ZAC POONENâ€™S 2002 ARTICLES What A Happy Year It Will Be - Zac Poonen Under the old covenant, God gave the Jews many types of Sabbaths. The weekly Sabbath is well-known. There were however some lesser known Sabbaths as well. One was the Sabbath year that came at the end of every six years (Lev.25:2-4). Another was the fiftieth-year Sabbath that came at the end of every seven Sabbath years (after every 49 years). This fiftieth year Sabbath was called "the year of jubilee" (Lev.25:8-12). In the year of jubilee, the Israelites were "to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all enslaved debtors", and it was to be "a time for the canceling of all debts" (Lev.25:10 - Living). The Lord had commanded the cancellation of all debts at the end of every seventh year as well, when "every creditor shall write, `Paid in full', on any promissory note he holds..........because the Lord has released everyone from his obligation" (Read Deut.25:1-10 carefully).. The Sabbath years were to be times of great blessing and joy. The word "jubilee" means "a shout of joy". The year of jubilee was to be a year full of joyous shouts - because every debt had been forgiven, and every debtor released. Therefore the Lord told the Israelites concerning that year, "What a happy year it will be for you" (Lev.25:11 Living). Now, under the new covenant we celebrate the Sabbath day every day of the week, for every day is holy unto the Lord. And we celebrate the Sabbath year every year - for every year is a year of jubilee - a year of rejoicing in which we release and forgive all who have harmed us and cheated us. Thus every single year of our lives can be happy - for every year is meant to be a year of jubilee for us. Our calling is to be merciful to others just as God has been merciful to us. That phrase, "JUST AS GOD HAS BEEN TO US" is the motto we must keep in mind at all times in our dealings with all human beings. We have received much freely from the Lord. Then let us give freely to others as well (Matt.10:8) - not in a miserly or stingy way, but liberally and with a large heart. We must never lose the wonder of the forgiveness that the Lord has granted us so freely. OUR WHOLE LIFE MUST NOW BE LIVED AS AN EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE TO THE LORD FOR ALL THAT HE DID FOR US ON CALVARY'S CROSS. The good news of the gospel is that we can be saved from a miserable existence. We can now have rivers of living water flowing out through us constantly, and be a blessing to every family that we meet. We can be merciful to others just as God has been merciful to us. We can release others just as God has released us. We can bless others just as God has blessed us. We can give freely to others just as God has freely given to us. We can be large-hearted to others just as God has been to us. This year - and every year - can be a happy year for all of us, if we release everyone who owes us anything, or who has hurt or harmed us in any way. Bury those grudges permanently and be merciful to all men and thus make a new beginning with the Lord today. Your Decisions Determine What You Become - Zac Poonen God does not predetermine whether anyone should go to heaven or hell. He wants all men to repent and to be saved. Those who go to hell do so out of their own choice. Yet God also sovereignly chooses His own children. The problem of reconciling man's freewill with God's
sovereign election is faced only by those who try to explain these truths with their human reason. We are not to be Calvinists or Arminians in our theology, but Biblical. As someone has well put it, "The truth does not lie in one extreme nor in the other. Much less does it lie in the middle. The truth lies in both extremes held together" - however much our human reason may be unable to reconcile those extremes. We cannot pigeonhole every verse in Scripture into neat, mutually-exclusive categories. We cannot explain Scripture as we explain mathematical problems either. The little cup of our human intelligence cannot hold the ocean of God's wisdom. So we must humbly acknowledge that we cannot explain everything with our cleverness. God's truths are hidden from the clever and intelligent and revealed to babes (Matt.11:25). A dog cannot explain what a man understands perfectly. Even so, no man can explain everything that God has written in the Scriptures. But we are called to believe it, even if we cannot explain it. In the same way as people choose to go to heaven or hell, people become spiritual or carnal also as a result of their own choices. Every day we make decisions concerning various matters. We make decisions in relation to how we are going to spend our money or our spare time, or how to speak to, or about someone, or how to write a particular letter, or how to react to another's behaviour, or how much time to spend in studying the Word, or in prayer, or in serving the church etc., We also react in certain ways to the behaviour of people around us from morning till night. We may not be realising it, but we make at least a hundred decisions every day - and in each of those decisions we decide either to please ourselves or to please God. Many of our actions are not the result of conscious decisions. But even then, we do them in one of these two ways - either seeking to please ourselves or to glorify God. Our unconscious actions are determined by the way we make our conscious decisions. Finally, it is the sum total of these decisions that determine whether we become spiritual or carnal. Think of the millions of decisions that we have made ever since we were first converted. Those who have consciously and consistently chosen to deny their self-will many times each day and to do the will of God, have become spiritual. On the other hand, those who have rejoiced merely in the forgiveness of their sins, and who therefore chose to please themselves most of the time have remained carnal. Each person's decisions have determined what he has finally become. You are today as humble and as holy and as loving as you yourself have chosen to be, through the thousands of decisions that you have made in the various situations of life in past years. Consider the spiritual state of two brothers (both converted to Christ on the same day), ten years after their conversion. One is now a mature brother with spiritual discernment, to whom God can commit much responsibility in the church. The other is still a child, without discernment, and needing to be fed and encouraged by others constantly.What is it that has made such a difference between the two? The answer is: The little decisions that they took during each day of the ten years of their Christian life.
If they continue on in the same way, in another 10 years, the difference between them will be even more pronounced. And in eternity, their differing degrees of glory will be as different as the light emitted by a 2000-watt bulb and a 5-watt bulb!! "One star differs from another star in glory" (1 Cor.15:41). Don't be weak-willed then. Exercise your will to please God at all times. If you determine to be faithful from now on, you will have no regrets in eternity, no matter how much you may have failed in your past life up until now. You will find more than enough believers around you who have no interest in living such a disciplined, wholehearted life. Don't judge them. Don't be a Pharisee and despise them. Mind your own business and don't be a busybody in their affairs. But be different. Let Jesus alone be your Example. Think often of the day when you will have to give an account of your life at the judgment- seat of Christ. Determine today that you will become a true man/woman of God. God's Righteousness - Zac Poonen Israel had great zeal for God (Rom.10:3) - but it was zeal without a knowledge of God, for they did not understand that God's righteousness could not be produced by their own efforts. This was essentially where they failed. And this is where many Christians pursuing righteousness also fail today. They want to be holy, but they pursue after it with a human zeal that makes them haughty and arrogant towards others. "Not knowing about God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, Israel did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God" (Rom.10:3). Our own righteousnesses (our very best works) are all like filthy rags in God's sight (Isa.64:6). They are an abomination in God's eyes - and that is why they must be thrown away. It was self-righteousness that made the elder brother (in the story of the prodigal son) into a Pharisee. In the first part of the parable, it is the younger brother who is outside the father's house. But at the end of the story, it is the elder brother who is outside, while the younger brother is clothed and rejoicing inside. Jesus constantly exposed self-righteousness as the worst of all sins - worse even than adultery and murder. Yet very few Christians understand the seriousness of this sin. It is self-righteousness that makes a Christian look down on other Christians, and that makes preachers preach to others without judging themselves first. Such attitudes are like filthy rags in God's sight. Is your righteousness something that God has wrought in you, by making you partake of His nature, or is it something that you attained by gritting your teeth, by getting up early every morning, by fasting and prayer and by yogic self- control? HUMILITY is the test by which you can know the answer.
