Friday, March 29, 2013

“NICKY, JESUS LOVES YOU!”

I am not against using modern methods in ministry. We employ many such things in our ministry but we do not receive our direction from these "ministry tools." We spend time on our knees, seeking the Lord for direction in every area of outreach. Yet, prayer is a lost practice among many ministries today. They rely on computers and modern methods rather than on Christ.

Today, "experts" have taken over the reins of the church. Sin is seen in psychological terms and called a "disease." A drug addict is said to have a "weakness." Altars have been replaced with counseling rooms. Prophets of holiness have been replaced by psychologists and social workers spouting the latest man-centered jargon. In short, Jesus is being dethroned—and Freud is being exalted.

Fifty years ago God led me to start a ministry to drug addicts and alcoholics in New York City. We had no money and no how-to books, only total dependence on the Holy Spirit. A sign in our offices read, "No one shines here—only the Holy Ghost!" During our chapel services, we prayed, "Lord, our help isn't in psychology or psychiatry, but in the Holy Spirit. We can't work on the head unless you change the heart!"

Nicky Cruz, one of the first gang members we encountered, was a killer at heart. A psychiatrist we knew took an interest in his case. After spending an entire day with Nicky, the psychiatrist decided Nicky was incorrigible, hopeless. (Little did this man know that Nicky delighted in confusing all "head doctors.")

Yet Jesus had other plans for Nicky, and Christ accomplished in five minutes what the experts said could not be done. Nicky was not psychoanalyzed; his head wasn't examined. No, God sent an arrow into his heart and that arrow was the truth of the gospel: "Nicky, Jesus loves you!"

In a single moment, out went Nicky's heart of stone, replaced with a heart of flesh. Nicky wept, hugging us all. He was supernaturally transformed by the power of God after society's experts had written him off.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

THE PAYDAY

I want to give you four tragic results that befall those who dethrone the Lord.

1. "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself" (Hosea 10:1).

Everyone in Israel was looking out for himself and the result was total emptiness. Hosea was speaking to believers, showing them a picture of what happens to all who dethrone the Lord in their lives. Such people become selfish and miserable and their every pursuit ends in emptiness.

2. "Their heart is divided . . . he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images" (verse 2).

Our nation's heart is divided. Americans pay lip service to God and religion, but they do not worship the Lord in truth. That has led directly to the breakdown of all our hallowed institutions. When you lose faith in God and place your trust in something else, that thing becomes an idol. This is happening in our nation today. Our society no longer trusts God, turning instead to the government, the President, the educational system, Social Security—all to try to find some kind of stability. God is saying, "If you won't trust Me, I'll make all your trusted institutions fail."

3. "Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity . . . because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men" (verse 13).

Hosea is saying, "You stopped trusting in the Lord and now you're going to reap a harvest of iniquity!" Humankind today is sophisticated, educated, knowledgeable. We have dethroned God—rejecting the Bible and prayer—and enthroned science, psychology and education. Yet, I ask you: What has been the harvest? What has all our sophisticated learning brought us?

4. "We have no king, because we feared not the Lord" (verse 3).

Hosea was a prophet over Israel, but when Israel's backsliding began, he was powerless to stop the loss of faith. His words carried no authority. Whenever he spoke, the people merely shook their heads and said, "We have no leadership, no direction. We're drifting."
That is just what is happening in America right now and the same thing is happening in the church today. Many Christians mock their pastors, ridiculing their authority. Why? Because these men's words carry no power. People are saying, "We no longer have any leadership in our church. We're lost, confused." That is the payday for dethroning the Lord!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

REJECTING THE LORD’S COUNSEL

When the prophet Hosea described the terrible harvest reaped as a result of dethroning God from His lordship and turning to the arm of flesh, he addressed a people whom the Lord had carried in His arms for years.

God had blessed and prospered Israel, giving them houses they hadn't built and vineyards they hadn't planted. He had raised up godly men to speak as prophets and had given the people clear words of direction—and for years the people had proven God faithful. They listened to His counsel, never turning to the flesh. When God spoke to them, they obeyed. And they were miraculously delivered from powerful enemies.

But now an apostasy had come over Israel and the Lord accused them of being guilty of a terrible wickedness: "They have deeply corrupted themselves . . ." (Hosea 9:9). "All their princes are revolters" (verse 15).

