Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THE FOOL WHO BRINGS TROUBLE DOWN ON HIMSELF

“Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death" (Psalm 107:17-18).

According to the dictionary, a fool is someone who lacks judgment or good sense, one who does silly things without thinking of the consequences.

What could be more foolish and unthinkable than indulging in sexual activity with an unknown person? The whole world knows that AIDS is an international problem and yet people all over the world are still contracting it. People simply refuse to be alarmed. Women risk their lives and men trade their futures for an hour of carnal pleasure.

Many are suffering serious consequences for their absolutely foolish acts. They talk about the terror they felt when they first sensed something strange in their body. They knew something was not right and suddenly a haunting memory came back to them—a memory of a foolish act in their past, either sexual or drug-related. It happened when they were living in sin, playing the fool.

"Because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, [they] are afflicted" (verse 17). The despair of many such Christians is unspeakable. They feel helpless, on the verge of giving up. One man said, "I feel like my life is over. There's nothing I can do. I just look forward to death."

"They draw near unto the gates of death" (verse 18). Beloved, you do not have to live without hope. God has given you His Word that He does not walk out on fools!

"Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (Psalm 107:19-20).

The Lord knows there are things we cannot change, words we have spoken that we cannot bring back. Yet He is not asking us to do penance or make promises. All He asks is that we cry out to Him in our desperation. He wants to heal, prolong life and provide supernatural grace.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GO TELL THE BRETHERN

When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden by the tomb, she supposed that He was the gardener. Her heart was heavy and she cried out, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him” (John 20:15).

"Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher)" (verse 16). Jesus knows the names of those who love Him—and He called Mary by her name.

Jesus then told her, "Do not cling to Me" (verse 17). Jesus knew Mary was not going to let go of Him. Her heart was crying, "I lost You once, but I'm never going to lose You again!"

It must have taken a lot of courage for Mary to heed Jesus' words to her. You see, He told her He was going to be gone for awhile and she should go to the others and ". . . say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father’" (verse 17).

Mary quickly returned to the disciples who had returned home after seeing that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. These simple fishermen were gathered together in one room, perhaps cleaning their old fishing gear. They were not theologians but they had been trained for three years at the Master's feet.

It was Mary, however, who had the revelation! These men had to sit and listen to a woman who had heard from Jesus. Can you imagine the scene? "What did He say? What did He look like?" Mary answered simply, "All I know is, I saw Him. And He told me to come here and tell you something!"

I love to hear devoted men and women of God say the words Mary said: "I've heard from Him and I have something to say!" The cry of my heart every time I prepare to preach is, "Lord, if You are not going to talk to me, I am not going to talk to them!" Like Mary Magdalene, we should all have a heart so given to the Lord that He gives us His mind and says, "Go tell the brethren!"

Monday, February 27, 2012

UNITY

I believe when Jesus washed the disciples' feet, He was teaching a profound lesson on how to achieve unity in the body of Christ.

As Jesus approached Peter to wash his feet, the disciple drew back and asked in astonishment, "Lord, You aren't going to wash my feet, are You? Never, never!" (see John 13:6). Jesus answered, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (verse 8). Jesus was saying, in essence, "Peter, if I wash your feet, we have grounds for precious fellowship, a basis for true unity."

After Jesus washed His disciples' feet, He asked them, "Do you understand what I have done?" If they had understood the spiritual significance of what He had just done—taking away the stain and guilt of their sin—it would have produced profound gratitude in them.

What did Jesus do to you when He cleansed you? He wiped away all your guilt and made you clean and whole. He put joy in your soul and filled you with such love for Him that you would follow Him anywhere and do anything for Him.

Beloved, that is the secret of unity. When you take up the towel of mercy for a hurting, fallen brother, you encourage him by embracing him in his hurt. By washing that person’s feet, you construct a firm foundation for true unity and glorious fellowship. You are made one by your common experience.

This message is for me as much as for anyone else. I have just recently come into this convicting knowledge of what foot washing is truly about. And by God's grace, I will take up the towel of mercy along with others and seek out those hurting ones whose feet need cleansing.

