What All Would You Do To Have All Of God. How desperate is your faith? Not very, you say. Perhaps that’s the reason God doesn’t seem to do as much in our lives as we read about in the Bible or hear about in third-world Christianity. When we become ...

 

Desperate For God

What All Would You Do To Have All Of God

How desperate is your faith? Not very, you say. Perhaps that’s the reason God doesn’t seem to do as much in our lives as we read about in the Bible or hear about in third-world Christianity. When we become truly desperate for God, maybe we will see God move as he did in days of old. May the God who waits to be wanted set us a blaze with a desperate desire for his holy presence!

The Journey: Mark 2:2-5

Soon the house where Jesus was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

I am not recommending that you knock over the pews to get to the altar or anything, but I wonder what you would be willing to do just to touch Jesus—either for yourself or someone you care about very deeply. I personally like things a little more calm and controlled than that, but there was just something about a person’s holy desperation that seemed to move Jesus to action:

The blind man named Bartimaeus who wouldn’t shut up until Jesus healed him…

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

The Canaanite woman who wouldn’t back down just to get Jesus to deliver her demonized daughter…

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:22-28)

The woman with the issue of blood that pressed through the crowd just to touch Jesus …

A large crowd followed Jesus and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:24-34)

The guy named Zacchaeus who shimmied up a tree just to see Jesus…

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

So how desperate is your faith?

Not very, you say. Well, perhaps that is the reason God doesn’t seem to do as much in your life, and mine, as we read about in Scripture or hear about in third-world Christianity. When we become truly desperate for God, maybe we will see God move as he did in days of old. A.W. Tozer said,

The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted.

May the God who waits to be wanted set us a blaze with a desperate desire for his holy presence!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, create in my holy desperation! Give me the kind of desperation of the men in Mark 2: enough zeal for your healing touch that they ripped open a roof to get in front of Jesus. I confess that I am pretty dull to you right now, but I don’t want to stay there. Ignite a flame of passion for you, and fan it into a raging zeal for your presence and your power.
  

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Twenty-First Century Demons

Satan Loves It When We Don’t Believe In Him

When did demons become extinct? What I mean is, we read about them in Scripture and accept that they were part and parcel of Jesus’ war on Satan to bring Planet Earth back under the Creator’s dominion, but we think and act as if they don’t exist in twenty-first century America. We have medical and psychological explanations for everything that ails us these days, and either a pill or a professional to help us cope with our “disorders”. But if Jesus faced them—sometimes even in church—then demonic forces are alive and well in people’s lives today, wreaking all kinds of havoc. And if Jesus took authority over them and drove them out with just a word—and if he passed that authority on to us—then perhaps we ought to learn to discern the presence of demons today and boldly use Jesus’ authority to boot them out of town just like he did. I do recall reading some place that Jesus said driving out demons was a sign that we believe.

The Journey: Mark 1:23-26

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One sent from God!” Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.

When did demons become extinct? What I mean is, we read about them in Scripture and accept that they were part and parcel of Jesus’ war on Satan to bring Planet Earth back under the Creator’s dominion, but we think and act as if they don’t exist in twenty-first century America. We have medical and psychological explanations for everything that ails us these days, and either a pill or a professional to help us cope with our “disorders”. But I get the sense when I read the Gospels that some of today’s disorders are, to a greater or lesser degree, nothing more that demonic influences in disguise.

Now please, please, please, don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not looking to find a devil under every rock. Don’t go flushing your meds down the drain or calling your counselor an idiot. Let’s stay balanced and Biblical as we explore the possibility of demonic activity in your world and mind. As C.S. Lewis warned in the preface to his book, The Screwtape Letters,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

Let’s not be guilty of either of those errors! Having said that, I agree with what a twentieth-century English theologian by the name of Ronald Knox said, “It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil when he is the only explanation of it.” If you didn’t get that, here’s how Martin Luther said it,

Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceed from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads.

Look, I’m not saying the devil is the cause of every headache you get, or every cussword that slips from your lips, or every nasty thought that ricochets around your brain. Nor am I trying to create fear in you there are demons under your bed and they’re going to get you tonight while you sleep. What I am saying is that if Jesus faced them—sometimes even in church—then demonic forces are alive and well in people’s lives today, wreaking all kinds of havoc. And if Jesus took authority over them and drove them out with just a word—and if he passed that authority on to us—then perhaps we ought to learn to discern the presence of demons today and boldly use Jesus’ authority to boot them out of town just like he did.

I do recall reading some place that Jesus said driving out demons was a sign that we believe.