What was this awful sin they had committed? Was it drunkenness, sexual perversion, covetousness, adultery, murder? No, God said their wickedness was turning away from His counsel, ignoring His word and obeying man instead: "God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto Him" (verse 17). In God's eyes, the greatest wickedness a believer could commit is to no longer be dependent on Him.

The Lord was telling Israel, "You no longer put your trust in Me. I'm no longer your guide, your source of wisdom; now you're turning to the wisdom of man. You are running back to Egypt for help, back to the very place from which I delivered you. You have rejected My word and turned from Me."

A great Puritan prophet once wrote: "Pure power is never anxious for cooperating. It just demands." In other words, God does not say to us, "You do your part and I'll do mine. Just check in with Me occasionally." No! God is pure, raw power and He demands that we follow Him, first and foremost, in all we do. We are to be wholly dependent on Him and anything short of this maligns His kingship over our lives.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ENTHRONED AS KING

The apostle Paul writes that when Jesus comes again, "He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15). Paul is saying, in essence, "When Christ comes, He is going to show everybody who is Lord!"

God the Father enthroned Christ as king over all nations and all nature, and as Lord over the church. Paul is saying, "It doesn't matter what things look like on the outside. Everything may seem out of control and it may look as if the devil has taken power. But the truth is, God has put all things under Jesus' feet and He is still king over everything!"

"By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him" (Colossians 1:16). "He is the head of the body, the church . . . that in all things he might have the preeminence" (verse 18).

These passages prove that almighty God has appointed Jesus Christ as Lord, and all dominion has been given into His hands. Yet all around we see our society and government dethroning Christ, refusing to acknowledge His authority and kingship. We are removing God from our schools and courts and ignoring Him in the making of our laws. And now we are reaping a terrible harvest.

I believe America's rejection of Christ's lordship is the reason behind all the bloodshed, violence, racial hatred, moral decay, drug abuse and outbreak of deadly sexual diseases in our society. Lawmakers, educators and the media have made God an unspeakable subject.

Yet my concern goes beyond America's rejection of Jesus' authority. I believe the problem of Christ's dethroning is much worse, much more tragic because it is happening in His church. It's true! Our exalted Lord is being dethroned in churches throughout the land and in the lives of a multitude of believers.

It is understandable that ungodly people would want to dethrone Christ. But how it must grieve God to see Christ dethroned by those who call themselves by His name.

Monday, March 25, 2013

RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

A lot of Christians today are worn down from their efforts to ward off sin. They pour all their energies into it until they’re drained of every last ounce of joy. The victory Christ has won for them gets lost in their dogged efforts to establish a righteousness of their own.

Righteousness that is pursued by anything other than faith will always fail. You see, there cannot be God’s righteousness and our righteousness. That would mean there are two Gospels: His and ours. We cannot mix our self-righteousness with God’s holy righteousness.

Maybe you wonder, “But aren’t we supposed to put forth some effort? Doesn’t the Bible say we’re to avoid sin?” The only way to avoid sin is through Jesus! He is not just a truth you accept; He is the living God and your Sanctifier. His sanctifying work in you never stops day or night.

Paul answers the question of self-effort in Romans 9 when he speaks of a people who actually attained righteousness: “[The] Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith” (Romans 9:30, ESV). These people did not get worn down by their own efforts nor were they weighed down by their failures. They put all their faith in Jesus’ work for them on the cross—and they were sustained by His abundant life.

“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Christ is the end. There is nothing else! “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). These verses have brought freedom to all generations of believers.

Friend, are you worn down from trying to do better? Are you weary of the endless cycle of recommitment and failure? Put it all behind you! Let all your striving cease. Your right standing with the Lord does not depend on your will but on God, who has mercy. Trust in Him alone for your victory.

Friday, March 22, 2013

AN UNUSUAL WORD

Recently the Holy Spirit gave me an unusual word, one that I did not want to hear! He said, "You are bound to a very limited vision of the Lord’s ocean of tender, loving mercies. You have endured much guilt, condemnation and fear because you have not allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal the vastness of My forgiving, healing, reconciling mercies. You do not know Me for My tenderness!"

