There’s a popular phrase used by pastors today. On any given Sunday in churches across the U.S., a preacher says, “I invite you to engage in community.” There are books on the subject of connecting with community. There are podcasts and sermons. And it all sounds good because they sound like they’re talking about fellowship, the deepening of bonds between Christ-followers.
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1, KJV). If you’re a devoted servant of Jesus, there’s something you need to be absolutely sure of. It’s that Satan tries to bewitch everyone who sets his heart to go deeper with the Lord. The enemy of our souls is constantly setting demonic traps for all who are desperate to know more of Christ.
When Paul wrote his epistle to Titus, he left behind powerful instructions for us regarding Christ’s Great Commission to preach the gospel. He had just left the island of Crete, where he and Titus ministered together. Paul encountered persecution on Crete, and when he departed to evangelize in other cities, he left behind Titus and some other leaders. Now those young men also wanted to leave. Like Paul, they found Crete a hard place to minister.
We cannot separate Christmas from Christ’s resurrection. You may think of the resurrection as an Easter message, but the birth of the child in the manger can’t be separated from the man on the cross. God’s message to us through both events is one and the same.
We love to quote Jesus’ words about the victory he has promised to his church: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Paul says Christ loves his church, and that it will be presented to him in the last days sanctified and washed by the Word, a glorious bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish of any kind (see Ephesians 5:25-27). Simply put, the church of Jesus Christ at the end of time will be a glorious, prevailing, overcoming body of believers. And we can stand on this as a promise from the Lord himself.
I’m not used to writing messages on this subject, and you may be surprised by this one. I prepared it with great reservations; it took me far beyond my comfort zone, even though I’m dedicated to preaching the whole counsel of God. Right now I’m compelled to speak because of something I see happening in our culture. I’ve grown convinced that America now stands on the brink of one the most extreme judgments it has ever faced. And in this bleak hour God has something to say to his church that may begin to turn the tide.
How often have you heard Christians say, “God is doing a new thing in the church”? The “new thing” they refer to may be called a revival, an outpouring, a visitation or a move of God. Yet very often the “new thing” they describe dies out quickly. And once it has faded, it can’t be found again. In this way, it proves not to have been a move of God at all. In fact, Christian sociologists have tracked many of these so-called visitations. They’ve discovered that the average span of such an event is about five years.
The word “favor” is used often in the church today. Pastors across America promise people that God is going to favor them. Sadly, what they mean by favor is limited to possessions, positions and acquisitions—better homes, cars and jobs, a happier family and a growing income. I do believe God favors his people this way. But there’s a danger when we live for this kind of favor at the risk of losing something much higher. We short-change ourselves when we live for anything but “Ultimate Favor.” Let me explain.
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany” (John 11:1). Most Christians know the story of Lazarus. He lived with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, in the town of Bethany. Their home was a favorite resting place for Jesus. Christ knew that this close-knit family loved him, and he loved them dearly in return. He even made their home his spiritual retreat. It was an oasis of quiet for him away from the pressing crowds.