“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul was God’s chosen one, called from the life he was living and made into someone different. In addressing the saints here, he goes into a prolonged blessing, speaking everything that is in his heart regarding the greatness and goodness of Jesus (see verses 3-14).
Even though Paul was a learned man, he was not trying to impress anyone with his knowledge, as theologians sometimes do. He was voicing the cry of his heart, his deep passion for God and what he had done for him. And he was glorifying the Father!
In Acts 9, the account of the miracle that God did in Paul’s life gives us a glimpse of why he exalted Christ with such passion and purity and fervor. This was not mere theology to him, not dry doctrine to be debated, but this was reality — something that Jesus accomplished in him personally. Just as Paul was convinced that he was doing God’s work when he was sold out to his old form of belief — breathing threats from his venomous heart against the disciples of Christ — he was now completely changed, committed, and captivated by the love of Jesus, his Redeemer.
Paul had been filled with pride when Jesus stepped in and changed the very fabric of who he was. The light of heaven blinded him while he was still breathing threats against the followers of Christ, and he was knocked to the ground — blind. He came out of that divine encounter filled with an electrifying testimony of the irresistible love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Paul says, “Grace to you and peace from God.” Has your life been turned upside down and set on a new course? Have you experienced God’s grace and peace in your life? How wonderful to know that it is a free gift from your Father, and yours for the taking through Jesus Christ.
When the devil entices believers to sin, it is important to realize that he loves to paint a beautiful, idyllic picture, but not the whole picture — not the anguish, loss, sorrow and heartache. He does this in order to take you right out of the battle. He most certainly did this on the rooftop when King David observed another man’s wife. In that critical moment, David looked at the picture before him and made a wrong choice, subsequently falling into adultery.
The Lord had once given David an incredible promise. “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). In other words, walk with me, and I will bless you and your house. Likewise, God promises to bless us, but his blessing is not unconditional. There are always consequences to the choices we make.
We all come to those crucial points in life that have the potential to greatly impact the course of our future, just as David did. I cannot help but think, if only David had made a different choice at that pivotal moment. Sadly, he made a wrong choice, never believing that he would become a murderer and a liar, leading people into defeat. Yet, even then, David discovered that God was merciful!
David returned to his first love because ultimately, as the Scriptures describe, he was a man after God’s own heart. Psalm 51 gives us a glimpse of his heart: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions … and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2).
Take heart if somewhere along the way you have made a wrong choice because he is waiting to hear from you. He will give you the victory right where you are! That’s what first love is all about, and with it are all the blessings that come only from the hand of God.
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.
“They brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:15).
The apostles lived and ministered in the realm of the miraculous. Even laymen such as Stephen and Philip, who served tables, were mighty in the Holy Spirit, working miracles and stirring entire cities. Peter was so full of the Holy Spirit that the sick were brought into the streets on beds and couches so that his shadow would fall on them for healing. It was not uncommon to see cripples healed and leaping through the temple.
Why are we not seeing such miraculous power today? God has not changed! The apostles knew the cost of the miraculous and eagerly paid it. We have the same promises as the apostles and God is willing to move in such a way again. We need more of Jesus — more of his saving power, more of the miraculous — than any past generation.
Why did God respond miraculously to the apostles? Because they were given to prayer! The book of Acts is the account of holy men and women seeking the Lord’s face. From beginning to end, it tells of how prayer moved God, whether in the upper room, in prison, or in some secret house. They prayed without ceasing, spending hours and days shut in with God until they received clear, detailed guidance. And what incredible specifics God gave them!
Sadly, believers today have been taught to “take everything by faith,” so they seldom pray. Don’t be misled. You can receive the very same clear word from God as the apostles did if you seek his face in prayer with intensity. There is no substitute for time spent in the presence of the King. He is eager to show you his love, mercy, grace and power. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
The New Testament church was born in a blaze of glory. The Holy Spirit came down upon it with fire, and the first Christians spoke with tongues and prophesied. The fear of God fell upon them and upon all who saw them, and multitudes were converted. It was a triumphant church, unafraid of Satan, irreverent toward idols, unmoved by plagues or persecution. It was a blood-washed church, living and dying in victory.
How will the church go out in its final hour? Will it go out as a fat, prosperous, self-seeking church? Will it be just a handful of true believers holding on, watching death and apostasy eat away at it like a cancer? Will the last-days church live in dread and fear as fewer overcome the world?
To be sure, there will be a falling away; there will be deceivers teaching doctrines of demons and even some of the elect will be severely tested. But the church of Jesus Christ is not going out with a whimper. It is going out victorious, with joy unspeakable, riding a river of peace. It is going out in freedom from all bondage, and every member of this true church will live and die without fear. Last-days believers will be just as strong in the Lord as the first Christians!
The church is going to experience an undeserved outpouring of love, mercy, and kindness. It will come in a time of great affliction, with anxiety on all sides. “‘With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer … ‘My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you” (Isaiah 54:8-10).
God will have an overcoming people. A merciful Father will draw his children to himself and redeem multitudes who have turned their backs on him. What he is saying to the church he is also saying to individual believers. Is that you? Are you experiencing a sudden, violent disturbance? God’s promise is to all who are tossed in a storm. He has determined to close out the ages with a mighty exaltation of his name. What a display of power it will be!
The Lord desires intimacy with his dear children. He longs to be shut up alone with the love of his heart. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).
Unbelievers long to see a genuine example of Christ’s servant-heart in those who call themselves Christians. Too much of religion today condones sin with words such as brotherhood, love, and unity while forsaking real holiness. In contrast, believers who spend time “in the secret place” with him rise up and present an uncompromising testimony to a hungry, waiting world.
The name of Jesus is being profaned in the world today, especially in America. Roman soldiers mocked him by putting a crown of thorns on his head, but this nation now mocks him with more sophistication
Yet, Jesus also suffers rejection from many who claim to want him the most: Christians! Ask anyone calling himself a Christian these questions: “Do you feel your need of Jesus? Do you desire to know him better?” Nearly all of them would answer in the affirmative. But many love the praises of men and the acquisition of material things above all else. The Word of God says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
All who desire to know Jesus can certainly do so. The Word of God says, “You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Jesus longs to spend time alone with you, so don’t become so wrapped up in doing good that you lose touch with him. He is your righteousness, your light, your joy, your peace, your salvation — so let him truly be your everything.