Monday, April 30, 2012

A LAST-MINUTE VICTORY by Gary Wilkerson

The king of Syria brought his entire army to Samaria to lay siege (see 2 Kings 6:24). The Syrian army strategically stopped any food from going into Samaria and soon conditions were desperate. People sold all they had for any scrap of food.

Samaria's king was horrified by what he saw happening. He laid all the blame on Elisha and sent a messenger to kill him. When the messenger arrived, Elisha's friends barred him from the prophet's dwelling. During the standoff the messenger shouted to Elisha, “The king said, ‘This disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?’” (6:33, NIV). In short, the king had no faith. He was convinced God had abandoned Samaria and that they had to act on their own.

What was Elisha's answer? "Hear the word of the Lord" (7:1). This is sage advice for any Christian facing a crisis. If your situation has gone beyond your control, you need to be reminded of God's Word.

Elisha told the messenger: "About this time tomorrow, a seah [five quarts] of flour will sell for a shekel [half an ounce of silver] and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria" (7:1). In other words: "Do not surrender! Food will be in such abundance a mere shekel will buy all you can eat."

The messenger scoffed in disbelief: "Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?" (7:2). He knew Samaria's king was ready to surrender. But Elisha knew God was already on the move on their behalf and he wished to turn unbelief into faith.

At the time, four lepers sat starving in Samaria and they said to each other, "Why sit here and die? Let's go to the Syrian camp and beg for food. They'll either kill us or have mercy on us.”

As the lepers approached the Syrian camp, they realized the enemy had fled and left behind all their provisions. The lepers enjoyed a feast and after they had stuffed themselves, they ran to Samaria to tell the king.

Incredibly, the king did not believe them. He thought it was a trap laid for an ambush but the people inside the city heard about it and acted in faith: "The people went out and plundered the camp of the [Syrians]” (7:16).

Think of it! Samaria's king was less than a day away from surrendering to his enemy, yet God had already won the victory for him.

You may be on the brink of defeat but God wants to fulfill His promises to you. Hold on to His Word in faith.

Friday, April 27, 2012

FROM WRATH TO MERCY

God's holiness demands that He be angry at sin but He loves mercy. Now the blood of Jesus has satisfied God's justice so that He can come out to us through the torn veil, showing mercy and grace.

The Old Testament includes a powerful foreshadowing of our merciful High Priest. In Numbers 16, we see the whole congregation of Israel rising up and murmuring against Moses and Aaron. God had destroyed two hundred and fifty princes because they had rebelled against Him and the people were mad at Moses and Aaron over their deaths. "All the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord" (Numbers 16:41).

God appeared in a cloud, telling Moses and Aaron to stand apart from the rest: "Get away from them because I'm going to consume them — right now" (see verse 45).

Suddenly, a horrible plague broke out among the people. Terrified, Moses told Aaron, the high priest, "Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. . . . And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed" (Numbers 16:46, 48).

Moses was saying, "Run through the camp waving the censer and covering the people with incense." Aaron did just that.

Aaron is a type of Christ here and the incense represents Jesus' prayers for a rebellious people. What an incredible picture of God showing mercy through the prayers of the High Priest. We see an image of Jesus running among rebellious sinners, sending up prayers to the Father on their behalf. With each person He sprinkles, He cries, "Father, have mercy!"

An advocate is one who tells the court what is legal — what is right and should be done. Our Advocate Jesus says, "I have fulfilled the law. I have paid the price to fully satisfy God's justice. The devil can never accuse God of being unjust."

Although 14,700 Israelites died of the plague, two or three million others should have fallen. But God showed mercy!

Likewise, you and I should have died long ago because of our sin. But the Father, through Jesus' prayers, has mercifully kept us by His power.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

PAID IN FULL

Once a year, the high priest went into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for Israel's sins. After sanctifying himself — bathing (purifying) himself thoroughly — he took with him the blood of a bullock and a golden censer (or cup) held by three chains. The priest then removed some coals from the altar, put them in the censer, took a handful of incense and went into the Holy of Holies.

