Friday, August 31, 2012

IDOLS IN THE HEART

Certain elders of Israel came to the prophet Ezekiel seeking guidance from the Lord. These men were not like many of the Israelites, who openly bowed their knees to idols. You would not find them in some idol temple, offering sacrifices to the false gods there. They were leaders of the people and they wanted to appear before everyone as godly men.

Outwardly, these elders had the appearance of men who had a heart for God and wanted to know His word for their lives. That is the manner in which they approached Ezekiel but God revealed to Ezekiel what was in their hearts. He said to the prophet, "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face" (Ezekiel 14:3). The Lord was saying, "These men have come to you saying they want to hear a word from Me — that they want to walk in obedience to my commands. But they are lying! They have secret sins in their life."

These elders all had hidden, secret idolatry. Their hearts were in bondage to sins they indulged in behind closed doors. No one could tell this by their appearance. On the contrary, they came across not as pagans or idol worshipers, but as respected men of God going about their ministries.

A stumbling block of iniquity is any evil thing that stands between you and God — any enticement that robs you of a steadfast walk with Him. It is any besetting sin that causes you to waver in your faith; any desire that brings shame to your heart and to the name of Christ; any sin you cling to as you come to the Lord seeking guidance. You can come to God's house, raise your hands, worship Him loudly, and still have a stumbling block of iniquity in your heart.

Only by turning away from your idol in wholehearted repentance can you hear the true word of the Lord and receive clear, divine guidance. When you repent, the first thing that returns to you is your discernment, and the farther behind you leave your sin, the clearer you will see and hear God’s voice. He will become distinct, sure, speaking with the authority of truth.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

THE KIND OF OUTPOURING I WOULD LIKE TO SEE

Our church spends much time in prayer. We recently concluded a twenty-four-hour-a-day, thirty-day prayer chain. Exactly what were we praying about? What were we looking for?

When I grew up in the church, all my father and grandfather ever talked about was a coming great revival. Evangelists talked about it at camp meetings: "There's a revival coming. God is going to sweep multitudes into the kingdom!"

Yet, at the heart of all this talk of revival was one basic thought: "We won't have to go out into the streets. We can just stay here and pray and the Holy Ghost will draw people in!"

The definition of revival is, "The awakening or resurrection of that which threatens to become a corpse." It means "to wake up the dead church — to revive it, resuscitate it — so that the ungodly will be inclined to enter its doors."

Beloved, the church is not supposed to have to be resurrected from the dead. We should not have to be praying for some great revival. While we have been praying for revival, horrible things have happened in our country.

Our cities are about to burst into flames. The nation is satiated with sex, pleasure, the idolatry of sports. One of every two marriages ends in divorce. We have lost an entire generation of young people to cynicism, hardness, and disillusionment.
The sobbing sounds of hungry, battered children now rise as thunder from our cities. Homosexuals demand marriage rights. Desperate fathers and mothers roam the streets by the hundreds, looking for work.

What should the church be doing about these things? The Bible says that if we are meeting human need — if we are obeying the commandment to be compassionate to the world, and giving ourselves to the needs of others — then we will be a well-watered garden. "If you deal your bread to the hungry . . . if you cover the naked . . . if you do not hide your face from the poor . . . if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the suffering soul . . . then the Lord shall guide you continually, satisfying your soul" (see Isaiah 58:5-12). "Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (verse 11).

God wants every one of us to be a part of His compassionate heart to the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

FOCUS ON HELPING OTHERS

We should not have to travel past our own neighborhood to have the greatest kind of revival imaginable. God says that if we will deal our bread to the hungry, bring the poor into our house, cover the naked, and give of our own soul to the starving and suffering, He will guide us and provide for us continually. We will be like a well-watered garden — a spring whose waters never fail (see Isaiah 58:10-11).

God is telling us, "Focus on helping others! Reach out to the poor and hurting, and I will answer you, guide you, and satisfy you. You will be a spring of life to others and your blessings will never fail."

If you are not comfortable with this Old Testament teaching, listen to what Jesus said in the New Testament:

"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matthew 25:42-46).

"Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:17).

At this point you may be saying, "I'd like to be compassionate, to help the needy. How can I make a change?"

I can only tell you that God will answer this prayer: "Lord, I see all the human need around me. I know that the only Jesus my city may ever see is the one they will see through me and my church. God, You are going to have to direct me. I'm ready with my wallet, my house, my time, so show me where to go, Lord." Rest assured that God will bring those needs to your doorstep.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

JESUS AND COMPASSION

During His time on earth, Jesus was the embodiment of God’s compassion. Scripture frequently tells us that Christ was “moved with compassion” by the suffering of the people (see Mark 6:34, 8:2). If that was the case in the first century, what grief must be in our Lord’s heart now.

I believe it is all God can do to restrain Himself from moving in before the end of time and putting an end to it all. I will never believe He is just some benign spirit who sits in heaven, unmoved by the horrible spirits loose in this world. No — He is a compassionate Father who agonizes over His suffering children.

The Bible tells us: “His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). “Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

We read of an incredible scene: "Great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them" (Matthew 15:30).

Can you imagine this scene? All around Jesus, hundreds of afflicted people were sitting and lying on the ground — little children too sick to sit up, people crying aloud for help, groaning in pain, fevered, demon-possessed, diseased, despairing.

Jesus did not turn them away. He performed miracles of healing and deliverance. The dumb spoke, the crippled leaped, the blind saw, the sick and diseased suddenly were made whole. And with every healing, the people pressed in even closer. I imagine the people picking up their sick children and pushing forward — as the disciples struggled to keep order.

These people had been out in the wilderness for three days without food and they were fainting from hunger. That's when Jesus said, "I have compassion on the multitude . . . and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way" (Matthew 15:32).

God wants every one of us to be a part of His compassionate heart to the world. If you are willing to do that, He will send the needs to your doorstep. Present yourself to the Lord to be used and He will open doors to you. Then you will truly know His heart of compassion.

Monday, August 27, 2012

OVERCOMING YOUR FEAR OF FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

People experience a broad spectrum of fears. Psychologists say that almost everyone has a fear of death; others fear being alone, while many are afraid of being in crowds. Public speaking is another common source of fear.

Some of us miss out on the greatest gifts in life because of fear. God wants to birth certain things in your heart and you miss out on them because you are afraid to risk the faith necessary to get involved in what God has.

A number of years ago my wife and I were living in New York City and working with Times Square Church. The Lord clearly spoke to our hearts about planting a church in London, England. It was a big risk and rather scary. We did not have many resources and knew very few people in England, but we were committed to trusting God.

A place to live in London had been made available to us but just a few weeks before we were due to leave, the plans for that home fell apart. What were we going to do?

We were scheduled to spend two weeks in South Africa leading a group on a short-term missions trip before going on to England to live. While there my wife and I stayed in the home of a South African businessman. One morning the man asked me, “Are you okay?” I responded, “I’m kinda worried about something.” Then I told him about our plan to move to London and shared that we did not have a place to live.

“I love London and, as a matter of fact, I own a house there,” the businessman shared. Then a few days later he said to me, “Here are the keys to my house. It’s yours to use whenever you need it.”

I was concerned that we were going to have to cancel our plans — but God was there! A couple from New York had to go to South Africa to find a home in London. Only God can orchestrate something like that!

I believe God sets us up to do things that seem difficult at the time but wind up being a God-story. After something like that happens, you walk around with confidence and boldness in your heart, knowing that God will provide.

Friday, August 24, 2012

MOVED WITH COMPASSION

Compassion is not just pity or sympathy. It is more than being moved to tears or stirred up emotionally. Compassion means pity and mercy accompanied by a desire to help change things. True compassion moves us to do something!

At one point, Jesus departed into the wilderness to pray. When the multitudes discovered His whereabouts, they followed Him by foot and brought Him their lame, their blind, their dying, their demon-possessed ones. The Bible tells us: "And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14).

Had Jesus been hampered by our modern thinking, He might have gathered His disciples for a committee meeting to analyze the problems and talk about the sins that had brought society to such a place. He would have pointed to the frothing demoniacs and tearfully said, "Look at what sin does to people. Isn't that tragic?"