God showed me that this is a root cause for many giving up and falling away. When sin strikes—when Satan comes in like a flood, when you fall into some old habit or sin—the devil creates a bondage. First, the guilt comes flooding in, then fear fills your heart. A sense of total failure and helplessness overwhelms your soul. At this point, most believers run out of grace—because their view of God’s mercy is so limited.

Satan comes to you and says, "You’ve reached your limit. You’ve confessed your sin time after time. There is no way God will forgive you now, because you’ve sinned against the light. If you return and confess once more, you’ll turn around and sin all over again. So quit now!"

The devil does not want you to see God’s ocean of mercy; he wants you to see only a trickle! Because of our ignorance of the forgiving, restoring power of Christ’s love, we are destroyed. We run out of mercy for ourselves because we are horribly bound by a limited vision. Our eyes have not yet been opened to the endless mercies of our tender Father! We are so bound by a false, limited view of His mercies, we find it almost impossible to believe or accept what James said: "[We] have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful (full of compassion), and of tender mercy" (James 5:11).

This verse means, "God is easily crushed by our troubles and hurts. He feels our pain and our failures, and He is kind and compassionate to us. He loved us even when we were His enemy. Even when we offend Him, He is quick to help, restore and forgive us.”

The word mercy means "kind and compassionate treatment of an offender under one's power." God has the power to damn us to hell every time we sin; He has us under His control and can do with us as He pleases. And it pleases His tender heart to be compassionate, loving and kind toward those who have failed Him the most.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

FIRM TO THE END

Unbelief in even its slightest form is hateful to God. It is a damning sin, one that destroys the soul. It hinders God's work in us and is the sin behind all departure from God.

You can be totally weaned from all worldly possessions and long for Jesus' coming. You can sit under strong preaching and sing God's praises in His house. And you can devour the Word of God every day. But unless you are praying, "Oh, God, let me hear this word in my inner man; let me believe I can apply it and that it will become life to me," then it has no effect whatsoever. What you hear must be mingled with faith.

"But the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebrews 4:2). Let those words sink in: "Unless what you read and hear preached is mixed with faith, it is of no value to you!"

Scripture says, "[Jesus] was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house" (Hebrews 3:2). In what way was their faithfulness measured? How were they truly faithful in all things?

They were counted faithful because they never doubted the heavenly Father's word to them. They knew that God would do what He said. You see, faithfulness is simply believing that God will keep His Word.

In this sense, Jesus and Moses held “the beginning of [their] confidence steadfast unto the end" (Hebrews 3:14). They did not have an up-and-down, hot-and-cold kind of faith. Their faith never wavered!

Just as Jesus was faithful in His confidence in the Father, our faithfulness will be measured by the same standard: "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6).

As our trials increase and the battle grows more intense, our flesh can become weary. Over time, many Christians allow fear and doubt to creep in. They lose their abandonment to God, their childlike faith in Him, and questioning invades their hearts.

As I look down the road that remains of my life, I see limited time. And I want more than anything to be rejoicing in hope, firm to the end.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

THE WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

The Old Testament closes with this amazing prophecy of Malachi: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6).

This prophecy was fulfilled in great measure in the ministry of John the Baptist. An angel appeared to John’s father and prophesied that his son would turn many in Israel to the Lord and that "he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias (Elijah), to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).

Jesus, speaking to His disciples about John the Baptist, said: "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matthew 11:14). He added, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (verse 15). I believe Jesus was asking them to see the spiritual significance of John's coming, as prophesied, in the spirit and power of Elijah.

John was anointed with the same fearless Spirit and power which was upon Elijah. He spoke openly about the sins of disobedient, pleasure-seeking people of his day. Christ was soon to appear and this mighty man of truth suddenly came on the scene to prepare a people for the Lord. This wilderness prophet was sent to turn the hearts of the people (which is the truest definition of repentance) to the Lord. John preached repentance, restitution, purity of heart, justice, and a practical walk of holiness to correspond with an open confession of sins.

I believe the prophet Malachi, as well as other Old Testament prophets, speaks of a company of holy people who will be raised up just prior to Christ's second coming. They will minister under the very same Spirit and power that rested upon Elijah and John the Baptist.

