A Different Type of Disciple

Gary Wilkerson

Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7, ESV).

Two chapters later, Paul says “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). The King James Bible says “perilous” even; it’s probably a stronger word. In the last days, there will be perilous times coming on the face of the earth.

What does discipleship look like in times of turmoil and oppression? When Paul wrote to this young man in 2 Timothy, he was in prison and he was warning that perilous times were about to be unleashed not only around the world but in Ephesus.

Paul’s prediction came true for Timothy; it wasn’t long after that that Emperor Domitian set up his capital in Ephesus, and he required that all who came to Ephesus to burn incense to him. They had to put a little bit of ash on their arm and forehead afterward to say, “I just burned incense to King Domitian.” Then they would go into the marketplace where they bought food, clothes to keep warm and coal for cooking meals for their children and families. Unless these people had sacrificed to Domitian and put the mark on their foreheads or hands, they couldn’t enter the market where all of these vital supplies for everyday living were sold.

In the last days, there are going to be difficult, perilous times, and you have to stay pure. You have to stay holy, but it’s going to cost you. You can’t sacrifice your life to idols or to the lords of this world. Paul was asking Timothy to have a fearless spirit in the midst of a perilous time. He was telling him, “You are to be a different type of disciple.”

“As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it…. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14, 16-17).

God has promised to equip us through his Word. Once we put on a spirit not of fear but of power and once we are trained in righteousness, we will be ready to face the days of evil and oppression.

Laying Down a Straight Stick

Jim Cymbala

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said in his sermon Smoking Flax, “You and I will best put down error by preaching truth. If we preach up Christ, the devil goes down. If a crooked stick is before you, you need not explain how crooked it is: lay a straight one down by the side of it, and the work is well done. Preach the truth, and error will stand abashed in its presence.”

God didn’t call us to critique everyone. God called us to bear good fruit. Jesus tells the religious leaders of his day, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8, ESV), and then he tells his disciples “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), essentially to bear fruit in this practical way.

All kinds of people have become skilled at doing church or reading books or doing praise and worship, but to see a soul converted — that’s another whole thing, isn’t it? How many of you genuinely want to see more souls get saved through your church? You’ve got to get to the place where you won’t accept being unfruitful. No person can make this happen in you. If you’re content just to go to church and live your life, I’m not going to argue with you.

But everyone whom God ever used got to a point of desperation and said, “I’d rather not live, if I can’t see fruit.” No man or woman who was mightily used by God didn’t first come to a crisis and then break through into fruitfulness.

We can all give our opinions on the future of the church or the mark of the beast. We can go off into Christian fantasy and faith talk, into positional theology to the point of no relationships with experience. So who’s going to get the guy smoking weed off of drugs? Who’s going to see Jesus change the immoral person, regardless of whether they’re straight or gay? This is why we still talk about Wesley and D. L. Moody, not because of their interesting theological positions but because they bore fruit.

God has used different kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds to further his kingdom because they’re obedient to God’s call to bear good fruit. So let’s start truly living out the gospel today.

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.

What Cannot Be Mimicked

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Here on the streets of New York City, you can buy a Rolex watch for as little as 15 dollars. As every New Yorker knows, though, these watches aren’t truly Rolexes. They are simply cheap copies of the real thing.

There seems to be a duplicate for just about everything today, but there is one thing that cannot be replicated, and that is true spirituality. Nothing that is truly spiritual can be copied. The Lord recognizes the work of his own hands, and he won’t accept a man-made replica of any of his divine workings. Why? Because it’s impossible for man to duplicate what is truly the work of the Holy Spirit alone. He’s constantly at work, doing something new in his people. There is no possible way for us to reproduce that work artificially.

This is the big mistake of modern religion. We think if we merely impart knowledge of the scriptures and biblical principles to people, they’ll become spiritual. The fact remains, though, that no person or institution has the power to produce spirituality in someone. Only the Holy Ghost does that.

Very little of the work God’s Spirit does in us can be seen. This is why truly spiritual people rarely look for outward evidence of his work. Paul says, “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NKJV).

In the context of this passage, Paul is speaking of sufferings and afflictions. He said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Those who submit to the leading of God’s Spirit, who face their afflictions confident that the Lord is producing something in them, will emerge from their crucible with strong faith. They testify that the Spirit taught them during their suffering and has been doing an inward work, renewing their spirit.

In all my years of walking with the Lord, I’ve rarely seen an increase in my spirituality unless I endured hard testings and opened myself to the Holy Ghost’s working. If we submit ourselves to God’s renewing, he will produce in us a faith and spiritual strength that cannot be copied by the world.

So We May Win Christ

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Paul was completely captivated by his Lord, and yet he wrote, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ(Philippians 3:7-8, NKJV, emphasis added).

Why would he feel the need to “win” Christ? Christ already had revealed himself clearly and not just to the apostle but in his life. Even so, Paul felt compelled to win Christ’s heart and affection. Paul’s entire being — his ministry, life and very purpose for living — was focused only on pleasing his master and Lord. All else was rubbish to him, even “good” things.

Is this scriptural, you may ask, this idea of winning the heart of Jesus? Aren’t we already the objects of God’s love? Indeed, his benevolent love extends to all mankind, but there is another kind of love that few Christians ever experience. It is an affectionate love with Christ such as occurs between a husband and wife.

This love is expressed in the Song of Solomon. In that book Solomon is portrayed as a type of Christ, and in one passage the Lord speaks of his bride this way: “You have ravished my heart…my spouse; you have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes, with one link of your necklace. How fair is your love…my spouse! How much better than wine is your love” (Song of Solomon 4:9-10, NKJV).

The bride of Christ consists of a holy people who long to be so pleasing to their Lord, and who live so obediently and so separated from all other things, that Christ’s heart will be ravished. The word ravish in this passage means to “unheart” or to “steal my heart.”

The Bible version of the above passage says that Christ’s heart is ravished with just “one look” or a singular gaze. I believe that this shows a singleness of a mind focused on Christ alone. This is the life we are called to pursue!

More Precious than Gold

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

The story of Esther is one of intense spiritual warfare. The devil was trying to destroy God’s people on earth, this time through the evil Haman. This wealthy, influential man persuaded the king of Persia to declare an edict calling for the death of every Jew under his rule, from India to Ethiopia.

The first Jew in Haman’s sight was righteous Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Haman had gallows built especially for Mordecai, but Esther intervened, calling God’s people to prayer and laying her life on the line to countermand Haman’s order. The king not only reversed the death order, but he gave Haman’s house to Esther, an estate worth millions by today’s standards (see Esther 8:1-2).

Yet Haman’s mansion wasn’t the only spoil taken in this story. Scripture tells us, “The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor” (Esther 8:16, NKJV). These were the true spoils gained in battle with the enemy.

Our trials not only gain us spiritual riches, but they also keep us strong, pure and under continual maintenance. As we put our trust in the Lord, he causes our trials to produce in us a faith more precious than gold. The Apostle Peter understood this well and said, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Jesus plundered the devil at Calvary, stripping him of all power and authority. Paul wrote to the church, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). When Christ rose victorious from the grave, he led an innumerable host of redeemed captives out of Satan’s grasp, and that blood-bought procession is still marching on.

That cooperation begins when we are in the midst of conflict. Our resources are the Christlikeness we win while immersed in battle. They’re the lessons, the faith, the character we gain from warfare with the enemy. There is value in the battle. We can be confident that good will come out of it.