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Devotions

Choosing the Better Fruit

Claude HoudeJuly 24, 2021

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul draws up an unfiltered, precise and realistic list of numerous negative emotions and thoughts that we struggle with on a daily basis: impurity, anger, jealousy, envy, grudges, pity, shame, insecurity, pride, egocentricity, deceitfulness, laziness, despair, hatred, wickedness, hypocrisy, etc. We clearly see how our nature manifests itself in immorality and idolatry.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV)

Understand that the apostle Paul’s words were radically politically incorrect in the eyes and ears of the religious legalists of his day who hypocritically claimed to live above all sin.

It’s as if he’s telling them but also us today, “Don't be hypocrites. These emotions, thoughts and bad actions are present in all of us. They are very real temptations on our doorstep every day. Let us not deny their existence and their impact on our relationship dynamics. On the contrary, let's recognize them, identify them and resist them by placing them daily in God’s hands.”

In the remainder of his letter, Paul uncovers the emotions and thoughts that God wants and can create or restore in us by his Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of a relationship with God produces an obvious work in us, which results in a wide range of strong but healthy emotions.

God did not give us a spirit of wickedness, fear, resentment or anger. He gave us a spirit of love, peace, forgiveness, hope and consolation. The fruit of the spirit of God in us is a gift that he desires to rekindle every day. To that end, Paul commanded believers to put certain practices in place to help these spiritual fruits grow: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Our lives can be a pleasing offering to God through the constant renewing of our hearts and thoughts.

Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.

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Walking as a New Man

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)July 23, 2021

You know the story. A young man took his portion of his father’s inheritance and squandered it on riotous living. He ended up broken, ruined in health and spirit. At his lowest point, he decided to return to his father. Scripture tells us, “He arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20, NKJV).

Note that nothing hindered this father’s forgiveness of his son. There was nothing this boy had to do, not even confess his sins, because the father had already made provision for reconciliation. Indeed, the father ran to his son and embraced him as soon as he saw the boy coming up the road.

Forgiveness is never a problem for any loving father. Likewise, it’s never a problem with our heavenly Father when he sees a repentant child.

With that in mind, forgiveness is not the main issue in this parable. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t enough for this prodigal merely to be forgiven. There needed to be restoration. The father didn’t embrace his son to forgive him and then let him go his way. No, that father yearned for his child’s company and communion. Even though the prodigal was forgiven and in favor once more, he still wasn’t settled in his father’s house. Only then would the father be satisfied, his joy fulfilled when his son was brought into his company. That is the issue in this parable.

Here the story gets very interesting. Note how the father responds to his son. He utters not a single word of reproof. There is no reference to the prodigal’s rebellion, foolishness, profligate living and spiritual bankruptcy. In fact, the father didn’t even acknowledge his son’s attempts to stay outside. Why?

In the father’s eyes, the old boy was dead. That son was out of his thoughts completely. This son who had returned home was a new man, and his past would never be brought up. The father was saying, “As far as I’m concerned, the old you is gone. Now, walk with me as a new man.”

This is the same invitation our heavenly Father gives us. The sin problem is settled. We are invited to come boldly into his presence and partake in his mercy.

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Into the Arabian Desert

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)July 22, 2021

If I seek to please man, I simply cannot be a servant of Christ. If my heart is motivated by the approval of others, my loyalties will be divided, and the driving force behind my actions will be confused. I’ll always be striving to please someone other than Jesus.

A few years after the apostle Paul was converted, he went to the church in Jerusalem to try and join the disciples there, “but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26, NKJV). The apostles all knew Paul’s notorious reputation as a persecutor. “I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy’” (Galatians 1:22-23).

Barnabas helped the apostles get over their fear of Paul, and it might’ve been very tempting for Paul to settle into being a type of celebrity convert, but he decided to itinerate among the Gentiles. Indeed, Paul states, “I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ…. I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:11-12, 16). 