Or He could have said, like so many sanctimonious people, "Look, I feel your pain. I've worked hard ministering to you but now I'm exhausted, and I need to talk to my Father. Later I’ll call My disciples together for a prayer meeting and we'll pray over your needs. Now, go in peace."

That is modern theology in a nutshell. Everybody is willing to pray — but few are willing to act.

Matthew 9 says of Jesus, "When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (9:36). The phrase "moved with compassion" here means "stirred to action."

So, what did Jesus do? He didn't just talk. His heart was stirred at what He saw and He had a consuming desire to change things. The feelings of pity and sympathy He felt moved Him to action.

"Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people" (verse 35). This was not some vain theology. Jesus did not just get alone with the Father and say, "Lord, send laborers into Your harvest field." No, Jesus went Himself. He got deeply, practically, intimately involved.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

HE WILL BE TO YOU A FATHER

My earthly father lovingly reproved me whenever I misbehaved. Yet, every time he spanked me, he made me hug him afterward. As much as I didn't want to hug him, I will never forget putting my head on his shoulder and spilling out my tears. He always said to me: "I love you, David. God has His hand on you, and I’m not going to let the devil have you."

Likewise, in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, we hear a loving rebuke from our heavenly Father. He warns: "Get as far away from sin and the world as you can. Run from evil!"

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

God is telling us here, "I have chosen to be your Father and I will not share my role with the devil. If you are going to mix with the world or hold on to some unclean thing in your life, then our fellowship will not work. If I am going to be your one-and-only Father, then you must forsake the world and its pleasures — lay down your sin. You cannot keep any filthy thing in your life.”

He says further, "I want to lead and guide you. I want to favor you as only I can favor My children. Therefore, I will not permit you to come to Me with hands that have been touching any unclean thing. Separate from all of that and then I will receive you as a son, a daughter. I long to be a Father to you!"

If you want to follow Jesus, don't come to Him halfway. Come all the way out of the world. Your Father says, "If you trust Me as your Father to deliver you, I will send the Holy Ghost and give you power and authority. I will give you hope while you're in the struggle and I will bring you through."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

AN ACT OF LOVE

God did not wait until I became "good enough" to be His son. And He did not wait until I had all my doctrines figured out. No, He said, "Even when you were lost in sin, I came to you to be reconciled. I loved you when you were wallowing in filth. I called you, chose you and adopted you for no other reason than that I love you."

Sometimes I wonder how God ever could have looked down on us and loved us. We are so unlovable, so mean sometimes, so unworthy. But in His mercy He says to each of us, "I want you, I choose you, because I want to be a Father to you!"

"Beloved, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (4:10).

He chose me, not because I loved Him first, but because He loved me first. He adopted me as His child only because He loved me.

All this brings me to a wonderful conclusion: I do not have to figure it all out. I do not have to understand the deep doctrines of justification, sanctification, mortification, glorification. All I have to know is that He picked me to be His son, which means that I am loved by God the Father.

It does not matter what hell tries to throw at me. Nothing can move me from this wonderful knowledge: I am loved and I can rest in that love. He who chose me and loves me will keep me and carry me — and never abandon me. He will never let go of my hand, because He is Abba Father — mine!

Beloved, I am an earthly father and you cannot name any reason in heaven or on earth why I would ever abandon or leave one of my children. I ask you: How much more is your heavenly Father going to be with you through everything you endure in this life?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GOD CHOSE TO BE A FATHER TO ME

"I have chosen who I want to be to you, how I want you to see Me. I want you to know Me as your loving heavenly Father." I did not choose Him. Rather, this is the role He chose to be to me — a Father.

Is God ruler of heaven and earth? Is He almighty? Is He omnipotent? Does He sit King of the flood? The answer to all these questions, of course, is yes. But in these last days, God wants us to have another revelation of Him: "I want to be a Father to you and I want you to be a son or daughter to Me."

