Limiting the Holy One of Israel

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“Yes, again and again they…limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41, NKJV). The word for ‘limited’ here comes from two root words that mean “grieving God by scratching out an imprint.” In short, limiting God means drawing a line or a circle and stating, “God is in here, and he goes no further.”

That’s just what the early church in Jerusalem did. They limited Christ to a small circle, confining him to the Jewish population. We may scoff at this idea now, but this thinking also describes many believers today. We’ve marked in our minds a very small imprint or concept of Christ’s magnitude.

Jesus can’t be confined. He is constantly breaking out of our little, confining circles and always reaching out to the uttermost. 

Let me give an example. Years ago, Pentecostals seemed to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit confined to their movement. Many Pentecostals thought, “We are God’s Spirit-filled church!” Pentecostal preachers bemoaned the deadness of mainline denominations. “They don’t have the full gospel like we do,” they declared. Suddenly, God’s Spirit burst through everyone’s drawn circles. The Holy Ghost fell on believers in all kinds of denominations. A classic book was written about this move of the Spirit, called They Speak with Other Tongues by John Sherrill.

The Lord also used my book The Cross and the Switchblade, especially in Catholic circles. Like Peter in Acts chapter 10, I had to allow God to work in my heart before I could accept what was going on. I had been raised Pentecostal, and for the first time in my life, I saw priests weeping with conviction, crying out to Jesus.

Soon I had evangelical preachers contending with me, demanding, “What about those Catholics’ Mariology? How can you minister to people who believe in that?” I found myself answering in the same spirit as Peter did: “I don’t know anything about Mariology. All I know is there are spiritually hungry people in the Catholic church, and there are true Jesus worshippers among the priests. God is filling these people with his Spirit.”

God has his people everywhere, and we are not to call any of them unclean. As Peter was told in his vision, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). We have to be careful that we do not represent Jesus as being small and box him in with our puny thinking.

Without Stain or Wrinkle

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Christ’s church has never been fully approved or accepted by the world, and it never will be. If you live for Jesus, you won’t have to separate yourself from secular company; they’ll do it for you. All you have to do is live for him. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself reproached, rejected, called evil: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22, NKJV).

However, Jesus adds that this is the path to true fulfillment. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). In other words, “The only way that you will find meaning in life is by giving your all for me. Then you’ll find true joy, peace and satisfaction.” Christ tells us, “My church is without spot or wrinkle. When you come to me, you must be willing to lay down all sins. You must surrender all to me, die completely to self, ungodly ambition and ego. By faith, you’ll be buried with me, and I will raise you up into new life.”

Think about what it means to be without spot or wrinkle. We know what a spot or a stain represents, but what about a wrinkle? Have you ever heard the phrase, “a new wrinkle”? It means adding a new idea to an existing concept. A wrinkle, in that sense, applies to those who try to improve on the gospel. It suggests an easy way to attain heaven without full surrender to Christ.

That’s the kind of gospel that’s being preached in many churches today. The sermons are aimed only at meeting people’s needs. As I read Jesus’ words, I see that this kind of preaching will not work. It doesn’t accomplish the true work of the gospel.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not against preaching comfort and strength to God’s people. As a shepherd of the Lord, I’m called to do exactly that at times. If I preach only to people’s needs, though, and ignore Christ’s call to sacrifice and lay down our lives, then true needs will never be met. Jesus’ words are clear: Our needs are met by dying to ourselves and taking up his cross.

The Discomfort of a Life on Fire

Gary Wilkerson

David Platt wrote a book called Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. It’s an amazing book about giving your life whole-heartedly to Jesus. 

Not long after Platt’s book came out, another author wrote a book called Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World. Basically, this book said that all this radical stuff isn't really meant for ‘normal’ people. The message was “Yeah, David Platt, you can be radical because you get paid to be radical. You don't have to work at I.B.M.; you don't have to be a plumber, so quit putting us under guilt and condemnation and shame by calling us forth to be radical.”

My father used to talk about “pillow-prophets,” leaders in the church who loved comfort and ease and also promised people a prosperous, easy life following God. The prophet Ezekiel spoke out against these types of leaders and believers.

“Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them” (Ezekiel 34:2-4, ESV).

May God help us not to have leisurely lives that cost others. May he help us not to live only for comfort at the expense of those in need around us. I think we want that because we are convicted when we are around somebody who is set apart for God. We think things like “Man, I get paid well and have spare time, but that person has five kids and two jobs, and yet they seem to have more of Jesus than I do.”

There's a way to change that and submit to the conviction that the Spirit may be laying on your heart. I tell you, when a man or woman of God gets ahold of the Lord or the Lord gets ahold of them, comfort goes out the door.  A passionate life is no longer a comfortable life.

Facing Down the Lions

Jim Cymbala

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:7-9, ESV).

Weakness will get you sympathy on earth, but it does nothing with Satan. He has no sympathy and no mercy. If you walk around complaining, “Oh, I’m so weak, and I haven’t read the Bible for days, and I never spend time alone with God,” you might as well be whistling for Satan to come and get you.

There’s a reason scripture refers to the devil as a roaring lion. Predators look for weakness. Lionesses lie in the high grass, studying their prey for hours, and you know what they’re looking for? Who’s weak!

Zoologists don’t even know how lions can tell if a prey animal is diseased, but they know. They can sense it somehow. They know disease like they’re veterinarians. Once they begin their run and the whole herd is going crazy, another animal can come up right in the lion’s grill, and often the lion won’t even look at it or attack it. That lion is going after one animal: the weak one.

If I’m in a spiritual coma because I haven’t picked up my Bible in months, what do you think the devil’s going to do? Be afraid of me because I had an experience with God three years ago?

We have to wake up! We must start seeking God. This is the only way we can resist the enemy and become, as Peter puts it, “firm in your faith.” In spiritual warfare, the only thing that wins is the power of God, as scripture promises us, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  

If you’re feeling weak, go to your Bible. Get down on your knees. Seek God’s face. Our enemy is pitiless, but our heavenly Father gives us strength in his name.

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.

Confession that Brings Healing

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

The apostle Paul declares, “But what does it [scripture] say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 10:8-11, NKJV).

Simply put, we are brought to salvation through our open confession of repentance. Jesus states, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). He also says repentance is how we are healed and restored: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

This is good news. Jesus is telling us, “In my church, everyone is healed through repentance. It doesn’t matter who you are — the physically broken, the mentally ill, the spiritually sick — because everyone must come to me the same way. All find healing through repentance.”

What is the central message of Christ’s gospel? He makes it plain throughout the four gospels. “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15). This was Jesus’ first recorded message, and he preached repentance!

To some Christians, this may sound like overbearing language. They may respond, “Okay, but how strongly did Jesus preach repentance?” Luke answers that in his gospel. Jesus told his listeners, “But unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

How many churches don’t open their altars for heart-smitten people to come forward and repent? How many pastors have stopped giving invitations for this all-important spiritual work?

We must not lose all sense of our need to confess sin!