There is obviously a great deal of competing information today on demons and demonic activity that feed the two extremes Lewis warned about: disbelief in their existence and unhealthy, excessive interest in them. To learn more—which every Christian should, since Jesus said the demons had to submit to us—let me suggest the following plan:

  1. Study the Scriptures—especially the Gospels—to gain a foundational understanding of the devil, his demons, how they operate, and how Jesus dealt with them and how Jesus didn’t deal with them. Never go beyond what the Bible says in forming your theology.
  2. I would encourage you to download and read the position paper entitled “Can Born-Again Christians Be Demon Possessed?” You can find the pdf file at http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/index.cfm
  3. Let me suggest this book to help fill in some of the details regarding the subject of demons: “Sense & Nonsense About Angels & Demons”.

Finally, I will say again what Jesus said more than once: we have authority over all the works of the Evil One. And that authority is first and foremost exercised through faith and prayer (see Mark 9:14-29. As Guy H. King said, “No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil, not that he practices it, but he suffers from it.”

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, since you have given me authority through your Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the work of the Enemy, then starting today, develop me into a holy warrior over all that is of the devil in my life and in the lives of those I love.
  

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Can Your Salvation Pass Divine Inspection?

There Is Only One Way: Repent And Believe The Gospel!

Jesus has called you to eternal life. And here is the question of questions: Have you followed his “salvation equation” — repent and believe his gospel? That is the one and only way your salvation will pass Divine inspection.

The Journey: Mark 1:15

“The time promised by God has come at last!” Jesus announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

Most surveys today reveal a high percentage — consistently within the 80-90% range — of Americans who believe in God, claim Christianity as their faith, think that the Bible is God’s Word, and are sure they will go to heaven when they die. Yet even the causal observer of both the Bible and American society can plainly see the huge disconnect between true Christianity and current culture.

So what explains this critical disconnect? I think it is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be saved. Many people assume that if you were born in America, or if you were raised in a church-going family, even a CEO family—a “Christmas and Easter Only” home—that you are automatically Christian. Others assume if you simply claim Christianity as your faith, then you are Christian.

Both assumptions are fatally flawed. In fact, any assumption that doesn’t recognize the salvation equation Jesus provided is flawed. There is one way, and only one way, to salvation: Repent and believe the gospel!

Both repentance and belief are two essential sides to the same salvation coin. Salvation begins with repentance. To repent does not simply mean to feel sorrowful for your wrong, remorseful that you got caught or fearful that you will be punished. Biblical repentance means to recognize that you have offended a holy God, experience Godly sorrow over both your sinfulness and offensiveness before God (2 Corinthians 7:10) , confess the sinfulness to God (1 John 1:9), and—this is a critical part—make a 180-degree turn in the path you are on so that both your current behavior and the overall pattern of your life are now moving in a direction that purposefully and joyfully honors God (Matthew 3:8).

Biblical belief is more than just intellectual acknowledgement of a truth. It is placing faith in the truth of the gospel. And like repentance, this kind of faith/belief requires an alignment of head, heart, and hands—or intellect, passion, and behavior (see Matthew 22:37-39)—so that the entirety of one’s life becomes God-focused, God-directed, and God-dependent. True belief means to so align one’s life that there is no sensible explanation for it without the existence of the God who has called that life into loving, intimate relationship with himself.

Using those definitions of Biblical repentance and belief as a spiritual plumb-line, I have a strong suspicion that the spiritual foundation on which so many Americans are erecting their house of faith would not meet the Divine Inspector’s building code.

Be that as it may, the most important thing at this moment is that Jesus has called you to eternal life. And here is the question of questions: Have you followed his equation—repent and belief his gospel? And why wouldn’t you? After all, Jesus paid for your salvation through his death. I love how Martin Luther so profoundly stated it, “Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.”

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I turn my life over to you. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, cleanse me from every sin and forgive my fundamental sinfulness. I invite Jesus to live in my heart as Lord and Savior. I believe the gospel. I place saving faith in you, trusting that you have saved me by your grace. Thank you for granting me the gift of eternal life.
  

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Job Description for Jesus’ Disciples

Being Christian Is Nothing Less Than Reflecting The Master

What does it mean to be truly Christian? It means being an authentic disciple. Christianity means discipleship; discipleship means Christianity—one cannot happen without the other. Being either is not just in name, it is in the reflection of the Master in the life of the disciple. Calling oneself a disciple is simply wishful thinking without doing the things of discipleship and being in essence the reflection of the Master. Call it what you will, anything less is nothing more than inauthentic discipleship, non-Christianity, a half-baked religion. But where you find the real thing in the world today, it is pretty irresistible.

The Journey: Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

What do true disciples do? Two things actually: They reflect and they replicate.