Inside the Holy of Holies was an ark. Atop it was the mercy seat and on either side of the seat were two golden cherubim, whose wings spread over it. The mercy seat represented the very presence of God where the Lord sat on His throne.

The high priest took the handful of incense and threw it on the fire in the censer. Suddenly, a beautiful aroma filled the tabernacle. The priest waved the censer in front of the ark until the mercy seat was enshrouded in a cloud of aromatic, sweet incense.

Beloved, this is a perfect illustration of what Jesus has done for us and is doing right now. First, it signifies Jesus' death and ascension to the heavenly Father as our High Priest. Second, this scene of atonement further signifies the time when Jesus began to pray for us, interceding to the Father on our behalf.

The initial work of Jesus' intercession was the sprinkling of His blood on every bond and debt we owed. A bond is "a sealed note of debt or obligation that is binding upon the debtor and his heirs." The devil once laid claim to you because you were dead in trespasses and sins.

There must be a cavern somewhere in the bowels of hell containing a mountain of records that are due, including your note and mine. The notes read, "You must pay with your life — and the price is eternal damnation." But Jesus was given the keys to hell's vault! Our High Priest went down to the very pits into that place of records and opened up the vault. He began flipping through the records and pulled out our notes — all the bonds, debts and obligations of those who believe in Him and who will yet believe.

Jesus gathered all those notes and took them to glory. There, in the presence of the Father, He sprinkled His blood over them, announcing, "These debts are paid in full by My own blood."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

HE STILL PRAYS FOR US

Zechariah 3 describes a high priest named Joshua standing before the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. Also present was an angel, who had to be Christ because angels do not judge.

Joshua was a real man, not just a type of Christ. He was the high priest during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Ezra 10:18 it appears that Joshua had married a heathen woman; at that time, the worst way a Jew could defile himself was by marrying a Gentile.

"Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel" (Zechariah 3:3). Joshua stands before the throne in his filthy garments, and the devil is at his side, accusing him. Satan argued: "This man has broken Your law and sinned against You." The devil's accusations were correct: Joshua had sinned and now Satan claimed Joshua for himself.

Beloved, this is exactly what happens with us. Satan comes before the throne of grace to accuse us. He points at us and says, "You know all things, God, and You see the compromise in this one's life. If You are just, You must give me his soul." In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called "the accuser of our brethren” and he stands before God right now to oppose you and me — to accuse us of sin.

That is when Jesus, our Advocate, steps up and says, "It is true, Father. He has failed but there is faith in his heart — faith in the power of My blood. I have paid for every sin he has or ever will commit." Jesus then turns to those standing by, "Take his filthy garments and put My robe of righteousness upon his shoulders."

Jesus said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan . . . Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zechariah 3: 2). What a picture! The devil was forced to leave with a sound rebuke and Joshua walked away with a pardon, a new garment and a crown of righteousness on his head.

"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Jesus has been in glory for these 2,000 years praying for us and He is still praying for us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

OUR HIGH PRIEST

God the Father appointed His Son to become our High Priest. Jesus is in glory right now — as both Man and God — on our behalf. He is arrayed in the garments of a high priest and He stands before the Father interceding for us, even as I write.

No doubt the Father takes great pleasure in having His Son at His right hand. The Bible does not say, however, that Jesus ascended for the sake of His Father. Nor does it say He ascended to regain His glory. No, Scripture says Christ ascended to heaven on our behalf — as a High Priest: "Christ . . . entered into heaven . . . now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).

John caught a glimpse of Jesus in His ministry as our High Priest in glory. He writes that Jesus appeared in the midst of seven candlesticks (representing His church) and ministered among them wearing a particular garb: ". . . clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band" (Revelation 1:13, NKJV).

In the Old Testament, God gave us an illustrated sermon of the ministry of a high priest (see Exodus 30). Everything he did illustrated the work and ministry of Jesus in glory.

Between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle was a veil and just before the entrance to the Holy of Holies stood an altar made of gold, three feet high and eighteen inches square. Incense was placed on this altar and burned at all times.