Jesus said, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. . . . If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:14, 17).

Now that we "know these things," as Jesus said, we can do them. I ask you: Are you willing and ready to take up your towel in love?

Friday, February 24, 2012

GENTLE AND PATIENT

"And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).

If you want to be kindhearted—to take up the towel to restore a brother or sister—you do not need to know the details of how that person got dirty. Jesus did not ask His disciples, "How did you get such filthy feet?" He wanted only to get the dust off of them. His love for them was unconditional.

Likewise, those who walk in the fullness of Jesus Christ must have this attitude of love toward those with dirty feet. We are not to ask for details. Instead, we are to say, "Let me wash your feet."

Too often Christians want to delve into all the gory details of a situation. They come to a believer who has dirty feet, saying, "I want to wash your feet. But tell me, what happened? How'd you get so dirty?"

At some point in the story of failure, the curious comforter realizes, "Oh, my, this is worse than I thought. I can't get involved in this." And after a few more details, he comes to the end of his puny human mercy. He judges the person as too evil, beyond help, and he drops his towel and goes his way.

Beloved, you cannot wash feet in a judge's robes. You have to take off your self-righteous garments before you can do any cleansing. Paul says we are to be gentle and patient with all people: "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Paul is saying, "You must be tenderhearted with everyone, willing to wash their feet. God will have mercy on them and deliver them from their sin."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

DEVOTED TO JESUS

Let me give you what I call "the devoted life for commuters and subway straphangers." It is a simple way for busy Christians to lead a practical, deeply devoted life with nothing mystical about it.

Devotion to Jesus means trusting Him alone to meet every need of your body, soul and spirit. It means giving up looking to any other person or source to meet those needs. Many single people say, "I'm sick of being lonely. I need a mate. If only God would give me someone!"

No, a mate would never be able to meet such a need. In fact, a mate could possibly make you twice as miserable because you would have not only your own headaches but his (or hers) as well! Until Jesus is your focus, until you see Him as your only true satisfaction, you will sink deeper and deeper into despair.

At one point, Jesus wanted to prove to His disciples that He was on top of any situation, so He called Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water to meet Him. Peter obeyed—and as long as he remained focused on Jesus, he was above everything, actually walking on water! But when the disciple began to focus on his surroundings, he started to sink (see Matthew 14:28-31).

The lesson here is elementary. Yet, I ask you: What do you do when you get that sinking feeling? Do you call out to a friend for help? Or do you keep your eyes focused on Jesus and cry out, "Lord, save me"?

The bride of Christ will be comprised of those who have given up trying to find help, comfort or satisfaction from anything on this earth. They have learned to depend wholly on the One they love to fully satisfy their every hunger and thirst.

Do you have this kind of walk with Jesus? I urge you to keep your eyes focused on your Bridegroom. Expect His return at any moment and do not look to anyone or anything else to fulfill you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

GOD WILL NOT WALK OUT ON YOU

Psalm 107 has been called “the Old Testament love feast.” One of the most encouraging passages in all of God’s Word, it is for those needing forgiveness, deliverance or restoration. The final verse promises the reader an understanding of who God truly is: “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43).

"O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them" (Psalm 107:1-5).

Here is a classification of people who once knew the fullness of the Lord and at some time in their life discovered glorious deliverance. Now, however, they are in a solitary wilderness, wandering alone, and they cannot find the city.

"The city" in the Old Testament is always Zion, which represents God's true church. Today, of course, it signifies the true body of Christ, those who worship in spirit and in truth but cannot seem to find “the city.” They no longer attend church, refusing to worship with any body of believers—because there is little or no spiritual reality to be found.

Indeed, there are multitudes of starving Christians who go from church to church today trying to find their place. In the end, they give up even seeking a good church because they are determined that there are none. Perhaps you say, "Brother Dave, I can't find a Christ-centered, holiness-seeking church in my area. I can't find the city."

Beloved, God has provided a solution. "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation" (Psalm 107:6-7).