God is determined that no flesh will be able to glory in His presence in eternity. So the righteousness that you have produced through your own efforts will be worth nothing at all in the final day. You might as well realise that now. At the very beginning of our Christian lives, God declares us righteous because of our faith in Christ. Otherwise we would not even be able to stand before Him. And then, God sanctifies us by making us partake of His nature increasingly. It is He Who gives us the grace to be faithful and unyielding in the moments of temptation, so that we do not sin. It is He Who gives us the abilities and the gifts of the Spirit whereby we are able to serve Him and be useful in His vineyard. So we see that salvation from start to finish is from God - 100%. "God is found by those who did not seek for Him and He manifests Himself to those who did not ask for Him" (Rom.10:20). Those are words that most Christians don't even know are found in the New Testament. Paul says there that Isaiah was very bold to make such a statement - and we can be certain that Isaiah was very bold, for that statement goes against the grain of every selfrighteous Pharisee of all times. Humble people however have no problem accepting these facts, for they recognise that their salvation begins and ends in God. Jesus is the Author of their faith (the One Who began it in their lives) and He is the Finisher of their faith too (the One Who will bring it to completion) (Heb.12:2). So they have nothing to boast about at all. The Daily Sacrifice - Zac Poonen We read in Daniel 11:31, that one of the things that the antichrist will put an end to is "THE DAILY SACRIFICE". Jesus constantly spoke to His disciples of a daily sacrifice - a daily sacrifice that he Himself had in His life: "If anyone will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY..." (Lk.9:23).This message has been eliminated by Satan from Christendom. And so the holy place has been corrupted. When the preaching of the cross disappears from any church, sin and worldliness soon take over.The way into the most holy place lies through the rent veil (the crucified flesh - Heb.10:20). There is no other way to dwell with God, The Most Holy One. That was the way for Jesus - and there is no other way for us either. Did you take up the cross yesterday? Maybe you did. But that was sufficient only for the evil appointed for you to face yesterday (Matt.6:34).Today is another day. And you have to offer your body and your self-will as a sacrifice again today. Today you have to die to your lusts, to your anger, to your pride, to your love of money, to your love of man's honour, to your bitterness etc., These lusts are still present in your flesh, and will be with you as long as you live. That is why you need to have "a daily sacrifice", right until the end of your earthly life. Is there a daily sacrifice in your life? If not, the spirit of the antichrist has certainly deceived you. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at the same time as He was baptized in water. Jesus being immersed in the River Jordan symbolised His accepting death and burial. This was to teach us that the way to live under the Spirit's anointing was by accepting death to Self. In baptism, we are pushed into the water in God's Name, and we accept it, knowing that the one who pushes us into the water will also lift us out of it. So must it be when we face situations in life where we are pushed down and oppressed in any way. We must recognise that God is "delivering us over to death for Jesus'
sake" in such situations (2 Cor.4:10,11). And when we accept death to our self-life, we can be certain that the God Who led us into that death will raise us up too. If those who had been baptised in the Holy Spirit in past decades had maintained the daily sacrifice in their lives and in their churches, they would have had tremendous power and influence for God in our land. But Satan succeeded in sidetracking most of them, by leading them to emphasise speaking in tongues, healing, working-up of the emotions, and various forms of religious activity, instead of the way of the cross. The only way to overcome Satan, and to preserve the power of God in our lives, in our homes and in our churches, is by maintaining the daily sacrifice at any cost, without any compromise whatsoever. Herod "used to enjoy listening to John the Baptist" (Mk.6:20), because John the Baptist was a fiery preacher, interesting to listen to, unlike the boring Pharisees. Many enjoy reading good Christian books and listening to fiery preachers for the same reason. But they do not become any more spiritual than King Herod!! There are some who read Christian books only to get points for their sermons. God has said that He is against those who steal messages from others (Jer.23:30). Instead of looking out for points for sermons, you should judge yourself and allow God to speak to your own need first. If, for example, you are offended because someone did not give you the respect that you think you deserve, or because you were not given some position of responsibility in the church, that is a clear indication that the daily sacrifice has been eliminated from your life. If you die to Self, you will never get offended with anything or anyone at any time. Every Mountain Will Be Flattened (Zech.4:6,7) - Zac Poonen In God's work, we will face hindrances and obstacles of many types. We may wonder why God allows us to face such mountains, when we are wholeheartedly seeking to do His will alone. But God's purpose is to exercise our faith, so that we can experience His mighty power reducing all those mountains to a plain. We read of an occasion in the gospels, where Jesus urged His disciples to go across the lake of Galilee. They did not want to go, but he urged them to go (Mt.14:22). When they obeyed Him, they ran into a fierce storm. If they had disobeyed Him, and not crossed the lake, they would not have faced that storm at all. But they would not have experienced the power of the Lord stilling the storm either. It is only when we face the storms that we can also know the power of God. It is the disobedient and compromising Christian who has an easy way through life. But he never experiences the power of God either. The disciple of Jesus may go through "many afflictions". But he also experiences the Lord "delivering him out of all of them" (Psa.34:19). God delights to see His people trust Him in the midst of gigantic problems that no man can solve. It is in such situations that we prove that we believe in an almighty God. Far too many of God's people believe in a god of their own imagination who is unable to help them when they face man- made or demon-made storms or mountains. That is not the God of the Bible, but a god of their own making - an impotent idol of their imagination, no better than any heathen idol. Is there any problem too big for our God? No. Then why do we fear when men or demons raise up mountains in our way? When the Israelites heard of the size of the giants of Canaan, they began to think, "These giants are too big for OUR god to handle". Who was their god? Not the God Who had delivered them from Egypt, but a powerless figment of their own imagination. No
