Anointed To Minister

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week I shared this key thought: The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world. 

Despite what some people try to say, this empowerment from the Holy Spirit isn’t just for a select few. Jesus not only prayed for all of His followers to know this, but Peter also brought this out in his Pentecost Day sermon (John 17:20-23; Acts 2:21, 38-39). 

So why are some people not baptized in the Holy Spirit? I think there are numerable reasons, but allow me to share four broad headings: 

  1. They have impenetrable hearts to the Holy Spirit’s wooing (Acts 7:51)
  2. They are ignorant of the fact that this baptism is available to them (Acts 19:1-2) 
  3. They have impure motives regarding the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-19) 
  4. They are too impatient (Luke 11:9-13)  

(Check out all of the above passages by clicking here.)

The bottom line: God wants to baptize you in His Spirit, Jesus wants you to be anointed with the same power He used, and the Spirit wants to bring out greater Jesus-exalting fruitfulness from your life. 

Two years ago in this series, I said that when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. 

In the Old Testament, Samson had the Spirit of God ON him, but he never allowed the Holy Spirit to come IN him and make important changes. Three times we read that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14), but after every one of these times we see Samson reverting to his childish, selfish, pouting ways again. 

By contrast, consider the life of Jesus. After He was baptized by John we read that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” and “led by the Spirit.” That word for “full” means complete or lacking nothing. Jesus yielded to the Holy Spirit and allowed Him to lead and direct, as well as supply everything that was needed for ministry. Just a few verses later we read that “Jesus returned to Galilee, in the power of the Spirit.” And in His first recorded sermon, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah about the Holy Spirit anointing Him for ministry (Luke 4:1, 14, 18). 

That word for “anointed” is chiro, from which we get the word Christ. That is the same root word in us as CHRISTians. 

We see this in Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, and Paul (Acts 4:8; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9). And then Paul writes that this anointing is for all Christians—“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us [that’s the word chiro again], set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). 

The anointing that characterized the life of Jesus in Acts 10:38—“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him”—is the same anointing for ministry for all CHRISTians today! 

So…

Don’t dabble—dive in! 

Don’t settle for on—allow the Holy Spirit fully in! 

When we are yielded and baptized in the Holy Spirit, we have the anointing to shine brightly for Jesus in our generation. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can check them all out by clicking here. 

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Epiphany

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After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost immediately following Christ’s ascension, Christians were speaking in languages that they had not learned. As they did so, they were “declaring the wonders of God” in all the languages of the world. Some people mocked, saying they were merely babbling drunks, but everyone in Jerusalem was “amazed and perplexed” at this remarkable event, which prompted Peter to preach a powerful sermon (Acts 2:8-21). 

Peter began his sermon by quoting words “spoken by the prophet Joel” (Joel 2:28-32). It’s unlikely that Peter had a copy of Joel with him, so this quotation was delivered from memory and Peter’s sermon was given spontaneously as the Holy Spirit empowered him. In looking at the passages in both Joel and Acts, I see three notable differences.

  1. Joel begins by saying, “And afterward I will pour out My Spirit,” but Peter begins with the words, “In the last days…I will pour out My Spirit.” I’ll address this point further in just a moment. 
  2. Peter inserts “and they will prophesy” at the end of verse 18, a phrase that Joel didn’t say at the end of Joel 2:29. I think this is the Holy Spirit emphasizing that what the crowd heard was indeed prophecy, not mindless babbling. 
  3. Joel concludes with “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” but Peter says, “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The word Joel uses for “dreadful,” meaning an awesome day worthy of reverence, was a day of sorrow for those about to be judged guilty, and a day of supreme rejoicing for those about to be judged innocent in God’s sight. The word Peter uses for “glorious” is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. The word is epiphanes: where we get our English word “epiphany”—a light has dawned and the truth is finally realized! 

Let’s go back to the difference between “afterward” in Joel and “in the last days” in Acts. In a sense, the “afterward” for Peter was what everyone was experiencing right then—after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (John 16:7; Acts 1:4-5). 