God says, "I will show you the body—I will lead you right to them." Rest assured, Jesus has His body of believers all over the world and if you cry out to Him, He will miraculously bring like-minded Christians to you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MARY MAGDALENE

Mary Magdalene epitomizes the bride whose heart is wholly given to Christ. This woman's life was marked by her love and affection for Jesus.

As far as the world was concerned, Mary Magdalene was not a great theologian. When the disciples got together to discuss the deeper things of the cross, she was probably silent, since women of that day rarely spoke openly of spiritual matters in the presence of men. Yet she had something they did not have—she had a revelation!

"The first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb" (John 20:1). Mary came to the tomb while the others still slept. When she found the stone rolled away and Jesus' body missing, she ran to find Peter and John.

When the disciples arrived at the tomb, they went in and saw the linen clothes neatly folded—but no body. They understood clearly that Jesus was not there. Then, the Bible says, the two disciples "...saw and believed" (verse 8). They remembered Jesus' words to them about His resurrection on the third day. Two verses later we read, "Then the disciples went away again to their own home" (verse 10). They were satisfied with the knowledge that Jesus was no longer there, so they went back to business as usual.

Isn't that just like the church today? Many Christians say, "I've seen the power of the gospel so, of course, I believe." They identify their present relationship with Jesus by mere head knowledge. Not so with Mary! Knowledge was not enough for her. She wanted Jesus Himself and she was not going to move: "But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping" (verse 11).

Mary’s spirit was crying, "This world is intolerable without Him. I can't go home." She simply loved the Lord and she was determined to stand gazing into that tomb until her breaking heart found answers. Sure enough, Mary's heart of devotion brought her a visitation of the divine.

"And as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting . . . where the body of Jesus had lain" (verses 11-12).

While the other disciples were back home, Mary was seeing things nobody else could see—because her heart was given to Jesus.

Monday, February 20, 2012

LOOK FOR HIS COMING

Jesus says in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

A characteristic of the bride of Christ is an expectancy of His soon return. Jesus’ bride is to live in continual, joyful expectation of His imminent return—because He may come at any moment.

Jesus warned, however, that in the last days evil ministers will infiltrate the church in an effort to put the bride to sleep. They will attempt to take away her heart of love for the Bridegroom by claiming, “My master is delaying his coming” (verse 48). This gospel is preached by those who do not want to pay the price of obeying Christ’s commands. They really do not want Jesus to come back because they have sinful habits and lead double lives; in fact, they have concocted a doctrine to justify their continuing in sin. What is the result of this false teaching? First, it ends in worldliness because those who believe it want to enjoy worldly success and prosperity.

Beloved, do not give in to this doctrine of delay! If you are a part of Jesus’ bride, you will be so lovesick for your Lord you will not be able to buy into it. Instead, you will cry out, “My Lord said I am to be ready at any moment for His return. I know He is near—I can sense it. My heart cries out within me, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom is coming!’”

The early church was wide awake, heeding Jesus’ words. Their lamps were trimmed and burning, and they had a good supply of oil. Peter summed up the spirit of the early church this way: “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God . . . nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:12-13). Likewise, Paul said: “[We are] eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7).

Friday, February 17, 2012

DIRTY FEET!

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).

The disciples were twelve men beloved of God—precious in His eyes, full of love for His Son, pure of heart, in full communion with Jesus. Yet they had dirt on their feet!

Jesus, in essence, was saying to these men, “Your hearts and hands are clean, but your feet are not. They have become dirty in your daily walk with Me. You do not need your whole body to be washed—only your feet.” The dirt Jesus mentions here has nothing to do with natural dirt. It is about sin—our faults and failures, our giving in to temptations.

No matter how dusty and dirty the roads were in ancient Jerusalem, no age has ever been as filthy as ours. I wonder how many of you reading this message right now have some dirt clinging to you. Perhaps this past week you fell into a temptation or failed God in some way. It is not that you have turned your back on the Lord. On the contrary, you love the Savior more passionately than ever, but you fell and now you are grieving—because your feet are dirty.

Scripture tells us: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). The Greek word for trespass here means “a fall, a sin.” We are to restore every Christian who falls into sin if there is a repentant heart.