Jesus walked the earth His whole lifetime knowing who the Father was, knowing His will, hearing His voice. He lived every hour under the sunlight of His love, never in confusion or doubt. Therefore, He could face anything the enemy threw at Him — any trial, any hardship — because He knew His Father was with Him. He could say, "I know I have a Father who sent Me. He chose Me and appointed Me. And He is with me always. I am never alone!"

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21).

Jesus was saying, "You say you want to know Me, and that is right and good. But now I want you to know My Father. I want you to know Him as I knew and enjoyed Him — as Father!"

The Father tells us, "I want to hover over you, to be your protector, to drive out all demonic attacks, to supply every need, to see you through all your trials. Let Me be your Father!"

Think of it: He chose you out of all the hundreds of millions of people on the face of the earth. Yet He not only chose you, but He adopted you as His child. His Spirit tells you to cry, "Abba! You are my Father. You are not just Abraham's Father, or Peter’s and Paul's, but mine.

And You have made me a joint heir, a brother, to Jesus. You are truly mine!"

Monday, August 20, 2012

THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS by Gary Wilkerson

“As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’” (Luke 3:15-16, ESV).

John the Baptist is describing what is going to happen when the gospel comes. He had more revelation insight into the gospel than any of the Old Testament prophets and predicts that when this gospel comes, it will be a gospel of the Holy Spirit with fire.

And then Jesus comes with His fire and says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news.”

That’s the gospel! Jesus says, “This gospel is Mine and I want to bring it to those who don’t have it. I want to bring it to the poor.”

“He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, ESV).

The year of the Lord’s favor — that is called Jubilee. Under the Old Testament law, every 70 years the slaves were set free and all debts were erased. It was a year of forgiveness, a year of Jubilee. People longed for this year to come and now Jesus is saying that the gospel has come and is proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

Do you know what the gospel is? It is Jubilee!

Do you know what the gospel is? It is setting the captives free!

Do you know what the gospel is? It is proclaiming that this is the year of the Lord’s favor. It is proclaiming the Good News that Christ has come. Messiah is here and the world has been turned upside down.

That is what the gospel is about!

Friday, August 17, 2012

THE PURPOSE OF INTIMACY WITH JESUS

The purpose of intimacy with Jesus is to have a revelation of the Father. If your eyes are not opened to the Father, you have not entered into the fullness of intimacy with Christ.

Jesus told the disciples, "You need a revelation of who your Father is. You must be able to teach others, who are like sheep without a shepherd right now. They think nobody cares, that they're illegitimate children. So you must do works as I did, speak as I spoke. They need to know they have a loving Father in heaven" (see John 14:6-9).

Beloved, we also need that revelation. We must to be able to say to the world, "Watch my life. Listen to what I say. See the works I do. It's all about my heavenly Father."

I imagine Jesus saying the following to them: "So, you want Me to show you the Father? Just think back to the wedding of Cana, when I turned the water into wine. That was was an expression of My Father. He was showing His concern for even the smallest, insignificant needs of His children. He was showing He cares about family, about marriage, about food for His children. That was the Father at work! I’ve never done anything on My own, but only what He has told Me to do” (see John 14:10-11).

He goes on, "Do you remember the feeding of the four thousand, and later the five thousand? Those people had been without food for almost three days. You saw how hungry they were and you asked, 'How will we feed them?' So I broke the loaves and fishes and divided them up. You saw how the people grabbed at the abundance of food. You remember all the baskets of leftovers.”

Why does Jesus say the Holy Spirit will bring all things to our memory? It is so we can have a revelation of the Father. So we can replay in our minds every miracle He has done in our lives — every deliverance, every wonderful work. Jesus is saying through it all, "Everything I have done for you is an expression of the heavenly Father — who He is and what He wants to be to you!"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?

It must have shocked Jesus to hear Thomas say, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (John 14:5). Thomas was really saying, "Jesus, You speak so intimately about going to Your Father, but we don't know Him as You do. How can we know the way to the Father?"

This was a confession. Thomas was admitting, "Lord, we know You. We've been intimate with You for the past three years, but we have no revelation of who the Father is — of His love, His care, His tenderness. Please, before You go, show us the Father." Yet, that is just what Jesus had been doing for the past three years. His disciples had missed the revelation.