wonder God sentenced them to 38 years of wandering in the wilderness (Deut.2:14). They were unbelieving - and their unbelief insulted God and tied His hands, so that He could do nothing for them. There are Christian leaders today also who tie God's hands through their unbelief. But God is looking for men like Joshua and Caleb, who will believe and proclaim that there is nothing impossible for God. God is always on our side against Satan. And nothing can prevent Him from working for us, except our unbelief. Even if all the 5500 million people in the world and all the millions of Satan's demons opposed us, they would not be able to hinder God's purposes for us - if we trust in God. So we never get discouraged or give up - no matter what happens. Even if we die, we will die trusting in our Almighty God, believing that His Name will be glorified through our death! When God allows us to face mountains - whether in the form of demons that wrestle with us, or hundreds of people who oppose us and accuse us - His purpose is that we might thereby become strong and wealthy. "If God be for us who can be against us" (Rom.8:31). It is only when we face mountains and the opposition of demons and men, that Zechariah 4:6,7 becomes more than just a wall-text hanging in our sitting-room. It gets written into our bloodstream! But we have to be wholehearted and say, "Lord I really want to stand for You here, whatever the cost. Give me grace to stand for You, even if all my fellow-believers become lukewarm, and even if my wife opposes me. I am totally Yours. All I have is Yours. I am willing to spend all my life's earnings also for Your work" Then we will find God continually flattening mountains in front of us, everywhere we go. Let there be any number of giants in the land. Our God can handle all of them. He will "be an enemy to our enemies", and "fight against those who fight with us" (Exod.23:22; Isa.49:25). God has promised that "no weapon formed against us will prosper", and that "He Himself will vindicate us" (Isa.54:17). So we never need to defend ourselves when falsely accused. We can remain silent, "entrusting our cause to Him Who judges righteously" (1 Pet.2:23). That is the dignity with which servants of the new covenant conduct themselves. We depend on God utterly, knowing that He will never let us down. What He did for Jesus, Our Forerunner, He will do for us too. Freedom From Fear - Zac Poonen Fear is a weapon found only in Satan's armoury. Jesus came to deliver man from fear. It says in Hebrews 2:14 that Jesus "took flesh and blood so that He might deliver those who through the fear of death were subject to bondage and slavery all their life". Romans 8:15 tells us that "we have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but the spirit of adoption as sons". Here Paul contrasts the Holy Spirit Who makes us sons of God with the spirit of slavery that makes us fear. Fear always brings slavery. People all over the world live in fear. Unfortunately, believers also live in fear. Whenever a Christian leader uses the weapon of fear to frighten believers into submission to his authority, or to pay their tithes, or to do anything, he is using Satan's weapon. We must never use the weapon of "fear" to make people do what we want them to do. If anyone uses this weapon, then any group he builds will only be a cult. In the true church of God, every brother and sister must be left totally free to make his own choices. We certainly need to discipline people in the church if they live in sin. But they must not
be threatened with curses and judgment. Under the old covenant, people served God out of fear. In Deuteronomy 28, the Israelites were warned that if they didn't obey God's commandments, they'd be punished with poverty, sickness, madness and other evils. So they obeyed God - out of fear. Malachi told the Israelites that they would be cursed if they didn't pay their tithes (Mal.3:10). But that was under the Law. Jesus came to deliver us from such legalistic obedience. Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist prophesied of the new covenant age and said that we could now "serve God without fear" (Lk.1:74), in true reverence. Is there anything in your life that you do out of fear? Do you read the Bible each morning because you fear that some calamity may strike you if you don't read it? That is plain and simple superstition. And God certainly does not want you to read the Bible in that superstitious way! He wants you to know His intense love for you and to be free from all fear. The reason why God has cleansed us in the blood of Jesus and justified us too - is so that we might never feel condemned by Satan at any time. Fear is the devil's weapon. Anyone who uses "fear" in his ministry is in fellowship with Satan. Jesus warned people about hell, but he never frightened them with scary stories and gruesome details of the place! And He didn't threaten His disciples who left him, with dire consequences. The Bible commands masters never to threaten their servants (Eph.6:9). If fear is a weapon of the devil, how can we as servants of God ever use it. Yet there are multitudes of Christian leaders who use fear to control their flock. If you're a slave to any type of fear, that spirit of fear will come forth from you and defile others to whom you speak, and they will also be bound by that spirit of fear. That's just like it is in the human body: If you're a carrier of a sickness in your blood stream, you will transmit that sickness to your children. That's why it is important that we eliminate every fear from our life fear of men, fear of Satan, fear of sickness, fear of death, fear of evil circumstances, fear of roadaccidents, fear of poverty (in a poor country like ours that can be a very real fear), fear that our children may not get a good education or good jobs, and many other fears like that. The only thing that can drive out such fears from us, is the fear of God and faith in Him. If we fear God, we will not fear anything or anyone else. If we trust in God, we know that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him and that He honours all who honour Him. When faith dwells in our hearts, fear cannot dwell there, even though we may have occasional moments of fear. The important question is what dominates our thinking: Is it fear or faith? God Loves Us As He Loved Jesus - Zac Poonen The root cause of all our spiritual problems lies in our not knowing God as a Loving Father and a Sovereign God. One truth that has revolutionized my Christian life is the glorious revelation that Jesus gave us that the Father loves us just as He loved Him. Jesus prayed to the Father, ".....that the world may know that Thou didst love them, EVEN AS THOU DIDST LOVE ME."(Jn.17:23) Jesus prayed here that the world around us might know this truth. But it has to grip our hearts first, before the world can realise it. All Christians believe theoretically in a loving Father in heaven. But the fact that they are often worried and anxious and so full of insecurity and fear, proves that they don't believe it deep down in their hearts. There are fewer still who would dare to believe that God loves them AS MUCH AS HE LOVES JESUS! None of us could dare to believe such a truth if Jesus had not
plainly told us that it was so. Once your eyes are opened to this glorious truth, it will change your whole outlook on life. All murmuring and depression and gloom will vanish from your life altogether. I know this can happen, for it happened in my life. This is now the unshakeable foundation of my life: GOD LOVES ME JUST AS HE LOVES JESUS. It's not because you don't fast and pray sufficiently that you are not entering into the victorious life. Victory comes, not through self-effort but through faith. "Faith in what?", you may ask. Faith in God's perfect love for you. Many believers live under the condemnation of Satan who keeps telling them, "You are not fasting enough. You are not praying enough. You are not witnessing enough. You are not studying the Bible enough", etc., etc., They are constantly being whipped up by such thoughts into an endless round of activity and into a multitude of dead works. Do you realise that all your self- discipline, fasting, praying, tithing and witnessing are dead works, if they do not originate in love for God? And they cannot originate in love unless you are secure in God's love first. Paul's prayer for the Christians at Ephesus was that they might be rooted and grounded in the love of God. (Eph. 3:16,17). The world is full of people who are looking for someone to love them. Many Christians go from church to church, wanting to be loved. Some seek for love in friendships and some in marriage. But all this search can end in disappointment. Like orphans, the children of Adam are insecure and as a result are again and again overcome by bouts of self-pity. The sad thing is that even after conversion, many still remain insecure, when there is no need for them to be so. What is the answer of the gospel to this problem? The answer is to find our security in the love of God. