ON YOUR BEHALF by Gary Wilkerson

The city walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt but Nehemiah saw sin, bondage and discouragement beginning to captivate the hearts of the people.

“As soon as it began to grow dark . . . I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath” (Nehemiah 13:19, ESV).

In this passage Nehemiah is a type of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God is saying, “I know your propensity, I know the pulls. I know the temptation will be to take the Sabbath and make it unholy . . . and you will forget Me.” So even before it was dark, Nehemiah closed the gates.

Your heavenly Father is on the move in your life to solve your problem even before you know you have a problem. God is on the move on your behalf even before the sin sets in, even before it takes hold. God is working! The old Puritans called this a prevenient grace—grace at work before the temptation comes. Even before Adam and Eve got out of the Garden, even before sin began to take hold in the fruit, God said to the serpent, “The Son (He was talking of His Son, Christ Jesus) will crush your head” (Genesis 3:15, paraphrase mine). After deceiving Adam and Eve, before Satan slithered out and began to move throughout the whole world to deceive the sons of Adam and Eve, God said, “I have a plan in action.”

This is not God standing on the sidelines saying, “If you fall into that sin, come to Me and repent and I will forgive you again.” Yes, He does that, but it is so much more than that. God is working on your behalf even before that temptation ever comes to you, building up a wall in your life. He is building up grace and maturity in you, leading you through the spiritual process of your growing to where you are strengthened—line upon line, precept upon precept.

God is already planning for your victory!

Friday, November 16, 2012

DELIVERANCE FROM SODOM

Most of us think of Sodom as a type of modern-day wicked city such as San Francisco, New York or New Orleans. But the truth is, we need only to look at our own hearts to find Sodom. We are all born with a Sodomite nature—a heart that is exceedingly wicked, full of every evil thing. “Yea, in your heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth” (Psalm 58:2)

I believe the following passage reveals how God delivers us out of Sodom:

"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3-4).

God comes to us in our deluded, bound condition with powerful promises of full and complete deliverance. He says, "I pledge to deliver you and keep you from iniquity. I will give you a heart to obey Me, so now let My promises lay hold of you."

What a wonderful, freeing truth. We are led out of our sin as we lay hold of God's promises. Think about it for a moment. Peter says the believers he was addressing in this epistle had "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (verse 4). How did these Christians escape sin? They were given divine power—life and godliness—through their faith in God's promises.

Beloved, your Father wants you to know fullness of joy in Christ. That joy will break out only as you are freed from the power of sin. So, allow the Holy Spirit to go into the womb of your lusts and remove everything that is unlike Christ. Pray to the Lord right now:

"Oh, Father, I agree with You about my sin. The stench of my compromise has reached into heaven and I know it has to go immediately. Lord, I receive Your loving, divine ultimatum and I lay everything down before You. Set fire to everything wicked in me and let Your promises take hold of my heart. Lead me to the mountain of Your holiness."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

MOVE ON TO FULLNESS IN GOD

Lot would have died in Sodom had God not taken matters into His own hands. The Lord literally grabbed Lot and his family and pulled them out of the city: "While he lingered, the men [angels] laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city" (Genesis 19:16).

What a glorious picture of grace! As Lot lingered on the brink of destruction, with no strength or will to deliver himself, God hand-led this confused, deluded, sin-bound man to safety. He was telling Lot, in essence, "I love you, and I'm not going to let you die in this holocaust. You're a righteous man, Lot, and I warned you. Now, come!"

"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). The literal meaning for without strength here is "without an ability or will." God says He is willing to act for us because we have nothing to give.

The Lord had one more directive for Lot: "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee . . . escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed" (Genesis 19:17). The mountain here represents God's presence, a place alone with Him. We see this image repeated throughout Scripture: It was on a mountain that Moses was touched by God's glory . . . that Christ was transfigured before His disciples . . . that Jesus sought His Father in prayer. All these things happened on a mountain.

