It is impossible to have a faith that pleases God without sharing a closeness to Jesus that comes from yearning after him. This kind of close personal bond can only come when we desire the Lord more than anything else in life.
The writer of Hebrews gives us several examples of faith-filled servants who walked closely with God. Let’s look together at Abel: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel offered sacrifices to the Lord on a frequent basis and his sacrifices always required an altar.
Abel brought not only unspotted lambs for the sacrifice, but the fat of those lambs as well. “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat” (Genesis 4:4).
The fat is important here because it caught fire quickly and was consumed, causing a sweet aroma to rise. “The priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the Lord’s” (Leviticus 3:16). It is a type of prayer or fellowship that is acceptable to God, representing our ministry to the Lord in the secret place of prayer. The Lord himself states that such intimate worship rises to him like a sweet-smelling savor. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
Somewhere along the line, Abel made the choice to pursue a relationship with God, to have communion and fellowship with him as his parents had. His brother Cain also brought sacrifices but they were fruit, an offering that did not require an altar as there was no fat, nothing to be consumed. As a result, there was no sweet aroma to rise up to heaven. In other words, no personal exchange between Cain and the Lord was involved. That is why Abel’s offering was “more excellent than Cain’s.”
The faithful servant seeks God’s touch in his life. Like Abel, he won’t settle for anything less. This servant tells himself, “I’m determined to give the Lord all the time he wants from me in fellowship. I long to hear his still, small voice speak to me, so I’m going to stay in his presence.”
Beloved, may you determine to be this type of servant.
Paul wrote two letters to the Corinthians that contained powerful teachings. He taught about the resurrection, the coming of the Lord, the judgment seat of Christ, death to sin, righteousness by faith, and heaven and hell. Faithfully, Paul warned these people, wooed them, pleaded with them. Without question, no other body of believers had been so lovingly pastored, so well taught, and so edified by the gospel of grace.
Moreover, the Corinthians were blessed beyond Paul’s teaching. They had experienced powerful workings of the Holy Spirit in their midst and been endowed with many spiritual gifts. This was a vibrant, prophetic, on-fire church! Yet, incredibly, a number of these same blessed believers were living in immorality. Paul had accused many of them of being “unclean” (2 Corinthians 12:21) and he wrote, “This will be the third time I am coming to you … I have told you before … that if I come again I will not spare … Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction” (13:1-2, 10).
Paul was not mincing words. He was essentially saying, “Twice now I’ve warned you of the sin in your congregation. You have sat under godly, convicting preaching and partaken of God’s gift of grace. Yet some of you have twisted that grace by deliberately continuing to live in uncleanness.”
Every Sunday, professing Christians gather to worship, hear God’s Word and enjoy fellowship. Yet many of these same people lead sin-filled lives. Jude warns, “Certain men have crept in unnoticed … ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 4). In other words, people will attempt to distort and pervert all reverence for the things of God.
Jude gives three defenses against Satan’s seductions in Jude 20-21:
Build up your faith by diligently studying God’s Word.
Pray in the Holy Spirit.
Don’t be anxious but, instead, look for our Lord’s coming.
Each of us has within us the ability to pray, to read God's Word, and to look for Jesus' soon return. If we do these things, Jude declares, we'll reap the benefits of this prayer: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
Our Shepherd is a faithful guide to us in all things, no matter how faulty our decisions. Indeed, he says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).
Everyone knows the importance of having a quality guide. Think about the important life decisions you’ve made. Were the ones guiding you experienced, skilled and knowledgeable in getting you where you wanted to go? God uses his children to help others along the way, but Jesus gives the most succinct and direct guidance of all when he says very simply, “Follow me” (Matthew 9:9).
Jesus illustrates the rich, satisfying life he has for us by using the image of a sheep pen. “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures” (John 10:9, NLT). There in the pen, his sheep are safe from all enemies as they feed on the “good pastures” of God’s kingdom, enjoying health, peace and freedom.