This last-day Elijah company of believers will heed the prophecy of Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1). These are the watchmen upon the walls, "which shall never hold their peace day nor night . . . and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isaiah 62:6-7).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

THE ABIDING BELIEVER

"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10). Jesus faithfully obeyed every commandment of His Father and He called that abiding.

Some Christians think they can pick and choose which commandments of Christ to obey. If they don't like what is commanded, they simply ignore it or explain away their disobedience with, "I just don't see it that way; I don't believe it like that." If people do not like a pastor’s call to be holy, they just leave and go looking for a pastor who will accentuate the positive. That is why the terrible plague of apathy is sweeping over the church today. We have been so afraid of works, so riled up about legalism, that we have given obedience a bad name.

How is it possible for a branch in Him not to abide? Jesus said: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (verse 6). Can it be any clearer? Abiding includes rest and responsibility. It is possible to be in Him, connected to the vine, and not have a flow of life with which to bear fruit. Abiding has to do with absolute obedience to the commandments of Christ because every branch has a free will—a life force in it. The branch is not passive; it must draw out the life from the vine. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you" (verse 7). This brings out that the Word is the Father's pruning knife. How can any branch bear fruit if the Word of the Lord is ignored, unknown, neglected?

We see the fruits of dryness springing up all over the Lord's vineyard—adultery, fornication, drinking, drugs—because the pruning process has stopped with so many. The word of God is His knife, a two-edged sword. The majority of Christians today do not know the Word of God because they do not read it. It is impossible to bear the fruit of righteousness without His Word abiding in you. Neglect of the Word is causing barrenness and bringing a terrible withering to God's people.

The abiding believer is one who loves and fears God, who hungers for the Word and trembles at His power of conviction. He delights in having the Word prune away all hindrances, prays that the very life and likeness of Christ will be ever-increasing in him, and grows more and more mature in obedience and love.

Monday, March 18, 2013

CHRIST IS THE END by Gary Wilkerson

Paul uses Israel as an example to teach what true righteousness is. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4, ESV).

Paul’s text challenges us with several questions. Does being justified make us righteous? Yes, in the sense that justification positions us as righteous. Does being sanctified make us righteous? Yes, in the sense that sanctification is the process of experiencing Christ’s righteousness functioning in our daily lives. Jesus is our source for both justification and sanctification; we attain both through His gift of grace.

Most Christians give lip service to all this, saying, “Jesus is my source for everything.” But does their walk actually reflect that? The sad truth is, many Christians live as if justification comes from God alone—and as if sanctification is accomplished through their daily performance. It’s as if they say, “I have attained grace through faith in Jesus. Now I have to conduct a relentless personal campaign to be sanctified.”

In a sense, they are telling God they want to pay Him back for His great gift to them: “Thanks for justifying me, Lord. You’ve put me in right standing with You through the cross and in return, I’ll be sanctified by obeying You. You do the first half of the work and I’ll do the second half.”

This mindset leads straight to a life of bondage. How many times have you driven by a church marquee that reads, “CHRIST DIED FOR YOU. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR HIM?” It has become pervasive throughout the church.

Jesus was crucified, buried and rose on the third day that we might have eternal life. What could we possibly do in return for that? Tithe? Go to prayer meetings? Evangelize more? That’s pretty much what Israel tried to do. They “pursued a law that would lead to righteousness” (Romans 9:31, ESV). They tried to engage their wills to achieve righteousness, but they could never attain it.

This verse has brought freedom to all generations of believers: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4). Christ is the end. There is nothing else! “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

EXPECT CHURCH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE


New York City
April 24-25

Speakers
Gary Wilkerson
Francis Chan
Carter Conlon
Tullian Tchividjian

http://expectconferences.org/conference/2013-new-york-city-pastors-conference/







Friday, March 15, 2013

BETTER THAN AT YOUR BEGINNINGS

"I . . . will do better unto you than at your beginnings" (Ezekiel 36:11). This is a promise of a great work of God—greater than Pentecost—that will occur in these last days.

Think back to your spiritual "beginnings," when you first got saved. You were so happy and excited about Jesus. Now God is saying to you, "I'm going to do better than that for you!" He is going to do better things in the church than ever before. Better than the Red Sea? Better than Elijah calling down fire from heaven and shutting down rain? Yes, God has something better.