The high priest was commanded to take care of the lamps and wicks. Every morning when he went into the Holy Place to light them, he put incense on the altar. The altar had to have coals of fire in it always, so the fire would never go out. Incense in the Bible represents prayer and the ever-burning incense on that altar in the Holy Place represents the prayers of Jesus while He was on earth.

There was not a day in His life that Jesus did not pray for His disciples. "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me. . . . I pray for them. . . . Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me" (John 17:8-11).

Jesus prayed constantly — in the morning and in the evening; in fact, Jesus said He did nothing without hearing it first from His Father — in prayer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

GOD ENABLES THE WEAK TO OVERCOME ALL ODDS by Gary Wilkerson

The powerful nation of Syria moved to attack Israel but God revealed to Elisha every move Syria was about to make. Because of this, the prophet was able to warn Israel's army and keep them out of harm's way.

The Syrian military was comprised of mighty battalions, huge chariots and up-to-date weapons. Yet it was thwarted at every move because of Elisha, which infuriated Syria's king. Finally, he gave up his attacks on Israel and turned his entire army on Elisha: "Go, find out where he is . . . so I can send men and capture him" (2 Kings 6:13, NIV).

Elisha was staying in Dothan. The Syrian king sent ". . . a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city" (6:14). The next morning, Elisha's servant woke to see the enemy forces and cried out to Elisha in a panic, "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?"

Have you ever felt panic as this servant did? "There's no way out of this problem. It's too big! What can I possibly do?"

At such times, our prayers can turn into worry sessions, filled with anxiety. We tell ourselves, "There's no way God can pull me out of this."

Elisha answered his servant, "Don't be afraid. . . . Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (6:16). Elisha prayed for his servant, saying, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see" (6:17). Suddenly Elisha's servant saw what was invisible to the naked eye: "He looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (6:17).

Right now in your crisis, the odds against you may be 10,000 to 1. But as Elisha's story shows, 10,000 is a meager number when weighed against the infinite number of angels at God's service. You may feel overwhelmed and outnumbered — but God never loses. He never retreats and He never negotiates. He is with you in the midst of your battle to deliver you supernaturally.

You may ask, as Elisha's servant did, "What shall I do?" God has already answered you in Elisha's story: "Trust in the Lord." When all else seems to fail — when you feel there's no hope left, that you're about to fall in defeat — God enters and transforms everything.

Here was the end result: "The bands from [Syria] stopped raiding Israel's territory" (2 Kings 6:23). It was yet another faith-building lesson for Israel. Elisha was showing God's people, "Having the Lord on your side is better than having the world's most powerful army. Trust in Him!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

OUR MERCIFUL HIGH PRIEST

Beloved, it does not matter what you are going through. Jesus has walked in your shoes and that is what makes Him a merciful High Priest. You do not have to tell Him all your pain. He knows all about it because He has felt it Himself. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

Consider a precious, worried man who has fallen into great temptation. He has sinned grievously against God and he feels his heart growing cold. He thinks, "I can't make it! I'm too inconsistent and Satan is throwing all of hell at me. I've been overtaken by my temptation many times, yet I love Jesus. Oh, Lord, I want to be free and clean!"

This man is worn out, discouraged, and the devil stands beside him, accusing: "He fell into sin, God. He can't withstand temptation. His garment is spotted, filthy."

But the Advocate steps in between this man and his accuser: "Father, I know what this man is going through. The devil also drove Me into a wilderness and tempted Me severely. I was tempted to blaspheme, to fall down and worship Satan. I know what temptation is all about and I know this man's heart. There is a spark of faith still in him, an ember of love in his heart for Me.

"Father, look upon him as righteous through My blood. Deliver him from the power of darkness and the wicked one. I want him to be accepted, forgiven, restored, and given power from on high to resist the devil. I pray for his deliverance."

The next day, this man picks up his Bible and reads a powerful truth he has never seen before. He falls to his knees, and God comes to him with deliverance — because the High Priest has prayed.

