“The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). God wants a pure church so that we can be the people he truly longs for us to be — clean and untainted by the world. He wants to do a deep work in us in order to refine us and make us sensitive to the holy, awesome God that we serve.
The word judgment has more than one meaning. It can be translated as the wrath of God, which is for those who do not obey the Lord, but the judgment that comes to the house of God is not the wrath of God; rather, it is like a refiner’s fire. It brings us to a place where our lives are aligned with what he has for us.
The entire fourth chapter of 1 Peter is giving definition to the idea of what our lives can look like when the holy, loving judgment of God comes and purifies us. He draws us to a place of holiness: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (4:1). Arming oneself speaks of walking in the fire of the Holy Spirit so that we might be a people that are saying yes to his plans for us.
In 1 Peter 4:8, Peter says we are to “have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” We see that holiness is not just what we do not do, it is how we live. The greatest form of holiness is love; in fact, “he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
Holiness, the refining fire, the righteous judgment of God — all these will get to the core of your heart and change you. And that type of judgment will cause you to cry out, “Lord Jesus, come!”
There is nothing as exhilarating as walking each day with the Holy Spirit. Moving and breathing in the power of God. Listening for the voice that comes to your spirit, then obeying whatever he would have you do. Going wherever he tells you to go. Saying what he tells you to say. Ministering to whomever he puts in your path. Drinking from the well of his wisdom as he imparts it into your heart and mind.
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63).
I try to never question the Holy Spirit’s ways, never doubt his insight, never hesitate to let him lead. So many people try to educate the Holy Spirit on what he should do but God’s Spirit does not answer to you and me or ask us what we think about his ways. He only asks us to follow.
The most powerful and effective prayer any of us can pray is to say, “Jesus, I release my life to the working of your Holy Spirit. I have no plans of my own, no agenda, no goals of my own choosing, no desire that isn’t placed in my spirit by yours. I renounce Satan’s hold on my life and the sins that enslave me. Show me where you want me to go, what you want me to do, who you want me to see, and what you want me to say. I am no longer going to limit your work in my life. Take me! Mold me! Use me! Lead me! Make me a vessel of your Spirit!”
Instead of spending your life praying for blessings, pray that God will use you to bless others. Instead of striving to be comfortable and wealthy and well-fed, pray that God will use you to help others find comfort and shelter and food. Instead of looking for miracles, let God turn your life into a living, breathing miracle of his will.
That is how you make a true impact on the world for Christ and leave a lasting legacy.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
There is no formula for living wholly dependent on the Lord, but there are simple guidelines that you can consider. First, be convinced that the Lord is anxious and willing to make his will known to you, even in the smaller details of your life. The Holy Spirit who abides in you knows God’s will for you and he will guide, lead and speak to you.
“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth … He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14). Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will convey to us the mind and will of God. “When He hears [your voice], He will answer you … Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:19, 21).
You may be in the midst of an affliction or suffering as the result of a hasty decision. The Lord promises you, “Your inner ear will hear my Spirit speaking to you, ‘Go that way. Do this. Don’t do that.”
Second, we must pray with unwavering faith for power to obey God’s direction. Scripture says, “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
When God tells us to do something, we need power to stay the course and obey him fully. Satan and the flesh will always plant doubts and questions and we need strength from heaven not to say “yes” to a situation when Jesus has said “no.”
When you are not sure you recognize the voice of God, reach out to him in faith. Praying, pleading, weeping are not enough if you do not believe the Holy Spirit will guide you. God does not deceive his people and he will make his will clear to you when you seek him.
Jesus told his disciples, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). Then he quickly added these solemn words: “That your fruit should remain.” These words of Christ apply to his disciples right up to this day. He is saying, in essence, “Be sure that your fruit will endure.”
The word “fruit” refers to the work and ministry of Christ that his followers do here on earth. As a believer, you are chosen and ordained to “go into all the world and preach the gospel of Christ” (see Mark 16:15). This means reaching those around you, wherever God has called you to live your life. Jesus also says, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). You can do this by standing alongside a new convert, encouraging, sharing your knowledge of the Word.
Millions of people are filling church pews every Sunday, believing they are in God’s good graces just because they show up in church. Yet, they have created their own concept of who Christ is — someone just like themselves, formed by their own blindness rather than by God’s Word. When you come along and tell them that they are sinners unless they repent and make a true life-change, they may be very resistant. You come with the truth of the blood of Christ, a new birth, separation from the world, a walk of submission and obedience. You come offering them life through Jesus!
What a wonderful opportunity we have to present the life-giving truth of Jesus to others. But no matter how much we share of the mercy, grace and love Christ, the only thing that will pierce the walls erected by hardened people is the presence of Jesus. And that comes through the work of the Holy Spirit.
“God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Whenever you share the love of Jesus with someone, you have the assurance that you are walking out the desires of your heavenly Father.
We all are guilty of unbelief at times. Often we face yet another struggle and allow the enemy to discourage us. We might develop feelings of inexplicable loneliness or, experiencing a sense of total inadequacy, we become convinced the Lord does not hear us. A cry erupts from our hearts, “God, where are you? I pray, I fast, I study your Word. Why won’t you deliver me from this?”
We go to the secret place of prayer but we don’t feel like praying. Our souls are dry, empty, exhausted from our struggles, yet we don’t dare accuse the Lord of neglecting us in our condition. So we just weakly approach him in what we perceive as humility. Head down, we say with discouragement, “Lord, I don’t blame you. You’re good and kind to me. I’m the problem; I’ve failed you so much.”
Wait! That is not humility. On the contrary, it is an outright insult to a Father who adopted us with a covenant promise to love and support us throughout our lifetime. When we tell him how bad we are — how weak, empty and useless we are to him — we despise all that he has accomplished in us. This grieves our heavenly Father.
Whenever we become discouraged in our faith, the Holy Spirit will speak to us in no uncertain terms. “Enough of this self-pity. Get up! You are loved, called and chosen, and I have blessed you with my Word.” We must discipline ourselves to recall all that God has brought us through. We are to rejoice, knowing he is pleased with what he has done for us.
You may have been tested time after time. Now the time has come for you to make a decision. God wants faith that endures the ultimate test and he gives you his Word to enable you to triumph. If he commands you to do something, he will supply you with the power and strength to obey: “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong’” (Joel 3:10). “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).