Thursday, February 28, 2013

JUSTIFYING FAITH

Justification and righteousness come by faith alone. I am saved by faith, made righteous by faith and kept by faith in Christ's blood. That is the very foundation of the gospel. But not all faith is justifying faith. The Bible clearly speaks of two kinds of faith: one that justifies and another that is of no value—a faith that even the devils exercise.

The book of Acts records that Simon the magician "believed" but his faith was not the justifying kind. "Simon himself believed also: and . . . he was baptized" (Acts 8:13). Simon offered the apostle Peter money to acquire the power of the Holy Ghost but Peter answered, "I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (verse 23). He was saying, "Your heart is still bound by sin."

Peter told Simon that without repentance both he and his money would perish. Indeed, Simon believed but he was not made the righteousness of God in Christ. His faith was not justifying faith, the kind that purifies the heart and brings the righteousness of Christ.

Scripture says many people "believed [in Jesus] . . . when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them... for he knew what was in man" (John 2:23-25). These people had a belief in Christ but it was not the faith of those who receive "power to become the sons of God" (1:12).

Justifying faith is more than a faith of assent; it does more than just acknowledge God. James argued: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2.19). James was talking about a dead, temporary faith, not an eternal one. And Jesus warned about this kind of faith, saying that some believe for a while “[but] have no root . . . and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).

But there is a justifying faith, one that "purifies the heart" (see Acts 15.9) and "believeth unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10).

In order for faith to be justifying, there must be an accompanying desire to obey and be faithful to God. This kind of faith contains a vital force, a principle of everlasting obedience and love for God.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DON’T BE A MULE

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have not understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee" (Psalm 32:8-9).

In these two brief verses God gives us a great lesson concerning guidance. We can build a great faith upon the foundation of knowing that He is willing to lead and guide us in everything.

Yet the Word of God says a person may be a believer who enjoys all the spiritual benefits of being a child of God and yet remain a stubborn mule when it comes to submitting to His ways of guiding and leading. God said of Israel, "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways" (Psalm 95:10).

Think of what God was saying: "After forty long years of receiving My tender guidance and miraculous deliverances, they still don’t have the slightest idea of the way I work. They never even try to understand My principles of guidance. To them, My leadings are just a series of unrelated blessings, nothing more than open doors and escapes from crises."

Personally, I am tired of being a mule-headed Christian with no understanding of the principles of God’s leading. I do not want God to say of me, "Yes, David was forgiven. He prayed and I delivered him from trouble, time after time. Indeed, I led him in wonderful ways and My hand was upon him. But in his heart he never had a settled knowledge of My ways."

Beloved, don’t make the Lord be stern with you in His leadings. Don’t be as the mule, without understanding. God does not want to bark directions at His children or have to force us to do His bidding. God wants a people who know Him well enough to move at His slightest urging.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A SENSE OF UNWORTHINESS

Suddenly, we are plagued by a sense of unworthiness. We turn inward, thinking, "I did it again! I haven't changed at all. I'll never be Christlike. I still react like a babe, not a mature Christian. Why haven't I changed?"

Beloved, the devil wants you to keep worrying over your shortcomings and lack of growth, thinking the race is impossible, so that you will become discouraged and drop out.

It is certain that we will stumble at times because the race is going to continue until our Lord returns. But we must always get on our feet and continue moving on.

God's Word speaks of overcoming: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world" (1 John 5:4). "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7).

To overcome is to "conquer and get the best of all temptations and obstacles." What are our obstacles? They are every new reaction in the flesh, every failure to be Christlike, every uprising of temper, bitterness or agitation.

David wrote, "My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). This man was exposed before the whole world as an adulterer and a murderer. He also wrote, "For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. . . . I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long" (Psalm 38:4-6).

What if David had worried and fretted over his failures? He repented wholeheartedly and therefore he could say, "Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness" (Psalm 30:11).

The fastest way to get rid of "a sense of unworthiness" is to trust in Christ's forgiveness. And He is ready to forgive at all times: "For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee" (Psalm 86:5).