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples that the hairs on their head were all numbered and that a God Who fed the millions of birds and clothed the millions of flowers would certainly take care of them. A greater argument than all of that, is: "He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up freely for us, how shall He not with Him also freely give us ALL THINGS " (Rom. 8:32). As God cared for Jesus, He will care for you too. One reason why God allows us at times to be disappointed with our fellow human beings is so that we might learn to stop leaning on man. He desires to free us from such idolatry (for it is a form of idolatry to depend on man), so that we might learn to lean wholly upon Him alone. And so when God orders your circumstances in such a way that you are disappointed on every side, that shouldn't discourage you. It is just God weaning you away from the arm of flesh so that you might learn to live by faith in Him. Learn to find your security in the fact that God loves you as He loved Jesus. All competition and jealousy among Christians arises out of this same insecurity. A man who is secure in the love of God and who believes that God made no mistake in making him the way He made him, and in giving him the gifts and talents He gave him, can never possibly be jealous of another or compete with another. All problems of relationships among believers are also basically due to this same insecurity. Just think how many of your problems will be solved when your eyes are opened to this one truth - that God loves you exactly as He loves Jesus. A Sovereign Ruler - Zac Poonen "Our Father Who art in heaven," (Matt.6:9) reminds us that the One we are praying to is One Who is Sovereign and Almighty, ruling in the heavens. Even in the Old Testament, God sought to impress His sovereignty upon His people. He told them, "Relax and know that I am God. I
will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psa.46:10 - NASB margin). He rules over all the earth as Supreme Sovereign and that's why we can relax! Perhaps the greatest truth that the Church needs to recognize in this day is the truth of the sovereignty of God and the total authority of Jesus Christ over all nations and powers. Consider something that has taken place in the lifetime of many of us. We all know that one of Israel's greatest enemies today is Soviet Russia. Russia would be delighted if Israel could be wiped out of existence. Yet in May 1948, when Great Britain failed to keep its promise to the Jews to give them the land of Palestine, it was the Russian vote in favour of Israel that enabled the United Nations to accept the establishment of the state of Israel. Of course, Russia's aim was to get the British out of Palestine. But nevertheless, it goes to show how God in His sovereignty, could use even an atheistic nation to fulfil His word and help bring the Jews back to their land, when a so-called `Christian' nation backed out on its promise. God is on the throne and He is in total control of the affairs of the world. It is only as our faith is rooted and grounded on this truth that our hearts can be at rest, no matter what may happen around us in the days to come. The Bible tells us to pray for the government (1 Tim. 2:1,2). It's no use doing that unless we believe that our prayers are going to change existing situations. I, for one, wouldn't waste my time praying for those in authority, if I didn't believe that God was sovereign enough to influence government decisions and even voting patterns at election- time, in answer to prayer. We have prayed for our country in past days and seen that our prayers have brought miraculous results - for the furtherance of God's purposes in our land! "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord. He turns it wherever He wishes" (Prov. 21:1). God can make the greatest ruler in the world change his decisions, if we pray. If the Prime Minister of India were your father, what a difference that would make in your attitude to problems and difficulties that you face in your life. If your landlord threatens you, or your boss makes life difficult for you, or somebody is unjust towards you, or you need something done urgently, would you have any worries? No. You'd just have to ring up your Dad and ask him to solve your problem. Isn't the Lord greater than the Prime Minister of India ? What do we do then when we face some problem in our life? Do we say, "Well, I'll just tell my heavenly Father about it. He rules the universe, and He can surely sort out this problem"? Or do we say, "I wish I knew some influential cabinet minister or Police Officer, who can help me now"? Which is our first reaction? Many Christians are atheists when it comes to the practical matters of daily life. They talk about faith in God in the meetings and even in their homes. But when it comes to earthly matters, they are full of fear and anxiety just like any atheist. There has never been as much fear as in our day. Jesus said that in the last days men's hearts would faint from fear wondering what was going to happen next (Luke 21:26). But it is at just such a time, that we are exhorted to lift up our heads fearlessly and to look for Christ's return (Luke 21:28). A Bondslave Of Christ - Zac Poonen
Paul called himself a bondslave of Jesus Christ (Rom.1:1). That is what all the early apostles were. Jesus is looking today for bondslaves - not servants. There is a difference between a servant and a slave. A servant works for pay. A slave gets no salary. God has no servants under the new covenant, only bondslaves. Jesus never offered any salary to those whom He called to be His apostles. If we are called to full-time Christian work, let us ensure that we never work for a salary, or else we will end up as servants of men. Let us not serve our churches, expecting people to give us gifts. If they choose to do so, without our expecting anything from them, that is allright. But we should never expect anything from anyone. We must also make it a principle that we will never receive any money from those whose standard of living is lower than ours. The highest way to serve the Lord in full-time work, however, is the way Paul served the Lord as an apostle - by having some secular employment, so that we are not dependent on anyone's gifts for our needs (1 Cor.9:14-18; 2 Cor.11:7-15; Acts 20:33,34). We cannot be servants of the new covenant, if we are working for pay. We must be bondslaves. If we feel that we have a right to comforts and conveniences, then we are paid servants, not bondslaves. A bondslave has no right to anything - not even to honour or reputation. If God gives us a house to live in, we are thankful. But we will serve Him, even if we don't have a house to live in. The fact that He gives us the privilege to build the Body of Christ is more than enough for us when we are true bondslaves. Romans 6:22 speaks of the past present and future of a true bondslave of God. (1) In the past freed from conscious sin. (2) In the present - the fruit of progressive sanctification. (3) In the future - eternal life (the fulness of the Divine nature). First of all, we must be freed from conscious sin. Many don't mourn for their secret failures and that is why they don't come to a life of victory over sin. We may imagine that impurity in our thought-life is not important, because others don't see that area of our lives. But it is there that God tests us to see whether we fear Him or not. Secondly: Increasing sanctification will be the primary fruit that comes forth from our lives, if we are true bondslaves of God. Bringing others to Christ and building them up in the faith will be the secondary fruit. If we are really serving the Lord, our labour will certainly result in increasing godliness in our personal lives. Sanctification is a process in which we get increasing light on the evil that dwells in our flesh, and in which, as we bear the dying of Jesus in our bodies, we partake more and more of the life of Jesus in area after area. If we are being sanctified, we will get light, for example, on the harshness of the tone of our voice when we speak to our family members, on our lack of love towards those we disagree with, on our seeking honour in our ministry, on our excessive talking and foolish jesting, and on the deadness of our preaching etc., etc., And finally, the bondslave looks forward to partaking of God's nature (eternal life) in all its fulness. That is the goal towards which every true bondslave of God presses on. As slaves of God, we may have to go through many trials, misunderstandings and false accusations, on earth. But it will be worth it all when we see Jesus, if we endure in love, until the end. The Secret Of New-Covenant Ministry - Zac Poonen Paul reveals the secret of his effective ministry in these words: "God strengthens us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to strengthen those who are in affliction WITH THE SAME STRENGTH WITH WHICH WE ARE STRENGTHENED BY GOD" (2 Cor.1:4). Paul had to go through many afflictions in order to receive a spiritual education. Only thus could he pass on