Your Advocate knows your address. He has counted every hair on your head. He knows your every thought, feels your every pain, hears your every cry. So, beloved, take heart — because Jesus is praying for you!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

OUR GREATEST COMFORT

It was necessary for Jesus to take on human nature so He could go through everything we do on earth — rejection, pain, sorrow, temptation. Though He was God in flesh, He endured the whole human experience not as God, but as a human, with all our frailties. That enables Him, our High Priest, to pray for us with tremendous sympathy: "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [relieve, aid] them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

Consider a dear, struggling sister. She loves Jesus but she is feeling discouraged, cast down, rejected. She thinks, "I've been deeply hurt and I have no one to talk to who really understands." Sometimes she wonders if God can forgive her for having such weak faith and she is on the brink of giving up.

Satan stands beside her, accusingly saying, “Look at this one! She has virtually no faith. What kind of Christian is she, God?”

Jesus sees her hurt and feels her pain. He knows that her faith is weak, that she is on the verge of giving up, so He comes before the Father on her behalf and begins to intercede:

"Father, I know what she feels because I've been there. I was rejected by My own flesh and blood. I was mocked by the religious crowd. Soldiers spat on me and put thorns on My head. I even cried, 'Why hast thou forsaken Me?' I sympathize with this woman, Father, and I have washed away her sins. I know she still has a heart for Me."

This is where Jesus' prayers for us come in: "Father, I would that she be forgiven for her discouragement. I would that she be given a new supply of grace from on high. Let the Holy Spirit come upon her with a special renewing of encouragement and give her a spirit of peace and rest. She is Mine, Father, and Satan cannot have her!"

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the woman feels encouraged. Grace is given to her through the prayers of our High Priest. He is touched by the feelings of our infirmities and He acts in mercy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

JESUS’ PRAYER


John 17 is all about Jesus' prayers for His disciples and His people, for those who followed Him and believed in Him. Yet, Jesus prayed not only for His followers, but ". . . for them also which shall believe on me through [the disciples'] word" (verse 20).

What a powerful truth! Jesus' phrase, "them also which shall believe on me," includes you and me. Jesus was praying for us when He walked this earth in the flesh. Centuries ago we were on His mind. He even recorded this prayer in His Word, knowing we would be reading it. He wants us to know He was interceding for us to the Father.

Beloved, this prayer which Jesus prayed for us did not vanish into thin air. It has been burning on God's altar all this time and God has accepted His Son's prayer for each of us. Our salvation is the result of Jesus' prayers. We are in Him today because God answered His prayer for us.

"But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Right now Jesus is praying for transgressors who haven't yet turned to Him. Scripture says He can save to the uttermost — meaning "to the end of time" — all who will ever come to Him.

Throughout my years in ministry I have seen many drug addicts and alcoholics get gloriously saved. Each time I would think, "This one had to have a praying mother or interceding grandmother somewhere in the past. God is answering those holy warriors' prayers."

Now I see something better than that, something far more powerful and effective. It wasn't just a mother or grandparent who was praying for those who now believe. Jesus was praying for them all along. "I pray for them . . . also which shall believe on me through [the disciples'] word" (John 17:9, 20).

If you have been running from the Lord, you will never get away from His prayers. The Father answers His Son and all who resist Him are hardening their hearts to the prayers of Christ who prayed for them on earth, and is praying for them still.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

THE BLOOD OF JESUS

Most Christians know about the blood Jesus shed for us. When Christ lifted the cup at the last Passover, He said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20).

We memorialize His sacrifice every time we have communion. But that is the limit of most Christians' knowledge of Jesus' blood. We know only about the blood being shed and not about it being sprinkled.

The first biblical reference to the sprinkling of blood is in Exodus 12:22. The Israelites were commanded to take a bunch of hyssop (a purifying plant), dip it in the blood of a slain lamb, and sprinkle it on the lintel and two side posts of their front door. That night, when the death angel came and saw the blood on the doorposts, he would pass over the house.

Please understand that as long as the blood was left in the basin, it was of no effect; it was merely blood that had been shed. The blood had power to save only when it was lifted out of the basin and sprinkled!