"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness" (Psalm 48:1). "Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths" (Isaiah 2:3). The message here is: "When God delivers you by faith in His promises, run straight to the mountain of His holiness!"

Lot still was not willing to run to God's presence; instead, he asked God to let him take a detour to Zoar. He said, "I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die" (Genesis 19:19).

God allowed it and Lot eventually came to the mountain, but once he was there, something worse than Sodom happened. Lot got drunk and was seduced by his two daughters, who bore sons from the incestuous acts. What a tragic picture! And it all happened because Lot—though delivered—would not move on to fullness in God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

STOP TRYING TO MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR SIN

"And they called unto Lot . . . Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them" (Genesis 19:5). Lot's day of reckoning finally came. A wild mob of Sodomite men surrounded his house, pounding on the door and shouting obscenities. They demanded that Lot send out the two angels who were staying there so they could rape them.

What a horrifying scene! Yet Lot's reaction was to try to strike a deal with the men. It appears that Lot was a judge in Sodom, because he sat at the city gates. He had a reputation to protect so he tried to reason with the mob. He even went as far as calling them "brethren"—proving he had taken Sodom's sin too lightly.

"I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing" (verses 7-8).

One theologian writes that Lot knew his daughters were not in danger because these men were homosexuals. Perhaps Lot reasoned to himself, "These men are partying sodomizers, looking to fulfill their perverted lusts. They're no threat to women. If I send my daughters out, they'll come home tomorrow morning unharmed."

How foolish! Even if that were true, Lot would have been trying to replace one sin with another. It is impossible to bargain with lust!

Lot, an example of what hidden sin can do to a righteous man, clearly was deluded. His sin had produced in him such a dangerous condition that he would give up everything—including his beloved family—to save face.

This man was not ready to face reality. He was dragging out his moment of reckoning, still wheeling and dealing, trying to delay God's deliverance in his life. And, beloved, that is the attitude of many Christians today. They convince themselves, "My God is a God of mercy. He delivered me from my sin before, and He'll do it again."

No! God is saying to you through this passage, "No more bargaining. No more trading a lighter sin for a heavier one. It all has to go!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WE MUST TAKE GOD AT HIS WORD

"The Lord said . . . the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and . . . their sin is very grievous" (Genesis 18:20). We all love to hear about God's mercy, grace and longsuffering. But we do not want to face the fact that someday soon He will come against everything that is of Sodom.

God revealed His nature to Moses this way: "The Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7). Yet in the very next phrase, God added: "[I] will by no means clear the guilty" (verse 7).

The Lord was saying, "I will not wink at sin! Yes, I am merciful and longsuffering, but the time is coming when my patience with your sin will end. And that is when Sodom will burn!"

Two angels came to Lot and warned, "Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city" (Genesis 19:15).

Apparently Lot did not take this warning seriously because he slept in the next morning and the angels had to rouse him. His sons-in-law must have thought, "If he really believed the warning, he'd be on his way out of here right now. He doesn't believe it, so why should we?" This should be a lesson to us all. We need to live as if Christ is about to return so that others will listen to our witness.

I believe in what are called "divine ultimatums"—times when the Holy Spirit knows your sin is about to bring you to ruin. The Lord comes to you and says, "I am the God of grace, and I want to deliver you out of this. Now, turn from your sin. Obey My Word!"

These ultimatums are found throughout the Bible. For instance, Acts tells us Ananias and Sapphira were warned not to grieve the Holy Ghost by lying to Him. But they disobeyed and lied—and instantly dropped dead (see Acts 5).

It does not matter how much you pray or fast, or how faithful you are in doing God's work; if you do not believe God will deal seriously with your sin, you are deceived!

Monday, November 12, 2012

FREE FROM BONDAGE by Gary Wilkerson

I want to talk with you about how to stay free from bondage and captivity. How can we stay in victory? How can we walk in a constant flow of not having to return to the things that once plagued us? And I am not talking just about sin. Sometimes the emotional baggage that we grew up with can cause us to have certain patterns of living. For instance, some might have experienced a series of disappointments that must be fought against.