Monday, February 25, 2013

LOOKING UNTO JESUS by Gary Wilkerson

I have been burdened for those of you presently going through trials, struggles or turmoil of soul. I want you to know that God sees you exactly where you are and He has not forgotten you; in fact, He has been walking beside you through your situation. He wants you to be aware of His great love for you and then He wants this knowledge to dispel any fear gripping your heart.

We do not need to be afraid to face the valleys in our lives, for God is with us. In the midst of these situations, He asks us to do only one thing: look to Him. He is our rock, our strong tower and our salvation. It is only in Him that we can hope—all other things will fail, but He is sure for all eternity.

Recently at a prison in Louisiana, I was privileged to minister alongside Pastor Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle. While those prisoners are not in an ideal situation, we heard testimony after testimony of lives that have been redeemed. Despite their outward bonds, they are truly living in the knowledge and hope of Christ’s love. Some are even asking to transfer to other prisons where they can share the Gospel. What an encouraging testimony of victorious, faith-filled living!

So, while you face your trial, know that Jesus is your answer. We will have difficulties in this life, but our great hope is in the completed work of Christ on the cross. He has taken all sin, sickness and sorrow upon Himself. He bears it all for us so that we may live a life of victory and hope. This ultimate act of love was made for you in your situation; the Lord wants to show His love and power in your life.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Friday, February 22, 2013

HAVING CHARITY

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. . . . Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:19-23).

Peter described how Jesus handled every situation in life. When people hurt and reviled Him, He did not fight back or threaten them. When they wanted to argue with Him, He did not get involved. Instead, He simply walked away.

"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps" (verse 21). Peter makes it clear: Jesus is to be our example of behavior.

The apostle Paul adds, "If you don't have charity—that is, the love of Christ—you are nothing." According to 1 Corinthians 13, charity means showing kindness to everyone, with no exceptions . . . having no jealousy whatsoever . . . not boasting or promoting oneself . . . seeking others' interests above our own . . . not being easily provoked . . . not thinking evil of anyone . . . not rejoicing when someone falls, even an enemy.

Both Peter and Paul stated very clearly in these passages: "Our command to you is that there be no fighting back, no revenge, no threatening among you. Instead, commit all your agitations, fears and bitterness to Christ."

Our hearts may answer, "Lord, that's what I want." We may get a few victories under our belt and start to feel confident. Then, out of nowhere, someone says or does something that plunges an ugly, unexpected, acid arrow into us—and we have a quick rush of angry thoughts. Before we know it, we are shooting poisoned arrows back at the one who crossed us.

We realize we failed even though we had tried hard—praying, seeking God, clinging to truth, and enjoying many successes. When the enemy came in like a flood, we completely failed in our effort to be like Jesus.

"Let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). You simply must have patience with yourself and with your growth. After all, the race is going to continue until Jesus returns. Yes, you will stumble, trip and get winded, but if you fail, you will get up and move on.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

ARE YOU MAD AT GOD?

I believe there is nothing more dangerous to a Christian than to carry around resentment against God. I am shocked by the growing number of believers who hold some kind of grudge against Him. Why? They are convinced He does not care because He hasn't answered a particular prayer or acted on their behalf.

Jonah had a missionary call from God and he went to Nineveh to preach the message of judgment he had received. After delivering the message, Jonah sat on a hillside, waiting for God to begin the judgment. But forty days passed and nothing had happened. Why? Because Nineveh had repented and God had changed His mind about destroying them!

Most rage against God begins with a disappointment. God may call us, burden us and send us. Then, when things do not go as we had planned, we may feel misled or betrayed. God understands our cries of pain and confusion. After all, our cry is a human one. And it is no different from Jesus' cry on the cross: "Father, why have You forsaken Me?"

If we continue nursing a peeved spirit, it will grow into rage. And God will ask us the same question He asked Jonah: "Doest thou well to be angry?" (Jonah 4:9). In other words, "Do you think you have a right to be so angry?"

Jonah answered, "I do well to be angry, even unto death" (same verse). This prophet was so full of rage at God, that he said, "I don't care whether I live or die. My ministry is a failure. I have every right to be angry with Him."

God's Word says there is hope. "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:16). In other words, "Stop complaining. I'm going to reward your faithfulness."

