Jesus came into this world for one reason only — to reach and save lost souls. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And he made that our mission as well when he said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
When Jesus uttered these words, he was talking to insignificant, uneducated men and women. He was placing the very future of his church on their shoulders, which must have been quite overwhelming for that little band of believers. Try to imagine the conversations that took place after their master ascended into heaven.
“Did I hear him right? We’re penniless, ordinary people. How are we going to be able to start a worldwide revolution for Christ? People treat us with total disdain and the Romans are beating and killing us. If they treat us like this in Jerusalem, imagine how they’ll treat us when we get to Rome and start witnessing and preaching.”
In those times, society didn’t have all the exotic temptations our generation faces. There was no ungodly television, filthy cinema, computer access to everything imaginable. Today our government has essentially tried to outlaw God, our media is liberal to the point of godlessness and Wall Street grows increasingly greedy for more money. Worst of all, we are seeing the rise of a generation that curses the Christ we serve.
As followers of Christ, we need to look around us! See the multitudes without a Savior and ask God for a heart to reach out to them. Jesus knew that the power given to the disciples when he sent them out would be more than sufficient to meet every need and opposition. Likewise, the Holy Spirit gives us direction and power to reach out to those around us with the gospel. You don’t have to go to a foreign country to win souls. Your family members, co-workers, those you encounter in your day-to-day activities all need the Savior. Stay sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and he will guide you in your witness for the Master.
Peter writes: “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Peter 2:9). And in another place, the apostle Paul writes: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
It is clear that God does not want to keep us in our trials. He doesn’t get any glory from testing his children — but from the results of our testings! There is only one way to escape our trials and that is by passing the test. Think about it. When you were in school, how did you finally “escape”? You passed the final exam — and if you didn’t pass, you were sent back to class.
That was the case with ancient Israel when God brought them to the Red Sea. God was testing his people, trying them, proving them. He brought them to the very brink of destruction, surrounding them by mountains on two sides, a sea in front of them and an approaching enemy bringing up the rear (read the story in Exodus 14).
James’ phrase, “when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2), refers back to Israel’s testings. The phrase means, “being lowered into a pit and surrounded by enemies.” This is what happened with Israel — God dropped them into a humanly impossible situation. He wanted his people to acknowledge their helplessness and say, “We remember how God delivered us from the plagues and from the death angel. God delivered us then and he will do it again! Let us rejoice in his faithfulness.”
You might wonder how God could expect Israel to have that kind of reaction; after all, they were only human. But God wants something from all of us in our times of overwhelming troubles. He wants us to offer him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
James discovered this secret when he admonished, “Count it all joy” (James 1:2). He was saying, “Don’t give up! Make an altar in your heart and offer up thanksgiving in the midst of your trials.” How you react in a crisis determines your walk with God thereafter. So bring to him your sacrifice of thanksgiving!
“Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11).
Just as the high priest ascended the stairs to the holy place on the Day of Atonement, our High Priest Jesus ascended into the heavenly tabernacle. Indeed, John describes seeing Jesus in his priestly robe: “Clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band” (Revelation 1:13).
Jesus ascended into glory as our High Priest to make intercession for us. He enjoys the glory he deserves but he also does a work on our behalf. The psalmist shares in Psalm 68: “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men … Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!” (Psalm 68:18-19). He is saying, “Our Savior has given us every gift and benefit we need to live in freedom!”
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus’ work in heaven is all for us: “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24). “He always lives to make intercession for [us]” (7:25). Christ does it all for us, his children.
What exactly does this phrase mean, “He lives to make intercession for us”? Some may imagine Jesus standing before the Father pleading with him to show us mercy when we fail. But Christ’s intercession for us has to do with Satan’s accusations against us. You see, the devil comes to God’s throne to accuse us of every failure and transgression, demanding “justice.” But Jesus immediately steps in, demanding that Satan keeps his hands off us.
Jesus also intercedes in our own hearts, reconciling us with the Father. He reminds us that we are forgiven and we can trust God’s faithfulness to provide us with all the power and strength we need.
Because of Christ’s intercession, you can say, “I may have battles in the flesh, but I know what Jesus did for me. Sin can no longer hold me because he is my High Priest.”
“[The] Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith” (Romans 9:30).
The heart of every follower of Jesus hungers to be holy before God — free from sin, victorious over flesh, pure and spotless before the Lord. This desire is planted in the hearts of man, an innate longing to live right. People of every religion — and even no religion — are moved to live well, love others, be the best person they can be. Some obviously do the opposite, but they still are conscious of a deep desire to do right.
We all fall short of this desire because of our sinful nature. For believers, failure to live in a way that honors God can crush the spirit. For nonbelievers, the spirt of this world can darken the mind to any sense of rightness.
The desire to live uprightly is behind the meaning of the word righteousness — to be in right standing with God. This means you live with right motives, emotions and behavior. It takes what is wrong in us — what is out of sync with God — and establishes right alignment with his purposes.
Is righteousness right behavior? Not necessarily. You can do the right thing while having wrong motives; in fact, some Christians do right things but are motivated by a pharisaical spirit. Their outward behavior is right but inwardly they are “dead man’s bones.” A lot of people seek righteousness with great passion but fail to attain it.
The key is justification. We know Jesus paid the price for our sins through his sacrifice on the cross to bring us into right standing once and for all. If we are not justified, we can never be righteous no matter how many good works we do or how many hours we spend in prayer.
And then there is sanctification. Both justification and sanctification are essential to our righteousness. Justification positions us as righteous and sanctification is the process of experiencing God’s righteousness functioning in our daily lives. This means we begin the ongoing process of walking uprightly before God.
Jesus is your source for both justification and sanctification through his gift of grace. He is your power, your newness of life, so let him relieve you of any pressure you may have felt to be righteous. Trust in him alone for your victory!
One of the most devastating enemies of our faith is the matter of offense. At some point, you will be offended by someone and you will offend someone, not wanting to. Two responses are required: When you are offended, will you have the faith and obedience to say, “I forgive you of this”? And when you offend another, will you have the humility to say, “Please forgive me”?
When you have been hurt, Jesus has direction for your pain. In talking with the disciples, Jesus told them, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! … If your brother sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:1, 4). It was at this point that the disciples cried, “Increase our faith” (17:5).
Faith is absolutely essential for the healing of offenses. Without healing, offenses can become unforgiveness, which will cause death to spread to every part of your life.
In the case of offending another, the disciples were raised under a law that said you love the ones who love you and you hate your enemies. God understands any offense we endure and he does not make light of it. Jesus brought a new message of forgiveness, without limitation, and the forgiveness we give to others cannot compare with the unconditional forgiveness that we receive from our Father.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:11-13). You will never be more like God than when you forgive in faith and it is the divine flow of the spirit of God that can rebuild you and allow you to forgive.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. 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.