The New Covenant Christmas

Gary Wilkerson

Restoring the true meaning of Christmas goes far beyond having Christian carols or manger scenes in public places. How many of you know you can have a manger in a courthouse or carols in a mall and still have a heathen nation? Something more has to change in our nation, and it’s not just the externals but the internal.

We might argue that ‘the internal’ is making sure that we remember baby Jesus in the manger. That’s certainly part of it, but I want to go one step more and say that it’s not just remembering Jesus’ birthday. Jesus isn’t in heaven, pacing back and forth, kind of worried and saying, “Man, these guys are forgetting my birthday. America used to really give me a great birthday, and now it seems so diminished.”

No, Christ is not worried about that, and he’s not just wanting us to gather around a Christmas tree with our families and sing carols and remember that he was born. It goes deeper than that. He wants us to acknowledge and understand the true reason for his entire life here on earth and ultimately his sacrifice. He came to set us free from sin and to put us in a right relationship with God. All of those aspects of what he came to do and to give us is what we celebrate in a ‘New Covenant’ Christmas.

In the book of Isaiah, God says, “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They…shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them” (Isaiah 49:8-10, ESV).

We see in this verse God the Father saying to us that he is going to send his Son, Christ Jesus. The manger, the Bethlehem story, the Luke 1-2 story is a story not just where we celebrate a baby, but that God came into human form for the purpose of the New Covenant being unveiled to us.

This Christmas season, thank God for the New Covenant. Thank God for the liberty that his Son Christ Jesus brought. Thank God for grace, freedom and deliverance.

Walking as Servants in Life

Jim Cymbala

I’ve been around people who want the gifts of healing and prophesy and miracles so they could be famous, so they could get invited places and get nice honorariums. It wasn’t about honoring God. It wasn’t about serving other people, their growth and edification.

This is why Paul says, “Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?... There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:6, 10-12, ESV).

You want spiritual gifts? Pursue and excel in those gifts that build up the church because Christ died for the church. Anyone who helps the church, God will help. Anyone who’s out to make a name for themselves…God is going to withdraw from that. He’s not sharing his glory with some other name. There is only one name that is above every other name!

What do we say if we’re so proud of our denomination and we’re carrying on in church, and a visitor comes in who’s smoking weed five days a week, takes one look and says, “I’m out of here”?

Is that what Christ would want?

“Oh no, but we’re having church! We’re worshiping in the heavenlies.” Well, come down to earth for a little while and talk to that guy smoking weed. He needs Jesus. Whatever you do — hymns, speaking in tongues, worship, sharing the gospel, prayers, odd words and phrases — pray that God will edify people because outside of church, out in the world, they’re being attacked by a thousand demons.

We forget to look at life this way because we get full of ourselves. If you’re full of the devil, that can be cast out; but if you’re full of yourself, that’s a whole different problem.

What we need is to see people the way God sees them and to feel what God feels. Otherwise, we’ll be judgmental and self-righteous. When we’re tired and we feel the temptation to be short or be about ourselves, we have to pray, “Holy Spirit, come. Help me see this person like God sees them. What do you feel? Help me serve them.”

Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.

The Hour of Isolation

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

I know what it is like to face divine silence, to not hear God’s voice for a season. I have walked through periods of total confusion with no apparent guidance, the still small voice behind me completely silent. There were times when I had no friend nearby to satisfy my heart with a word of advice. All my patterns of guidance from before had gone awry, and I was left in total darkness. I could not see my way, and I made mistake after mistake. So often, I wanted to cry out in desperation, “O God, what has happened? I don’t know which way to go!”

Does God really hide his face from those he loves? Is it possible that he lifts his hand for a short time to teach us trust and dependence?

The Bible answers clearly, “God withdrew from him [Hezekiah], in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31, NKJV). We may assume that we have a pure heart, but any issue of trust or pet sins that we may be harboring will quickly be revealed as we wrestle with God’s silence.

You may be going through a flood of trials right now. You know what I’m talking about when I say the heavens are like brass. You know all about repeated failures. You’ve waited and waited for answers to prayer. You’ve been served a cup of affliction. Nothing and nobody can touch that crushing need in your heart.

That’s the time to take your stand! You don’t have to be able to laugh or rejoice, because you may not have any happiness at the moment. In fact, you may have nothing but turmoil in your soul, but you can know God is still with you, because Scripture says, “The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, and the Lord sits as King forever” (Psalm 29:10).

Soon you will hear his voice. Don’t get excited. Don’t panic. Just keep your eyes on the Lord. Commit all things to your heavenly Father. You will be assured that you remain the object of his incredible love.

Why the Lord Delays His Answer

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Most of us pray as David did, “Do not hide your face from me in the day of my trouble; incline your ear to me; in the day that I call, answer me speedily” (Psalm 102:2, NKJV). The Hebrew word for ‘speedily’ suggests “right now, hurry up, in the very hour I call on you, do it!” David was saying, “Lord, I put my trust in you, but please hurry!”

God is in no hurry. He doesn’t jump at our commands. In fact, at times you may wonder if he will ever answer. You cry out, weep, fast and hope; but days, weeks, months, even years go by, and you don’t receive even the slightest evidence that God is hearing you. You may become perplexed and start to question yourself, thinking, “Something must be blocking my prayers.”

Over time, your attitude toward God may become something like this: “Lord, what do I have to do to get this prayer answered? You promised in your Word to give me an answer, and I prayed in faith. How many tears must I shed? What am I doing wrong? What sin in my life is hindering my prayers?”

Why does God delay answers to sincere prayers? It certainly isn’t because he lacks power, and he is most willing to work on our behalf and give us good gifts. No, the answer is found in one of Jesus’ parables. “Then he spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

The Greek word for ‘lose heart,’ or ‘faint’ in the King James Version, means “relax, become weak or weary in faith, give up the struggle, no longer wait for completion.” The Lord is seeking for a praying people who will not relax or grow weary of coming to him.

Paul wrote to the early church, encouraging them in a similar way. “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). The people of God will wait on the Lord, not giving up before his work is completed, and they will be found faithfully waiting when he brings the answer.

We Are God’s in Life or Death

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Because God loves you, he will work to cleanse you, but it is a loving chastening upon those who repent and return to him. You may feel God’s arrows in your soul because of your past and present sins, but if you have a repentant heart and want to turn from error, you can call upon his chastening love. You will not feel his wrath as the heathens do but rather the rod of his discipline, applied by his loving hand.

When you know you have arrived at your lowest point, it is time to seek the Lord in brokenness, repentance and faith.

When you cry out to God, he pours his strength into you. “In the day when I cried out, you answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul…. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me; you will stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand will save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:3, 7–8, NKJV).

One of the most difficult things for Christians to accept is the suffering of the righteous. There is an erroneous doctrine that says if you are in agreement with God, you will never suffer. It claims, “Just call out to God, and he will come running and solve everything immediately.” This is not the gospel! The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 all had close relationships with God, and they suffered mocking, torture and violent deaths (see Hebrews 11:36–38). Paul himself, who walked closely with God, was shipwrecked, stoned, whipped, left for dead, robbed, jailed and persecuted. He suffered the loss of all things.

God wants to plant something in our hearts through our trials. He wants us to be able to say, “Lord Jesus, I believe you rule over the events of my life. If anything happens to me, it’s only because you allowed it, and I trust your purpose in doing it. Help me understand the lesson you want me to learn from it. If I walk in righteousness and have your joy in my heart, my living and dying will bring glory to you. I will say, ‘Jesus, whether I live or die, I am yours!’”