The testimony that God wants to bring forth in his children is joy — genuine, lasting joy. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy, which results from biblical preaching and true repentance, brings true strength to God’s people and draws sinners into his house.
Most Christians never associate joy with repentance, but repentance is actually the mother of all joy in Jesus. Without it, there can be no joy. When David disobeyed, he lost the joy of the Lord and it could only be restored by true repentance. So he prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:2-3). David also prayed to regain what he had lost: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (51:12).
It is impossible to maintain the joy of the Lord if sin is present in one’s life. We must increasingly separate ourselves from the world around us. How can the Holy Spirit pour out joy on a people who continue to indulge in adultery, addictions and materialism, living like those who do not follow Christ?
Only the joy of the Lord supplies us with true strength. We can talk all we want about our long walk with Christ, but if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to maintain the joy of the Lord in our hearts — if we aren’t continually hungering for his Word — then we are losing our fire and we won’t be ready for what comes upon the world in these last days.
How do we maintain the joy of the Lord? We do it the same way we obtained his joy in the beginning.
This is how a Holy Spirit person or church maintains “Jesus joy” — rejoicing always, full of gladness!
Growing in grace means to increase in Christlikeness through the unmerited power of God’s Spirit. Are you relying on the Holy Spirit to make you more like Jesus — in your home, your relationships, your job?
This question applies especially to mature Christians, those who have built a spiritual foundation over the years through regular Bible study, a consistent prayer life, and godly instruction. After all your studying, praying and learning, are you becoming more like Jesus? Are you more compassionate, meek, merciful and forgiving than you were at this time last year? Or has your growth been stunted and settled on a plateau of zero growth?
The apostle Peter describes an awesome day coming when the heavens will pass away, the earth’s elements will melt, and everything in creation will dissolve. Therefore, he says, we should continually be prepared and longing for our Lord’s return: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17, KJV).
Peter’s warning in verse 17, “lest ye also,” presents a strong challenge to believers. He is confronting us, saying, “You’re a lover of Jesus. You claim to be ready and yearning for the Lord’s return; in fact, you’re always warning others to do the same. But are you an example to the rest of Christ’s church in your walk? Or do you live as if Jesus isn’t ever coming back? Be careful, because you can also be led away by the error of the wicked.”
This “error of the wicked” is the mistaken idea that Jesus isn’t really at the door. This results in a lack of concern, a tragic complacency, a carelessness demonstrated in conversation and lifestyle at this late hour.
You may testify that you’re saved, justified, sanctified; you’ve escaped the lusts of this wicked age; you’re blessed with intimate knowledge of Jesus. But Peter warns, “There is a danger of being led astray from growth, back into the bondage of bitterness and revenge. You can become unkind, unmerciful, unforgiving.”
Be sure that you are growing in grace! God has been merciful to you, so be merciful to others.
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22, KJV). The Greek word for habitation as used here means “a permanent residence.”
Every Christian knows that God doesn’t dwell in manmade temples or buildings. God has no physical residence — no nation, no capital, no mountaintop. He doesn’t reside in the clouds or sky, the darkness or daylight, the sun, moon or stars. Of course, the Lord is everywhere, his presence filling all things. But according to his Word, God makes his home in the hearts and bodies of his people. Every believer can boast with confidence, “God lives in me.”
God began to abide in us when we first gave our heart to Jesus. He testifies, “I am in My Father … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:20, 23).
Long before the world was created, the heavenly Father and his Son were together in the glory of heaven, living in great bliss. Jesus had not yet walked in the flesh, with all its burdens and trials, and knew nothing of human sadness. Then came the plan of the New Covenant, which Proverbs 8 reveals. The Father asked Jesus, “Will you take on human flesh and become the sacrifice that redeems fallen humankind?” God chose to dwell on this tiny sphere called Earth and he chose man as the place he would inhabit here. “Rejoicing in His inhabited world … my delight was with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:31).
Jesus knew he would no longer enjoy the blissful, face-to-face communion he had with his Father, yet he took delight at the thought of sweet communion with us! He fully understood the awful prospects — the crown of thorns, the hatred and rejection, the cross — yet he counted the cost and said, “I delight to do Your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8).
Jesus anticipated spending a lifetime with you and having sweet fellowship with you daily. Proverbs 8:34: “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” You are the delight of Jesus’s heart! He eagerly awaits your presence and longs to bless you, as one of his beloved children.
“There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:1-5).
Jesus had just begun his ministry and already had a small following of disciples. This miracle at the wedding in Cana was his first and it revealed his glory to the world in spectacular fashion. Yet it contains deep significance for the church beyond that time and place.
Throughout the New Testament, wine is associated with the manifest presence of God through the Holy Spirit. In this scene, wine was at the center of the wedding celebration and was poured out freely to be served to the invited guests. It is a picture of a joyful people to whom God’s Spirit flows freely. But verse three contains a powerfully symbolic phrase: “When the wine ran out.”
The hosts ran out of wine at the wedding and the people needed it replenished to sustain their joy. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit present in us, yet we have to be filled with the Spirit continually as we experience an ebb and flow in our walk with Christ. This does not mean the Spirit leaves us, but we are called back again and again to quench the deep thirst that the Spirit himself puts in us.
The best way to be filled with God’s Spirit is simply to heed his voice and obey his commands. Doing so provides us with peace, safety and joy, and allows us to speak to God with authority. As followers of Jesus, we are to be filled with his peace, unshaken by evil, our lives shining as lights amid darkness. We are to have a ready response when those around us ask, “How can you have such peace in the midst of all that is going on?”
God is going to have a testimony of his goodness in the midst of panic, a testimony of holiness in evil times. Pray with me: “Lord, pour out the wine of your Spirit on me — your wine of healing, anointing, deliverance and restoration. Move through your children to bring new life. Amen!”
“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you” (James 4:7, CEB).
A young man felt a call on his life to serve in missionary work, so he went to his spiritual leader for guidance. During their conversation, the leader discerned an independent spirit and edgy attitude in the young man. As he observed these disturbing signs, he counseled him, “Before you can become a missionary, you must become ‘submissionary’” — meaning, of course, that he must learn to submit.
Submission is a hard word but a very powerful one. Christians are schooled in the practice of binding Satan over themselves, people, churches and cities, but Satan doesn’t flee unless the one praying possesses a spirit submissive to God. In other words, it is impossible to resist the devil in any area if there is not submission to God in every area.
Submission recognizes God’s authority and his Word. It’s relatively easy to submit until you encounter something you don’t agree with. For example, if a young man knows that the Word of God says not to marry a non-Christian but he decides that “love trumps God” and he goes ahead with the marriage, he is not submissive to the authority of the Father. He may argue that he loves God and is submissive to him, but you cannot submit without obeying. You see, submission is the attitude, but obedience is the action that proves the attitude.
Once, a mother instructed her disobedient son to sit in a corner as discipline. After a couple of minutes of sitting, the child told his mother, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” This is a perfect example of obeying but not submitting.
Christian author Edwin Louis Cole said, “Your ability to resist temptation is directly proportionate to your submission to God.” Don’t sin by thinking you know better than God what’s best for you. Recognize your heavenly Father as your authority and obey him with a smile on your face!
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.