"What could be better?" you ask. "Our very faith is built on these great examples." Beloved, we are going to see the fullest revelation of Jesus Christ in the history of mankind. And here is the greatness of such a miracle: God is going to take the filthiest, most perverse generation of all time—a generation with the stoniest hearts in history—and clean them up, give them loving hearts, and turn them into a holy flock "I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock . . ." (Ezekiel 36:37-38). God is going to save a "flock"—a great multitude—of men and women. We will see sinners from every walk of life saved: Jews, Muslims, rich, poor, murderers, people of all backgrounds.

You say, "That's not a new thing. Wicked sinners have always been cleansed by Christ. God's been doing that since the cross." True, but remember, sin is increasing; wickedness is growing worse and worse. And where sin abounds, God's grace abounds much more.

At the Red Sea, the devil was advancing and threatening to pounce on God's people. The difference today is, he already has prevailed against the backslidden church, capturing and enslaving millions: "Because they have . . . swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen . . . and are an infamy of the people" (Ezekiel 36:3).

But now, God is going to move in for this reason: "Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession" (verse 2). Satan and his crowd have mocked and laughed, saying, "We have destroyed the work of Christ on earth!" But God says, "For My name's sake, I'm going to do a mighty deliverance."

You will need faith to understand this miracle, because it is going to come at the neediest, most critical time in the history of the Church. God will cause His flock to walk in righteousness. He will bring down such conviction that believers will literally loathe their past sins. "I will multiply men upon you... [you] will increase and bear fruit . . . and [I] will do better unto you than at your beginnings” (Ezekiel 36:10-11).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

DO THEM AGAIN

When Israel came up out of the Red Sea, they sang praises to God for the mighty deliverance He provided. They must have said to each other, "Never could there be so great a miracle as this! No other generation in all of future history will ever witness so mighty a demonstration of God's power—and in such a visible way.”

David looked back to Israel's miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea and said, "Come and see the works of God: he is terrible [awesome] in his doing toward the children of men. He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him" (Psalm 66:5-6).

Israel was commanded to tell each succeeding generation about God's great miracle-working power on their behalf. They were to use their deliverance at the Red Sea as their example, "shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done" (Psalm 78:4).

As a child, David must have sat enthralled as he heard the story told over and over again. Now David told his children the same story: "You know God lives because He took our forefathers through the Red Sea on dry ground. Now, tell it to your children and your grandchildren!" And they did.

It was not enough just to talk about what God had done in the distant past. The psalmist wanted to see God deliver His people now: "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand" (Psalm 44:1-2).

The psalmist is saying here, "Lord, all my life I've heard about what You did in the past, how these incredible scenes of Your glory were visibly manifested to my fathers. My children have heard of it, and now my grandchildren will hear of it."

The psalmist then burst out: "Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob" (verse 4). In other words: "But, God, you are my King also. Do these things again for Your people!"

As this psalm was being written, Israel was in a time of great trial. God's people faced a great crisis and they needed a present-day deliverance. So the psalmist came to the Lord with strong reasoning, crying out to the Lord: "Oh, Lord, Your children at the Red Sea may have thought there could never be a crisis like theirs again. We need a powerful manifestation of Your mighty, outstretched arm to deliver. Lord, do it again today!"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A TROUBLED HEART

Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). But the fact is, many Christians do have troubled hearts and they live in fear. Jesus also said in the same verse, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Yet few believers can honestly say they enjoy constant peace of mind. For many, peace comes and goes, leaving them worried, restless and battered by stress.

Here is what Zacharias prophesied of the coming Messiah: "That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life" (Luke 1:74-75).

Beloved, Jesus came to this earth and died for sinful man so that we could walk with God without fear, enjoying His peace all the days of our lives.

No fear, just peace of mind and heart for all of our days! This includes good and bad days, days of suffering, turmoil, testing and uncertainty. No matter what comes our way, we are to enjoy peace at all times.

Zacharias added these words about Jesus: "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (verse 79). He was saying that Jesus would guide all His children into the path of peace, not into restlessness, emptiness or fear.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. At His birth the angels sang, “Peace on earth!” His gospel is called the gospel of peace and He promised of Himself, "In Me ye [shall] have peace" (John 16:33). Peace is what the gospel is all about. "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:36).

