Friday, November 30, 2012

BEING IN CHRIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

KNOWING THE JOYFUL SOUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CHRIST ASCENDED TO MAKE INTERCESSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A ROD OF IRON

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

A DIFFERENT SPIRIT by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

JESUS IS OUR JUBILEE!

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn . . . to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE JOYFUL SOUND OF FREEDOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FESTIVAL OF JUBILEE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

GOD IS AT WORK ON YOUR BEHALF by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

God is already planning for your victory!

Friday, November 16, 2012

DELIVERANCE FROM SODOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

MOVE ON TO FULLNESS IN GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

STOP TRYING TO MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR SIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WE MUST TAKE GOD AT HIS WORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

FREE FROM BONDAGE by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 9, 2012

IS THE OLD TESTAMENT STILL RELEVANT?

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

THEY NEVER OBEYED

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

THIS IS A TEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

HARDNESS OF HEART

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

KNOW THAT GOD IS GOOD! by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

REVIVING THE HEART

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

THE IMPOSSIBLE MISSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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