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Beloved, your cries and prayers have not been in vain. All your pain and tears have been for a purpose. God is telling you, "You think it's all over. You see only your failure and ruin, with no results. So you say, ‘This is the end.’ But I say it is the beginning. I see the reward that I am about to pour out on you. I have good things in mind for you—wonderful things. So, stop your crying!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TOTAL TRUST IN CHRIST



When I speak of total trust in Christ, I mean not only trust in His saving power, but trust in His keeping power. We must trust His Spirit to make our life conform to His—that is, to keep us in Christ.

At one time you were alienated, cut off from God by wicked works. So, what good work did you do to make things right with Him? None! No one has ever been able to make himself holy. Rather, we are brought into Christ's holiness by faith alone, by accepting what God's Word says: "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

Yes, He wants your practical, daily walk to measure up to your faith walk. But the fact is, we have to believe Him even for that. We must trust in His promise to give us the Holy Spirit and He will conform us to Christ's likeness in our daily walk.

"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith" (Colossians 1:21-23).

"If you continue in the faith." Please note that Jesus is saying, "Just continue trusting in Me, living by faith, and I will present you as clean and faultless, holy before the Father." That is the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost.

No one Christian is holier than another, because there are no degrees of holiness—only degrees of maturity in Christ. You can be a baby Christian and still be absolutely holy in Jesus. We are all measured by one standard—the holiness of Christ. If we are in Christ, His holiness is ours in equal measure.

You must never again look at another Christian leader or layperson and say, "Oh, I wish I were as holy as he is." You may not have that person's prayer life; you may make more mistakes than he does; but he is no more accepted by the Father than you are. You are to compare yourself to no one—because no one is more loved in the eyes of the Father than you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

THE ONLY WAY TO BECOME HOLY

It is impossible for any of us to achieve holiness in God's sight by our own strength or willpower. We must come to Him saying, "Lord, I have nothing to give You. You have to do it all."

Yet we remain convinced, "If I could just get victory over this one last, remaining sin, I'd be able to live holy." So we take in hand the sword of willpower, promises, and good intentions and set out to kill the enemy in our hearts. But we can never be holy while standing on the ground of self-righteousness.

You and I face the same burning bush Moses did. And that bush is a type of God's fiery zeal against all flesh brought into His presence masquerading as holiness. He says to us, "You cannot stand before Me on that kind of fleshly ground. There is only one holy ground and that is faith in My Son and His work on the cross."

This is the only way God ever could have saved and reconciled a whole world. If our works merited our salvation, only a select number would be candidates for salvation—but I believe Christ died for all.

We can behold the worst thief, rapist, murderer, drug addict or alcoholic—people who have no good works at all—and testify, "By repentance and faith, they can be presented righteous in Christ Jesus."

That is the true, saving power of God. Yet many Christians live as if their works are sufficient. On judgment day, they will stand before God in their flesh, saying, "Look at everything I've done for you, Lord. I've worked to stay clean and holy. I've prophesied, fed the poor, healed the sick, cast out demons. And I've done it all to please You!"

But God will answer, "You did none of those things through the power of My Spirit. You did them all in your own strength. I accept the righteousness of only one Man—My Son. And I do not see My Son in you."

"Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Monday, February 18, 2013

DO NOT BE AFRAID by Gary Wilkerson

“Do not be afraid . . . for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30, ESV).

When God announces to us that this is the year of His favor, He means this year. God is speaking to you about finding His favor now—this month, this week, today.

When I preached this message on God’s favor at The Springs Church in Colorado Springs, an alcoholic woman was sitting in the service. She heard the Holy Spirit speak to her heart: “Although you have been in despair, My favor is on you. You will see a 180-degree turn in your life.” The woman gave her all to the Lord in that service—and she has been sober now for months.

In New York City, a young man who had been homeless for a year stumbled into Times Square Church. He sat through the service, but when it was over he left, thinking, “I hate this place. I won’t be coming back here.” Yet something pulled him back. He came again the next week and the same thing happened. Again he left, saying, “I’m never coming back.”

This pattern repeated itself and finally, after a full year, the young man again rose from his seat as the service ended. Only this time he said, “I love you, Jesus, and I need You in my life.” He went to the altar and gave his life to Christ.