If we fully understand that we have a loving, caring heavenly Father, why would we ever be downcast when the enemy comes against us? Why would we despair over a financial burden that seems overwhelming? Why would we wonder why we cannot seem to get victory over a besetting sin?

Listen carefully to Jesus' answer to Thomas. It has everything to do with us: "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also" (John 14: 7).

Then Philip speaks up: "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us" (verse 8). Jesus could not believe what He was hearing. You can almost hear the incredulity in His voice as He answers Philip: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (verse 9).

In other words: "Thomas, Philip, my precious disciples, how can you ask this? You say you know Me, that we are intimate. Yet how could you miss the revelation I have spent the past three years giving you? Don't you yet see that all the mighty works I did were the Father in Me revealing who He is, what He is like, what He wants to be to you? All I taught you was from His heart, not Mine."

Jesus' whole life was an illustrated sermon. Day by day, with every miracle He performed and every parable He taught, He was expressing who the Father is. And He sent His Holy Spirit so His followers could do even greater works and keep revealing the Father's love to new generations.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AN ILLUSTRATED SERMON

Everything Jesus did and said was meant to say, "This is my Father at work. This is what He is like." Everything from turning the water into wine to the raising of the dead was an illustrated sermon meant to reveal the heavenly Father.

"I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (John 8:28-29).

In other words: "I have spoken freely all through this land. When I walked the streets of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Judea, I told you time after time that everything I do is of the Father. If only you had opened your eyes and ears and accepted My word, I would have shown Him to you."

The religious leaders claimed, "Abraham was our father." And when Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), they became so indignant that they called Him a devil and picked up stones to kill Him.

Jesus answered them: "You say I am a blasphemer, yet would you stone the very one whom the Father Himself has chosen to send into this world? I don't seek My own glory. I honor My Father. I know Him and I keep His sayings, because He and I are one.

"If you won't take My word for it, just look at the works I am doing. At least believe that these things are an expression of the Father. I came here to tell you — and to show you — that Abraham is not your father alone. You have a heavenly Father" (see John 10: 31-38).

This was important to Jesus. He knew that His time on earth was short and He knew that if the people did not have a revelation of the heavenly Father — His love, His mercy, His grace — they would be left with a dead religion, dead forefathers, nothing alive to lay hold of. They would have no sense of direction, no hope, no vision.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

JESUS CAME TO REVEAL TO US THE HEAVENLY FATHER

Jesus came to earth as a Man to redeem humankind from sin and from every kind of bondage and imprisonment. That fact has been established in the minds and hearts of most Christians. But Christ also came to earth to reveal to us the heavenly Father.

Jesus told His disciples, "The Father hath sent me" (John 5:36). He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing . . . I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (verse 30). And finally He stated, "I go unto my Father" (14:12).

Listen carefully to what Jesus is saying: "I came from the Father and while I am here, I do only His will. Soon I will go back to my Father." Jesus said His entire life was about the heavenly Father: His coming to earth, His purpose while here, and His return. It was all about revealing the Father.

"The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do . . . the Father . . . sheweth him all things that himself doeth" (John 5:19-20).

Jesus said He had no will of His own, that He did nothing on earth except the will of His Father. Indeed, Christ told the Pharisees, "Watch My life, My ministry, all the miracles and good works I do, and you will see the heavenly Father. Everything I do is a reflection of who He is and it is all meant to reveal Him to you."

"All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matthew 11:27).

Jesus is saying here, "It is impossible for you to know who the Father is unless I reveal Him to you. You cannot get that revelation on your own just by reading the Bible or going to church. I must reveal Him to you."

"No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

Monday, August 13, 2012

FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED by Gary Wilkerson

As God’s children we are to be about our Father’s business — the mission of God.

Sometimes people misunderstand what we are doing. Sometimes even people in our own church or fellowship can misunderstand us and say “You are far too outward focused and you are not meeting my needs.”