Let’s also consider the “afterward” in Joel’s day. What came before was a disaster of locusts consuming the land, which prompted Joel to call for the solemn response of prayer and fasting. This heartfelt response from godly people trigged God’s outpouring of His Spirit—the afterward—that led to a blessing “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-3, 10-13). 

Both Joel and Peter conclude that it is God’s desire that “everyone…be saved”! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to help people have an epiphany of both their sin and the salvation that Jesus purchased on His Cross.

The word “disaster” comes from the Latin word disastros. The root word astros pertains to the heavenly lights (star, sun, moon), and the prefix “dis-” is a pejorative (something that has a belittling effect). So disaster really means no guiding lights, or hopeless darkness. 

Jesus was prophesied to step into this hopeless darkness and bring light and hope—“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Zechariah prophesied that Jesus was the fulfillment of this: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).  

Jesus is THE Epiphany, THE Ultimate Light, but He also tells us, “You are the light of the world (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).  

In a world of hopeless darkness, Christians are to be Christ’s Light-bearers. 

We cannot do this on our own. 

The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world. 

When Joel saw disaster coming, he called for a fast. This fast led to the outpouring of God’s empowerment on godly people, so they could take the Light to those lost in deep darkness. I think the same response is needed from Christians today. 

When it appears this world is plunging deeper into darkness—when we hear of disasters (remember that disastros means people are without Light)—we need to pray and fast so that the Holy Spirit can be reignited in us, so that we can then be realigned to best shine the light of Jesus brightly. 

Our lives can and should be the epiphany of Christ’s love for the world to see! Let’s all pray: “Holy Spirit, make us Your epiphany to a dark world!” 

If you’d like to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, please click here. 

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We Are: Pentecostal

Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost which came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. 

We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join me this Sunday at Calvary Assembly of God as we rejoin this series. You can check out what I taught in this series in 2019 by clicking here, the messages from 2020 are here, and the messages from 2021 are here.

Check out the messages in the 2022 series:

Am I Really Ready For Anything?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

“Ezekiel will be a sign to you…” —God (Ezekiel 24:24). 

How many times have I told God, “I am Your servant. Use me as You know best”? 

But do I really want that?

Ezekiel is told by God in the ninth year of their captivity in Babylon, on the tenth day of the tenth month, that the siege of Jerusalem had begun that very day. Ezekiel is then instructed to share this news with his fellow exiles. God tells Ezekiel that after he shares this news, he will be unable to speak until a messenger arrives in Babylon to confirm the report. 

That same day, God also tells Ezekiel that his wife will die, but that he is not to mourn over this loss. God had grieved for years over Judah’s slide away from Him, but He could no longer grieve because it was now time for Judah’s punishment. Perhaps just like Judah’s slow downward slide, Ezekiel’s wife had been in declining health too, but now Ezekiel was called to obey God in this second illustrated sermon. 

About seven months later, Jerusalem’s walls were broken through, King Zedekiah was captured, and about three weeks later Nebuzaradan torched the city. On that day, Ezekiel lost his power to speak, just as God said he would, and Ezekiel remained mute for nearly two years (2 Kings 25:1-10; Ezekiel 24:1-2, 15-27; 33:21-22). 

This is what it means to be used by God. He used Ezekiel as His illustrated sermons to vividly show the exiles the consequences of their sinful choices.

But we don’t read a single word of complaint or bargaining from Ezekiel—just complete obedience.

A mark of a godly leader is one who signs a blank check for God to fill in the amount.

The leader that serves God in this obedient way is one who is highly esteemed by both God and men. God said, “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ … When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 33:30, 33). 

I want to believe that I am willing to serve God this way but am I truly willing? Perhaps my prayer should be, “Father I want to be able to be used by You. I want to say that I am ready for You to use me as You see best. But You alone truly know my heart. Holy Spirit, if I am not as committed as Ezekiel was, please do Your work in me so that I can truly say, ‘I am ready to be used.’” 