Is there a way not only to break free but to stay free? Is there a way not only to gain the victory but to keep the victory? Is there a way for us to find glorious, overcoming, sustained, powerful, lifelong victory in Jesus Christ?

You might think it will take ten years of counseling to attain victory, or twenty years for the maturation process to take place in your life, but Jesus can come in and instantly set you free. He will not only set you free but He will keep you walking in that freedom.

When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the walls, everyone seemed to think it was going to be a long process. The people accompanying Nehemiah, mostly slaves and servants, did not have many resources but they set their mind to work. They had a passion in their soul for the things of God and they rebuilt the walls of the city in just fifty-two days. We need to have that same kind of passion, the kind of mindset that says, “It’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about my purposes, plans and ambitions, it’s all about Him.”

Set your eyes on Jesus and He will establish you and cause you to prosper. He will cause you to be raised up and set free and He will enable you to stay free in the things of God.

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NKJV).

Friday, November 9, 2012

IS THE OLD TESTAMENT STILL RELEVANT?

I once heard a minister tell an audience, "The Old Testament isn't relevant to our times so there is no need to study it anymore."

How wrong he was! One reason I love reading the Old Testament is because it explains the New Testament in clear, simple terms. In the Old Testament, for example, Israel is a type of the church and Egypt represents the world. Israel's journey through the wilderness represents our spiritual work as Christians. Also, the tree that healed the waters at Marah is a type of the cross of Christ and the rock that produced water in the desert is a type of our Savior.

Scripture makes clear that all of Israel's physical battles mirror our spiritual battles today: "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Even the tabernacle and its furniture are examples of heavenly things: "Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount" (Hebrews 8:5).

All these Old Testament examples are meant to keep us from falling into unbelief, as Israel did. The author of Hebrews writes, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (4:11). In other words, "Study the Old Testament and learn from Israel's example. Do not make the same mistakes they did!"

Whenever I don't understand a truth in the New Testament, I turn to the Old Testament to find it illustrated in some way. For example, let's say I want to learn how to bring down spiritual walls the devil may have built up in my life. I turn to the story of Joshua to see how the walls of Jericho were brought down. Israel's physical battle with those walls provides me with a picture and a pattern, to help me understand how I can bring down all the walls that keep me from attaining fullness in Christ.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

THEY NEVER OBEYED

The children of Israel loved to hear the powerful preaching of Ezekiel but they never obeyed it. "They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice . . . for they hear thy words, but they do them not" (Ezekiel 33:31-32).

Many people have approached me after a service, hugged me, and said, "Pastor, that was a powerful word you preached." But as they have walked away, the Holy Spirit has whispered to me, "They didn't hear a word you said!"

The book of Hebrews gives us a powerful warning: "As the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness" (Hebrews 3:7-8). "For some, when they had heard, did provoke [rebel]" (verse 16). These passages clearly show that hardness is not connected to atheism, communism or any other "ism" but, rather, to hearing and then not doing God's Word.

Israel gladly listened to the powerful preaching of the prophet Isaiah yet they continually justified their sins, calling evil good and good evil. So God instructed Isaiah: "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Isaiah 6:9-10).

God knew the Israelites were not willing to lay down their besetting sins. They loved their fleshly pleasures and ungodly companions too much. So the Lord told Isaiah, "These people are never going to change their hearts and from now on, I will not speak a word to them. Instead, I want you to hurry them into their hardness, Isaiah. That way, perhaps some will listen before it's too late!"

Simply put, God was calling for a full surrender from His people. I thank God for the multitudes of Christians who started their walk with Jesus the right way, loving truth and obeying His Word. When they forsook the ways of their flesh, they fell in love with the Lord, and His Word became to them a guiding lamp.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

THIS IS A TEST

Take this test to see whether you have already taken the first steps toward hardness of heart.