Why couldn't the Israelites have simply laid the basin of blood at the threshold and said, "It doesn't matter what we do with it. After all, blood is blood"? Suppose they had put the basin on a linen-covered table or on a pedestal just inside the door.

If they had done that, the death angel would have struck that home. The blood had to be lifted out of the basin and sprinkled on the door to fulfill its purpose of protection.

This blood in Exodus 12 is a type of the blood of Christ. The blood that flowed at Calvary was not wasted — it did not fall to the ground and disappear. No, that precious blood was collected in a heavenly fountain.

If Christ is Lord of your life, then your doorposts have been sprinkled by His blood. This sprinkling is not for forgiveness only but also for protection against all the destroying powers of Satan. Jesus' blood has not been left in the basin but has been lifted out and sprinkled on your heart.

Monday, April 16, 2012

GOD HAS UNLIMITED RESOURCES by Gary Wilkerson

When her husband died, a poor widow was left in a frightening situation with two children to support. Unable to meet her obligations, she was threatened by creditors.

This woman was desperate and she appealed to Elisha: "Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, 'Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves'" (2 Kings 4:1, ESV).

The fact is, God uses our dilemmas to glorify His name. For that reason, our own God-story may be formed through pain or delay. One in ten Americans is unemployed and others have had to take a reduction in pay. In some homes both spouses work two jobs to keep from losing everything they own.

Perhaps you have reasoned in your own dilemma, "If I don't have a breakthrough soon, it's over. I need a miracle just to survive." I picture this widow having those very thoughts.

Elisha asked her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?" (4:2, NKJV). He was not asking her to sell her valuables for cash; actually, she didn't have any valuables left. Elisha was saying, in essence, "God can meet you just as you are. If you have faith, He can multiply even the smallest thing you have."

The widow answered, "All I have is one jar of oil." We know from Scripture that oil represents God's blessing and provision. At this point Elisha gave her a strange instruction: "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few" (4:3, NIV).

She did as the prophet instructed. Then Elisha said, "Then go inside and shut the door behind you. . . . Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side" (4:4, NIV). Once more she followed Elisha's word. As she poured oil from her own jar, it filled a borrowed jar. The same thing happened again as the next borrowed jar was also filled. It happened again with the next. And the next. There was an endless supply of oil!

Here is the point: When God tells us He has our needed supply, it is not just a meager amount. God has everything we need. His ability to meet our situation is endless.

Friday, April 13, 2012

DRAWING CLOSER TO HIM

The strongest feature of true, saving faith is a desire to draw closer to Him. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

Why did Jesus suffer and die? Why did He provide justification for us? Why is His perfect righteousness accounted to us? It was that He might bring us to God. It's all about intimate fellowship with the Father.

When Adam sinned, he lost the most precious thing any man or woman could possess: intimacy with God. Sin drove Adam away from closeness with the Father and he actually hid from His presence. Ever since, whenever man sins, he has a tendency to run and hide just as his forefather Adam did.

The reason God so hates sin is because it robs us of His fellowship. He created us for intimacy with Him and He so yearned for our fellowship that He sent His own Son to die on a cross, to justify us and tear down the walls that blocked that intimacy from taking place.

The power of justification is that it made a way back to God's original purpose in creating man — for fellowship with the Father.

This present world is full of evil, slander, satanic lies, seductions, guilt, fear, condemnation — all of it designed by Satan to keep us feeling unworthy to come into God's presence. The devil would have us hide as Adam did — to keep us from intimacy with God.

We have been delivered from all that. We have a right to God's presence — an invitation to His throne — because we stand with a perfect righteousness before Him. God invites us to the throne of grace because He accepts us as being holy in Christ. Our sin is under the blood, forgiven, and now we have a right into His holiness.

Beloved, Jesus did not die just to take you to paradise. He died so that every day you could live in beautiful, close fellowship with the Father.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

STOP TRUSTING IN YOURSELF

Paul did not speak of having faith until he had lost all confidence in his flesh. He took all his education, self-confidence, abilities, doctrines and zeal and cast them aside. He spoke of faith only after he had said, "I cannot trust my flesh." The same is true for us.