The pastors at Times Square Church sensed a calling on this young man’s life. They helped him go to Bible school, where he turned out to be a brilliant student. He finished with a 4.0 grade point average and enrolled in seminary, completing a three-year degree in only eighteen months. He was asked to stay on at the seminary as a professor, but he declined, saying, “No, I’m a pastor.”

The same day I delivered this message at The Springs Church, that young man was preaching at Times Square Church. God’s favor had fallen on a homeless, insignificant life—and He made all the difference!

Let this truth begin a song in your heart, as it did with Mary. God is conceiving something new, transforming your trial into His glory. You may not feel His presence, but He has His hand over you. Trust Him with everything—your heart, your family, your situation—and you will see His glory.

Friday, February 15, 2013

IN HIS PRESENCE

“No flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). This verse is not just a New Testament truth—it was true in Moses’ day, as well. Moses could not deliver God's people in his own strength. He had to be taught, once and for all, that God's work is done not through any human ability but by total trust and dependence on the Lord.

This is true for every Christian today. There has to be a putting off of all that the flesh tries to bring to God. Indeed, God says to us as He did to Moses, "There is only one ground upon which you can approach Me, and that is holy ground. You can have no confidence in your flesh because no flesh will stand in My presence!"

When talking to Moses, God put a focus on shoes (see Exodus 3:5) because our feet are two of the most tender parts of our body. And what are shoes, but a protection of our flesh? They protect us from the elements, from stones, from snakes, from filth and dust, from the hot pavement.

Do you see what God was saying to Moses here? He was using an everyday, ordinary thing to teach a spiritual lesson, just as Jesus later did when He used coins, pearls, camels and mustard seeds. God was saying, "Moses, you wear protective garb to keep your flesh from injury. But no amount of fleshly protection will be able to keep you when I send you into Egypt—that den of iniquity—to face a hardened dictator. You will be put into a situation that only I can deliver you from. So, unless you set aside all reliance on your flesh—your meekness, zeal and humility—you won't be able to do what I'm calling you to do. All your abilities will be worthless unless I sanctify them."

Indeed, Moses faced all kinds of tests and trials as he led some three million people into the desert. With no grocery stores, malls, or even a well of water, he had to depend wholly on God for everything.

Moses had already tried to act as a deliverer in the power of his flesh. Forty years earlier, he had taken sword in hand and killed a cruel Egyptian slave driver. And now God was saying, "Moses, your zeal has to be sanctified or it will destroy you. Are you willing to put down your sword and place all your confidence in Me?"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WE ARE HIS BODY!

"Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are the very members of Christ's body! By faith, we are made bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. And now we all have been adopted into one family: "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5).

You see, out of the grave came a new Man. And from the time of the cross, all who repent and believe in this new Man are gathered up in Him: "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many" (1 Corinthians 12:13-14).

There is no longer any black, white, yellow, brown, Jew, Muslim or Gentile. We are all of one blood in Christ Jesus. And because of Christ's work on the cross, man could no longer attempt to be holy by keeping the law and the commandments. He could not become holy by good works, righteous deeds, human effort or strivings of the flesh.

"That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Ephesians 2:16). "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain [two] one new man, so making peace" (verse 15).

Only one Man would be accepted by the Father—the new, resurrected Man! And when this new Man presented to His Father all who had faith in Him, the Father responded, "I receive you all as holy—because you are in My holy Son!" "He hath made us accepted in the beloved" (1:6).

Moreover, we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit: "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ . . . in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (1:10, 13).

So, you see, holiness is not something we do, or attain, or work up. Rather, it is something we believe. God accepts us as holy only as we have faith in Christ and abide in Him. The path to holiness is not through human ability, but through faith!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

HOLY BRANCHES

As you read 1 Peter 1:15, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” you may be alarmed. "You mean I'm to be as holy as Jesus was? Impossible! He was spotless, perfect. How on earth could anyone live up to that standard?”

The very purpose of the law was to show us it is impossible for us to measure up to God's standard of holiness. No amount of human willpower, strength or ability could ever make us holy. Therefore, there can be only one way for us to become holy: We must be in Christ and His holiness must become our holiness.

"If the root be holy, so are the branches" (Romans 11:16). Paul says that because Jesus, the root, is holy, then we, the branches, are holy also. And John writes, "I am the vine, ye are the branches" (John 15:5). In other words, because we are in Christ, we are made holy by virtue of His holiness.

