There are many voices in our culture urging us to have the best life we possibly can. This concept has translated into the way many Christians approach church. They think God should bless them with everything they desire in life. But that’s not the way God blesses us. Yes, He seeks to serve us for our good—but the name to be lifted up as our central focus is His, not ours.
As Jesus overturned all those tables in the temple, He cried out, “Take these things away!” (John 2:16). Likewise today, our temples are to be cleansed of anything that takes the place of His rightful lordship. God sends Jesus to rid us of those things, to prepare room for the things He wants to fill us with. He wants our temple to be once again a house of prayer, faith and kingdom victory.
“His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17). When Jesus drove out the moneychangers, His disciples got a picture of what passion for God really looked like. Jesus’ actions appeared harsh, but in reality they demonstrated God’s loving grace.
A lot of Christians today think of God’s grace as excusing passion rather than igniting it. But grace was never meant to leave us in a place of apathy. The opposite is true: When God’s grace is applied to our lives, it impassions us with zeal. It makes us more circumspect of heart, more desirous of a clean life, more zealous for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.
In fact, grace evokes strong emotions. Scripture says that when Jesus’ disciples saw their Master in action, they “remembered.” These devout men had forgotten what zeal for God looked like. Now, as Jesus drove out the moneychangers, their hearts were stirred by the realization, “This is what it means to be consumed with love for God!”
Have you been robbed of your zeal? Has casual Christianity or consumerism overtaken your passion for Jesus? Invite Him today to overturn the tables in your heart. May His name rule supreme in your worship, evoking strong emotions. And may He bring to your remembrance the zeal that consumes your heart to serve your great and holy God. Amen!
The Bible tells us that a person came at midnight saying, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:5-6). Now Jesus never just throws out a random number, so there must be some significance in this. Plus, I don’t know anybody who can eat three loaves of bread in one sitting. So what exactly is He referring to here?
This is the way I see it: The first loaf of bread represents the compassion of God the Father. The Scriptures tell us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You and I need the compassion of God, for that is what will draw us out of living merely for ourselves. The compassion of God is what will cause us to move beyond saying, “Give us bread, give us deliverance, grant us forgiveness.”
When we move beyond ourselves with the compassion of God, we will also move into what I believe is represented by the second loaf: The courage of the Son. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “If it be possible, Father, take this cup from Me. Nevertheless not what I will, but what you want for My Life” (see Mark 14:36). You and I need that same courage in order to lay down our own will and lay hold of God’s—living as His witnesses in this generation. We will need supernatural strength to go out into the marketplace and stand for Christ in the midst of a hostile generation that is resisting its own salvation.
In light of this, I thank God that there is also a third loaf: The power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Lord’s promise to those who belong to Him and are willing to engage in His work on earth. It is for those who are no longer content to go into the prayer closet concerned simply about their own needs. Rather, they are moved by the needs of this generation. These are the people who will have power in their prayers.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Every day you do things over and over that become boring and repetitious. For example, every weekday you get up at the same hour, eat the same breakfast and make the same drive to your office. You go to the same restaurant for lunch, stop at the same coffee shop on your way home, and listen to the same radio station during the drive.
The same can be true of our spiritual lives. On Sunday morning, we go to church and sit in the same seats. We sing the same choruses and hymns. Even our prayers can sound the same. We do the same things over and over and we are tempted to think, “I’m not doing anything more than I’ve always done. I read my Bible and pray. I sing in the choir. But there’s no variety to it. I’ve done these same things for years and I’m not growing at all.”
What lies your feelings tell you! Such thinking can rob you of God’s grace. The fact is, we all face endless repetition in our daily routines. That’s just life. The real proof of growth is that we haven’t quit. We’re still giving ourselves to God’s work, day by day, week by week, year by year.
You see, growing in grace doesn’t mean doing more or greater things for God. True growth comes in doing the same things over and over, with more heart assurance that we’re doing everything for Him. It’s like learning to write in first grade. You begin with looping circles and lines, forming big letters. But after a while, the letters become smaller and closer together and eventually, you learn to put words together and finally form sentences. Even though you’ve been doing the same repetitious things for a long time, you’ve been writing. The whole time, something worthwhile was being accomplished.
I am convinced that spiritual growth occurs more in the repetitive things than it does by jumping from one ministry activity to another. It takes more grace simply to keep going when we’re tired, broken, downcast or afflicted than it does when everything is new. You may think you’re spiritually dead, going nowhere in the Lord, but most likely you’re increasing in Christ every day.
You may be totally oblivious to the tremendous maturing process taking place inside you. Paul likens our spiritual growth to the growth of our bodies. He says our souls are nourished in the same way as our physical joints, muscles and fibers. He calls this being “[increased] with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:19).
Such growth comes from the Head. Simply put, as you trust and abide in Christ, a never-ending flow of His life is pumped into your soul. Jesus is a constant life-force in your being, a living stream that never shuts down. Therefore, His life is constantly emanating into yours, even while you are sleeping. He provides a fresh supply to you every day, no matter how you feel on the outside.
How do you think Israel survived forty years in the wilderness? They lived on manna, bread sent from heaven. This “angels’ food” had all the nutrients needed to build up the Israelites’ immune systems. That is why God’s people never contracted any of the diseases of Egypt. All around them, the Canaanites and Philistines were dying of plagues, yet the whole time, Israel remained immune.
So it is with Christ, our manna today. He is the bread sent to us from heaven and He builds up our spiritual immune systems against sins of all kinds. We may not see outward signs that this manna is at work in us (just as we don’t see our physical bodies’ immune systems growing stronger). But God’s Word promises that all who love Jesus will grow stronger in their spiritual immunity.
Think about it: At times you still may be tempted, but over the years you’ve found growing power to resist the world’s seductions. And you’ve grown more disgusted with the filth you see around you. You no longer think or talk as the world does. While your coworkers are howling, “It’s Friday—party time,” you’re thinking, “Only two more days till Sunday.” That’s because you are growing!
The apostle Paul assured the Thessalonians that they had learned how to walk pleasing before the Lord. He told them, “Ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Paul then added this exhortation: “So ye would abound more and more” (4:1).
To abound means to increase. Paul was saying, “You’ve been sitting under sound gospel preaching so now you have a solid foundation beneath you. Therefore, you ought to be increasing in grace in all ways—in your faith, your knowledge, your love.”
Paul also spoke of such abounding to the Corinthians: “As ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7). He said, in other words, “God’s Spirit has wrought major changes in your life. Therefore, you ought to be giving more of yourself in all ways—in your time, your finances, your talents.”
These passages make it clear that everyone who has been fed God’s Word is expected to grow in grace. God has endowed gifts to pastors, teachers, prophets and evangelists for the express purpose of causing His church to grow. No believer is to remain a babe in Christ. We are expected to grow in Him so that we are not carried away by any false thing.
Jesus Himself speaks of a constant increase in our lives: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Christ commended the church at Thyatira for having grown in grace: “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first” (Revelation 2:19). Jesus was saying, in essence, “You’re more intense now than when you started out. You’ve allowed My life in you to grow more abundant.”
Proverbs echoes this: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). And Job declares, “The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger” (Job 17:9).