Before anyone is capable of true faith, he must come to a sense of how lost, helpless and utterly hopeless he is. We do not have saving faith until we come to the end of believing that someone or something other than Jesus can save us.

Saving, justifying faith involves submitting your life to Christ with all your heart. It includes a repentance that says, "Jesus, I have got nothing to offer You. I come to submit to Your lordship!"

In Romans 10:9, Paul characterizes saving faith as believing with your heart and confessing with your mouth. He is saying that faith is more than merely giving mental assent. Rather, it is submitting your whole life to Him — with all your heart.

In Acts 8:37, Philip said to the eunuch, "If thou believest with all thine heart . . ." and the eunuch replied, "I believe. . . ." This was not simply a mental "yes" to Jesus — he really believed with all his heart and he was saved.

In contrast, Simon Magus believed Paul's preaching. Yet he had only a temporary faith because his heart was not in it. Indeed, multitudes of people in Jesus' day believed temporarily in the name of Christ, but Jesus would not commit Himself to them because He knew their hearts were not fully committed (see John 2:23-24).

So, you ask, who is truly justified by faith? It is the one who knows he is lost and helpless and he has tried everything and failed. Now he commits his whole life into the Lord's hands — with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. He cries out, "Lord, I am Yours! You are my only hope." And he is saved!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TRUE GRACE

Let me give you the heart of the true grace message: It is not a permissive gospel but one that teaches holiness!

“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; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13).

According to Paul, we are not walking in grace until we have broken from worldly corruptions. Unless we are endeavoring through the power of the Holy Spirit to lead godly and righteous lives, looking for the Lord's coming in our every waking moment, we do not know God's grace.

Many Christians want forgiveness, but that is all. They do not want to be delivered from this present world, because they love it. They are attached to their sins, not wanting to give up the pleasures of this earth. So they cling to a doctrine that says, "I can live as I please — as long as I say that I believe."

They do not want to hear about obedience, repentance, self- denial, picking up their cross, taking on the yoke or burden of Christ. They simply want to be excused on Judgment Day — to have all their iniquities overlooked. They expect Jesus to open up the pearly gates, put His arms around them, and lead them down a golden street to their reserved mansion, even though they have never broken from the spirit of this world!

Paul writes, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2). We are to break from this world completely and be conformed to Christ alone!

Jesus justifies us through faith for a purpose: It is to embolden and empower us to resist the devil and overcome the world.

"[Jesus Christ] gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

IN CHRIST

I believe that justification by faith is the foundational truth of Christianity. You cannot know true rest and peace until you are convinced you can never be made right in God's eyes by your own works of righteousness.

If you don't understand the perfect righteousness of Christ that is yours by faith, you will lead a life of toil and sweat. You'll spend your days trying to please God through legalistic, hopeless attempts to establish your own righteousness. But the truth is, you'll never have any righteousness to bring to the Lord!

No doubt you are familiar with the passage in Isaiah that says all our righteousness is as filthy rags in God's sight (see Isaiah 64:6). This does not mean God despises our good works — not at all. We should do good works, but if you think your good works merit your salvation, that they allow you to stand holy before God, then they are nothing but filthy rags!

You may feel good because of the good works you do and even enjoy a moment of victory whenever you resist temptation. You feel righteous, that God's favor is on you.

The next day, however, you fail. You fall back into a sin and suddenly you lose all your joy. You think the Lord is angry with you and wonder if you have lost your salvation.

It is a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows — of up-and-down, hot-and-cold, sin-and-confess — according to how good or bad you think you have been on any given day. It's a life of misery because you are trying to please God in your flesh!

Beloved, no righteousness of the flesh will ever stand before God. Even the best people among us, the most moral, godly saints, have fallen short of God's glory. None of us can ever be accepted in the Father's eyes by our good works. We are accepted by Him only as we are in Christ!

"For ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). When we turn to Jesus with saving, self-emptying faith, we become one in Christ. Being "in Christ" means God credits Jesus' righteousness to us. All our sins are washed away because of His work, not ours!