First of all, authentic disciples become like the Master. They fully devote themselves to his life and they fully obey his teachings. They become like the Jesus in thought, word and deed to the point where his very being is reflected in the essential quality of their being. The Master becomes the sum and substance of their lives. Only by the kind of transformation where the Master is fundamentally reflected from center to circumference in their lives can Christ’s disciples in turn “go and make [other] disciples.” Only then can they teach others to “observe all that [the Master] has commanded.”

That is what it means to be truly Christian. Being truly Christian means being an authentic disciple. One cannot happen without the other—Christianity means discipleship; discipleship means Christianity. Being either is not just in name, it is in the reflection of the Master in the life of the disciple. Calling oneself a disciple is simply wishful thinking without doing the things of discipleship and being in essence the reflection of the Master. Call it what you will, anything less is nothing more than inauthentic discipleship, non-Christianity, a false religion.

Second, authentic disciples replicate the life of the Master through their lives in the lives of others. In other words, they reproduce. Barren discipleship is non-discipleship. True disciples go with the message, bearing the life of the One they reflect and persuading others to follow Jesus.

Disciples don’t just win converts to Christianity, they make other disciples in the way of the Master. To convert a soul to Jesus simply begins the process of discipleship. Conversion is the first step; discipleship is the journey. True conversion that begins the journey of authentic discipleship the convert requires the same full devotion to the Master’s life and the same full obedience of his teaching that took place in the proto-disciple. The Master’s life is replicated in the disciple, who in turn replicates the Master’s life in the convert, who then, in turn, replicates the Master’s life in still others.

That is when discipleship comes full circle and is proven authentic.

Here is the real question in all of this: Are you a true disciple? The answer is easy: If you are reflecting and replicating the life of the Master, you’re in pretty good shape.

If you aren’t, you need to go back and have a serious conversation — should I say, “conversion” — with the Master.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

Jesus, you said we cannot truly call you Lord unless we do the things you said we should do. With all of my heart, I want to be authentic when I call you Lord. Help me to give you my full devotion and complete obedience. Make me a true disciple.
  

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Ripped With A Vengeance

Jesus Made Sure You Have Instant Access To His Father

At the moment Jesus died to atone for our sins, the thick curtain separating Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was torn in two—from top to bottom. It’s as if God himself reached down from the unseen realm where he dwells, grabbed the curtain with both hands and ripped it with a vengeance, thus opening up a new way for you and me into his very presence. Thank God, by the death of Jesus, a new and living way was opened to the Father’s presence for anyone and everyone who would come through the sacrifice of his dear Son!

The Journey: Matthew 27:51

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

There is a high likelihood that you will pass by this curtain-tearing incident too quickly in light of all of the other heart-wrenching details of the crucifixion. If you do, you will miss one of the most significant events in the history of God’s dealing with mankind.

A little background information on the curtain may help. Kimberly Southwall writes,

The temple had two important rooms in it. One was called the Holy Place, and the other was called the Most Holy Place. A curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26:31-33.) The Most Holy Place represented the presence of God Himself. Because of that, the Most Holy Place was so special that God only allowed a priest to enter into it one time each year. No one else was ever allowed inside that room. The priest entered the Most Holy Place once a year to take the blood from a sacrificed animal to sprinkle inside to atone or try to make up for the peoples’ sins during that past year. For many years, this was the only way God’s people could hope to atone for their sins. But even this way wasn’t really good enough. That’s why God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die and atone for everyone’s sins, once and for all.

Keep in mind that this curtain was not like the ones in your home. To begin with, only the High Priest could get near it; and then only once a year. Not only that, it would have been impossibly tall to rip from the top to the bottom without a ladder. Moreover, it was so thick that, ladder or not, no human hand could ever have torn it in two.

So what is going on here? At the moment Jesus died to atone for our sins, it is as if God reached down from the unseen realm where he dwells, grabbed the curtain with both hands, ripping it with a vengeance, and thus opening up a new way for you and me into his very presence.

How awesome is that! No longer do we need to come to God through an ineffective system of religious laws, procedural sacrifices, or by a high priest. We can now boldly, confidently, and regularly come right into the very presence of God himself to obtain what we need. The writer of Hebrews describes it this way,

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

The writer puts it similarly in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Now, aren’t you glad God ripped the curtain? I sure am. Next time you read Matthew 27, pause at verse 51 for a little while.

And while you’re at it, be a little bold before God in your prayers! Then come back tomorrow (or five minutes from now, if you need to) and do the same thing!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, thank you for the “new and living way” by which I can access your presence. By Christ’s sacrifice, I have been given the right and the privilege to come before your throne to obtain mercy and find grace. So today, I boldly ask you to pour out all of heaven’s blessings upon me.
  

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