We cannot separate Christmas from Christ’s resurrection. You may think of the resurrection as an Easter message, but the birth of the child in the manger can’t be separated from the man on the cross. God’s message to us through both events is one and the same.
We love to quote Jesus’ words about the victory he has promised to his church: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Paul says Christ loves his church, and that it will be presented to him in the last days sanctified and washed by the Word, a glorious bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish of any kind (see Ephesians 5:25-27). Simply put, the church of Jesus Christ at the end of time will be a glorious, prevailing, overcoming body of believers. And we can stand on this as a promise from the Lord himself.
I’m not used to writing messages on this subject, and you may be surprised by this one. I prepared it with great reservations; it took me far beyond my comfort zone, even though I’m dedicated to preaching the whole counsel of God. Right now I’m compelled to speak because of something I see happening in our culture. I’ve grown convinced that America now stands on the brink of one the most extreme judgments it has ever faced. And in this bleak hour God has something to say to his church that may begin to turn the tide.
How often have you heard Christians say, “God is doing a new thing in the church”? The “new thing” they refer to may be called a revival, an outpouring, a visitation or a move of God. Yet very often the “new thing” they describe dies out quickly. And once it has faded, it can’t be found again. In this way, it proves not to have been a move of God at all. In fact, Christian sociologists have tracked many of these so-called visitations. They’ve discovered that the average span of such an event is about five years.
The word “favor” is used often in the church today. Pastors across America promise people that God is going to favor them. Sadly, what they mean by favor is limited to possessions, positions and acquisitions—better homes, cars and jobs, a happier family and a growing income. I do believe God favors his people this way. But there’s a danger when we live for this kind of favor at the risk of losing something much higher. We short-change ourselves when we live for anything but “Ultimate Favor.” Let me explain.
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany” (John 11:1). Most Christians know the story of Lazarus. He lived with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, in the town of Bethany. Their home was a favorite resting place for Jesus. Christ knew that this close-knit family loved him, and he loved them dearly in return. He even made their home his spiritual retreat. It was an oasis of quiet for him away from the pressing crowds.
We all have distractions in life, but let’s face it—men are the worst when it comes to sports. I don’t mean playing sports, which would actually be good for a lot of couch potatoes, but keeping up with sports. Smart phones and the ESPN app have turned once-attentive husbands into screen-gazers. All a guy has to do is silently press the “refresh” button and dozens of scores are instantly updated. Every date night is at risk from constant under-the-table glances.
There are people today battling things in their lives that are so deep and ferocious they can’t be explained. Such things can only be comprehended as unclean spirits. The Bible addresses this supernatural phenomenon and God’s response to it in Mark 4-5.
Whenever Christians speak of the Upper Room, they usually refer to Pentecost. The very phrase “Upper Room” carries joyful meaning for the church, and not just because amazing things took place that day. It was an event filled with powerful promises for every follower of Jesus throughout the ages.