When God is about to do a new work, He pours out a spirit of intensity upon His people. We can no longer be spiritually lazy, complacent, nonchalant and easygoing. We must become intense, full of heat and passion toward Christ, feeling deeply and seriously about the work of God. Today God is raising up a people who hate sin and tremble at His Word. His remnant must hear and believe in holy prophets. They must not vacillate and grow lukewarm; instead, they must grow more serious for God as the days go by.
Consider the intensity of Ezra. Look closely at his passion against anything that hurts God, and you will see his utter hatred of mixing with the world. “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice” (Ezra 9:3-4).
What a scene! Ezra was sitting as a heap of godly sorrow, pulling out his hair and beard “because of the transgression of those that had been [swept] away” (verse 4). One by one, all who had a trembling heart gathered around him. God had just one man who would blush over sin—and through him a body of mourners was brought forth.
“Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore” (Ezra 10:1).
Whole households of God’s people are cozying up to the world but many of you are crying for holiness and separation! You feel God’s grief for sin and you blush in shame. You know it is time to get serious about walking with Him.
“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. . . . Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:13, 15).
The prophet Jeremiah saw a horrible condition coming upon God’s people. To hide their sins they had begun living behind a facade of superficial peace and security. Greed and covetousness had so overcome their hearts that they camouflaged their hurts with a phony brokenness. Their entire lives had become superficial—superficial tears, superficial repentance, even superficial healing.
God’s people had lost their sense of shame and grief for sin—sin in society and sin in their own lives. They no longer felt God’s hatred and wrath against iniquity. Sin had become “just one of those things.”
Jeremiah cried out, “Were they ashamed when they sinned? No! They were not at all ashamed—neither could they blush!”
Holy Ghost blushing is not just red cheeks from simple modesty. It is feeling wounded, ashamed, devastated—grieved that the name and purity of Jesus our Lord has been trampled, that His reputation has been smeared.
God’s people sat under a message of searing truth yet they turned away from it. They rebelled against it! “They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3). They were committing adultery by romping with harlots and lusting after their neighbors’ wives. In verse 11 of the same chapter, Jeremiah called it outright treachery against the Lord!
In spite of all the prophetic warnings by Jeremiah, these people went their merry way, saying, “Neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine” (verse 12). “Judgment is not God’s message for us,” they said.
God warned His people to heed the instructions of the word being delivered to them or He would depart from them. “Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee” (Jeremiah 6:8). And again God said: “I am speaking clearly! I am warning! But who is listening?”
Do you sense that God is about to unleash something tremendous in your life? Perhaps He has spoken to your heart: “I have prepared something special for you. You’re about to enter a walk with Me that you’ve never known before.” Maybe your life has already been greatly blessed by God. Now the Holy Spirit is telling you that His longstanding promise is about to come into full fruition—and that it will amaze you.
If this describes your life right now, I can tell you with the authority of Scripture: Get ready to examine your heart.
Let’s talk about what I call experiencing “crazy faith.” Crazy faith is believing that no matter how good things are, the best is yet to come. It’s a faith that says, “As much as we dream and do big things for God’s kingdom, His vision is always greater.” What the Lord has done in the brief existence of the church I pastor has exceeded my wildest expectations. Not a week has gone by when someone has not given his or her life to Jesus—and most weeks it’s multiple people. Whenever we distribute food to the poor, many of them ask, “Why are you doing this?” We answer, “It’s Jesus,” and they give their lives to Him.
This is all happening miraculously. In a few short years our church attendance has grown phenomenally. New believers are quickly maturing into faithful disciples, growing in their knowledge of God. They are well on their way to our ultimate goal for them: to become radically devoted missionaries for Jesus, wherever He may lead them.
God isn’t just exceeding our expectations, He’s showing us what His expectations are, and it is amazing to see. There are still a quarter of a million people in our area alone who don’t know Christ, and the Lord stirred us to plant two new churches here, one in a troubled area of the city. I’m simply astonished by God’s great works.
Here is the craziest part of all: I believe greater things are yet to come.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).
Maintaining doctrinal purity is good but it is not the whole picture for a New Testament church. The apostles wanted to do much more than simply “hold the fort,” as the old gospel song says. They asked God to empower them to move out and impact an entire culture.
In too many places where the Bible is being thumped and doctrine is being argued until three in the morning, the Spirit of that doctrine is missing. William Law, an English devotional writer of the early 1700s, wrote, “Read whatever chapter of Scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it—yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon Him.”
One way to recognize whether we suffer from this disconnection is to look at our concern for people who are dirt . . . people who are “other” . . . people who don’t fit the core group’s image. The idea that a church could be called to serve just one designated class is not found in the New Testament. The ravages of sin are not pleasant—but they are what Jesus came to forgive and heal. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Spirit of God is a Spirit of mercy, of compassion, of reaching out.
Yet Christians often hesitate to reach out to those who are different. They want God to clean the fish before they catch them. If someone’s gold ring is attached to an unusual body part, if the person doesn’t smell the best, or if the skin color is not the same, Christians tend to hesitate. But think for a moment about God reaching out to us. If ever there was a “reach” that was it: the holy, pure Deity extending Himself to us who were soiled, evil-hearted, unholy. God could have said, “You’re so different from Me, so distasteful, I would really rather not get too close to you.” But He didn’t say that. It was our very differentness that drew His hand of love.
Jesus didn’t just speak the healing word to lepers from a distance . . . He touched them. “And He put forth His hand and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him” (Luke 5:13).
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn and longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson, Cymbala is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (4:7). “For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (4:10). When Jesus was confronted with the devil’s schemes, He overcame them with God’s Word.
Today we have yet another, “It is written”—“I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). You can tell the devil, “You may try to tear down my faith, but you need to know this: my Jesus is praying for me!”
Peter’s faith was tested, shaken, and because of his pride he stumbled. But in answer to the Master’s prayer, the roots of his faith had not been destroyed. Just when Satan was shouting with glee and it looked as if the Lord has lost an anointed friend, Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus and melted! “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. . . . And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).
“Wept bitterly” in Greek means “a piercing, violent cry.” “And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (22:61). I picture this man walking toward the Judean hills, falling on his face with hands outstretched, crying, “Oh, Father, He was so right! I did not listen. He warned me that Satan would attempt to destroy my faith. Die for Jesus? Why, I couldn’t even stand up to a maid! Forgive me! I love Him! To whom shall I go?”
I believe Peter’s faith took hold of something else Jesus had said: “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). How many times did Peter play this over in his mind and heart, pondering to himself, “Didn’t Jesus say converted? Didn’t He say I still had a ministry? After what I did, I’m supposed to help others?”
God answered His Son’s prayer. I can see Peter standing up with the Spirit of God flowing through him, hands raised to the sky, saying, “Satan, be gone! I failed Him, but I still love Him. He promised—in fact, He prophesied—that I would come back and be a strength to others, a rock. I’m going back to my brothers and sisters!”