The fact is, God recognizes only one Man as holy—Jesus Christ. And in God's eyes, there have been only two representative men throughout history: the first, literal Adam, and the second Adam, which is Jesus. All of humankind was wrapped up in the first Adam and when he sinned, we all became sinners. Then Jesus came forth as a new Man, and through His reconciliation on the cross, all of humankind potentially became gathered up in Him. Today God recognizes only this one Man, Jesus—and He is holy.

Like Adam, apart from Christ's redemption of us, we can never be holy. No matter how long we live or how hard we try; no matter how many prayers we utter or how often we read the Bible; and no matter how many lusts we conquer, we will never be perfectly holy.

Jesus stands alone in perfect holiness. If any person is ever to stand before the heavenly Father and be received by Him, that person must be in Christ. We stand before the Father without any merit or claims of our own. We stand only by the grace of Christ.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE

The Old Testament is full of types and shadows of New Testament truth. Whenever I have difficulty trying to understand a truth from the New Testament, I turn back to its foreshadowing in the Old. In fact, I believe every single episode or story in the Old Testament is full of ripe truth for New Testament believers.

One such example is the passage concerning Moses at the burning bush. I believe this particular story is full of profound New Testament truth on the subject of holiness.

While Moses was alone on Mount Horeb herding his father-in-law's sheep, a strange sight suddenly grabbed his attention: A bush was burning brightly, as if on fire, yet it was not consumed!

Moses decided to go for a closer look and as he stepped nearer, God called to him out of the bush: "Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush" (Exodus 3:3-4).

That bush was burning without being consumed because God was present in it. It was a visual representation of God's holiness. Indeed, wherever He is present, that place is holy.

The New Testament tells us we are called to be holy "even as God is holy."

  • "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16). In other words, "It is written, recorded, settled once and for all: We are to be holy, as our God is holy."
  • "God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God has not called us just to salvation, or to heaven, or to receive His pardon. Rather, these things are benefits of our one true call, which is to be holy as He is holy.
Every believer in the church of Jesus Christ is called to be pure and blameless in God's sight. So, if you have been born again, the cry of your heart must be: "God, I want to be like Jesus and walk holy before You, all the days of my life."

Monday, February 11, 2013

FROM NOW ON by Gary Wilkerson

After the angel’s announcement, “You have found favor with God . . .” (Luke 1:30), the Bible says that Mary “conceived.” This is what happens to us when we find God’s favor—He births something new in our lives. If you have children, you know that once they arrive, nothing is the same—your world is completely turned upside down. And so it is when God’s favor falls on our lives.

Mary grasped this. She saw that things were going to be different, no matter what trouble might come with it. The angel told her that her child was going to set captives free—and it stirred Mary’s soul. She broke into song:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:46-50, ESV, emphases mine).

I want to focus on two highlighted phrases from Mary’s song. First: “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” Mary realized God had seen her situation, her heart, her fears, hopes and dreams. God “looks on” you and me in the same way. He sees straight into our needs, longings and fears, including the thought that, “My life is too impossible for even God to straighten out. Nothing will ever change.”

With God’s favor, we can testify with Mary, “I am blessed by the Lord, because He sees me in all my circumstances. He can make changes in my life at any time and conceive things I could never imagine.”

In the second phrase of Mary’s song, realizing that God was making a transition in her life, she declared, “From now on, I walk in God’s favor. I lay aside all my striving for security and safety and surrender all my wants and desires to Him.”

This is the defining moment that God’s favor brings to our lives. The declaration, “From now on,” marks a 180-degree change in our direction. Anyone who walks in God’s favor can say, “From now on, my addictions have no hold over me. My difficult marriage will be softened because of God’s love. My child who is running from God will feel His wooing conviction.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST

Those who were headed for the Upper Room loved Jesus dearly. They were compassionate, self-sacrificing, soul-loving. But they were not yet qualified to be His witnesses. It takes more than a love for Jesus and a compassion for souls to qualify you as His witness.

They had been taught in the school of Christ. They had healed the sick, cast out demons, and performed miracles. They had seen Jesus clothed in His eternal glory on the Mount.