to others the strength that he himself had received when he went through trials. Without such an education, no one can be a servant of the new covenant. There is a vast difference between an anointed Samson under the old covenant and an anointed Paul under the new covenant. Samson had the Spirit's power to overcome external lions. Paul however had the Spirit's power to overcome the lions that dwelt within his own flesh - which Samson could not overcome. Under the old covenant, God's servants stood in God's presence, heard what God had to say, and then told others what they had heard. But that is not sufficient in the new covenant. Now, God's servants must go through trials and afflictions and experience God's grace helping them to overcome in all those trials, and then exhort others to follow their own example. That is how new covenant ministry is far higher than old covenant ministry - and it is far costlier too. We cannot become servants of the new covenant by going to a Bible-school. No true apostle or prophet in the Bible ever came out of a Bible-school. We cannot study the Bible like we study chemistry, cooped up in a classroom. The Holy Spirit teaches us the meaning of the Scriptures in the midst of life's situations. That was how the apostles learnt it. And that is how God's servants learn it today as well. Only thus can we lead others to partake of eternal life. It is by following Jesus that we become servants of the new covenant. Under the old covenant it was not possible for people to press on to perfection. But in the new covenant we can (See Heb.6:1 with 7:19). But we cannot lead others to perfection if we are not pressing on to perfection ourselves. Only if we are "cleansing OURSELVES from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor.7:1), and "purifying OURSELVES even as Jesus is pure" (1 Jn.3:3) can we lead others also to such a life. There is no other way. We have to be mini-forerunners for the others. That is why God takes us through varied and trying situations - more than all the other believers in our churches have to go through. For only thus can we be true shepherds to them. Otherwise we will be hirelings, seeking our own gain either money or man's honour. That does not mean that we have to face all the circumstances that others in our church face. That would be impossible. Jesus did not become our Forerunner by facing all our circumstances, but by being tempted with all the temptations that we face (Heb.4:15). Jesus did not have a drunken father or a nagging wife or disobedient children, as some of us may be having. Jesus did not have to wait in long queues outside government offices for a licence as we have to wait today. Yet He was our Forerunner, because He faced all the temptations that we face today, in different circumstances in His day. God has to take us through all the temptations that our brothers and sisters face. But in all those temptations, we must overcome, if we are to serve them, and lead them to partake of eternal life. That is how we become servants of the new covenant. Peter writes to the elders "to be examples to the flock" (1 Pet.5:3). And Paul writes to Timothy (in 1 Timothy 4:12) that he should be "an example to those who believe - in speech, love, faith and purity". First of all, we must be examples in our speech. Our speech must always be gentle and gracious. We must be totally free from gossiping. If someone shares something with us in confidence, we must be able to keep the matter secret - even from our wives. We must be examples in love. Others must see that no matter what they say or do to us, our love to them never changes. We must be examples in faith. In all the trying circumstances that we face, people must see that we never get into a panic, but always have the perfect confidence that God is able to see us through. We must be examples in
purity. We cannot expect purity in the relationships between young brothers and sisters in our churches, if we ourselves are not first class examples in this area. The Testing Of David - Zac Poonen God testified concerning David saying, "I have found David, a man after My own heart, who will do all my will" (Acts 13:22). Saul had been God's first choice as king of Israel. But Saul failed in both the tests that God gave him - through impatience (1 Sam. 13) and disobedience (1 Sam. 15). And so God took away the kingdom from him and gave it to David. But it was a long and arduous road that David trod from the time that he was anointed as king, to the time that he actually sat on the throne of Israel. During all those years he was tested by God in numerous ways - and he qualified. Faithfulness at Home and at Work The first thing we notice about David is that God called him when he was faithfully doing his earthly duties at home and in his place of work - as a shepherd-boy. "And Samuel said to Jesse (when he came to anoint one of Jesse's sons as king of Israel, at God's command), `Are these all the children?' And he said, `There remains yet the youngest (David), and behold, he is tending the sheep.'" (1 Sam. 16:11). Faithfulness at home and in our place of work is fundamental if God is to approve of our lives. Jesus never called an unemployed person to the ministry of the Word. Every apostle whose calling for the ministry is described in the gospels, was called from his place of work. The tragedy of Christian work today is that the vast majority of those in full-time Christian work are people who have never had a secular job at any time. This one fact alone makes it questionable whether God ever called them to His service. God places great importance on faithfulness in the ordinary tasks of our earthly life. That is what qualifies us for His service. A Concern for God's Name The second thing we see about David is his concern for the glory of God's Name. When Goliath was defying the armies of Israel, it was not some cheap desire for adventure that drove David to challenge the giant - but a concern for the honour of God's Name. We read that "David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, `What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?"(1 Sam. 17:26). The primary mark of every true servant of God is that uppermost in his thinking is a concern for the glory of God's Name. "Hallowed be Thy Name" is his first and spontaneous request in prayer. (Mt. 6:9). Everything else - personal comfort and security - is secondary. This is the point at which God tests all of us, in various circumstances. Few pass the test. David was one who did. The concern for the honour of God's Name was so intense in David, that a strong faith came into his heart that God would certainly help him to overcome Goliath. This faith drove away all his fear. Armed with that faith he went forth and slew the giant and drove away the enemies of Israel. If we were as concerned about the glory of God's Name as David was, we would also find that faith in God drives away all fear from our hearts and that Goliaths are slain. It is often because our concern for the glory of God is so little, that we remain in timidity instead of going forth boldly in faith. No Confidence In Ourselves - Zac Poonen