In this world we will face tribulation, persecution and fiery trials—"without were fightings, within were fears," according to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:5). We will be tempted, we will suffer for the sake of Christ, and the winds of adversity will try to topple the house of faith we build on the Rock of our salvation—Jesus—but we will walk in peace because of Him.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

STRENGTH TO STAND

The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Without it, we have no power to stand. Beloved, we must be on guard, because guilt and condemnation over sin absolutely destroy the joy of the Lord!

Many Christians are in this bondage right now. They fail to accept full and free pardon and believe they have no right to be joyful. Throughout Scripture, God pours out His oil of gladness on those who have learned to hate their sin and love His righteousness. That's what the Word says of Jesus: "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Hebrews 1:9)

People who have laid down their sins and are walking with the Lord may have a struggle that is yet unsettled. But there is such a drawing toward the Lord in them, such a hunger, that the outcome is inevitable: they will have joy!

Suppose Jesus appears in the flesh, dressed as an ordinary man, and sits next to you. A wounded, defeated Christian, wearing a look of gloom, guilt, condemnation and fear, you fail to recognize Him as He begins to talk to you:

"Do you really love the Lord?" He asks.
You probably would answer, "Very much so!"
"You've sinned, haven't you?"
"Y-y-yes," you answer.
"Do you believe He forgives all who confess and turn from their sin?"
"Yes, but . . . I'm sorry, sir. I believe I've hurt my Savior, truly wounded Him."
"If you’ve confessed, why haven't you received His forgiveness??"
"I've done it so many times!"
"Do you believe He will forgive 499 times—each time you confess and repent?"
"Yes."
"Do you hate your sin? Do you still want Him?"
"Oh, yes!"
"Then why are you letting the devil rob you of the victory of the cross, the power of the blood of the Lamb? Why aren't you appropriating His joy and looking up?"

Beloved, don't quit and give up your joy in the Lord. You have a right to praise Him—to sing, shout and be happy in the Lord—because you have a Father who forgives!

Monday, March 11, 2013

THE PURSUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS by Gary Wilkerson

Have you pursued righteousness without success? Have you said, “That’s the last time I’ll commit this sin,” only to commit it the next day? Have you prayed, “Lord, whatever it takes, I’m going to stir up zeal in my heart,” only to cool off and fall into your old habits? When you didn’t succeed, did you try harder? And did you keep failing?

At some point in all this you may have wondered, “Why didn’t God help me? I have such a passion to be righteous, but I fail time after time.” So, where is God when it comes to our sanctification? Where is His help when it comes to leading a holy life?

“They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2, ESV). Paul was saying that Israel was wrong in their view of God’s righteousness. They thought they needed only to know what to do, but Paul says that attaining righteousness is about Who we know. Like Israel, by faith in Christ we have access to God’s all-prevailing righteousness. But we can reject that access as easily as they did—by relying on our performance instead of on faith in Jesus’ work for us.

God will not bless an effort to establish one’s own righteousness. He blesses only the work of His Son, Jesus. We are sanctified—our holy walk is sustained—only by faith in Christ and His shed blood on our behalf. In this way, Paul says, Israel refused to “submit to God’s righteousness.” How often do we tell ourselves, “I can live righteously,” but then we do not trust in Jesus’ provision for righteousness? Here are four indications that we are zealous for our own righteousness instead of God’s:
  • We get angry when we fail. We think, “I expect better of myself.” 
  • We get proud when we succeed. We tell ourselves, “I’m more spiritual than before.” 
  • We judge others’ failures. We think, “Thank God, I’m not like him.” 
  • We get jealous of others’ successes. We think, “Why doesn’t my pursuit of righteousness work like theirs?" 

When we fail, we ratchet up our efforts. The problem is, we didn’t establish our righteousness in the first place—God did. Being restored to right standing with Him does not happen because of anything we do. It happens by faith in Him. This calls for a repentant heart and brokenness—a humble acknowledgment that His power alone restores us to right standing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

BRINGING THE BEST TO THE LORD

In the Old Testament, people could not approach the altar with a lamb that was blemished or blind or lame. They had to bring their very best to the Lord.

What kind of time do you bring before the Lord in prayer? Is it your best time, your wide-awake time? Or, rather, do you come to God in the morning to pray about holy things with your mind full of what needs to be done that day? Or do you come to Him weary and tired after a busy day, dragging yourself into His presence?