They had been nearby when He sweat drops of blood as He prayed and then they had seen Him hanging on the cross. They had seen Him resurrected, viewed the empty tomb, eaten with Him, and talked with Him in His glorified body. They had even seen Him ascend into heaven! Yet they still were not ready to witness of Him.

Why couldn’t Peter go to those milling crowds in Jerusalem and immediately testify to His resurrection? Hadn’t he witnessed that event firsthand? It seems he could have preached, “Jesus is alive! He ascended into heaven! Repent!”

Peter makes a powerful statement to the chief priests: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).

Through the words of the Holy Spirit speaking through Peter, the priests “were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (Acts 5:33). The Holy Spirit also had spoken through Peter on the day of Pentecost, and all who heard “were pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37).

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached to the religious leaders: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. . . . When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:51, 54).

When you emerge from seeking God, full of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to stand with boldness before fellow workers, family, anyone, and your witness will provoke one of two reactions. They will either cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” or they will want to kill you! You will speak a word that cuts to the heart. The difference is found in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

TAKE IT TO THE CROSS

Under the Old Covenant, absolute obedience was required. God's law made no allowances for even the slightest disobedience. Simply put, the soul that sinned died.

Those commandments were laid out clearly, describing the perfect obedience a holy God requires. Yet the law made no provision in the flesh for such obedience and man found himself utterly unable to keep the law’s demands. Paul called the law “. . . a yoke upon the neck . . . which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10).

Yet, Paul also describes the law as a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The law exposes our hearts, teaching us we are weak-willed, helpless as babies, in need of a savior.

At this point, you may be wondering, “Why would God demand perfect obedience from us, and yet not provide us with power to comply?” The Bible makes it clear: God had to bring us to a place where we realized we had no power to escape our sin.

It took Israel four hundred years of affliction to learn they could not provide their own deliverance. They couldn’t rid themselves of their slave masters in their own strength. They had to have a deliverer—a God who would reach down and bring them out of their bondage.

And it took centuries—up to the time of Zechariah—for Israel to recognize their need for a redeemer. They finally became convinced they needed a savior who would “be unto [them] a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of [them]” (Zechariah 2:5). God himself would be the fire around them and the glory within them!

Yet many Christians today still have not learned this lesson. They are living under the law, striving in their flesh, making promises to God, trying to get free from their sin. They wake up each day saying, “This is the day, Lord! I’m going to find the strength and willpower to break these chains. With just a little more effort, I’ll be free!”

No! It will never happen. It will only end in more guilt. The law is meant to drive us to the cross to acknowledge our helplessness, our need for a redeemer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

THE LOVINGKINDNESS OF THE LORD

“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). We all are enticed by our lusts, every one of us with no exceptions!

James then adds: “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin” (James 1:15). He is speaking here of the birth process. In each of our hearts is a womb of lusts and every sin we commit is born from that womb. Just as no two babies are alike, no two sins are alike. Each person produces his own kind of sin. Over the years, many Christians grow comfortable with their secret sin and, like Lot, they become blind to it and begin to take it lightly.

I think of many such examples within the body of Christ. We wink at the sin of seeking the praise of others or lusting for position. We wink at the sin of pride over our spiritual roots, our biblical knowledge, our consistent prayer life. We may see ourselves as humble, kind, teachable—but we are not.

God does not take any of our sins lightly. I learned this the hard way. Today, as I look back over nearly fifty years of ministry, I cringe at those times I was deceived by the sin of pride.

I remember being the featured speaker at a particular ministers’ conference. I thought, “The Lord has blessed me with such great revelation. I'm not impressed by any of the big-name people here. God set me apart from birth as an anointed preacher.”

Not long after that, I ended up under the Holy Ghost’s searchlight and it shone directly on my pride. If I had not clung to Paul’s exhortation to put the former things behind me, I would have fallen into despair. But God showed His mercy to me and I thank Him for His grace and long-suffering toward me, then and now.

Today, my heart-cry is, “Lord, I know I’m not the humble, unassuming minister I've always thought myself to be. I’ve been cocky, self-assured, driven. Now I realize any anointing I have is because of your lovingkindness!”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

GUARDING YOUR AFFECTION FOR HIM

“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5).