1. How many times have you heard messages about the danger of neglecting daily prayer and Bible reading?

If you neglect your secret closet at home—if you think praying at church takes care of all your needs—you will never survive the troubled days ahead. If you will not heed the Word that is meant to heal and strengthen you in good times, how will you ever find power to overcome during the difficult days to come? Having a personal knowledge of your heavenly Father is the only way to prepare for what is coming!

2. How many times have you been warned of the awful consequences of gossip?

At times, my warnings on the subject of gossip have been like soft, gentle rain and at other times, they have been like rolling thunder. Time after time, the Israelites were warned of the dangers of this sin. But they persisted in disobeying the Lord and it brought them a lifetime of misery in a snake-infested desert. Gossip and murmuring cost Israel everything.

Have you said something against a brother or a sister during the past week, something you had no business repeating? Or have you listened to any gossip about that person? If so, did you allow a seed of doubt about him or her to be planted in your soul? If you continue to gossip in light of all the warnings you have heard, you have started down the path toward hardness of heart.

3. How many warnings have you heard against harboring a secret sin?

What about that secret sin, the one that God's Spirit has continually spoken to you about? Over the years I have written many warnings about the dangers of flirting with a pet sin. Yet, not only have I preached against sin, but I have taught of God's resurrection power. I have preached that the Lord both endues us with overcoming power through His Spirit, and puts a will in our hearts to do right.

The person who dares sit under loving reproof week after week and yet goes on sinning is heading down the path toward hardness of heart. Don’t be such a person!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

HARDNESS OF HEART

"He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).

The Hebrew word for reproved in this verse refers to corrective teaching. And the words for without remedy mean "without a cure, without any possibility of deliverance." This verse first tells us that hardness of heart comes as a result of rejecting repeated warnings and pushing aside all wooing of the truth. Second, it tells us that over time such hardness becomes impossible to cure. So, who are the people who most often hear these warnings? They are supposedly Christians, those who sit in God's house each week listening to sermons of reproof.

You may ask, "What exactly is a hard heart?" It is one that is determined to resist obeying God's Word, impossible to stir, and immune to the convictions and warnings of the Holy Spirit.

The tragic truth is that in spite of hearing fiery messages sent from heaven, multitudes of Christians do not practice what they hear. They refuse to allow God's entry into certain areas of their lives and as they continue to hear without heeding, hardness begins to set in.

In contrast, there are many sinners whose hardness of heart has been cured. At first they cursed Christ and shook an angry fist in God's face. But when they heard the gospel and felt the pure, loving reproof of the Holy Spirit, their hearts melted. They repented and turned to Jesus.

The life of Madalyn Murray O'Hair's son illustrates this. He had been reared in probably the most atheistic household in America and he later worked for his mother, crusading against God and religion. But when he heard the gospel, he got gloriously saved and became a minister, preaching Christ instead of cursing Him. This man's hardness was curable also—because he had not sat under sermons of reproof and continually rejected them.

In my experience, the hardest hearts—the incurable kind—have always been found within earshot of Holy Spirit-anointed preaching. Such hardness does not exist in cold, dead, formal churches where the gospel has been corrupted for generations. No, it is always found where a pure word is preached from the pulpit and rejected in the pews.

Monday, November 5, 2012

KNOW THAT GOD IS GOOD! by Gary Wilkerson

God is good in your life, watching out for you and protecting you. There is not one thing in your life, not one habit, one sin or one emotional difficulty you face that Jesus does not have power over.

When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem and saw the terrible, broken-down condition of the city, he led the Jewish people living there into a spiritual breakthrough and time of rebuilding (see the book of Nehemiah). I can say to you today, just as Nehemiah said to his people, that if you will trust Jesus, turn your whole heart, energy and life over to Him, Satan and your enemies will be crushed, conquered, and completely defeated. No enemy that is deeply lodged against you behind any gate will be able to be protected. Those enemies are going to be removed and made to flee.

Old habits, old fears, old addictions approach and afflict us and sometimes we turn back to them. But God is saying to us, “Fix your eyes on Me! If you will let Me be your victory, we will see the last of that.” Listen to what God is saying!

