When Christians experience joy today, it has a much more powerful impact on the world than it did decades ago. Why? Because the entitlement mentality so prevalent in our society leads many to feel justified in their anger. We may think, “The government, my employer, my family — someone for sure! — owes me big-time. I’m entitled because my life has been hard. You have no idea what I’ve been through.” There is often a deep resentment in that kind of complaint.
If you carefully analyze international affairs, national politics, call-in radio shows, blogs, labor disputes, and race relations, you find a worldwide epidemic of venom and bitterness. It’s everywhere and, sadly, it has also invaded the Body of Christ. It is the exact opposite of the joyous living that Jesus intended for all of us. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
Centuries before Jesus said those words, joy was already understood as an important facet in the life of God’s chosen people. Moses instructed them that the blessings of God were granted so that “your joy will be complete” (Deuteronomy 16:15). Enjoying God’s presence produced an even deeper joy than any material blessing (Psalm 21:6), and God’s people were to continually celebrate his goodness with “songs of joy” (Psalm 107:22).
When singing a song of joy, it wasn’t only the lyrics or melody that made the song worshipful; the singers needed a heart of joy for all that the Lord had done for them. God was more interested in joyful hearts than vocal ability — that’s why David’s attitude pleased God so much. Although surrounded by enemies and under intense stress, David didn’t complain or get bitter. Rather, he went to the tabernacle and made sacrifices with “shouts of joy,” saying, “I will sing and make music to the Lord” (Psalm 27:6).
We Christians have been forgiven, cleansed, justified, and sealed with the Spirit — and we will live eternally with Christ! Joyous singing, shouts of praise, and exuberant thanksgiving are certainly in order. Although there is a time to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), we should also remember to “sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:1).
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Many Christians are lovers of Jesus, yet they sin against the light they have been given. They’ve heard thousands of righteous sermons, read the Bible daily for years, and spent countless hours in prayer. Yet they’ve allowed a besetting sin to remain in their life and cut off their communication with Jesus. When the Holy Spirit convicts of a sin that has never been dealt with, it comes with a warning: “This sin must go! I won’t wink at the way you’ve been indulging it.”
King David sinned and the Lord exposed it for the whole world to see (read the story in 2 Samuel 11 and 12). He suffered many outward troubles and was tormented inwardly, afraid the Lord had utterly forsaken him: “You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths” (Psalm 88:6). As many anxieties fell on David, he confessed, “I remembered God, and was troubled” (77:3).
David anguished over the scandal he had created and his grief over the shame he had caused was so overwhelming that he begged God, “Deliver me from all my transgressions; do not make me the reproach of the foolish” (39:8). His every waking moment was filled with thoughts of being struck down in wrath and he cried out, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your wrath, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!” (38:1). A contrite David cried from the very depths of his heart, “Have mercy upon me, O God” (51:1), and the Lord was quick to quick to forgive and restore sweet fellowship with him.
If you are carrying a sense of failure and you’ve become weak, soul-sick, ready to faint, it may be because your sin has cut off your communion with God. But thank God for his mercy! He is implanting in your spirit a holy fear of the Lord and that is a good thing. When the Lord sees one of his children wrestling with some sin or bondage, he moves in quickly to bring him back to a path of obedience and peace.
Rest assured, God has promised forgiveness for every sin: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Accept this forgiveness and walk in renewed freedom and sweet fellowship with your heavenly Father.
The very first message Jesus delivered after he emerged from the temptation in the wilderness was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He called people to repent even before he called them to believe!
The word “repent” is rarely mentioned in most churches today. Pastors seldom call for their congregations to sorrow over sin — to grieve over wounding Christ by their wickedness. Instead, the message we hear from many pulpits is, “Just believe. Accept Christ and you’ll be saved.” The text used to justify this message is Acts 16:30-31. The apostle Paul was being held in jail when suddenly the earth shook and all the cell doors opened. The jailer immediately thought all the prisoners had fled, which meant he faced execution.
In despair, the jailer drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul and Silas stopped him, assuring him that no one had escaped. Seeing this, the man fell down before the apostles and cried out, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household’” (Acts 16:30-31). It’s important to remember that the jailer was on the verge of suicide, with sword in hand. He was already at the point of repentance — on his knees, broken and trembling before the apostles. So his heart was truly prepared to accept Jesus in genuine faith.
Jesus promises that your godly sorrow, your repentant heart and your renewed love for him will lead you to life. So, pray to him right now: "Lord, give me a truly repentant heart. Take me back to who I was when I was first in love with you. Yet, this time take me farther, deeper in you, than I've ever been before!"
Jesus promises that your repentant heart and renewed love for him will lead you to life.
In a letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, Paul speaks of a future event he calls “the day of the Lord.” He writes, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, NIV).
Some theologians believe the "day of the Lord" Paul refers to here is the final judgment. However, I believe with most scholars that Paul is speaking of Christ's second coming. And Paul states that Jesus' return will not take place until two things happen:
Many who once knew God will fall away from the truth of the gospel they’ve known.
The Antichrist, or man of sin, will be revealed.
It should be obvious to every lover of Jesus that a “falling away” is already taking place. Many believers, as well as Christians throughout the past few decades, have grown cold in their love for God. In a scheme to pervert Christ’s gospel of grace, Satan is convincing masses of believers they can indulge their sins without paying any penalty. This turns Christ’s gospel into a message of licentiousness! Tragically, many lukewarm Christians are succumbing to this spirit of lawlessness, making them ripe to accept the man of sin (the Antichrist) when he comes on the scene, working miracles and solving problems.
You may think, “I would never be fooled into following the Antichrist.” But Paul warns that people will be blinded and deceived by their own sin (2:9-10). Satan will convince the world, just as he convinced Eve, that God doesn’t punish for sin (2:11).
Beloved, it doesn't have to be this way for any of us. God has made a covenant promise to remove all delusion from us and give us victory over sin, through the power of Christ's cross. All he asks is that we declare war on our sin, saying, "I won't make peace with this habit. I refuse to abide it. Deliver me, father, by your Spirit!" When he hears this prayer, he'll send such Holy Ghost power and glory from heaven, the devil won't stand a chance!
Pray right now that God implants in you a great reverence for his word. Ask him to help you be disciplined in your reading of the scriptures. And ask the Spirit to help you take to heart what you read — to believe that God means what he says!
"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
What a great compliment Paul paid the Thessalonian Christians! Here's the full essence of what he was saying: "It's incredible to see how much you've grown, both in your faith in Christ and in your love for one another. Everywhere I go, I brag to others about your spiritual growth. How I thank God for you!"
In this short passage, Paul gives us an amazing picture of a body of believers growing in unity and love. Both individually and corporately, the faith and love of the Thessalonians outshone that of all other churches. It is obvious that they were learning, moving, growing — and their lives offered evidence to that fact. According to Paul, they were the talk of every church in Asia.
Apparently, the preaching these believers heard was provoking them to an even deeper walk with Christ. It was melting their fleshly ambitions and convicting them of habits that were not like Christ. And the Holy Spirit in them was tearing down all ethnic barriers and color lines. They were discovering how to embrace any person, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, while they offered great love to each other, preferring one another in love.
A most important feature of this church was that they highly honored and revered God’s Word, nor did they allow false teachers to come into their midst and lead people away with new religious fads.
Do you want to grow spiritually? If so, ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light on an area of weakness or sin in your life. God is watering your spirit, feeding your soul, putting down his strong roots in you as you seek him.