This is part 63 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

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Saved From The Consequences Of Folly

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I am so grateful for the blessings of a godly mother and a godly wife! I can relate to Abraham Lincoln who said, “All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother. … I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” 

Mothers—both the natural, physical, and adoptive mothers—can save the rest of us from a world of hurt. We see this in a story in the Bible of a mother that saved innumerable people from the consequences of folly. This is an amazing story in 1 Samuel 25, so please take some time to read it for yourself.  

King Saul and David have finally separated from each other, with Saul returning home to Gibeah and David returning to his stronghold at En Gedi. Eventually, David moved west from En Gedi to the Desert of Moan, where the town of Carmel was nearby. 

A prominent citizen of Carmel was a man named Nabal. He is described as “very wealthy,” owning 1000 goats and 3000 sheep. But he apparently gained his wealth through less-than-honorable means because he is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.” We find out later in the story that he’s also hard-hearted and hard-headed, not listening to any counsel others may offer him. 

That fits him because his name means “fool.” I find it hard to believe that his parents named him this from birth. If they did, it reminds me of the opening words of C.S. Lewis’ book The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader: “There was a boy named Clarence Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Instead, I think Nabal’s dealings were so mean, surely, and foolish that the name stuck. Perhaps he even wore that name as a badge of honor. 

It came sheep-shearing time—which is really payday for shepherds—so David sends some of his servants to Nabal to ask for whatever he might find to give as a gift to “your servants and your son David.” David’s men had been a constant source of protection for Nabal’s herdsmen, so a gift of gratitude does seem appropriate. 

Nabal doesn’t just say, “No,” but he insults David. As his foolish nature controlled him, he not only insulted David, but he insulted God too by implying that David wasn’t anointed by God, but was merely ruthlessly climbing a ladder of success. Probably Nabal thought this way because that’s how he himself gained his fortune. 

Nabal’s response lit David’s fuse! In fact, David’s response to his men was just four words long: “Put on your swords!” 

Fortunately, one of Nabal’s servants informed his wife Abigail of this. 

In the same verse where Nabal is described as mean and surely, Abigail is described as “intelligent and beautiful.” Whereas Nabal’s name means fool, Abigail’s name means “my father’s joy.” She must have been born at just the right time for her father and she continues to be a just-in-time woman! 

This servant brought Abigail word of Nabal’s foolish response, telling her that David’s men were indeed “a wall around us” while they were in the desert. And then he says, “Think carefully about what you should do because disaster is hanging over us!” 

Abigail acts quickly, wisely, and humbly. 

The first thing she does is send hundreds of pounds of food to David and his men. She sends the gift that Nabal probably should have sent. Then Abigail herself follows the gifts on her own donkey. When she encounters David and his armed men coming down the mountain pass, she humbly falls at his feet asking David to reconsider. 

Abigail doesn’t tell David he shouldn’t be angry, but she points him to something bigger and more long-lasting than his immediate thought of revenge. She reminds him that he is God’s anointed leader, and she asks, “When you become king, do you want this bloodshed on your conscience?” 

Abigail’s words have an immediate effect on David, who calls off the attack, praises Abigail, and praises God for sending Abigail to him. Abigail rescued Nabal’s family and workers from imminent destruction, and she saves David from the consequences of his rash response. 

The next morning, when she relates this story to Nabal, he has either a stroke or a heart attack, and then dies ten days later. Justice is served, but it’s served by God and not by David.

Later on, David takes the now-widowed Abigail as his wife. 

Abigail’s name scarcely appears anywhere else in the Bible, but there is one notable appearance: 

Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. (2 Samuel 3:2-5) 

Amnon, first in line for the throne, raped his half-sister Tamar and was then killed by Absalom, who was Tamar’s brother. Absalom, third in line for the throne, not only avenged his sister’s disgrace but led a coup against David, where he was killed in battle. 