It is true that if we are so outward focused that we are not meeting the needs of those around us, then we are doing something wrong. We are here as the church in just the same way that Jesus was here on earth. We are here to meet people’s needs. If you are hurting, broken, bound, needing to be set free or seeking the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the church is here to minister to you at the point of your needs.

It is important to understand that as your needs are met, the expectation is “as freely as you have received, freely give.” When sending His disciples out in ministry, Jesus said to them, “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8, KJV).

Do you want more from God? Well, when you have received portion one, give that portion away. Come back for portion two and give that portion away — and then come back for portion three and follow the same process.

The principle of the mission of God is, “The more you give, the more you receive.” The more you are blessed, the more you have to give. The more you give, the more God continues to pour into you so that you can give even more.

As God’s people, we are called to reflect the glory, the power and the love of God. We are to receive it from Him and give it out to others. As freely as we have received, we are to give.

Friday, August 10, 2012

CRISIS AT THE CROSS

How do we get Jesus' victory and power in our own lives? How do we appropriate His resurrection and newness of life?

First, let me ask you: How do you know you are saved? It is by faith, of course. The knowledge of our salvation comes by our faith alone in God's Word.

Likewise, we are to take up the cross, embrace it and receive victory by faith in the overcoming power of Jesus' shed blood. We must admit, "God, I have no power. I do not have the ability to deliver myself or crucify myself or have any power over sin. I give up all my own efforts to die to sin."

By faith, we are "in Christ" — and we are to enjoy the benefits of all He has accomplished. You see, from the very moment we were born again, we have been in Christ — and that means we entered into everything that happened to Christ. This includes His victories as well as His crucifixion. If we agree with God's Word that our sins are exceedingly wicked, we must also agree with the good things the cross offers. They are ours — because Jesus accomplished them all for us.

God's Word says that once we embrace the cross, we are crucified with Christ and resurrected with Him into newness of life. We are set free! We can yield our bodies to the service of the Lord and offer our members as instruments of righteousness.

At times you may stumble because of unbelief, but you can hold on to the truth that ultimately victory is yours, because you cry, "Lord, I'm going to trust You until victory comes."

I thank God for the cross of Christ and I thank God for its crisis. I know by experience that the greatest "grace preaching" in the world is the preaching of the cross. Have you had your crisis of the cross? What about that one stronghold you long to be delivered from?

There is deliverance for you today but it won't come until you kneel before Jesus and have your crisis at His cross. There you must agree with His word: "I can no longer continue in my sin, not for another hour. God, I bring it to You now!"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

TAKE MY HAND AND FOLLOW ME

When I was a young minister in Pennsylvania, I read many books about the lives of godly men who had led very simple lifestyles. That sounded like the answer to my desire to be used of God. At that time I knew a minister who spoke with great authority and he was a real hero to me. He led a life of total simplicity, living in a little room and owning only one suit of clothes.

That's what I thought denying one’s self meant — a Spartan lifestyle. I thought, "Lord, that's what I want. I could be a powerhouse for you if I would only empty out my closets and give away all but a change or two of clothes. I could sell my car and get a cheap one. I could buy an old, unattractive house. I could give up steak and eat hamburger. I could set a great example by having no desire for any material thing on earth." Actually, I was saying, "If I could just suffer enough — if I could just get hold of my flesh and be an ascetic — I could serve the Lord with true power."

Soon afterward my hero began teaching false doctrine and many lives were destroyed because of it. That's when the Lord told me, "That's not what victory is all about, David. The victory isn't yours — it's Mine."

Beloved, it is at this very point that Jesus comes to us and says, "Take My hand and follow Me — into My death, My burial, My resurrection. Look at the cross. Embrace it and cling to My victory. That is where your crucifixion to the flesh has taken place.”

Yes, dying in Christ is an act of faith. We have to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul says he wants to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, he is talking about Christ's resurrection and sufferings — not his own or anyone else's.

