I believe it has never been more important for the Church and the world to know the real Jesus than it is right now. By “the real Jesus” I mean the only source able to satisfy every human need and longing; every desire to be loved, known and accepted; every hope to have a life of value, worth and purpose.
These things aren’t found in the world. Our culture is fully focused on American Idol-type fame, telling us we’ll be satisfied by money or good looks or popularity. As lovers of God we know that our deepest desires can be satisfied only by Christ.
And yet knowing this, we in the Church often try to reduce Jesus to our own image. Many of us want a Jesus who suits us—a right-wing Republican Jesus or a liberal-leaning Democratic Jesus. There is a black Jesus, a brown Jesus, a white Jesus (whom I call the Holiday Inn Jesus—the one with blow-dried, blond hair who seems to float through the air).
When I speak of “the real Jesus,” I mean the One who satisfies every human hunger and thirst. He cannot be reduced to some limited conception because the Bible says Christ can be known only in His fullness. It takes the whole counsel of God—the full biblical picture—for us to receive, know and faithfully serve Jesus. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16, ESV). In short, we are able to walk in Christ’s grace only as we know Him fully. Anything else is a diminished walk of faith.
John also says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (1:11). This speaks of Christ’s rejection by the Jews, but how much of our Lord do we ignore today? Do we emphasize some of His teachings over others because some are uncomfortable? To what degree have we not accepted Jesus in His fullness?
In the book of Genesis, we see Abraham, our model of faith, grow, flourish and increase in his fulfillment of what God had prepared for him. Through his life and example, the Bible proposes a life of growth and progress to every believer where he or she who wants to can walk “from faith to faith and strength to strength.” In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham reveals to us one of the most important and yet widely unrecognized secrets of the walk of faith. It will take “increase our faith” deep into our everyday lives and will be of eternal consequence (see Genesis 14:17-24).
This passage shows Abraham returning from the battlefields with a victory. As he came back, Abraham met two kings: the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. The king of Sodom came from the place of fire, of flames. The name “Sodom” means “a scorched place.” Please read his words carefully, for the enemy of our souls still speaks the very same today, in your life and mine. “The king of the place of fire, the scorched place, says, ‘Take the goods, I want the souls.’” Did you get it? Do you hear these words? They make me shudder. There is a modern-day, selfish and egotistical church, ravenously materialistic and hideously self-centered. Her only goal and preoccupation is her wealth and the only message she tolerates is one of blessing, prosperity and material fulfillment. She has been blinded by the eternal nature of this diabolical temptation inspired by hell itself.
Dear reader, have we been influenced by this gospel, obsessed with its own blessing? Have we surrendered the “souls” to our eternal enemy? Jesus teaches that there is a thief that comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Faith that will refuse and resist in the secret place says “no” to the damning offer from the king of Sodom to live for the “goods,” for this faith is passionate about what is eternal. This faith lives for “the souls.” Faith that resists in the secret place is made possible by the daily renewing of His Spirit burning His divine character in us—pressing us, mobilizing us, renewing in us a passion to serve, to pray, to love, to give, and to simply and daily do whatever is in our power to fulfill that which is our eternal call: to win souls. We resist and refuse to “keep the goods” and lose the souls.
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. 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.
The New Testament has much to say about chastisement [educational correction]: “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:5-7).
Jesus Himself declared, “As many as I love, I rebuke [correct] and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Paul wrote, "We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).
The Old Testament, too, speaks of chastisement: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
What you are going through as a child of God is no accident or isolated calamity. Every test, every fiery trial is under His careful scrutiny and there is a purpose to it all. It is “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
Chastening can seem grievous, as though some strange thing is happening to us. It is not joyous, but after it passes it produces the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” However, only those who want to learn and are willing to be trained by it will bear fruit.
Satan will speak to you as he did to Job, “The righteous do not suffer! If God heard you, if He saved you, if He loved you, if His promises are true, you should be rescued immediately. Your suffering should not be so prolonged. Where is your God? Is this what your faith gets you?”
Beloved, don’t cast away your faith! Satan is a liar! You are suffering because God loves you, because He cares! You asked the Lord to make you more like Himself and only He knows what that takes. He knows what is about to destroy you and He knows just when to make a way of escape. He won’t act until it is His time.
Don’t faint! God has everything under control, including that pain, that lingering sickness. You might not go all the way if He lifted it right now! Like Paul, you have a thorn that keeps pride away.
All the Old Testament prophets foretold God’s people going into the refiner’s fire. “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried” (Zechariah 13:9).
“For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3).
God said to Jeremiah, “Is not my word like as a fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29). And Jeremiah said, “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). God is once again sending a fiery, refining Word as hot as the coals on His altar! He is turning up the heat. You will see it more and more as the Lord sends forth holy prophets who are purged messengers. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven” (Malachi 4:1).
Whenever silver or gold is refined by fire, all impurities, alloys, lesser metals, dirt, little specks of waste and dross come to the surface. Satan comes around when God has you in this purifying process and you are sitting under His red-hot Word. As impurities are brought to the surface and hidden corruption is being separated by fire, the devil says, “Look in the pot and tell me what you see. Dirt and impurities of all kinds. The hotter the message—the more the dirt. Look at you, a refiner’s pot of dirt and corruption! You’re never going to make it! You’ve been under the Word for years and all you’ve got is dirt!”
You answer him, “Devil, see that One sitting beside me? That’s my Master, the Refiner. He’s fanning the flames and it is He who put me in this fire. And, devil, that scum is only surface deep! Below that the whole pot is filled with gold! The Lord is getting us ready. See that thing in His hand? It’s a strainer, and when He’s ready, He’s going to skim off the top of the pot and keep skimming until one day He’ll look in there and smile because He sees His own face reflecting back, right there in me!”
God has given us a powerful weapon to use against any attack on our faith. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Get your eyes off those falling around you. Instead, set your eyes on “the great cloud of witnesses” who have already made it to glory! This verse depicts an army of victorious saints of all ages hovering over us, as if seated in bleachers, cheering on the saints still left in the race! Listen to their cry: “Put away that sin; there is victory! We won! We fought to the death and did not fall—because God kept us! Our faith never wavered. Run with patience, move on, the truth works! We are overcomers!”
So a few preachers fall. So a few thousand preachers fall! So those you trust fall! Does that mean the devil is gaining power? Does that mean there will be only a few victorious ones? Look up and see a great cloud of witnesses, all dressed in white!
Was it worth it all? Ask Noah. “All my generation fell! Only eight of us kept the faith, but we held on for 120 years in spite of the violence, rampant sin and mockery. You, too, can overcome.”
Say to the devil, “If sin is so all powerful and you say everybody is a phony, then what about that great cloud? Where did that army of witnesses come from? If sin is so strong, how did so many get free? Look at that triumphant army of witnesses, waving palms, wearing crowns of righteousness. How did they make it?
“Satan, you robbed and spoiled their homes. You sent in your henchmen to throw their children in the rivers. You cut them in pieces; you cut off their heads, thrust swords through their bellies. You whipped and beat them. You cut their throats—and yet they would not bend. Their faith prevailed!”