Foot washing, in its deepest meaning, has to do with our attitude about the dirt we see on our brother or sister. So I ask you: What do you do when you are face to face with someone who has fallen into a sin or transgression?

We are to take up the towel of God’s mercy and go to that hurting one. In the special love of Jesus we are not to judge him, expose him, lecture or find fault. Instead we are to commit to being his friend. We are to help him come to salvation by sharing the correcting, healing, washing, comforting Word of God.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TAKING UP THE TOWEL

In a famous passage in John 13, Jesus took a towel and a basin and washed the feet of His disciples. He told them “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

Some devout Christians have taken this verse literally. They have made it their custom to have “foot washing” services. This is commendable, yet if it remains only a ritual, the true meaning of foot washing has been lost.

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He put His garment back on, sat down and asked them, “Do you know what I have just done to you?” In other words, “Do you understand the spiritual significance of foot washing?”

I believe the Lord’s question is for us today as well. Do we understand the depths of what He did in washing the disciples’ feet? Indeed, something very powerful and profound was taking place; Christ was teaching His church one of its most important lessons.

Jesus was not instituting an ordinance to be carried on throughout the church ages, such as communion or water baptism. If so, He would have instituted it at the beginning of the disciples’ training. He would have submitted to a foot washing Himself, as He had done with water baptism. I believe Jesus was giving us an example of the kind of physical manifestation He desires most, that of “taking up the towel.”

I believe that if we understand what Jesus did in washing His disciples’ feet, we will understand the concepts of service and submission. You see, serving one another in love and submitting to one another in godly fear mean much more than taking orders or being accountable to a higher authority. Rather, these glorious truths are unlocked only in the context of “taking up the towel.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

PRECIOUS JEWELS

Listen to this prophesy from Isaiah:

“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you”
(Isaiah 54:11-14).

What an amazing prophecy! The “colorful gems” mentioned in verse 11 are jewels. If you know much about jewels, you know that a diamond was once a piece of coal that has been worked on for years by the elements. God’s Word is telling us: “Your afflictions are meant to change you into something beautiful—something precious to Me!”

The “pinnacles [windows] of rubies [agates]” mentioned here are a type of quartz, made transparent by fire. The “windows” aspect has to do with eyes or vision. God is saying that trusting Him through your afflictions will give you clear vision and discernment. It will allow you to see into the unseen with crystal clarity.

Many scholars believe the phrase “gates of crystal” reads more accurately as “gates of pearl.” Pearls are formed from a grain of sand in the belly of an oyster. The grain is injected with fluid, then grated and irritated until it becomes a pearl.

Think of all the grating, irritating friction in your life. What is God doing? He is making a pearl! Every pearl is a memento of suffering, pain, friction.

I believe Isaiah is talking about the beauty of Jesus Christ in this passage. In other words, affliction, when allowed to accomplish its work, brings about a people who shine forth the beauty of Christ’s character. It makes us more and more like Jesus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

YOUR DELIVERANCE IS AT HAND

God had given Moses and Israel ironclad promises of deliverance, so Moses went to the people with the good news. He performed signs for them and Scripture says they believed: “Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel. And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. Then he did signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:29-31).

It was a time of hope and rejoicing. Everyone cried, “Hallelujah! We are finally free! God has heard our cry and our bondage is over. Praise to Him!”

Yet, what happened next? Things only got worse. Israel’s bondage became absolutely unbearable. They were given no straw for making bricks and they endured heavy beatings from their taskmasters. Pharaoh raged at Israel’s leaders, “Get out of my sight. Back to work!”

Moses could not believe this terrible turn of events. He cried out, “God, why are You treating Your people this way? You haven’t delivered us at all; in fact, things are worse than ever. You haven’t kept Your Word and nothing You promised is happening.”