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

THE INVITATION OF THE CROSS

God looked down upon a sin-sick world of people bound in prison-houses of fear and despair and He sent His own Son. Jesus came to earth, taking on the frailty of human flesh, and told all who would listen: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

The invitation of the cross is a call to every soul that is sick of sin. Jesus calls out to all who are burdened with binding chains, powerful habits, besetting sins. “Come to Me now with all your heavy burdens. There is no other way but through My cross!" Jesus died on the cross not only to forgive sin, but to break its wearying power over us. You see, sin wearies the flesh. It saps away all that is good and kind and precious. It hardens the heart, destroying peace and causing guilt, sorrow and shame. It consumes the mind's thoughts, weakening and darkening the soul. Sin brings on fear and, worst of all, it shuts off all communion with God.

If I were to preach about the demands of the cross in many churches today, with its death to all lusts and worldly pleasures, the crowds would flee, just as they did when Jesus told them of the cost of following Him.

Such churches never even mention the cross. Instead, they pour their energies into clever meetings full of showmanship, dramatic illustrations, and sermons on how to cope with life's problems.

I believe God must wink at many of these frail attempts to attract souls with modern enticements. He seems to have much patience with such well-intentioned, fleshly efforts to promote the gospel. But God help the ministers of these churches if they refuse to warn their people to forsake their sins.

Jeremiah lamented, "They strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness . . .” (Jeremiah 23:14).

"But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings" (verse 22). I say to ministers, "Bring back the cross — or the people's blood will be upon your hands."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS

The sin of idolatry brought down God's awful wrath on His own people. It angered Him more than any other sin in the Old Testament, so much that He declared: "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger” (Jeremiah 7:18).

This is God's declaration against idolatry in the Old Testament and He hates idolatry just as much today. It brings down His wrath on any generation, including this modern one.

A new idolatry is sweeping across our world right now. No, we don't see people kneeling down before carved images anymore; instead, this modern idolatry seduces multitudes by its subtlety and cleverness. Yet it angers God more than any Old Testament idolatry.

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6-8).

This “other gospel” that Paul mentions is a message of salvation without the cross. The great idolatry of our day is the casting aside of the message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

The cross — including its demands and hopes — is the very heart of the gospel. Any worship, any fellowship, anything calling itself church is blatant idolatry if the cross is not at its center. Such worship is of another spirit entirely and God will have nothing to do with it. Without the cross, all that is left is chaff — a perverted gospel, something from the pit of hell. It is more insulting to the Lord than the idolatry of Israel.

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). This "lifting up from the earth" Jesus mentions is His crucifixion. He was lifted up before the whole world on the cross, an image of His great sacrifice for our sins.

Monday, August 6, 2012

THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH by Gary Wilkerson

You may ask, “What is the mission of the church?” I would suggest that in order to answer that question we must look at the mission of Jesus Christ. When we understand His mission on earth, we will know the mission of the church. When we know what Jesus was up to, we will know what we, the church, are supposed to be up to.

Jesus’ mission was the same as the mission of His Father. He came, He spoke, He preached. He opened up His mouth and said, “I want the Father’s will to be done on earth the way it is in heaven” (see Matthew 6:9-13 and John 6:38). “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:28-29, ESV). Jesus is saying, “I don’t do anything unless I hear or see the Father doing it. The Father works through Me.”

All glory, all power, all authority came to Jesus from the Father but then it went out from Him to the world. Oftentimes, in the church, our greatest need is to let what we receive from Him get out to the world beyond us. God gives it to us, we receive it, but then we stop. God wants to continue to pour out more of His blessing on the church, and He will do so as long as we continue to give it away. We receive and then we give and then we receive more and we give more and then we receive again.

Sometimes the blessing of God gets stopped up because we just want to receive and not give. Whenever the church does not to give, it begins to get twisted and it stops looking like Jesus.

Jesus came to earth with the mission of God in His heart. Jesus preaches the Good News to the poor, He sets captives free, He delivers those that are bound and He heals the sick. He proclaims the year of liberty to those who are in bondage — and this is the mission of the church!

Friday, August 3, 2012

THE MEANING OF SELF-DENIAL AND TRUE REPENTANCE

Repentance means more than saying, "Lord, I am wrong." It also means saying, "Lord, You are right!"