Under the old covenant, the primary mark of an Israelite was circumcision. Anyone who was not circumcised was to be cut off from God's people, for he had broken the Divine covenant (Gen.17:14). In the new covenant, the spiritual meaning of circumcision is explained as "having no confidence in ourselves" (Phil.3:3). It is the one who has no confidence in himself whom God upholds and whom God anoints continuously with His Spirit. There is a prophecy concerning Jesus that states, "Behold My Servant Whom I uphold....I have put My Spirit upon Him" (Isa.42:1; see Matt.12:18) The anointing of the Holy Spirit is the prime essential for being a new covenant servant of God. And we see in this verse that God gives that anointing to those who are upheld by Him - that is, to those who are helplessly dependent on Him. Faith in God cannot be exercised until we have become weak in ourselves. Otherwise our faith will be in the arm of flesh - which could be either our own cleverness, ability and money, or the resources of other people whom we know and whom we can depend on. Let me illustrate: If a rich brother and a poor brother are both faced with a sudden financial need, who would have to trust in God more? Obviously the poor brother. The rich man has enough money. So he does not need to pray. But the poor brother, if he has faith, will cry out to God, and He will not be disappointed. It is when we don't have human resources to fall back on that we learn to live by faith. Even many so-called "full-time workers", who claim to be "living by faith", have fairly reliable human resources that they can depend on. They have brothers who can be depended on to send them money every month - just in case God lets them down!! "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom.10:17). It is when we hear what God says that faith is born in our hearts. God speaks to us through the Scriptures and also through His Spirit. So, if we don't listen to God, we won't have faith. Our spiritual antennas must be attuned to listen to God the whole day, no matter what we are doing. To listen to God ALWAYS is one of the most important requirements for a servant of God. Jesus lived every day listening to, and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit (See Isa.50:4). That proved that He had no confidence in Himself and knew that only the Father could show Him what things had eternal value and what things didn't. We waste a lot of time doing things that have no eternal value, because we are in too much of a hurry to have time to listen to God. God wants to teach us how to live by faith in Him. Four times the Bible says that "the righteous shall live by faith". That does not refer to full-time workers, but to all believers. And so God arranges our circumstances such that we are compelled to turn to Him again and again for guidance. And if we are seeking for God's best, He will gradually take away the human props that we have depended on for so long, and bring us to the place where we trust Him alone for all our needs - whether those needs be financial or physical or whatever. In 2 Chronicles 16:12 , we read that King Asa of Judah was sick. When a king is sick, he can afford to get the best physicians to treat him. Yet Asa died. Why? Because "even when his disease was severe, he did not seek the Lord, but depended on the doctors" (v.12). Now if a poor man in Israel had been sick, he would have had to seek the Lord, and the Lord could have healed him. It is when we are weak and our human resources are limited that we seek the Lord. Faith is such an important factor in the Christian life that we are told that "without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Heb.11:6). That means even if we live in purity and goodness, and never backbite or gossip or cheat or tell lies, and even if we give all our money for God's work, if we don't live by faith (in helpless dependence on God and with no confidence in ourselves), we still won't please Him. As servants of the new covenant, it is faith that we are impart to others in the
church - not just Bible-knowledge. We have to teach them from our own experience how to trust the Lord in all situations. The Importance Of Total Obedience - Zac Poonen Saul was another man whom God chose to lead Israel. Saul never wanted to be a king. It was God Who placed him on the throne of Israel. And when the Israelites came to make him king, Saul hid himself, saying, "Who am I to be the king? My family is the least of all the families of Israel" (1 Sam.10:21,22). What a humble man he was! But it wasn't long before Saul became big in his own eyes and God had to take away the anointing from him. In 1 Samuel 15, we read that Saul modified God's commands and did not kill everything of Amalek, as God had commanded him to. He followed his own reason, and did what pleased the people. This is what happens when anyone becomes big in his own eyes. And here we see two of the greatest snares that every servant of God faces - the opinion of his own reason and the opinion of other people. Saul lost his anointing because he allowed himself to be influenced by these two factors. We have no right to modify any of God's commands according to our own wisdom. And if we seek to please men, we "cannot be servants of Christ" (Gal.1:10). If Saul had remained small in his own eyes, he would have retained the anointing until the end of his life. But he began to love his throne. And that is how many another servant of God has lost his anointing too. Standing repeatedly before people, as God's spokesmen, has a way of going to our heads, if we are not watchful. But Saul did not only cling on to being king. When he saw an anointed younger brother (David) coming up, and others having confidence in him, he schemed to suppress him. He was jealous of David, because David had a faith that Saul did not have. And he wanted to kill David because the people admired him. But does God ignore the actions of such Sauls - who stick to their thrones, even after God has rejected them? For a long time God may spare them. In Saul's case, God spared him for 13 years. David was about 17 years old when he killed Goliath. But he became king only when he was 30. For 13 years after David had been anointed by God, God allowed Saul to continue to rule as Israel's king. What lesson does all of this have for us? God may allow us, even after we have become backsliders, to stay on in a ministry, long after we have lost the anointing of the Spirit. Others may not recognise that we have lost the anointing, because of their lack of discernment. So they may continue to accept us as servants of God, because they respect our age or Bible knowledge or experience. But we must not imagine that such acceptance by the people is sufficient for us to remain as God's servants.
What is the use of man accepting us if God Himself has rejected us? It is a terrible tragedy when a man continues to serve the Lord or to lead a church, even after the anointing has gone from his life. God Was Well-Pleased With Him - Zac Poonen When Jesus was thirty, the Father spoke these words about Him publicly from heaven, "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased." (Mt. 3:17). And that was at a time when Jesus had not done a single miracle or even preached a single sermon! What then was the secret of His being approved by God? It was obviously not because of His ministry, for He had not even commenced His public ministry. It was because of the type of life that He had lived for thirty years. We are approved by God not on the basis of the success of our ministry but rather on the basis of our faithfulness in the temptations that we face in daily life. The only two things that we are told about the hidden thirty years of Jesus' life (apart from the incident in the temple) are - that "He was tempted in all points as we are and yet did not sin"(Heb. 4:15), and that "He never pleased Himself" (Rom. 15:3). He had faithfully resisted temptation at every point and He had never sought His own in any matter. This was what delighted the Father. Our external accomplishments may impress worldly people and carnal believers. But God is impressed only by our character. It is our character alone that can bring us God's approval. And so if we want to know what God's opinion of us is, we must deliberately erase from our minds what we have accomplished in our ministry, and evaluate ourselves purely by our attitude towards sin and self-centredness in our thought-life. That and that alone is the infallible gauge of our spiritual condition. Thus, the world-travelling healer/preacher and the busy mother who is never able to leave the confines of her home, have exactly the same opportunities to acquire God's approval. This is why we shall find at the judgment-seat of Christ that many who are first here in the Christian world will be last there and many who were considered last here on earth (because they did not have a well-recognised ministry) will be first there! Being Merciful - Zac Poonen We all have a flesh and we are living among others who have a flesh. And so we are constantly liable to injure one another knowingly and unknowingly. The only place where we'll never get hurt by anyone is in heaven. And so we need to forgive one another as long as we live on this earth. To err is human, to forgive is divine.