You must understand, the devil knew Israel’s deliverance was right at the door, so do you think he was going to sit by and not make one last attempt to wear out God’s people? The worsening of Israel’s condition wasn’t God’s doing. Rather, it was Satan rushing about madly—hurrying his work before the hour of deliverance came. Likewise, whenever the devil sees you driven to your knees, he knows your deliverance is at hand and he is not going to sit by in those final moments before victory comes! Instead, he will intensify your temptations. He will enflame people against you and send lying spirits to falsely accuse you. He will lie to you that God has taken His Holy Spirit from you, that you are paying for past sins. He will try to flood you with all kinds of guilt and condemnation.

If you are praying, but things are only getting worse, start rejoicing because your deliverance is at hand!

Monday, February 13, 2012

GOD HEARS OUR CRY

Afflictions teach us to bend our knees, to cry out to the Lord in all our problems and troubles.

"I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me" (Psalm 119:75). David is saying, "Lord, I know why You afflicted me. You saw that when all was going well, I went astray, becoming careless, so you allowed trouble to come upon me. You knew it would drive me to my knees and bring me back to brokenness. My affliction was evidence of Your faithfulness to me!"

I know many people who have had to battle awful bondages in their lives—drugs, alcohol, cigarettes—and temptation rages every day. Yet I say to all such people: God cares. He knows the misery you go through and He alone has the power to deliver you.

The Lord does not constantly hover over you, saying, "You're miserable because of what you did. You failed Me and now you're paying the price." No! You do not serve such a God, you serve a loving Father who feels your grief the moment you first feel it. No matter how you got into your affliction, God hurts with you and He wants to deliver you.

You may think God is not helping you at all, but the very moment He heard your cry, He went into action. Let me prove it to you:

"So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them" (Exodus 2:24-25). The word acknowledged here means, "He began to act." God heard their cry and began taking action on their behalf.

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." (Psalm 34:17). Whenever you fall on your knees, God immediately goes to work on your behalf.

Friday, February 10, 2012

IT IS THE LORD’S BATTLE

No matter what kind of trouble you are in, you simply cannot extricate yourself from it in your own power.

In order to understand how God delivers us from afflictions, we must study how He delivered Israel from their bondage. The Bible says: "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they are written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Everything that happened to Israel—their bondage, trials, and deliverance out of Egypt—are testimonies and examples to us today.
The Lord told Moses, "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them . . .” (Exodus 3:7-8).

God’s Word clearly says here, "I know their sorrows." Beloved, if that does not give you comfort in your affliction, nothing will. The Lord is saying, "I know what you're going through, but this is not your battle. The devil, is too much for you, so I have come down to deliver you!"

"I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore" (Exodus 6:6-8).

Try all you want to deliver yourself—dream, scheme and manipulate—but in the end, God says, "This is My work!"

When David came against the giant, he said: "Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).

David did not take matters into his own hands and say, "I’m going to bite the bullet and do this in my own strength." No! He knew this was the Lord’s battle.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

LEARNING THROUGH AFFLICTIONS!

The psalmist writes, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71). You may wonder, as I have, “What kind of theology is this? Is it actually good to be afflicted?”

The Hebrew word for affliction here means "abased, chastened, defiled, hurt, humbled, weakened, depressed." When you put this meaning into the verse, suddenly it reads: "It is good for me to have been chastened, humbled, weakened, depressed—so that I could learn the Lord’s statutes." The word statute means "engraved law." The psalmist is saying, "It is good that I went through these troubles because in the process, God was engraving His laws and ways in my heart."

The Lord allows trials to come our way to test us, but that is not His primary purpose. Rather, our afflictions are to teach us to walk rightly before Him. The Bible says: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous . . ." (Psalm 34:19). According to the psalmist, the point of all our afflictions is for us to learn from them.

One of our missionary couples wrote about the situation in the African nation where they are working. One of the poorest on earth, its situation has been worsened by the long, bloody civil war there. The missionaries recently drove to this desperate country in a truck with a group of Christians from a neighboring country. They were delivering a load of supplies and were scheduled to attend a meeting that night across the border. About five miles from the border, their truck started slowing down. The driver floored the pedal, but the truck’s speed kept dropping. The team was dejected as they watched the car in front of them pull away into the distance.