That leaves Kileab as the obvious heir to King David’s throne, yet this is the only place he is mentioned in the Bible. I think Abigail’s wise influence saved Kileab from the drama of aspiring to be king, a painful future, and perhaps a premature death. 

From this amazing story, I would like to offer three takeaways for Moms:

  1. Use your inner beauty to persuade foolhardy men—1 Peter 3:2-3 
  2. Use your Holy Spirit-given wisdom to dissuade foolishness—Matthew 10:19 
  3. Use your prayer life to bring a legacy of peace—Psalm 116:16  

(Please read all of the above verses by clicking here.)

Godly mothers, please be encouraged today at how much influence you exert over others in your life. Your inner beauty, God-given wisdom, humility, and prayers are making more of an impact than you may ever know. I believe in heaven the full story will be shared, and you will be praised for being a wise and faithful servant. 

May God continue to bless, empower, and use our Moms to save us from the consequences of our foolishness! 

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The Gift At Work In Us

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week I said, “You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do.” 

That “IF” is a big one. 

I’ll be the first one to admit that I struggle with consistency in this! But before we all get frustrated, throw up our hands and say, “This is so hard! Why even try?” I’ve got a word of encouragement for you: God’s Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected. 

In order to explain this, I need to go back in time. In fact, I need to go all the way back to when Time began. The opening words of the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God the Father, the Nicene Creed says, is “the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

But God the Son is involved in Creation, as is God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:2). Again, the Nicene Creed quotes John 1 about Jesus, “Through Him all things were made,” and the Creed also says the Holy Spirit is “the Giver of life.” 

So the Father created everything through His Word and by His Spirit. 

All of the Godhead is also involved in our salvation too. The Father loved us and gave us His Son. Jesus paid the price for our atonement and justified us with the Father. And the Holy Spirit draws us to the Father through the Son as He sanctifies us. 

The reason I said the Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected is because when Jesus said, “It is finished,” nothing was left to be done: it is a perfect Gift, fully paid for. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. … [But] by one sacrifice He [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:1, 14). 

Do you see those verb tenses? Jesus made our atonement perfect, but we are now being made holy by the Holy Spirit. 

The process of sanctification (or as I like to remember it: “saint-ification”) isn’t a one-and-done work. It’s an ongoing work. The Father wants us to remain IN Jesus and bear fruit, so the Holy Spirit remains IN us to bring out that fruitfulness (see John 14:16-17, 20; John 15:1-7). 

This is often an uncomfortable work. 

When I serve as a coach or a consultant, I tell people up front, “There is going to be a time that you won’t like me very much because I’m going to keep uncovering things that you’ve overlooked. It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement. But if you will stick with me, I promise you that there will be a noticeable improvement on the other side of this uncomfortableness.” 

God disciplines those He loves. He wants His Son’s Gift to be seen by the world, so the Spirit must keep saint-ifying us. He will continue to hover over us, never letting us get complacent, vivifying us so that more and more of Jesus is increasingly seen in our lives. 

It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement! 

So don’t lose heart. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t let satan turn the Holy Spirit’s conviction into his condemnation. 

Instead, listen to this prayer from the apostle Paul and make it your own prayer—

For this reason we…have not ceased to pray and make special request for you, asking that you may be filled with the full, deep, and clear knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom—in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God, and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things. 

That you may walk, live, and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition.

We pray that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance, and forbearance with joy, giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints—God’s holy people—in the Light. (Colossians 1:9-12 AMP) 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s gift to the world in everything you say and do. The Gift in you has already been made perfect, and now the Holy Spirit is going to help you demonstrate this Gift more perfectly. Your fruitfulness is being made holy through His loving work in you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of the messages here. 

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The Gift Preached To The World

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Ever since Resurrection Day, we can continually celebrate the greatest Gift ever—the death and resurrection of Jesus! 

After making His bodily resurrection abundantly clear, Jesus ascended back to heaven. And now we await His second advent. But here’s an important question: If Jesus ascended back into heaven, where is our Gift now? Quite simply: If you have invited Jesus into your heart, YOU are the gift! 