If we will let Him be our victory then we have seen the last of our enemy. Oh, the enemy will still buffet us just as he did Jesus when he left Him after the temptations in the wilderness. But if you will keep Jesus on the wall of your heart, the wall of your life, He will root out all those emotional difficulties.

You may be living in fear of habitual patterns of sin, the things you might return to. You know that you are cleansed from them but because they are so close, you feel that any moment you may be drawn back to their bondage and you are afraid.

I am here today to call you to a place of security and safety in Christ Jesus when you trust Him with all your heart.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Friday, November 2, 2012

REVIVING THE HEART

Did you first come to the Lord only because you wanted something from Him? Did you turn to God in order to kick a drug habit, to have your marriage restored, to be delivered from financial trouble?

The truth is, Christ will work miracles for you. He will do the impossible in your life. But if you come to Him only to get something from Him — only to be delivered from your problems — you will never grow an inch in maturity. On the contrary, you will only grow hard.

Think back to the time of your conversion. Did it happen after some locust had eaten everything away? Was your health debilitated? Was one of your children in trouble? Did you end up in devastation, with death and ruin hovering over you?

Please do not misunderstand me. Of course, God loves to save people who end up in ruin. When all is lost, He is always near and faithful to deliver. But, beloved, you cannot come to Jesus just to get relief. You must come to Him because He is God and because He deserves your life, your worship, your obedience.

Right now you may be saying, "Yes, I admit I've been neglecting God's Word and I'm still bound by a besetting sin. Am I too far gone to receive the Lord's healing touch?"

No, not at all! If you will begin to call on the Lord today, in the midst of your need, He will bring you times of refreshing. Whenever you bring a truly repentant heart to Him, He will act as your mediator and intercessor, not as your judge.

Do you want to grow into maturity in Christ? Do you want the Lord to keep reproving you in love and guiding you toward godliness? Then call on Him today. Nothing will keep you on His intended path for you more than a broken and contrite heart!

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

THE IMPOSSIBLE MISSION

"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Christ said, "I came into this world for one reason — to reach and save lost souls." Yet this was not only the mission of Jesus, He made it our mission also: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).

Jesus was speaking here to a small band of believers, about 120 people who had gathered in the upper room. And what an impossible task He laid before them!

"Go to foreign nations, live with the people and study their languages. Lay hands on the sick, cast out devils, proclaim the good news. Go to the very seat of Satan and preach the power and victory of the risen Savior."

We must realize that Jesus was talking to ordinary, insignificant, uneducated men and women. He was placing the very future of His Church on their shoulders. They must have been overwhelmed.

Can you imagine the conversation that must have taken place once their Master ascended to heaven? "Did I hear Him right? How could we start a worldwide revolution? We're penniless and the Romans are beating and killing us. If we are treated this way here in Jerusalem, how will we be treated when we witness and preach in Rome?”

Another might have said, "How does our Lord expect us to go into all the world with the gospel when we don't even have enough money to go to Jericho? How are we to learn languages when we haven't been educated? This is all impossible."

It was indeed an impossible mission. Yet our challenge today is just as daunting!

If all who read this message would allow the Holy Spirit to make this word real to them — to seek Him for His burden and guidance — there is no telling what kind of harvest the Spirit might reap. The truth is, the greatest works for eternity are done not in mass crusades, but with one saint reaching one lost soul.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HIS POWER TO DELIVER

The Assyrian army had surrounded Jerusalem. At that point, King Hezekiah decided, "We are not going to lean on the arm of flesh this time. We are going to do it all God's way!"

The king humbled himself and sought God in prayer: “And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 37:1). Hezekiah confessed, "Lord, I know I have nothing of myself to give You except my faith. I am helpless in my own strength to fight Sennacherib. We're surrounded by our enemies. Please, give us Your direction!"

