Not long ago, a young man came forward during a prayer service at Times Square Church, shaking and crying. He told me he was from the state of Washington and that earlier that night he'd walked into our service accidentally. He had left and gone to a music concert, but then he left that event and returned to the church. Now he wanted prayer and so I asked him, "Are your parents Christians?" He answered, "Yes, sir. They keep praying for me."
I ask you: Was it an "accident" that this young man walked into our church? Hardly! He was having his own encounter with Christ. No one pushed or begged him; without question, he had been brought by Jesus. And I'm convinced it happened because of the prayers of his concerned parents.
In Mark 7:31-37 we are told the story of a deaf man being brought to Jesus. Jesus took him away from the crowd, "And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain" (Mark 7:34-35).
Jesus performed a private miracle for this man and then He spoke to him just to prove to him that he could hear. Imagine! The first voice the deaf man heard was Christ's! Oh, how that man must have talked when his tongue was loosed. Out of his mouth poured years of pent-up feelings because now he could express the inner cry that had no voice before.
I imagine him falling into the Lord's arms, weeping, "Jesus, You heard the voice of my cry" (see Psalm 5:2). Consider the poignancy and power of Psalm 5 to this healed man: "My God . . . unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee" (5:2-3). The love this man had for Jesus was now his own—because he had a personal encounter with Him.
Beloved, when you pray for your loved ones, keep in mind Jesus groans over them. He wasn't sighing over just one man in Decapolis. He was weeping over the stifled, inner cries of your children, your unsaved loved ones, and mine. Perhaps you need to change the way you pray over them. Pray that the Holy Ghost goes after them, woos and draws them, stirs and awakens them to a fresh desire for Jesus.
Paul asked the Galatian church, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:7-9).
Paul is referring here to a mindset, a doctrinal belief or point of theology. He is asking, "What's in your life that keeps you from going on in the full blessing of Christ? You were doing so well at one time. I know you to be a praying people, and you labor diligently to do good works, but something is wrong. I don't see you growing anymore. Instead, you've gone back to relying on your flesh. I don't sense the sweet aroma of Christ you once had. Your certainty, your clarity, your vision are all gone. Something's hindering you.
"What could have persuaded you to settle in this condition? Whatever it is, I tell you it's not of God. In fact, I sense leaven in you, a compromise of some kind. Something is clouding you, something you may be holding on to. And it's causing the Lord to have a controversy with you. Tell me, what is it?"
I know so many Christians today who once were mightily used of God. These people were devoted, praying, believing saints. But then something happened to them that somehow caused them to be hindered from experiencing the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
This includes many ministers I know. These men saw victory after victory in their walk with the Lord. But something crept into their lives, some compromise, and over time they made peace with it. Often that hindering leaven was a single besetting sin.
To all such people, Paul asks, "What happened? What's hindering the flow of Christ's blessing in your life? What leaven has crept in?"
Paul finished this passage by warning the Galatians, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
It was with confidence that Paul could say to the church at Rome, "When I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:29). He had a holy confidence in his walk with Christ. He claimed, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16).
Paul was saying, in essence, "My life is an open book before the Lord. I have no hidden sin in my heart, and He has no controversy with me. His blessing to me is a continual flow of revelation, so when I preach to you, you don't hear the words of men. I don't deliver a dead sermon full of clever theology. What you hear are the very words of God's heart to you."
You see, the fullness of Christ's blessing has little to do with material goods. Of course, all good health and earthly resources must be seen as blessings from God's gracious hand. But Paul is speaking of a much greater blessing here. The Greek word he uses for blessing means "God's commendation."
In short, the blessing of Christ means having a life that is pleasing to the Lord. It's an inner knowing from the Holy Ghost that as God looks on your life, He says, "I'm pleased with you, My son, My daughter. There is nothing between us to hinder our communion and relationship."
The writer of Hebrews sums up the fullness of Christ's blessing this way: "The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Hebrews 13:20-21).
I love being around people who live this kind of Christ-life. They have about them the aroma of having been with Jesus. Like Paul, these saints have a divine dissatisfaction with this life; a longing to be in the presence of Christ; a hunger to obtain more and more intimacy with Him. They speak much of Jesus, and they exude His love and holiness.
"I am sure that, when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:29). Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Rome. He was telling them, "I have no doubt that when I meet you, it will be in the fullest measure of Christ's blessing."
The apostle's words here imply something that every believer must know. That is, there are various degrees, or measures, of Christ's blessing. Some believers obtain a full measure of this blessing, which is the goal. We're all meant to come into a full measure of the Lord's blessing. Yet, other Christians enter into only a small measure of Christ's blessing.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges everyone to pursue the fullest measure of this blessing: "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . . . To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 4:7, 13, 3:19).
Note the word "fullness" in these passages. The Greek word Paul uses here means "to complete the task of filling up to the full." That is the task God has given us: to pursue the fullness of Christ's blessing in our lives.
Paul elaborates on this, writing, "There is . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). In short, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit abides in all His children. Jesus promised, "We will come and make our abode in you" (see John 14:23). Paul is making clear that we all have the same access to the Lord. Therefore, we all have an equal opportunity to obtain His ever-increasing blessing. Indeed, our lives should continually increase in what Paul calls "the blessing of Christ."
Consider the incredible measure of Christ's blessing in Paul's life. This man received revelations from Jesus personally. He writes that Christ revealed Himself in him. Of course, Paul knew he hadn't attained perfection. But he also knew, without a doubt, that there was nothing in his life hindering the flow of Christ's blessing.
As the family of God, we gather in churches to worship, sing, listen and give. But if we’re not careful, we can end up being spectators when it comes to living as Jesus would have us live. Often when we see people in sin, rather than helping them out of it, we harbor a secret hope they’ll be caught. And when they are, we feel justified, thinking, “I knew it. That person’s life always seemed a little off.”
Why do we do this? It could be because we feel guilty about our own sin. We all have something in our lives that others could throw a stone at. The truth is, those Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus (see John 8:3-11) could have dragged anyone out of the crowd and stoned her. Nowadays, accusing people do that very thing through social media.
Jesus’ way is different. “Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more’” (John 8:10-11, NLT).
As a preacher of the gospel, I love those three words: “Neither do I.” Jesus didn’t condemn her. And that was a radical thing for Him to do. It still is today, when He tells each of us who repent, “Neither do I condemn you.” Yet Jesus got even more radical when He told the religious leaders, “I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t” (John 8:26). Wow! That sounds like an insult, but in fact Jesus had a whole laundry list of things He could condemn them for. He has a similar list about our lives today. But instead of condemning, He says, “Neither do I condemn you.”
What an amazing moment. It revealed the powerful love behind God’s grace— that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).