Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A NEW REVELATION ABOUT THE MESSIAH

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isaiah 42:1–4).

This passage is all about Jesus. The Holy Spirit had moved upon the prophet Isaiah to bring forth a revelation of what Christ would be like when He comes. And Isaiah’s opening word here, “Behold,” signals to His listeners: “Prepare for a new revelation about the Messiah.”

The image that comes into focus from these four verses is clear: Christ wasn’t coming to force people to hear Him. He wouldn’t come with a loud clamor, He would come as a tender, loving Savior.

We find the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Matthew 12. The Pharisees had just held a council to plan how they might kill Jesus, all because He had healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Matthew tells us that “when Jesus knew [discovered] it, he withdrew” (12:15).

Christ didn’t retaliate in anger or rail against those who plotted His death. He wasn’t like the disciples, who wanted to call down fire on His opponents, even though Christ could have done that. Actually, He could have summoned a legion of angels to deal with His enemies but Jesus wasn’t out to take revenge.

It was this tender spirit, Matthew says, that reveals the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19).

Isaiah was saying, in essence, “The Savior isn’t coming to force anybody into His kingdom. He’s not coming as a loud, boisterous, overpowering personality. No, you’ll hear Him speak with a still, small voice in your inner man.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

NEEDY CHILDREN by Gary Wilkerson

Christ often begins His ministry to us as if we are children with needs to be met. This happened throughout the gospels as He restored the blind man’s sight, healed the bleeding woman, and fed the hungry crowds. He met suffering people right where they were and gave them just what they needed. This was reason enough for people to follow Him. Even some of the Pharisees followed Christ because of His miracles.

I personally was convinced to follow Jesus after He met my deepest need. As a teenager I became uncertain whether God was real. I had descended from a long line of ministers, so how could I be sure that my faith wasn’t just indoctrination from my parents? Jesus came to me in my hurting soul and showed me what I needed to know: that Buddha didn’t love me, nor did Mohammed or Confucius—but Jesus did. He revealed to me the pure truth of His love—and it turned my life around.

Jesus does bless us in our time of need. But, you see, that’s only His starting place in our lives. He takes us from blessedness to brokenness because it’s the only way to bring us to real maturity. The broken path is how we begin to take on His giving nature.

Let’s face it, our flesh hates the thought of a giving life because it requires brokenness. Think about all those bestsellers whose titles imply blessings. Now imagine a different title on the shelves, this one called The Giving Life. You think, “I want to be a giver,” so you flip through the pages. You read of Paul, who speaks of being shipwrecked, beaten and stoned because he was called to give. You read of the other apostles who were persecuted because Jesus called them to a giving life. As you read along you soon realize, “This is not going to be a bestseller.”

That much was proven in Jesus’ day. The crowds stopped following Him when He began preaching difficult truths (see John 6). When the people turned for the exits, “Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:67-69).

Jesus’ question puts us in the same position as the disciples. We have to trust that He is good and faithful. You see, we don't get to choose the agenda for our lives. If we did, we would all be getters, not givers. That’s why Jesus sets the agenda. And when He leads us down a hard path, we can be sure He does so in love.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

THE WILL OF GOD by Carter Conlon

The revealed will of God is the practical part of His will, to which all of us are collectively called. You do not have to go searching all over the place for it—it is right there in the Bible. If you take a concordance and look under the word “will,” you will see that the will of God is clearly revealed throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament. Let’s look at some examples.

The apostle Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). This is where we need to start, especially in this generation. We must turn away from sexual immorality in all of its forms. We must ask God for the strength to live a holy life, set apart for Him.

Continuing in First Thessalonians, we find another example of the revealed will of God: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In everything give thanks—which means you ought to give thanks for the home you are in, the marriage you are in, the job you have, the family you are a part of. Learn to be thankful instead of constantly praying, “Oh, God, get me out of here and I will serve You; get me out of here and I will love You! There will be no greater worshiper than me if You will just get me out of this place!”

But the Lord says, “No, that is not My will! My will is that you learn to give thanks where you are. You are going to learn to win the victory where I have placed you.”

As you continue to read through the Scriptures, you will find that it is also the will of God that we learn to speak the truth. After all, this is a kingdom of truth, and we represent the One who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). It is the will of God that we be loyal and dependable, and that we do not quit when things do not go right. Be loyal in the workplace as an employee who shows up on time and leaves at the proper time.

Don’t be a person who does the will of God only when it feels right or if it is convenient. Ask God for a heart to genuinely care about other people.

__________

Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.

Friday, February 5, 2016

HE WANTS TO SEE YOUR SMILE

Suppose that just before Jesus ascended—as He envisions His Church and the harvest prior to His return—He foresees a falling away. His soul is grieved, because He sees rampant backsliding. Instead of reaping a white harvest, His people spend their time and energy seeking worldly success and material things.

So Jesus says to the Father, “They won’t get the harvest in. All the white fields lie dormant. I’m going to send a host of angels to do the reaping.” The Father agrees, and suddenly thousands of celestial beings appear on the earth, glowing with supernatural radiance.

What a sight this would be: otherworldly beings, clothed in glory, speaking in churches and in public. They are interviewed by newspaper reporters, and on radio and TV. They talk of the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, Christ’s love, and a final judgment to come. And they speak with such eloquence and conviction that everyone is enthralled. They’re like so many Jonahs, wooing and warning the world.

Now suppose that after a short time, these same radiant angels become enthralled with the world around them. They are taken in by fine foods, material goods, wealth and security. And soon they start striving for success, fame and fortune. Before long, they become jealous of each other, showing anger, pride, envy and covetousness.