Beloved, your mind and heart must be where your lips are! Isaiah spoke of the kind of "burnt offerings and sacrifices . . . accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7). Those who bring acceptable sacrifices are those who "join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord" (verse 6).

This acceptable sacrifice made at God's altar is not a lame, halfhearted, sleepy-eyed sacrifice, a last-minute obligatory offering. Rather, it comes from a heart that is consumed with love for Jesus, one that constantly cries out, "God, I come to You today to know You. I want more of You!"

The Lord says of those who bring such sacrifices: "I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer" (verse 7). He will hear our prayers and bring us to a place of holiness, joy and power!

"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Psalm 119:2).

Once you have established a prayer habit and have shut out all distractions, God desires that you seek Him with all your heart: "But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

THE CLOSET OF PRAYER

Jeremiah prophesied that all shepherds who refuse to seek God in prayer will fail: "For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered" (Jeremiah 10:21).

The scene Jeremiah described is exactly what we are seeing today in the church. Many shepherds have become lazy and neglectful. They see their calling as only a job—a paycheck. They lean on the arm of their flesh instead of seeking to know God's heart through prayer. They have lost all power to feed and keep the sheep in order, and the sheep are being scattered.

The unity that once kept churches strong is now being broken up. Jeremiah said of his day: "My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken; my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains" (10:20). The cords he spoke of, the binding power of God that kept unity among the people, had been obliterated. The flock was scattered and there was such uncleanness among the priesthood, no one dared go near the holy things of God. No priest was worthy to touch the holy curtains.

I want to address those who seek after God: Do you have a closet of prayer? To have a "secret closet" means simply to be shut in with God anywhere, anytime, giving quality time to seeking Him and calling on His name (see Matthew 6:6).

"Prayer closet" also means "prayer habit." Do you have a daily practice of getting alone with God? “Practice” means disciplining yourself to come before God, having a heart that says, "I must get alone with God—I must talk with my Father today!"

Sometimes my secret closet is alone in my car. It is often my study at home or on the streets of New York City. A few weeks ago it was a Florida beach, where I walked for hours, shut in with God.

The kind of prayer I am talking about has to do with intimacy with God—aloneness with Him. Jesus warned against hypocrisy in prayer. He drew a dramatic distinction between those who seek God in the secret closet, and those who pray so they can be seen by others as holy.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IF YOU SEEK HIM

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6).

When Jesus speaks of going into a secret closet to seek the Father, He is talking about something much greater than a physical closet. The Old Testament tells us God divided His people into two categories: those who regularly seek Him in their secret place of prayer, and those who do not.

When God became angry with Israel over their idolatry, Moses pitched his prayer tent outside the camp. Scripture says, "It came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp" (Exodus 33:7). In the midst of all the idolatry taking place in Israel, God’s people still took time to seek the Lord. This seeking remnant knew they had to go outside the camp lest they, too, fall into the apostasy sweeping over the people.

Centuries later, the people under King Asa understood why God blessed and prospered them and kept them at peace with all their enemies: "Because we have sought the Lord our God . . . he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered" (2 Chronicles 14:7).

At one point during Asa's reign, an army of one million Ethiopians came against Israel. "And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said . . . O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa . . . and the Ethiopians fled. . . . They were destroyed before the Lord" (verses 11-13). When Asa was attacked, he fell on his face and turned to God in prayer—and God answered with victory.

Shortly after that triumph, however, Azariah the prophet came to Asa and said: "The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you" (15:2). In other words: "If you stop seeking after God and calling on His name in all you do, He will forsake you."

Every time Israel sought the Lord after that, God blessed them: "When they in their trouble did turn unto the Lord the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them" (15:4). Israel enjoyed rest when they sought God in prayer and He always delivered them and gave them order and strength.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

PUT OUT THE FLAME

A close friend said something to me on the phone that took me by surprise. I felt it was cutting and I resented it deeply. I didn't hang up on him but I cut the conversation short and he knew I was truly provoked.

That conversation lit a fire under my flesh. I was disturbed, hurt, and agitated. Anger, indignation and grief began to pour out and, in short, I began to stew about it.