What did Paul mean by this? In Galatians 1:17, he explains, “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia.” What he is saying here applies to all who desire to have the mind of Christ. “I didn’t have to read books or borrow men’s methods to get what I have. I received my ministry and my anointing on my knees. I went into Arabia and the desert to have Christ revealed to me. I spent precious time there, being emptied of self and being taught by the Holy Spirit.” 

This by no means justifies those who are arrogant, lone-ranger believers. We know Paul had a servant’s heart. He had emptied himself of self-ambition and completely relied on Christ.

When your mind is set on knowing and pleasing Christ, you will not place the approval of human teachers over the instructions of the Holy Spirit. Avoid following other believers rather than the Lord. Only then will you maintain a clear vision of God’s calling on your life.

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Unrelenting Passion to Seek God

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)July 21, 2021

In chapter nine of Acts, we’re told that the Holy Ghost came to a godly man named Ananias. The Spirit instructed him to find a man named Saul, lay hands on him and restore his sight. Ananias knew of Saul’s reputation. He believed this was going to be dangerous, but here is how the Holy Spirit recommended Saul to Ananias: “Behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11, NKJV).

The Lord was saying, in essence, “Ananias, you will find this man on his knees. He knows you are coming. He even knows your name and why you’re being sent to him. He wants his eyes opened.”

When did Saul receive this inner knowing? How did he receive this pure word from God? It came through fervent prayer and supplication. In fact, I believe the Spirit’s words to Ananias reveal what moved God’s heart about Saul: “Behold, he is praying.” Saul had been shut in with God for three days, refusing all food and water. All he wanted was the Lord so he continued on his knees, praying and seeking God.

When I was growing up, my preacher father taught me, “God always makes a way for a praying man.”

There have been periods in my life when the Lord has provided indisputable evidence of this. I was called to preach at eight years of age when the Holy Spirit came upon me. I wept and prayed, crying out, “Fill me, Lord Jesus.” Later as a teenager, I prayed until the Spirit came upon me in divine intensity. As a young pastor, a deep hunger rose up in me. Something in my heart told me, “There’s more to serving Jesus than what I am doing.” I spent months on my knees, weeping and praying for hours at a time, when finally the Lord called me to go to New York City to minister to gangs and drug addicts.

If I have ever heard from God—if I have any revelation of Christ, any measure of the mind of Christ—it came not through Bible study alone. It came through prayer. It came from seeking God in the secret place.

Do you want a fuller measure of the Spirit and God’s presence? Seek his face in prayer. Seek him unrelentingly and passionately. Through fervent prayer and supplication, you will find God’s mind and will for your life.

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He Who Watches Sparrows

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)July 20, 2021

“Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33, NKJV).

The Greek word for confess in this passage means covenant, assent or agreement. Jesus is speaking of an agreement we have with him. Our part is to confess him, or represent him, in our daily lives. We are to live by his promises of protection and personal care for us, and we are to testify of his marvelous blessings by how we live.

Confessing Christ means more than believing in his divinity. The Bible says even demons believe this and tremble at the knowledge (see James 2:19). So what does Jesus mean when he says we are to confess him before men?

What had Christ just told his listeners before the passage in verses 32 and 33? He had said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29). Jesus was telling them, “Think of the millions of birds throughout the earth. Now think of all the birds that have existed since Creation. To this day, not one bird has died or been snared without your heavenly Father knowing it.”

He then pointed out, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). Christ was emphasizing, “God is so great, he’s beyond your ability to comprehend. You’ll never be able to grasp how detailed his care for you is.”

Jesus concluded by saying, “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31), then he sums everything up by saying, “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). He is saying, “Think about what I’ve just revealed to you about the Father’s all-seeing, all-knowing care. You’re to confess this truth to the whole world. You’re to live, breathe and testify, ‘God cares for me.’”

Believe in the Father’s love for you, and accept his intimate care for you. Lay down all your fears and doubts. Confess to everyone, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me.” Live before men with the faith that God hasn’t overlooked you.

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