“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.
“[Moses] said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.’ … ‘So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:18-19, 22-23).
The Holy Spirit took Moses, a servant of God who was wholly surrendered to his will, and drew him to a mountaintop to speak to him face to face. When Moses descended from the mountain to address the children of Israel, his face so reflected the glory of the Lord that it glowed. “When Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:30). Paul describes it this way: “The children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance” (2 Corinthians 3:7).
The glory on the face of Moses faded after a while because it was only a type of the spiritual glory to come. And what happened to Moses is not to be compared with what the Holy Spirit wants to do today. “For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious” (2 Corinthians 3:9-11). In other words, if the fading glory in the face of Moses had such convicting power, how much more will the present glory of Christ in his servants be a testimony — by the Spirit — to convict and convince.
There is a glory which will never fade available today to servants of Christ —so lift your head to him and receive this abiding presence of the Lord.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit … If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:1-2, 6).
True disciples of Jesus Christ cannot ignore this great responsibility of bearing fruit. God watches over his vine and all the branches engrafted to it with great concern. He also stands alongside with a pruning knife in hand, lovingly watching for the slightest evidence of corruption, blight or disease which could hinder its growth. God expects every branch to bear fruit; in fact, it is impossible to honor and glorify God — or be a true disciple — without fruit. Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (15:8).
Bearing fruit has everything to do with pleasing God — becoming more like him. Bearing fruit brings glory to the Father through what we are becoming rather than simply what we are doing. The Bible makes it very clear that many will have great results — casting out devils, healing the sick, doing great works in his name — but God knows if there is barrenness of spirit.
An abiding believer is one who loves and fears God, who dreads his righteous judgments, and who hungers for the Word. He delights in having the Word prune away all hindrances, allowing the very life and likeness of Christ to be ever-increasing in him. It is impossible to bear the fruit of righteousness without his Word abiding in you!
The more you allow Christ’s fullness to be revealed to you, the more of his life will touch everyone you are connected to. The Word says, “That you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (15:16). May you remain in the flow of Christ’s life and continue to bear much fruit that will glorify him.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). God’s children should make it a matter of conscience to rejoice in him at all times and in every circumstance. Rejoicing is not our choice; it is God’s command! If we treat these words as an option, we undermine God’s imperative to us.
Until God has our delight, he really does not have our heart. There are three steps that will help us maintain a stance of rejoicing in our Savior:
This definitely will not be easy and you sometimes will think it doesn’t make sense. Whether the world crumbles or stands, whether we lose or keep everything and everyone precious to us, the Lord himself remains the source of our satisfaction. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
God created a place in his children for joy. This place will be filled with something, either with the toys and trivia of worldly achievement and accumulation or with heavenly things of the Creator. There will always be carnal cravings that lure us away from God. “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14).
Those who have had a new, divine nature put into them by God are not satisfied with things of the world anymore. A change of heart implies a change of desire — a pure heart after God wants what he wants. “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful” (Psalm 33:1).
A practical side of rejoicing is that it cannot be sustained if it is not continually exercised. Do not neglect this great portion of God’s salvation lest it become shriveled and crippled and too sluggish to sing out love songs to Jesus. But constant use will make it a strong fiber of your soul; willing and able to control every other emotion. Make the choice today to seek after the serene life of godliness and gratitude.