Remember on Good Friday I talked about what Jesus perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished!” It was an inside job. He came to change us at our core—we have been brought into at-onement with God and we stand in His presence just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. 

But there is one more step, an ongoing process called sanctification or as I like to say it, “saint-ification.” 

Even as we are in this process, Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to Go…preach (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). That means “as you are going” or “wherever you go” tell everyone the good news of the greatest Gift ever. 

Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be effective at this preaching (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Notice that in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will BE My witnesses,” not you will do witnessing. The Holy Spirit empowers us to BE God’s gift to the world, and to use Christ’s authority properly. 

The apostle Paul echos this. He tells us how everyone can receive the Gift of Jesus. Paul then notes that people hear about this Gift because those who have received the Gift are preaching to them (Romans 10:8-15). 

We are all preachers or proclaimers of the Greatest Gift. Don’t confuse preaching with being a pastor. Preaching is a lifestyle for all Christians, whereas pastoring is an office that only some Christians are called to. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.” 

Here are three things that I think preach unmistakably. 

(1) Loving, practical service to those in need (John 13:34-35; Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus said it pretty simply: If someone is hungry, give them something to eat. This practical love is an unmistakable sermon. 

(2) Loving, practical service to those you dislike—or who dislike you (Luke 6:27-36) 

Anyone can do loving things for people they like, but when you bless people who are mean to you, another unmistakable sermon is being preached. 

(3) Jesus-exalting fruitfulness (Galatians 5:19-25) 

Paul contrasts the fruit of those who haven’t invited Jesus into their hearts with those who have. Our fruits of kindness in an unkind world, or self-control in a hedonistic world also preach an unmistakable sermon. 

(check out all of the above Bible verses by clicking here)

If the Gift of Jesus is in you, then your life IS the sermon. Preach it well! 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find all of them listed here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Gift Paid For

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the greatest Gift ever—Jesus our Savior conquered sin and death!  

I don’t know about you, but many times when I’m given a gift, I feel like I need to give a gift back to the giver. I want this gift to seem appropriate for the gift I was given so that the other person knows that I really appreciated their thoughtfulness. But there is a danger if we try to do this with God’s Gift to us.  

One of the psalmists wondered how to repay God. After praising God for the salvation He worked, the psalmist asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:1-6, 12). 

As I said, not only is there a danger in trying to give God a gift that somehow reciprocates what He’s given to us, but how do you give a gift to the One who needs nothing (see Acts 17:25; Psalm 50:9-12)? 

Let me try to explain it this way. What if a rich friend gave me a house, all its furnishings, and all its food? He said, “I want to provide this place for you to live and not concern yourself with your housing or food needs. The house has no mortgage, I will pay for the utilities, and I will keep your kitchen stocked with food.” 

I would, of course, exclaim, “Wow! Thank you!” But what if I then began to make monthly mortgage payments, or started leaving money in the cupboard to pay for the groceries? Wouldn’t I really be saying to my friend, “I’m not sure you can afford this.” Or maybe even, “Let me give you something so you won’t think me ungrateful and then end up taking back your gift.” 

In my attempt to give back to my generous friend, I’m really questioning his resources that will allow this gift to continue or his motivation for blessing me. 

The psalmist in Psalm 116 gives us two ways we can express our gratitude to God for His Gift of Jesus (Psalm 116:13-14).  

  1. I will lift up my cup of salvation. This isn’t lifting up a cup to say, “Cheers,” but lifting it up for a continual refilling because He is the only Source that can refill it. 
  2. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord. One picture of our relationship with Jesus is a marriage, where Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. At almost any wedding you may attend, the bride and groom make vows to each other that essentially say, “I only have eyes for you. My heart is only longing for you. I’m devoted to you forever, no matter what!” 

In my Good Friday message, I said that Jesus IS the perfect Gift. When He said, “It is finished,” He left nothing undone. 