Finally, the team arrived at the border and instantly the truck’s engine died and simply would not move. Everyone on the team wondered, "Lord, what is going on?" Suddenly, the border guards started racing about, shouting excitedly, "There was an explosion across the border not far from here! One of the warring factions blew up a car that had just driven in." The missions team realized the car that had been attacked was the one directly in front of them. If the missions truck had been running properly, they also would have been attacked.

The next morning, the driver from the missions team turned the key in the ignition—and the truck started right up. In fact, it ran fine all the rest of the trip. They recognized that God’s purposes had been accomplished through this seemingly troublesome circumstance.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

THE SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST

Our Savior exists as a man right now in glory. He is a living person—with flesh, bone, hair, eyes—even though He is God. Although we are here on earth, His Spirit dwells within us: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6).

Yet, there is another spirit at work in the world—the antichrist spirit. Just as surely as Christ has given us His Spirit, there is an antichrist spirit in the world, preparing hearts for the coming of the Man of Sin!

"And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:3). John is saying, "You have heard about the coming of the Antichrist. It has been preached and taught, and you expect his arrival. But, beloved, wake up, because the spirit of antichrist is already at work!"

Understand, the Antichrist will not suddenly appear on the scene and overwhelm humankind. Rather, his spirit is mysteriously at work now, setting up his kingdom in cold, compromising hearts. When he finally appears, he will be publicly revealed to a world already prepared for him, to hearts his spirit already possesses!

Right now we see a growing antichrist sentiment, but soon this will turn into a flowing stream and, eventually, a vast ocean. The antichrist spirit is invading the hearts of many apostate Christians even now. "But how?" you ask. "Why would certain Christians ever turn to the Antichrist?" It is because they are like-minded with him.

John writes: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. . . . Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:15-18).

John is warning us that those who still love the things of this world have opened themselves to the spirit of antichrist. He is saying, "You know these are the last days because so many are full of the covetous, antichrist spirit!"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HE DELIGHTS IN MERCY

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it “(Hebrews 12:11).

God is talking about His own heart here, as well as ours. His chastenings are not joyous to Him, but grievous and painful. Yet when God moves in to judge, He hovers over His children as He chastens them. He looks for even the slightest sign of sorrow or repentance and He lets up at the first inkling of one. He longs to say, "Enough—no more. It pains Me too much to punish you."

Beloved, you must come to grips with this matter of God's pain. When others are trying to hurt you, you have to bring your thoughts into captivity, and say, "Oh, Lord, let me pray for my enemies, for those who are trying to wound me."

God loves the most wicked, vile sinner on the street and if He loves that person, how much more does He love the Christian who hurts you and has made himself your enemy?

Perhaps you have an idea by now of how far we are from the heart of God. We have so much yet to learn of His heart. No, He does not delight in judgment. He takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, nor in His chastening of His children. On the contrary, it pains Him awfully.

Let me tell you what the Lord delights in:

"Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19).

Thank God for His great compassion, available to all. He delights in mercy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

LOVING THE TRUTH

Paul gives thanks to God for a people who remain steadfast in perilous times. This holy remnant will rise up against the spirit of antichrist and stand strong. They will never be overcome. On the contrary, they will overcome the world, the flesh and the wicked one!

"But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you . . . because God from the beginning chose you for salvation. . . . Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught. . . . Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work" (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).

This holy remnant loves the truth and are not afraid to be reproved. They examine themselves in light of God's Word, letting it pierce them to the very marrow. Beloved, if you keep your heart open to the truth—if you continue to love God's Word—the Lord will establish you.

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever. For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity” (Psalm 125:1-3).

The antichrist spirit has a rod, signifying authority. But his power and reign will not be over you because you are part of God’s holy remnant.
"I have written to you . . . because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14).
"And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (1 John 5:4).

Let the spirit of antichrist come. You will not be moved, because you will be firmly established on the truth of God's Word. You will be found in God's house, worshiping from a pure heart, and your faith will overcome all that the enemy brings against you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A DOUBLE PAIN!

The first part of God's "double pain" is when we sin in His presence, against His light and love. The sin itself is not what grieves God, however, but the fact that He knows the consequences of our sin. God knows our sin is going to drive us to grief and misery.