I paced around my study, trying to pray but I was so bothered and troubled I could hardly focus on the Lord. I prayed, "God, my close friend put me down and there was no reason for it. It had to be the devil trying to provoke me. I don't have to listen to that!"

I allowed these thoughts to simmer for about an hour. Then, finally, I came to a boiling point and cried out, "Lord, I'm really steamed about this!"

That's when I heard God's still, small voice, saying, "David, put out that flame right now. You're stewing in your own juices of hurt, anger and hatred because you've been deeply hurt. But what you're doing is dangerous and you dare not continue."

I learned long ago that when the Holy Spirit speaks, it pays to listen. I repented on the spot and asked His forgiveness. Then I sat down and began thinking: "What was it that so provoked me? And why did I keep simmering inside? I can't stay mad at this friend. We've been close for a long time and I know I'm going to forgive him. Why am I so upset?"

Suddenly, it hit me. The simmering inside me was not the result of that hurtful conversation. I was angry because I had allowed myself to be easily provoked again. I was troubled and agitated at myself because I had quickly fallen back into an old habit I thought I had conquered.

The fastest way to "put out the flame” 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, March 4, 2013

TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS by Gary Wilkerson

Every follower of Jesus has a certain hunger in his heart. It is a passionate zeal to be holy before God—free from sin, victorious over flesh, pure and spotless before the Lord.

The Holy Spirit actually plants this desire—an innate longing to live uprightly—in the heart of every human being. People of every religion, and even no religion, are moved to live well, do right, love others, be the best person they can be. Some obviously flee that desire and do the opposite, but they are still conscious of a deep desire to do right.

Of course, we all fall short of this desire because of our sinful nature. For nonbelievers, the spirit of this world can darken the mind to any sense of rightness. For believers, failure to live in a way that honors God can crush the spirit.

This desire to live right is behind the meaning of the word righteousness. It means to be in right standing with God—to live with right motives, emotions and behavior—and establish right alignment with His purposes.

To truly be righteous, we have to know what it is and is not. Is righteousness right behavior? No, you can do the right thing while having wrong motives. Some Christians do right things but are motivated by a pharisaical spirit. Their outward behavior is right, but inwardly they are “dead man’s bones.” So, is righteousness the desire or will to be right? No, a lot of people seek righteousness with great passion but fail to attain it.

The Bible describes our righteousness in two words: justification and sanctification. As Christians, we need both in our lives. The first term indicates our position, or right standing, with God. The second refers to our walk with God, our ongoing relation to Him.

If we are not justified, we can never be righteous. We can do good works and spend hours in prayer, but these things will not make us righteous. That is because justification is associated with making things just. For that to happen, God’s wrath against sin has to be addressed. A penalty has to be paid for our sins so that God will pardon them.

We all know Jesus makes this payment (or propitiation) for our sin. His sacrifice on the cross quenched God’s holy wrath toward our sin. Our Savior has met every requirement for us to be accepted fully by the Lord and in right standing with Him once and for all.

Friday, March 1, 2013

CONVINCED AND CONVICTED

We are not saved by the law but we are convinced and convicted of our sin by the law. "For by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

The law was sent "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19). "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

"The law is holy... and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful" (Romans 7:12-13).

Paul was saying, "I couldn't really confess my sins until I knew they were sins. I couldn't seek after the holiness of God until I saw how far from Him I was. The law hit home to me, destroying my nonchalance about sin. When I saw God's holiness by His commandments, sin became utterly sinful to me."

That is the conviction that drives you straight to the arms of Christ, crying, "Mercy, Lord! I can't save myself, I can't fulfill Your law. I've seen the sin of my heart!"

Faith has been defined as "the flight of a convicted, repentant sinner unto the mercy of God in Christ Jesus." Only the person who has been convicted of his sins by the law of God will "flee to Christ" for refuge.

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood and offered the crowds the gospel of God's grace. But first he put them under the blazing light of the law. He pointed his finger and said, "Ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain [Him]" (Acts 2:23). The people were pricked in their hearts, so utterly convicted by the Word of God they cried out, "What shall we do?" (verse 37).

Adam was given the gospel of grace—after his "eyes were opened" (see Genesis 3:7). It was only after he had seen his pitiful condition and the consequences of his sin that God brought to him the message of mercy and hope!