In other words, they become just like the Church today! I ask you, how much influence would they have on the world? How could they expect to bring in a harvest, being so caught up in worldliness? Their testimony would be discounted and they would be drained of all spiritual power, going about discouraged, fearful and doubting.

Tell me, why would anyone want my gospel if they saw me in this state, stressed out and joyless? Why would they believe my message, “Jesus is sufficient, my everything, my constant supply,” if I am always fearful and worried, with no peace?

No one would listen to a word I said. Instead, they would wonder, “What difference does your Christ make? He doesn’t seem to be much of a physician if you’re always in this condition.”

Beloved, our countenance counts. Listen to what Christ says of His Bride in the Song of Solomon: “O my dove . . . let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” (Song of Solomon 2:14). Christ is saying to us, in essence, “I want to see your smile.” Does that describe your countenance?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

IT’S TIME TO BEGIN REAPING

Jesus declared, “The fields are ripe, and the harvest plentiful. It’s time to begin reaping” (see Matthew 9:37-38). At that moment, the great, final spiritual harvest began among the Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ generation. And this same harvest is going to last until Christ returns.

As I read this passage, I wonder what Jesus saw in His time that caused Him to say, “The harvest is ready, so now is the time to reap.” Did He see a spiritual awakening in Israel? Was there revival in the synagogues? Were priests turning back to God? Were scribes and Pharisees being convicted? What evidence was there that the harvest was ripe?

The gospels don’t reveal much evidence of any spiritual move toward God. If anything, they show the opposite. Jesus was mocked in the synagogues. The nation’s spiritual leaders rejected Him, questioning His integrity and divinity. One religious crowd even tried to throw Him over a cliff. Christ Himself upbraided Israel’s cities for not repenting at His message: “Woe, Chorazin! Woe, Bethsaida! Woe, Tyre and Sidon! Woe, Capernaum!” (see Matthew 11:21-23).

As for the multitudes, they were embroiled in chaotic despair. Scripture tells us, “When he saw them they were like sheep without a shepherd” (see Matthew 9:36). Here was a society that was fearful, stressed out, depressed. The people ran about wildly, like scattered sheep, looking for help anywhere they could find it. Yet it was at this very point of great distress that Christ declared, “The fields are ripe, and the harvest is plentiful.”

Do you think Jesus’ words about a ripe harvest apply today? Where do we see evidence that the fields are white and ready to be reaped? Are nations repenting? Is there a great stirring in our society? And is the organized church waking up? Are religious leaders hungering for revival, seeking Christ anew? Is there a cry for holiness in this generation?

With few exceptions, I don’t see any such things happening. Yet, none of these is what moved Jesus in His time. Rather, He was moved by the sad conditions He saw on every side. Everywhere He looked, people were overwhelmed with distress and He said, “It’s time to begin reaping.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

THE HARVEST INSTRUMENTS

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:36–38).

Jesus made it plain: “The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few.” So, why are there so few laborers? Churches today are packed with believers who claim Christ is their very life. Millions of dollars are spent on erecting worship centers everywhere.


The truth is, if we’re not capable of reaping souls—if our lives don’t reflect the transforming power of the gospel we preach—then we have discounted ourselves as laborers. Our walk with Christ should offer proof to the world that God’s promises are true.


As laborers, we are the harvest instruments in the Lord’s hand. In the days of Christ, such an instrument was a scythe, a long, curved, single-edged blade with a long handle. It was forged by a blacksmith, who put it into a fire, then placed it on an anvil, where he pounded and bent it into shape. Then the whole process was repeated again and again, until the cutting edge was filed with a rough-edged surface.


The parallel is clear: God is forging laborers. He isn’t just pounding away at sin. And this forging process explains why the laborers are few. The majority of churchgoers are like the thousands who volunteered to go with Gideon in the Old Testament. God saw fear in many of them, knowing they wouldn’t endure the fire, the pounding, the hard times. And out of the thousands who followed Gideon, only three hundred were chosen.


The same thing happens today. Those who are truly called to harvest are called to endure the refining, shaping fires and the continual hammering. Yet, not many endure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REMEMBERING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

Scripture shows that David, Job and other Old Testament saints came out of their dark times by remembering God’s faithfulness to past generations. David writes that whenever his heart was desolate, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands” (Psalm 143:5). Asaph, who wrote twelve of the Psalms, did the same: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old” (77:11). Indeed, Asaph says that all of Israel “remembered that God was their rock” (78:35).

It’s a wonderful blessing to remember all our past deliverances. Deuteronomy tells us, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee. . . . Beware that thou forget not” (Deuteronomy 8:2, 11).

Yet, remembering God’s deliverances was more than just a blessing to the Old Testament saints. It was a necessary discipline. The Israelites devised all sorts of rituals and observances to recall the Lord’s deliverances in their lives.

Likewise today, the Church of Jesus Christ is called to remember God’s past deliverances. We have been given a way to remember that is much better than in Old Testament times. You see, since the days of David and Asaph, God has poured out His Holy Spirit, and the Spirit now abides in our human bodies.

The Holy Spirit comforts us in our dark times and brings to our remembrance God’s past faithfulness. But He does more than that. The Spirit often gives us an understanding of the purpose behind our fiery trials so that our faith will not fail.

When we look at Asaph’s life we see that this devoted, godly man does not share any kind of understanding with us in Psalm 77. Simply put, we don’t know what his dark hour accomplished in his life. All he could tell us was, “Thy way [of God] is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Psalm 77:19). Asaph’s conclusion was, “God’s ways aren’t known. I don’t know why He allowed me to fall into such depression and discouragement. I only rejoice that He has made me free.”