The New Testament church was born in a blaze of glory. The Holy Spirit came down upon it with fire, and the first Christians spoke with tongues and prophesied. The fear of God fell upon them and upon all who saw them, and multitudes were converted. It was a triumphant church, unafraid of Satan, irreverent toward idols, unmoved by plagues or persecution. It was a blood-washed church, living and dying in victory.
How will the church go out in its final hour? Will it go out as a fat, prosperous, self-seeking church? Will it be just a handful of true believers holding on, watching death and apostasy eat away at it like a cancer? Will the last-days church live in dread and fear as fewer overcome the world?
To be sure, there will be a falling away; there will be deceivers teaching doctrines of demons and even some of the elect will be severely tested. But the church of Jesus Christ is not going out with a whimper. It is going out victorious, with joy unspeakable, riding a river of peace. It is going out in freedom from all bondage, and every member of this true church will live and die without fear. Last-days believers will be just as strong in the Lord as the first Christians!
The church is going to experience an undeserved outpouring of love, mercy, and kindness. It will come in a time of great affliction, with anxiety on all sides. “‘With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer … ‘My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you” (Isaiah 54:8-10).
God will have an overcoming people. A merciful Father will draw his children to himself and redeem multitudes who have turned their backs on him. What he is saying to the church he is also saying to individual believers. Is that you? Are you experiencing a sudden, violent disturbance? God’s promise is to all who are tossed in a storm. He has determined to close out the ages with a mighty exaltation of his name. What a display of power it will be!
The Lord desires intimacy with his dear children. He longs to be shut up alone with the love of his heart. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).
Unbelievers long to see a genuine example of Christ’s servant-heart in those who call themselves Christians. Too much of religion today condones sin with words such as brotherhood, love, and unity while forsaking real holiness. In contrast, believers who spend time “in the secret place” with him rise up and present an uncompromising testimony to a hungry, waiting world.
The name of Jesus is being profaned in the world today, especially in America. Roman soldiers mocked him by putting a crown of thorns on his head, but this nation now mocks him with more sophistication
Yet, Jesus also suffers rejection from many who claim to want him the most: Christians! Ask anyone calling himself a Christian these questions: “Do you feel your need of Jesus? Do you desire to know him better?” Nearly all of them would answer in the affirmative. But many love the praises of men and the acquisition of material things above all else. The Word of God says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
All who desire to know Jesus can certainly do so. The Word of God says, “You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Jesus longs to spend time alone with you, so don’t become so wrapped up in doing good that you lose touch with him. He is your righteousness, your light, your joy, your peace, your salvation — so let him truly be your everything.
Pride is at the very top of the list of things God hates. “For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
Most Christians would admit they have not arrived and there are areas in their lives that need improvement, but few would consider themselves proud. Pride is independence — humility is dependence. Pride is an unwillingness to wait for God to act in His own time and in His own way. Pride rushes in to take matters into its own hands when it appears God is not working fast enough.
An example of this terrible sin is Saul’s disobedience at Gilgal. When Samuel anointed Saul as king, “Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house” (1 Samuel 9:25). This rooftop discussion concerned a great war that was coming and Samuel commanded Saul not to act until all the people met at Gilgal to seek the Lord for specific directions. This was to be God’s doing and his alone (see 1 Samuel 10:8).
Samuel represented the voice of God; a vessel through whom God would communicate His plans. But Saul grew impatient and took matters into his own hands. God was testing him and he failed because of impatience — unmitigated pride!
Humility is total dependency on God. It’s trusting God to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. And Jesus has left us a glorious promise to see us through the dark days ahead. He said, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).
“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again” (Acts 20:25).
Paul relentlessly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ and taught the churches day and night. He endured severe persecution everywhere he went and when he knew by the Holy Spirit that he was going to be martyred, he gathered together the elders of the church at Ephesus. As he shared his love for them, he also left them with an important directive.
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert” (20:29-31). Paul issued two warnings: perverse men will come in from the outside, and even your own people will speak twisted things.
Twisted things can be almost straight but have just enough slant on them to draw believers astray. Even a slight modification of theology, a small alteration of doctrine, a foolish extremism can cause people to deviate from the truth. Paul spent his life passionately pouring out the Word of God so that his followers would be able to discern an imitation. He wanted them built strong so that they would not be shaken or knocked off center.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance” (20:32). Paul wanted the elders to go back to their churches and see that the Word of God was properly taught.
We live in a Christian culture that is twisted to the point of no longer being recognizable. I urge you to study the Word of God and walk closely with the Lord so that you may grow in discernment. Knowing the real thing, you will not be drawn away into something of a counterfeit nature.
Whenever we pray, it is vital to distinguish among four different directives from the Lord. Doing so can give us the breakthrough timing we need in order to do his will. For any given prayer or undertaking in our life, we need to discern whether the Lord is saying one of these four things:
The goal of spiritual growth is simply to become like Jesus. The Bible declares that from before the creation of the world, God intended us to be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). This is the spiritual yardstick by which we can measure our progress: Are we becoming more like Jesus? Using that measure, we begin to realize that the most Christlike person is not necessarily the one who has memorized the most Scriptures or the one most visible in leadership.
Anyone who studies the life of Jesus cannot help but be impressed with his unruffled peace and perfect spiritual poise. No matter the situation, the Lord knew what to say and when to say it. He knew when to be silent and he always did the right thing. He also knew when to withdraw from the crowds for a time of rest or prayer. Jesus’ sense of what the moment required was flawless.
This keen understanding of divine imperatives and precise spiritual timing is at the heart of what it means to be mature in Christ. Some things must never be done, while others must always be observed. At certain times a particular action is the only proper course to take; at other times even good things are inappropriate because the Lord is saying “not now.” Understanding God’s imperatives and his timing — his never, always, at certain times, and not now — can help us avoid painful pitfalls and guide us into his perfect will.
God is always serious when he gives us his directives. Look to him for guidance as you walk in obedience to his Word and he will enable you to maintain a stable walk with him.
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.