The writings of the apostle Paul clearly show that his preeminent desire in life was to know Jesus. He wanted to be fully yielded to the living Christ whom he was now aware had taken up residence inside his earthly body. He wrote, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Paul was aware of something that we need to rediscover today: We are not called to simply bring the knowledge of God to our generation; we are called to be a visible expression of who God is by allowing him to demonstrate his power, wisdom, grace and love through us.
Paul also made a statement which should encourage us whenever we feel mediocre compared to those we read about in the Bible: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected” (Philippians 3:12). He was essentially saying, “I am not everything that I should be.” Paul was not — and neither are we! But he continued with something very encouraging: “But I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me … forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:12-14).
In other words, “God has a plan for my life, and I am moving forward to fulfill that which Christ has determined to do through me.” One of the hardest things for us to leave behind is our regret. We tend to carry it with us through life — those constant thoughts of, “If only I had done this; if only I had been this; if only I had not been so selfish.” And the list goes on and on.
Paul had a great many reasons to live in regret. For instance, he says, “I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). And in Acts 26:10-11 he lists even more of his offenses. But he made a deliberate choice to forget those things that were behind him and go forward with Jesus! Likewise, you can choose to lay all your past failings at the cross and walk away from your regrets. He died to give you a new mind and a new heart — receive it by faith!
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.
We have heard talk of conspiracies down through the years but there is only one conspiracy that concerns our heavenly Father — a scheme aimed directly at Christians who have set their hearts on entering into the fullness of Christ. This conspiracy is meant to thwart God’s plan of raising up an army of sanctified people — men and women totally devoted to the lordship of Jesus in their lives. Let’s call it a conspiracy of interruptions.
The devil is terrified of Christians who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Indeed, he fears praying saints more than he fears a thousand years in chains. The powerful praying of just one intercessor sounds like raging thunder in the caverns of hell. That’s why the devil works so hard to distract and interrupt such a follower of Christ.
One of the favorite ploys of the enemy is to present human need that demands our attention. We cry out, “Lord, how can I turn away and neglect those who are hurting?” The answer from the Lord is, “How can you neglect me?” This is the crux of the issue.
Can anyone or anything ever be more important to us than our Lord? Should any need or hurt ever keep us from meeting with the Lord himself? Even Jesus drew away from the massive human need all around him so that he could quietly communicate with his heavenly Father. There comes a time in every Christian’s life when he has to say, “You can wait. I’ll be back but first I have to spend time in prayer. My soul is hungry and I must feed on God’s Word. If I don’t spend time alone with the Lord, I’ll have nothing to offer you but my feeble human compassion.”
In order to guard your prayer time and withstand all satanic conspiracies, you can do three things:
Make communion with the Lord your primary goal in life. Job declared, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
Consider your appointments with God more sacred than any appointments with people — no matter who they are!
Reject every interruption that is within your power and take spiritual authority over those interruptions you discern to be supernatural.
Enter into the fullness of your walk with Christ, as God has planned for you.
The Old Testament tells us of Jacob, a deceiving, conniving, cheating man — whom God loved dearly! His life is filled with marvelous lessons for us about God’s dealings with human nature.
Let’s pick up Jacob’s story just as he is fleeing from his older twin brother, Esau. Jacob had tricked Esau out of his birthright and obtained the “double blessing” from his father Isaac that was due the firstborn male. This blessing included all the father’s possessions but, most importantly, it meant that Jacob was the progenitor of the patriarchal seed through which Christ would come: “In you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). He was a direct ancestor of the Messiah.
Obviously, this particular birthright was of very great spiritual significance and its importance exposes the awfulness of what Esau did in giving up the right of the firstborn for a mere pot of stew. When Esau learned that Jacob had stolen his blessing, he was determined to kill his brother (see Genesis 27:36, 41).
It was against this backdrop that Jacob set off and while he was on his way, God gave him an incredible vision of a ladder with angels on it going to and from the throne of God, doing his bidding (28:12). These same angels are still working and ministering on our behalf today. After God blessed Jacob (verse 14), he added these wonderful promises: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (28:15).
God was giving Jacob an oath, saying, “I’ll never leave you, Jacob. I’ll be with you every step of the way. My purpose will be accomplished in your life no matter what!” It is hard to find any faith, goodness or grace in Jacob and yet God saw something in his heart that brought forth his great love and a desire to bless him. God saw beyond his greed and manipulation and knew that something in Jacob’s heart was willing to be changed.
We know that humans consider the outward appearance but God always looks at the heart. And that is exactly what God is looking for in us — a broken, contrite heart he can work on.
As the time of Christ’s return draws near, the devil is going to open up the floodgates of hell against God’s people. We see this happening already within the walls of the church, as Satan has infiltrated God’s house with subtle lies and false doctrines. Multitudes of deceptions and heresies are swirling through the church, and undiscerning Christians are swallowing it all.
How will believers be able to stand in such times? The Lord answers this question by promising to take on the problems himself. “You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you” (Deuteronomy 3:22). Our Father assures us, “Don’t be afraid! I’m going to take this matter into my own hands and I will empower you against every onslaught of the enemy.”
We can learn how to do battle with the enemy by going to the Old Testament and witnessing the lessons of godliness recorded there. One of the first lessons we draw from the Old Testament is just how safe a child of God is when he trusts in the blood. On the night of Passover, not a single Israelite was in danger from the death angel who swept through Egypt. Every man, woman and child of God rested safely and securely under the blood covering that was spread on the doorposts of their homes. “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).
This picture of safety in the Old Testament represents the protective power of our Lord’s blood over his children today. As Christians, we are to be a believing, trusting people who have the blood of Christ sprinkled on the doorposts of our hearts.
Even though we have been saved and secured by Christ’s blood, we are still engaged in a battle with overwhelming principalities, satanic powers and demonic strongholds. We are to claim the power that is available to us through God’s New Covenant — but that power comes only by faith!
Some believers — even ministers — believe the Old Testament is not relevant to our times so there’s no need to study it anymore. How wrong they are! The Old Testament explains the New Testament in clear, simple terms. Its stories are full of types and shadows of eternal truths, played out in the practical lives of real people.
A perfect example can be found in Israel, a type of Christian, while Egypt represents the world. Israel’s journey through the wilderness represents our spiritual walk as Christians. The tree that healed the bitter waters at Marah is a type of the cross of Christ (see Exodus 15:23-25) and the rock that produced water in the desert (see Numbers 20:11) is a type of our Savior, who was smitten on the cross.
Indeed, Scripture makes it clear that all of Israel’s physical battles mirror our spiritual battles today: “All these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Even the tabernacle and its furniture are examples of heavenly things: “Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain’” (Hebrews 8:5).
Whenever you don’t understand a truth in the New Testament, you can turn to the Old Testament to find it illustrated in some way. For example, let’s say you wanted to learn how to bring down any spiritual walls the devil may have built up in your life. You could turn to the story of Joshua to see how the walls of Jericho were brought down (read the account in Joshua 6). Likewise, if you wanted to learn more about prevailing in prayer, read the story of Jacob wrestling with the the Lord in Genesis 32:24-29.
All these Old Testament examples are meant to keep us from falling into unbelief, as Israel did. The author of Hebrews writes, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (4:11). In other words, “Study the Old Testament and learn from Israel’s example. Don’t make the same mistakes they did!”