Jesus is saying: “Think back to what you were like when I first saved you. You rejoiced that I came to live in your heart! You couldn't wait for church on Sunday and you spent all your free time digging into My word, learning about My love for you. You never considered prayer to be a burden, because I meant everything to you. You loved Me more than life itself. But now you've fallen away from all that. I get so little of your time now, so little of your attention. You've grown cold toward Me. Something else has your heart!”

Look at the serious warning in this verse: “Repent . . . or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” For many years theologians have tried to soften this warning, wanting it to mean something different. But it cannot be softened—it means exactly what it says.

Jesus is saying to us: “If you claim to have the fire of God, and yet I am no longer the delight of your heart, I will take away every bit of light you have! No matter what good works you do for Me, you will no longer be My witness. I simply won't recognize anything you do because you have lost your love for Me.”

Is your love for Jesus exclusive? Do you regularly take quality time to be with Him? Or have other things crept into your heart, taking up your thoughts and affections?

Jesus is asking you right now to repent and start over. He wants you to stop and realize, “Wait a minute. I see how this thing has crept into my life and it is robbing me of my exclusive love for Jesus. I can't let this go on any longer. Lord, forgive me! Light my candle anew.”

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

FAVOR MAKES FOR A DANGEROUS LIFE by Gary Wilkerson

The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and said “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying” (Luke 1:28-29).

I believe Mary was troubled when the angel spoke to her because she was aware of her people’s history. She knew what had happened to the Israelites who found favor with God. The result was blessed, true, but it wasn’t always pleasant. Consider these examples:

Abel found God’s favor through his acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. But Abel’s brother, Cain, was jealous because he did not find the same favor—and Abel paid with his life.

Noah found favor with God. He lived righteously in an evil generation and was spared the destruction of the flood. Yet every comfort that Noah knew in the world was wiped out. The story of his building an amazing ark wasn’t some children’s story; it was a sad story of judgment on a global scale. Although Noah and his family survived, they lost everything they held dear.

Lot found favor with God and was able to escape judgment. God delivered him from Sodom, a city poised to face fiery destruction. But by escaping, Lot lost almost everything dear to him, including his wife.

Joseph found favor with God and was blessed with prophetic dreams. But the very gift that marked Joseph’s favor also angered those around him.

My point is that favor is dangerous—and Mary knew this. The Hebrew Scriptures made it clear in story after story: Favor can be accompanied by danger, hardship, pressure, persecution, pain, and tribulations. Sadly, much of the American church will not acknowledge this about God’s favor. Many pastors teach that favor means being prosperous, having a nice house or car, never being persecuted, living without difficulties, always being on top.

Mary knew better and it showed in her response to the angel: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). That is the response I want to have! No matter how dangerous God’s favor is, I do not want to trade it for an easy, comfortable life. I do not want to be off the hook for trouble if it means missing His favor.

Friday, February 1, 2013

HALLOW THE SABBATH

When God's Word speaks of rest, it includes physical rest. But the Lord's holy rest begins in the soul: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). What is this rest? It is the laying of all our sin-burdens on Christ!

Jesus Himself says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). He is saying, "By faith, you must enter into the Father's sabbath rest. You must refuse to carry your burdens to and from your home any longer, and instead lay them all on Me. I am the Lord of the sabbath and I am the only one who can bear your burdens."

I ask you: Why do so many Christians refuse Jesus' offer? I believe that if Jeremiah were living today, he would be dumbfounded by all the Christians who continue to carry their own burdens of sin and battles with temptation. He probably would cry out: "Why are you bearing all these burdens on such a glorious sabbath? Didn't Jesus say to you as I said to Israel, 'Bring no burden into your house'? Why do you continue to carry such a load around? Don’t carry a burden on the sabbath, for it is a holy day unto the Lord!"

The point here is that sabbath means we are to cease from our own works—our striving in human strength—to merit God's salvation: "Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers" (Jeremiah 17:22).

Here is the secret to how we are to hallow the sabbath: We are to give all our burdens over to Jesus, and trust His Holy Spirit to give us strength for life. That's right! We honor the sabbath by laying down all self-effort in trying to make our way through sin and temptation.

We are to observe this command not just on Sunday but every day!