Monday, April 9, 2012

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STONE by Gary Wilkerson

“Joseph took the body . . . and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away" (Matthew 27:59–60, NIV).

Jesus had just been crucified and was now lying in a tomb. As a massive stone was rolled to seal the doorway, everyone had a sad sense of finality. Scripture says a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, was sitting opposite the tomb. Those women must have been heartbroken. I can almost hear the despair in their voices: "What will happen now that Jesus is gone? How do we go on?"

Today we know the end of the story. We know that when Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished," He had conquered sin. We know that with His resurrection He had conquered death. And we know that He did it all for us.

But what if we did not know the end of the story, as those women at the tomb? What were the eleven disciples thinking as they hid at a distance behind locked doors (see John 20:19)?

I do not think we can fathom what Jesus' death meant to His passionate followers. They had believed their Master was the hope of the world, the salvation of Israel, the light to the Gentiles. He was the great healer, raising the dead and setting captives free, preaching the good news to the poor. He was the embodiment of the new kingdom He preached about. As they thought back to His words, "It is finished," they must have thought He meant, "It's over. This is the end of the story."

All too often, as Christians endure the trials of life, this is the message they believe. They see no hope beyond their difficult situation. All they can see is a stone permanently rolled into place separating them from hope. Yet they are seeing things from this side of the stone. If only they knew what God is doing for them on the other side of the stone.

Maybe life has presented you with a hard, impassable situation. As you read this do you wonder, “Is God at work in my circumstance? Is Jesus really triumphant — in me? Can He really save me from this situation? I just don’t see a way forward.”

I tell you, God is on the move in your life at this very moment. The stone is being rolled away. Light is breaking forth and your Hope stands there in the doorway: Jesus! He has triumphed over all the powers of darkness and His victory is yours by faith.

Friday, April 6, 2012

THE FLOW OF OBEDIENCE

It is important that we understand the motive out of which our obedience springs, because if the spring is not pure, everything that flows out of it will be polluted.

The sad truth is that many Christians in these last days obey God only because they are afraid of going to hell. They fear their Father's wrath and their obedience to Him is "legal" only. They have no genuine desire to please Him.

Jesus did everything out of love and a desire to bring pleasure to His heavenly Father: “Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:28-29, NIV).

This was the rock, the foundation upon which Jesus built His life of obedience. It was the spring, the motive, out of which the flow of His obedience came. It is to be our rock, as well.

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).

Jesus shut Himself up in prayer on the mountaintops, in quiet places, often all night long in fellowship with His Father. His one great prayer was, "Father, what do You want? What will bring You pleasure? What can I do to fulfill the desire of Your heart?"
That is the attitude of a person who has the Spirit of Christ and that should be our attitude—that we might be one who builds on the rock. The foundational motive of all our obedience must be: "I do all things because I want to please my Lord; I want to bring Him great pleasure!”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THE PARABLE OF PREPAREDNESS

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matthew 7:24-27).

Jesus is saying that only things established on a rock foundation will hold up in the coming storm. One man built his house upon a rock ". . . and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock" (verse 25).

The builders of these houses represent two classes of Christians in these last days—the wise and the foolish. They built two different kinds of houses which people were living in when the storm hit.

On one hand, it is encouraging to know there will be a body of believers who will not fall. They will be able to withstand every demonic onslaught that comes out of hell when the storms rage. Jesus wants us to know from this parable that a person who builds his house upon a rock will survive everything that is coming.

Yet, sadly, there will be another group of Christians—people of whom Jesus says, "Their fall will be great" (see verse 27). This means a total, complete, devastating collapse of everything.

At this point, you may be wondering: "What does it mean, exactly, to 'build a house'?" It is important to know that the house Jesus is talking about here is our walk with Him. We are building a foundation of getting to know Christ, of understanding His ways. We are building into our faith certain characteristics that will determine how we react under pressure.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

THE COMING STORM

When a sleeping child must be awakened, a loving parent takes him by the shoulders and gently shakes him. If the child doesn't wake up immediately, the shaking becomes a bit firmer. The parent insists, because he knows the child will suffer if he doesn't wake up on time.

