Monday, December 31, 2012

EGYPT IN THEIR HEART by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

A SMALL STEP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

FORGIVING LOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THE SIN THAT MAKES GOD CRY

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A HEALING WORD FROM HEAVEN

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

A DIVIDED CHURCH by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

FOCUSED FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

STANDING BEFORE A HOLY GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

GOD DELIGHTS IN HIS SON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

TAKE ALL OF ME, JESUS by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

CONSECRATION HYMN

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

GETTING BACK THE SHOUT OF VICTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TAKING SIN LIGHTLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

THE BURDEN OF HIDDEN SIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

IS YOUR LOVE ALIVE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

WHAT HOLDS YOUR HEART?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

JESUS AND THE EPHESIAN CHURCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

BACK TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

BARNABAS, SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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