Repentance means facing the truth about your sin — the truth that it must end now. It is a crisis moment of truth, a place of recognition where you admit, "I cannot continue in my sin and have the Holy Ghost living in me. If I do, I will lose everything. Lord, You're right about sin bringing death upon me. I see that if I continue in it, it's going to destroy me and my family. God, I make no more excuses."

Simply put, repentance is a confrontation with your sin. The battle is fought before you get to the cross — it takes place as the Holy Spirit deals with you.

The same is true of self-denial. In short, self-denial is a confrontation that says, "Sin ends now — at this point!" Contrary to what many "comfort preachers" say, self-denial is not some heartache you have to bear, or some infirmity of your flesh. When Paul said, "I die daily," he meant simply, "I have to deny that I can continue in sin and still have Christ's favor. I don't have a special dispensation from God to hold on to a pet sin just because I do good works. No! I agree with the Word of God and I deny all my rights to continue in sin."

The glorious truth of the gospel is that if we die with Jesus, we also come into the glory of His resurrection and into newness of life. His cross is our cross, His death is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection, through our identification and union with Him. That is the real cross we bear.

Yet this is the cross that many so-called ministers of the gospel have done away with. The real cross is not about lovely words describing our Savior's suffering and bleeding on Calvary. No, the true meaning of the cross is that Jesus bled and died to bring our sin-sick souls into glorious liberty and freedom — to break every chain of sin that binds us.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

COMFORTED OF GOD

Every time you show mercy, every time you are kind and gracious to another believer, you are giving comfort.

A man from our church stopped me after a recent service and said, "Brother Wilkerson, let me tell you why I attend this church. My ninety-year-old mother just recently passed away. But for the past four years she was bedfast and I took care of her.

"At the church I used to attend, every Sunday I had to leave service early to go and tend to her. After a while, the pastor got tired of it and before the whole congregation he told me, 'If you're going to go, go now, before I start to preach.'

"Here at Times Square Church, no one has ever said a word to me about leaving early. That may seem like a small thing to you, but to me it's a very big thing. I have not had to explain to anyone here that I was going to leave early to get home home and take care of my mother."

Mercy must be shown in the ordinary, day-to-day things. Sometimes mercy can be just a smile that conveys understanding or an arm around someone's shoulder. It can be as simple as a sympathetic countenance or a word to someone who's hurting.

You can never offer mercy if you're constantly thinking of yourself: "God must be mad at me. I'm going to take a fall — I just know it." How can you offer comfort to others when you have not yet learned to draw comfort in God's mercy to you? "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. . . . whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation" (2 Corinthians 1:4, 6).

Merciful Christians are the Lord's comforters. They can show and speak mercy and lovingkindness because they have experienced the incredible comfort of God's mercy to them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

LIVING IN THE MERCY OF GOD

Beloved, this message is not meant to rail on you or lecture you. Rather, I believe I have a word of hope for you. Let me explain why you may find it so hard to be the kind, gracious, merciful Christian you want to be.

We find the key in Psalm 119. The psalmist makes a powerful statement here: "Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant" (Psalm 119:76). The meaning here is, "Lord, Your Word tells me I am to be comforted by the knowledge that You are merciful and full of compassion to me. Let me draw comfort from that great truth."

If you were to look up the words "merciful" and "mercy" in a concordance, you would find hundreds of references. God's Word overwhelms us with numerous promises of His marvelous grace, lovingkindness and compassion. He wants to impress upon us that He is merciful, longsuffering and slow to anger about our failures, weaknesses and temptations.

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).

All God's promises of mercy are given to comfort us in our trials. When we fail God, we think He is mad at us, ready to judge us. But, instead, He wants us to know, "I will see you through. Simply repent. I am not mad at you. I am merciful, full of grace and love for you. Draw comfort from this." It is comforting to know that His mercy will never be withdrawn from us. How comforting to know that when we sin or fail, His love toward us grows even stronger.

Unless we draw comfort from the mercy God shows to us, we are in no position to give mercy that offers comfort to others. Only when we experience the absolute mercifulness of God will there be an overflow of mercy to everyone around us. We become merciful people because we ourselves are living in the mercy of God!