Satan seeks to steal from us the life God has designed for us. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (10:10). He does this by seeking to remove us from the “good pasture” (i.e., crucial spiritual food) that Jesus has given us. Immature Christians are most susceptible, as long as they remain on a diet of “milk,” never advancing to the meat of God’s Word. They are especially subject to Satan’s wiles in times of crisis, becoming paralyzed with fear and worry, thinking, “I don’t know how to make a decision. Where are you, God?”
Scripture tells us there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (see Proverbs 11:14). God uses the godly guidance of a faithful pastor, a professional counselor or even devoted Christian friends. The difference with Jesus is that he is always there for us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (10:11).
If you want true guidance in life, get to know your Shepherd’s voice. Do you need direction in your life? Then go back to those two simple words of the Master: “Follow me.” Keep your eyes on Jesus and focus on what his Word says. He never fails you, never leaves you, and always has your best in mind.
“Lord, what is going on? Is there any safe place?” This was the cry of my heart as I observed the falling away of people who had been very influential in my life. My heart was broken and confused, and my spirit was wrestling within me.
God led me to Psalm 91, an extraordinary psalm that gives us incredible insight. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (91:1). The word abide in the Hebrew means to claim — claim your possession, take up residence, defend in order to regain property. It literally says, “This is mine. This is my place. This is where I’m going to stay — my dwelling place.” The believer cries, “The secret place is my place! Underneath a shadow is my safe place. Close to Him is the place where I’m safe.”
Verse 13 says, “You shall tread upon the lion and the viper, the young lion and the dragon you shall trample underfoot.” This is poetic language, prophetic and preventive — symbolic language that brings spiritual light. In this case, the viper represents the sudden trap that attacks God’s promises in our lives. The lion is a satanic trap that attacks God’s plans and purposes. The young lion is the seemingly small trap that attacks the purity of God in our lives. And the dragon is the silent trap that attacks the peace of God in our lives.
But the Word says you shall tread upon all of them! You shall tread upon the viper, that sudden trap you didn’t see coming. You’re walking with God and something hits you that takes your breath away. Perhaps your boss calls you in and tells you he has to let you go. You think of your family and the thought just grabs you in the throat.
At such a moment, the enemy seems to have a capacity to erase God’s promises — if we let him. But God tells us how to overcome: “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (91:14-16).
Don’t let Satan steal your promises! God’s Word is sure and steadfast and he is faithful to you, his beloved child.
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.
The apostle Paul said, “I am determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Have you sought to know the voice of Jesus, sitting quietly in his presence — just waiting? Have you sought him for things you can't get from books or teachers? The Bible says all truth is in Christ and he alone can impart it to you, through his blessed Holy Spirit.
A question may arise in your mind: "Isn't it dangerous to open my mind to a still, small voice? The enemy can come in and mimic God's voice and deceive me. And isn't the Holy Spirit to be our only teacher?"
Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a distinct, living, divine person in himself. Scripture calls the Holy Ghost the Spirit of the Son: "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts" (Galatians 4:6). He's also known as the Spirit of Christ: "The Spirit of Christ who was in them" (1 Peter 1:11). "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit is the essence of both Father and Son, and is sent by both.
There's a way we can be protected from deception during deep prayer. Our protection is in waiting. The voice of the flesh is always in a hurry. It wants instant gratification, so it has no patience. It's always focused on self rather than the Lord, always seeking to rush us out of God's presence.
The voice of the enemy also is patient, but only to a point. It can be soft, sweet, assuring and logical. But if we test it by simply waiting — that is, not acting on it right away, testing it to see if it's the Lord's voice — it will grow impatient and expose itself. It will suddenly become ugly and demanding, railing at us and condemning us.
This is why the Bible says again and again, "Wait on the Lord — wait on him — wait." It's during our waiting that these other voices are exposed, or grow weary and leave. We're to wait, wait, wait, so that both heaven and hell know we won't give up until the Lord takes over.