The second part of God's "double pain" is that our sin compels Him to keep His Word in judging us. He has to stand by like a loving father and listen to our cries of anguish as He chastens us—all for the purpose of producing godly character in us.

At one time I came to a crisis—to the end of my rope. Slanderous things were being said about me and after this had gone on for some time, I began to remind God of His Word:

  • "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies shall perish" (Proverbs 19:9).
  • "A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful (destructive) tongue" (17:4).

After some time, I cried out in despair: "Oh, God, how long will You let this go on? The lies keep changing so much, I don't even know what they are from day to day. You are my defender, Lord, and You say You will avenge Your people. But I don't see You working any justice.”

As I thought of all the slander coming against me, I began to think of other beleaguered pastors and servants. There are many righteous people today who are enduring awful trials because evil words are being spoken against them.

"Why, Lord?" I prayed. "Why do You continue allowing Your people to be hurt?”

The Lord answered, "David, I am merciful, longsuffering and slow to anger because it pains Me to mete out My justice. If you could feel My pain, you would never, ever, desire to see My judgment fall. You would understand why I wait so long to bring it down. You know how painful it is to discipline your children. It is the same for Me. It pains Me to chasten those I love!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A GLIMPSE OF GOD’S PAIN

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. . . . They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it. . . . I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them’” (Exodus 32:7-10).

“Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? . . . Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. . . .’ So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people” (verses 11-14).

In reading this passage, many Christians mistakenly attribute more grace and mercy to Moses than to God. They think, "Moses is pleading for great mercy upon Israel, while God is ready to destroy them." Nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason Moses could pray as he did was because He knew God's heart of mercy.

God’s justice demanded that the people be consumed but Moses knew it would pain God too much to destroy His children, so he lifted this plea to God, "I know that Your justice is crying out and these stiff-necked people should be wiped out, but I know You would not be able to stand the pain if You did that. I know Your heart, God, and I know You cannot destroy Israel—because You love her."

The Bible says God "repented," which means He changed His mind about how He would judge Israel. He was not going to destroy them; instead, the people would waste away in the wilderness. Although the people would continue to pain His heart for thirty-eight more years with their unbelief, the Lord would still protect them, lead them, feed them and clothe them to their dying day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

SHALL WE CONTINUE IN SIN?

When Paul first taught the truth of justification by faith, it shook the church. It was incredible news at that time. In fact, some theologians responded, "If I'm pardoned, if God is so merciful to forgive me freely by faith alone, then let me sin even more, so God can enjoy giving me more grace!" Those theologians did not understand the gospel.

Because of the cross, God considered everything about our old flesh-man done away with. Paul asked, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Romans 6:1) and he continued quickly, “Certainly not!" I believe Paul was saying, "Why would any Christian, having been set free from such death, go back and resurrect the corpse? Why go back to a life of sin when God wants to take away all guilt and condemnation and give you security and peace? Now, because of the cross, you can serve the Lord with joy and gladness and obey Him in a new obligation called love."

"So," you ask, "are we simply to take by faith the righteousness of Jesus?" Yes, absolutely! That is what the Christian walk is all about—resting by faith in what Jesus accomplished.

Our old man is dead, and the new Man is Jesus. When we put our faith in Him, God fully accepts us. He considers us righteous, hidden in the bosom of His dear Son. So whenever you sin or fail, run quickly to your Lawyer, your Advocate. Confess your failures to Him, and rest in His righteousness.

You may ask, "Don't good works have any place in this doctrine?" Of course they do, but on this condition: Good works cannot save you, justify you or make you righteous or acceptable to God. The only thing that saves you is your faith in what Jesus did!

What did Jesus do? He saved you, pardoned you and accepted you in the beloved—sins, failures and all. God sees you now only in Jesus Christ and that is why we must come to our Savior every time we fall. The blood that forgave and cleansed us the first time we came to Jesus is the same blood continues to keep us until He returns.

Along with this security comes a higher obligation of doing all our works in His strength and power rather than trying to do them on our own. "If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13).