“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people …To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:68, 74-75).
Two awesome mercies are embedded in this promise from God: first, a redeemer would come that would save us from our enemies. Second, the Savior would enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. These promises were fulfilled in Jesus’ victory at the cross, where the Lord defeated all principalities and powers of darkness, putting his foot on Satan’s head and crushing it.
Christ made provision for us to live all our days without fear. “Perfect love casts out fear … But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). John is not talking about unwavering love, or even mature love in a Christian. That is not where perfect love begins for true believers. According to John, the first consideration of perfect love is unconditional love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (4:12).
If you are interested in living a life without fear, John says, there is a way to get there. Indeed, there is a perfect love that drives out all fear, and here is the first step we must all take: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:11).
Loving others is something we are commanded to do. John says in the previous chapter, “This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (3:23).
Loving others is more than forgiveness, much more. It means to offer fellowship, esteem others highly, and make ourselves available to them in their time of need. According to John, when our love is aligned with God’s Word — when we embrace his love for us, and we love one another unconditionally — only then will we live without fear.
Heaven! The promise of heaven is at the very core of the gospel, yet we do not hear much on this joyful subject these days. In fact, the Bible does not say much about what heaven is like. Jesus did not sit down with the disciples and explain the glory and majesty of heaven. He did say to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise,” but he did not describe it (Luke 23:43).
In 2 Corinthians 12:1-6, the apostle Paul refers to heaven when he speaks about being taken up into Paradise. He says he saw and heard things there that so staggered his mind he did not have language to describe it. Although he was thankful for his life and his calling, throughout his years of ministry his continual desire was to go home and be with the Lord. He spoke eloquently about his longing for heaven when he wrote, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
We know that the throne of God is in heaven and Jesus is there with the angels in innumerable multitudes. Paul says that once we are there, we will behold Jesus “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We are going to have immediate, personal access to the Lord throughout eternity and that fact alone should make our hearts rejoice. Jesus has gone to prepare a home for us where we will live with him forever (see John 14:3).
We will not be relaxing and “having church” all the time in heaven. The Bible tells us that we will rule with the Lord as “kings and priests to our God” (Revelation 5:10). Also, we will be given thrilling assignments in this new world and will act as his servants (see Revelation 22:3). There will be no tears in heaven: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (21:4). No sorrow, no pain, no death, no fear.
Beloved, make heaven your earnest desire. Jesus is coming for those who long to be with him there!
“An Ethiopian, a eunuch … had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot’” (Acts 8:27-29).
This Ethiopian, who was actually treasurer for Candace, queen of Ethiopia, had been to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, looking to enter into a new way of living. He had come away still searching reading the Scriptures in his chariot.
The Lord instructed Philip to travel on this particular road so that he could encounter the Ethiopian man. He obeyed the Lord and when he saw the Ethiopian and went to speak to him, he saw the man reading from Isaiah 53:7: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearers is silent, so he opens not his mouth.”
The man asked Philip what the Scripture meant and Philip, discerning that the man’s heart was yearning for truth, launched into a full-scale explanation of the truth of Jesus Christ. “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (8:35).
The portion of Scripture the Ethiopian was reading from in the Old Testament talks about the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus Christ. Philip was able to explain about God’s plan of salvation, baptism, a new kingdom in God — all the things that are absolutely, totally fulfilled in one Man — Jesus. The Ethiopian opened his heart and responded to the message and received eternal life.
When a faithful believer communicates the gospel to a willing heart, miracles take place. You may still be on a search to understand more about Jesus. If so, God will certainly answer the cry of your heart to learn more about him and bring someone to you. Or maybe the Lord will arrange a divine connection where you will be able to minister to someone else.
As Christians, we are involved in spiritual battles as personal emissaries of Satan war against our souls. Though we must daily fight these invisible powers, God has provided us with spiritual armor — the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, and so on.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
In addition to describing our battle gear, the apostle Paul gives vital instructions: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Notice the sweeping nature of this admonition: “on all occasions … with all kinds of prayers and requests … always keep on praying.” This need for constant prayer is probably the most overlooked aspect of spiritual warfare. Just as God promised to fight with Israel’s armies against its enemies and his, so he promises to uphold our cause as we daily seek his strength. No matter what satanic devices are arrayed against us, nothing can match the awesome power of God, who responds to our call for help in the day of battle.
The next time you are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, consider what Jesus did on the night he was arrested: “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray’” (Matthew 26:36).
If Jesus, the Son of God, had to pray in order to find strength, what must that mean for us? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cautioned his disciples, as he still cautions us today, against the laziness of failing to pray. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
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.
John the Baptist was a man of the Word. He had spent his entire life studying the Scriptures in solitude and meditating on the law. He had pointed to Jesus and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). He had seen the Holy Spirit descend on Christ as a dove and heard the Father’s voice declare Jesus to be his own Son. Yet, John found himself in prison, his powerful, anointed ministry cut short by the wicked King Herod (see Luke 3:19-20). Now the crowds who had followed John were gone — the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” silenced.
John’s public ministry had lasted only a year but during that time, God had demonstrated his power through John’s preaching. Jesus knew that this fiery prophet would rather be dead than locked up in prison. After all, he had lived all his years in an open wilderness, walking through the land and sleeping in caves.
While John was imprisoned, some sort of deep, dark trial of the soul overtook him and he began to doubt. John must have wondered why Jesus had not delivered him from prison. After all, Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would set the captives free when he came. Frankly, Jesus was not living up to John’s expectations. Was he really the promised Messiah? (See Matthew 11:2-3.)
The same devil who tempted Jesus in the wilderness attempted to destroy John’s faith. And he uses these same lies and deceptions against us today. His goal is to plant seeds of doubt in us about God’s Word, his promises, his delight in us. Satan wants you to become impatient as you wait for answers to your prayers. But impatience with God can cause your prayers to become “a strange odor” instead of sweet-smelling incense.
James 1:2-4 gives us this encouragement: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”