That is precisely what God is doing right now—both to America and to the world. At first, He shook us very tenderly but now His shaking has become violent, because He has not succeeded in awakening us.

The Lord began to literally shake the earth with earthquakes in the late 1980s. A quake in Armenia wiped out almost that entire province. A quake in Japan measuring 6.9 nearly destroyed an entire city. Then came the horrible quake in San Francisco, with more following almost daily in that area. Quakes hit the West Coast constantly, from northern California to San Diego and down into Mexico.

Isaiah prophesies that God will one day rise up and shake the whole earth: "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty . . . and turneth it upside down. . . . All joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. . . . When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree" (Isaiah 24:1, 11, 13). God is going to shake the earth as if it were an olive tree—till every bit of fruit falls.

Ezekiel says that when God's fury arises, He will shake all that can be shaken: "All the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. . . . And I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 38:20 and 23).

The writer of Hebrews says: "Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. . . . That [only] those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:26-27).

God is going to shake everything in sight so that He is revealed as the only unshakable power!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A CLEARER VISION OF CHRIST

The book of Daniel mentions several benefits for those who have a repentant heart. Indeed, for all who acknowledge their sin, God does the miraculous. One such benefit is a new and clearer vision of Jesus. Read what happened after Daniel's repentance prayer in Daniel 9:

“Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I Daniel alone saw the vision . . ." (Daniel 10:5-7).

Who do you think Daniel saw in this vision? It was Jesus! What a wonderful benefit the Holy Spirit opened to Daniel when he confessed his sin. He was given a clear vision of Christ in all His glory!

Please understand that Daniel was not praying for this vision. All he was doing was repenting—confessing and mourning over sin. Jesus took it upon Himself to come to Daniel in this revelation—He initiated it. You see, when we repent and make all things right with God and others, we do not have to seek a revelation. Jesus will manifest Himself to us.

Daniel had friends who were also godly, because he walked only among the righteous. Yet Scripture tells us none of them saw the vision Daniel received: "The men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone" (Daniel 10: 7-8).

A truly repentant heart never has to hide from the Lord because there is no longer any fear of judgment. If you acknowledge your sins with godly sorrow and make restitution, you can look confidently into the Master's face. You do not have to quake with fear when you hear the thundering word of reproof because you will see Christ in His glory.

Monday, April 2, 2012

LOVE LETTER TO A FAILURE by Gary Wilkerson

My friend Eric had a very hard childhood. His father told him repeatedly, "You're no good and you'll never amount to anything."

As Eric grew older he turned to drugs. “I was a terrible addict,” he says. “I mixed together all kinds of things that could have killed me. I was even terrible at being an addict. My needle would break or I would be short of cash to feed my habit. I felt like a total failure."

Eric's life became a complete mess. His addiction drained him of every penny so he decided to rob a convenience store to buy more drugs—but again he failed. He pulled out a gun and shouted, "Everybody up against the wall!” But the store was so crowded that all the people couldn't fit against the wall. Confused, Eric ran away.

In despair, Eric eventually resolved to shoot himself with the shotgun he had used for the robbery. However, he dropped the gun and it misfired, wounding him in the side. As Eric drove himself to the hospital, he thought, “I'm such a miserable failure I can't even kill myself.”

After being treated for his wound, Eric walked the streets in total despair. Deep down, he was angry at God and cried out, “Are You there at all? Is there any reason for me to keep living?”

Eric heard a voice say, “I'm sending you a love letter.” Somehow Eric knew it was the voice of Jesus. As he sat on a curb with rainwater trickling along the gutter under his legs, he noticed a small booklet floating toward him. Picking it up he saw that it was a tract entitled, "There is Hope for the Drug Addicted."

The tract was published by a group called Victory Outreach. Eric found their address, went to them and gave his life to Jesus. Soon he was delivered from his addiction. He gave up every habit—including his belief that he was destined to be a failure. Jesus made Eric a new creature in every way.

This young man had thought his life was over—but it had just begun. He had been blind to the life—resurrection life—that Jesus had been planning for him all along.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to . . . give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).