Hezekiah knew that Isaiah would have God's word of guidance, so this time he sent his envoy to the prophet. These men said to Isaiah, "The children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" (verse 3). In other words: "This time we want to do everything God's way but we have no strength left. What should we do?"

Isaiah had God's word for them: "Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard. . . . I will cause [Sennacherib] to fall by the sword" (verses 6-7). God was saying, "Any enemy of yours is an enemy of Mine now because you have turned the battle over to Me! If anyone talks against you, hurts you or abuses you, it is an attack against Me. I will take care of that enemy, whether human or demonic."

"He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it" (verse 33). God says, "Others may be falling all around you, but that doesn't mean a thing. You are walking in covenant with Me and I have promised to do battle against every enemy that assails you."

What a wonderful picture God has given of His power to deliver us from our enemies. The enemy may shoot fiery arrows at us, but they will not strike. Satan may noisily attack us with a huge army of lusts and temptations, but in the end he will turn and run. God has declared, "I will defend every child of Mine who believes in Me enough to lay down his own sword."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

WOE TO THEM THAT GO DOWN TO EGYPT

"Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!" (Isaiah 31:1).

The prophet Isaiah warned Israel that there was no possibility of victory for them if they attempted to fight their adversary in their own strength. Isaiah 31 paints a perfect picture of the futility of trying to do battle with the enemy in our human ability. I believe this chapter is a type and shadow of the ineffectiveness of our attempts today to defeat lusts, habits and besetting sins by relying on human ideas and aids.

At the time Isaiah wrote this message of warning, King Sennacherib and the Assyrian army had already marched through Judah. They had captured most of the cities in their path, and now they planned to besiege Jerusalem. In Hebrew, the word Sennacherib means "successful" and Assyria means "sin on the increase." Put together, these two words provide an image of an evil enemy who was having great success against God's people.

Indeed, Assyria represents every demonic, lustful spirit that comes against us. And Sennacherib is the devil himself, convinced he will succeed in defeating us and bringing us into despair. I believe God wants to show us through this chapter how the devil and his demonic hordes are bringing waves of temptations against the church, with increasing intensity and much success.

This chapter is also an example of how sin will increase in the last days. Scripture says that society will wax worse and worse (see 2 Timothy 3:13), and the church will be inundated with deceptions and doctrines of demons. I believe we are seeing that happen right now. Demonic hordes have infiltrated all media and every form of technology, flooding our culture with sensuality, nudity, and perversions of all kinds. As prophesied in Revelation 12:15, Satan has "cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman."

Monday, October 29, 2012

THERE IS NOW A NEW COVENANT by Gary Wilkerson

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14, ESV).

What a sacrifice! God now says the covenant is not like the covenant made with the angels. It is not like the covenant made with Adam — and Adam failed. Nor is it like the covenant of circumcision — where the children of Israel failed. It is not like the covenant made with the Law of Moses and it is not like the covenant of the high priestly sacrifice. God says that this is a new covenant made through His Son, Christ Jesus. It is a better covenant, a more excellent covenant, a holy covenant. It is Christ’s covenant coming to bring us into new life, new creation. He is taking out the old and making all things new.

This is not a covenant based on our works. It is not a partnership with God. It is not God dealing with His people on mutual terms of performances. It is not God saying, “I will perform this if you will perform that.” Instead, God said, “Have you had enough of these old covenants? Are you weary enough now of failing?” Are you tired and frustrated of trying in your own moral power to show how holy you are before God? Are you tired of seeing yourself as equal with God, as if God could bring His bargain to the covenant and then you could bring your bargain and stand on equal ground?

The Word says that every single covenant God made long ago had one purpose — to show us the inability of our moral fiber, our inability to be covenant keepers on equal ground with God (Hebrews 1:1). It finally drove us to the point — as God does through the law now, even in the New Testament times — where we say, “I cannot do this myself. Nothing in my hand I bring to you, Lord. Without You taking both parts of the covenant, Your side and mine, without You fulfilling Your promises Yourself and fulfilling my promises for me, I cannot stand.”

There is now a new covenant!