For me to then say, “Thank you for that Gift. Now I must do _____,” is to really say, “I don’t think the Gift was perfect. There are still some things needed to complete it.” 

Or it might be fear speaking that says, “If I don’t give something back, You may withdraw Your Gift from me!” 

I think these stem from two misconceptions: 

Misconception #1: “God does loving things.” Truth #1: Yes He does, but more than that God IS love.

God is love. He could never love you more than He already does, so stop trying to earn His love. And He could never love you less than He already does, so stop worrying. 

Misconception #2: “God supplies my needs.” Truth #2: Yes He does, but more than that God IS provision. 

God is provision. He never runs low. He is never dependent on someone else. He is never short-changed. He knows exactly what you need, and He can perfectly provide for you each and every moment. 

Don’t try to repay God for sending His Son Jesus, but celebrate God’s Perfect Gift by continuing to let Him fill your cup of salvation, honoring your vows to Him, and living securely and joyfully in His love and provision. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of those messages here. 

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New Inside

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) is stuck in a small town where February 2 keeps repeating. Phil tries desperately to get out of this town and out of this day, but nothing he seems to do gets him out of the endless loop. He becomes smarter and richer each day, but at the end of the day, everything resets to the beginning. 

It’s frustrating! 

God’s people of the Old Testament had their own “Groundhog Day”—the Day of Atonement that came every single year. This was the day their sins were confessed, forgiven, and atoned for, and had a very specific set of sacrifices and rituals. Much like Phil in the movie, they began to go through these motions almost entirely without thinking. 

Year after year, millennia after millennia “the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, [couldn’t] make perfect those who draw near to worship” (see Hebrews 10:1-4). 

Even those who were God-fearing and tried their best to live perfectly righteous lives could find in the law provision for those who “sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18, 22, 24, 27-29). It was just another reminder that the loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement was never ending. 

And as if all the requirements of the Torah weren’t enough, Jesus came on the scene and seemed to raise the bar, telling us even though our outward actions might look righteous, our inward thoughts and attitudes made us just as sinful (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). And then Jesus even dropped this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)! 

Perfect?! As perfect as God?! This could easily make people throw their hands up in resignation, “I give up! Why even try?” 

Through Ezekiel, God prophesied an internal change. This wasn’t something I must do, but something GOD will do—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) 

The solution to our endless loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement must become internal. It’s no use trying to correct the fruit if the root is still evil! That requires an inside job. 

On Good Friday, the last words Jesus spoke before His death were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

What was finished? Our struggle to get ourselves out of this endless loop. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: 

But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. … For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12, 14) 

Remember Jesus told us we had to be perfect like God? The root word for “perfect” in that verse is telos. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He said one word in Greek: tetelestai. This also comes from the root word telos. Jesus perfectly finished all that was necessary for us to become perfect in God’s sight. 

Christians often use the the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart” as an expression of their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross. That word “IN” is a good reminder. 

Jesus comes IN and the fear of punishment—the fear of being eternally stuck in the endless loop—has to go out. “There is no fear IN love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect IN love” (1 John 4:18). 

The word “perfect” in that verse is also from the same root word telos. 

Not only does Jesus come IN to our hearts to make them new, but He also takes us IN to His perfection. “Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith—giving the first incentive for our belief—and is also its Finisher—bringing it to maturity and perfection…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples. His last supper was the first Communion. At this time Jesus told them He was establishing a “new covenant.” How do we square this with His previous statement that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? 

Jesus said this new covenant was IN His blood. His blood doesn’t abolish the law, but it perfects the law. His perfect blood makes out hearts new and takes us out of the external loop and IN to His prefect righteousness. 

Jesus accomplished all that was needed to make us perfect inside, and then to perfectly take us into God’s presence. As the hymn The Old Rugged Cross reminds us, “In that old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old Cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me!” 

May we always cherish the perfection that was purchased for us on that Cross. 

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The Gift Unmistakably Seen

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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