One of the features of hell is that there is no mercy there. And in the measure in which you lack mercy in your heart towards others, in that measure you have got a little bit of hell right inside your heart. If you are unwilling to forgive someone, you've got a little bit of hell inside you. You may be considered very pious by others, because of all your religious activity. But you've got this little bit of hell right inside you all the time. And you can't go to heaven in that condition because you can't take hell into heaven. You've got to get rid of it before you leave this earth. That's why the Lord taught us to pray, "Forgive us in exactly the same way that we have forgiven others." When we don't forgive others, it can affect our bodies too. Disobedience to God's laws often brings physical suffering. If you bear a grudge against someone in your heart or if you're jealous of someone, and thus violate God's law of love, it can finally begin to affect your body. There are Christians today suffering from arthritis, migraine, rheumatism and asthma etc., who can't be healed - just because they have a grudge against someone. They may take any number of pills but they're not going to be healed until they learn to forgive. The cause of such diseases is not organic. It's not in their body. It is in their soul. If you have not forgiven your brother or sister, God will not listen to your prayer. The Bible says in Psalm 66:18: "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear." It's not only that He doesn't answer, he doesn't even HEAR. Let's not fool ourselves. True forgiveness follows brokenness and confession, and that involves a recognition of the rottenness of our flesh, a willingness to make any restitution and to ask anyone's forgiveness if necessary, if only our relationship with God can be straightened out. In Mat.6:12 Jesus taught us to pray "Forgive US." We want our brothers to be forgiven too. Sometimes, it's possible to have a secret hope that a brother will be judged by God for the way he has treated us. Such an attitude is Satanic - for it's only the devil who wants people to be punished by God. Jesus said, "I have washed your feet and you must wash one another's feet" (Jn. 13:14). That means that when you see dirt on your brother's feet (spiritually speaking), you must long for him to be cleansed too. "Forgive US" means, "Father, I won't be satisfied if you just forgive me my sins. There are other brothers and sisters around me. I want you to forgive them their sins too. Amen." A Loving Father - Zac Poonen Many have the wrong idea that God the Father is a very strict Person and that it is only Jesus Who loves them. This is a Satanic distortion of the truth. It was the love of the Father that sent Jesus to save us from our sins. Jesus told His disciples, "The Father Himself loves you" (Jn. 16:27). He also told them that if their Heavenly Father fed the birds and clothed the flowers, He
would certainly take care of them. There was no need for them to be anxious then, for their Heavenly Father knew all their needs (Matt. 6:26-34). He also told them that if earthly fathers knew how to give good gifts to their children, their heavenly Father would certainly give good things to His children too (Matt. 7:11). You may say that all this is very elementary. Yet many times when we come to God in prayer we don't really believe that God is going to grant us our request, because we are not sure of His tender, loving, fatherly care for us. Thus we limit God by our unbelief. Do you really believe that when you pray, you are speaking to a loving Father Who delights to hear you and Who cares for you? Some may have the feeling that God will hear them only if they are mature saints. How is it with an earthly father? If he has a number of children, does he listen to his 20- year-old son more than to his 3-year-old daughter? Does he tell his little daughter, "You are too young to talk to me. I can't listen to you?" Certainly not. In fact, the father is more likely to listen to his youngest child than to His older children. It's even so with God. He says, "All shall know Me (as Father), from the least (youngest) to the greatest (oldest)" (Heb. 8:11). Notice that the youngest are mentioned first! Even if you were born again but yesterday, you can come to God boldly saying, "O God, You are my Father, I am Your child, and therefore I have a right to talk to You." That's the way Jesus encouraged His disciples to go to God in prayer. Every time we pray, we must approach God as a Father who loves and cares, and who is interested in us. Only thus can faith be generated; and without faith it is no use praying at all. God is a good God. He delights to give good gifts to His children. The Bible says in Psalm 84:11, "No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." In Psalm 37:4 it says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." These promises in the Old Testament are endorsed and confirmed and amplified by Jesus in the New Testament along with many more promises. This is the foundation for our faith - the conscious acknowledgement of God as our loving Father. Hungry For God - Zac Poonen Jacob was blessed in the place where he was earnest and hungry for God. "I will not leave you," he cries out, "until you bless me" (Gen32:26). God had waited for twenty long years to hear those words from Jacob. He, who had spent his life grabbing the birthright, women, money and property, now lets go of them all and grabs hold of God. This was the point towards which God had been working in Jacob's life all along. It must have delighted God's heart when Jacob at last lost sight of the temporal things of earth and longed and thirsted for God Himself and for His blessing. We are told in Hosea 12:4, that Jacob wept and pleaded for a blessing that night at
Peniel. What a different man he was that night compared with his earlier years when he desired only the things of this world. God's dealings with him at last bore fruit! Before God blessed Jacob fully, He tested Jacob's earnestness. He said to Jacob, "Let me go," testing whether Jacob would be satisfied with what he had got or whether he would yearn for more. It was just as Elijah tested Elisha in later years. Elijah said, "Let me go," again and again, but Elisha refused to be shaken off - and so got a double portion of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2). Jesus, likewise, tested the two disciples walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:15-31). When they reached their house, Jesus made as though He would go further. But the two disciples would not let Him go - and they got a blessing as a result. God tests us too. He can never bless a man fully until the man is in dead earnest for God's best. We need to thirst like Jacob, saying, "Lord, there is more to the Christian life than I've experienced thus far. I'm not satisfied. I want all Thy fulness at any cost." When we come to that point, it is but a short step to the fulness of God's blessing. Notice in the incident at Peniel, that it was when Jacob was in a state of weakness (after his thigh had been dislocated), that he said, "I will not let you go, God." God could easily have left him and gone, but He didn't. For it is when a man is most weak in himself that he has greatest power with God. As the Apostle Paul said, "I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ's power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities...for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9,10-LB). God's power is most effectively demonstrated in human weakness. And so with Jacob, it is when he is defeated, broken and utterly weak, that God tells him, "You have now prevailed." One would think that God should have said, "You have at last been defeated." But no. The word is, "You have prevailed. You shall henceforth have power with God and with men" (v. 28). We prevail, when God has shattered us of our own strength and self-sufficiency. As the hymn says, "Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free." This is the glorious paradox of the Christian life. God's Dealings Are All In Love - Zac Poonen God has always required obedience to His commandments from man. In the Old Covenant, the Israelites were given commandments to obey. But they discovered that they could not keep God's laws perfectly. Under the New Covenant, God promises to write His laws in our hearts and minds so that we will not only obey Him but LOVE to obey Him. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."(Ezek. 36:27) It is only through obeying His commandments that we can have fellowship with God. Obedience however is something that many believers have not understood. Most believers have so misunderstood `grace' that they consider obedience to be an Old Covenant requirement. God's commandments, as a result, are considered to be a heavy burden. This is a Satanic deception. It is the result of an ignorance of God's love. All of God's commandments are for our good and are meant to set us free. They all originate in the heart of a God Who loves us perfectly. Moses says (concerning God giving His laws to Israel at Sinai), "At God's right hand there was a fiery law for His people - indeed (this proves that) He loves His people" (Deut.33:2,3 - margin). The fact that God gives us His laws is a proof of His intense love for us. Some of God's commandments may require self-denial on our part. But in the long run we
will discover that they are for our very best. A father doesn't give commands to his children to burden them or harm them - but only to help them. This is how we need to see the commands that God gives us too. To have faith is to believe in a God Who is perfect in Love. When we have such faith, we will delight to do God's commandments, at any cost. Herein lies the reason for so much of our defeat. The Devil has convinced many of us that God's commandments are either unnecessary, or a burden. If we do'nt understand why God calls us to do something, that only proves our own immaturity. One day, when we are a little more mature, we WILL understand. When little children are compelled to go to school, they don't understand why their parents won't allow them to stay at home and play. They may think their parents are being very hard towards them. But it is out of love for the children that the parents compel them to get an education. Like those little children, we too don't often understand God's ways. But if we believed in His love, we would obey all His Word and submit to all His dealings, without any question. Consider the matter of suffering. Why does a God of love allow us to go through suffering? That's because suffering is a part of the syllabus in our spiritual education. It is through suffering that God leads us on to maturity. If you have not had much opportunity to suffer, you certainly could not have learnt much in life that has any spiritual value. Perhaps you grumbled and complained so much the last time you had a little suffering, that God has allowed you to go your own way now. That is sad, when God puts you on the shelf like that. I'd rather go through suffering every day of my life than be set aside by God on a shelf. It is foolish to compare ourselves with others, when God leads us through the pathway of suffering. That would be like your children wondering why they have to go to school when the children in the slums can play in the mud all day. All of God's dealings with us are in perfect love. He wants us to be happy not with the superficial, frothy happiness of the world, but with that deep, everlasting happiness that comes through holiness of life. And there is just no way to be holy except through suffering. "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness."(Heb.12:10). Jesus was the happiest man that ever walked this earth. Yet He was the One Who suffered the most. His happiness came out of doing the will of His Father - not by having an easy way through life. He knew His Father as perfect Love and so He joyfully submitted to all that the Father sent His way. That was the secret of His whole life. Continuous Enlargement - Zac Poonen The Spirit-filled life is a life that is continuously seeking greater degrees of fulness. " I am pressing on," says Paul, nearly thirty years after his conversion, and as he was drawing to the end of his life (Phil. 3:14). He still has not attained. He is seeking a still greater degree of the fulness of the Spirit of God in his life, and is therefore straining every spiritual muscle toward this goal. " I am not perfect (complete)," he says in Philippians 3:12. But in verse 15, he seems to say the exact opposite: " Let us who are perfect (complete) be thus minded." This is the paradox of the Spirit-filled life - complete, and yet not complete; in other words, full and yet desiring a greater degree of fulness. The Spirit-filled state is not a static one. There are greater and greater degrees of fulness. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit leads us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18) - or, in other words, from one degree of fulness to another. A cup can be full of water; so can a bucket; so can a tank and so can a river. But there is a vast difference of quantity between the fulness in the cup and the fulness in the river. The newborn convert can be filled
with the Spirit immediately on conversion. The Apostle Paul too was a Spirit-filled man at the end of his life. But there is a vast difference between the fulness of the newborn convert and the fulness of the mature Apostle. The former is like a full cup whereas the latter is alike a full river. The Holy Spirit is constantly seeking to enlarge our capacity, so that He can fill us to a greater degree. This is where the Cross comes in. There can be no enlargement in our lives if we avoid the pathway of the Cross. This is why the Corinthians Christians were so shallow. They glorified in gifts and ignored the Cross. And so Paul exhorts them again and again in his two epistles to them, to accept the Cross in their lives. He exhorts them to be thereby enlarged (2 Cor. 6:13). If we accept the Cross consistently in our lives, we shall find the cup becoming a bucket, the bucket becoming a tank, the tank becoming a river and the river becoming many rivers. At each stage, as our capacity enlarges, we shall need to be filled and filled again. Thus will be fulfilled in us the promise of the Lord Jesus, " Rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me (He was speaking of the Holy Spirit)" (John 7:38, 39-LB). This also explains why Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians to ` be continuously being filled with the Spirit ' (Eph. 5:18). Paul obviously never believed in a once-for-all experience of being filled with the Spirit. What he is speaking of here is a continuous enlargement of capacity for greater degrees of fulness. Paul himself accepted the Cross always. He says in 2 Cor. 4:10, " Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body (in ever-increasing degree)." One aspect of the Cross that he accepted was the disciplining of his bodily appetites. The fulness of the Spirit is never a substitute for discipline and hard work. Paul still needed to pommel his body and bring it into subjection. He says, " Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to " (1 Cor. 9:27- LB). He disciplined his eyes in what they read and looked at, his ears in what they listened to, and his tongue in what it spoke. He disciplined his life in every area. Thus he was enlarged. Thank God for the crisis He gives us in our lives. But let us not forget that every crisis must lead to a process. Christ is not only the Door, He is also the Way. If we enter in through the narrow gate, we have to walk the narrow way. Let us never be guilty of emphasising the crisis to the exclusion of the process. The new birth is a crisis, but spiritual life in the present tense is the important thing, not just the memory of a date in the past. Some are unable to remember the date when the crisis of the new birth took place. But we don't say that a man is dead merely because he can't remember his birthday! And yet, alas, to some Christians, the testimony of an experience is the only test of life! In relation to the fulness of the Spirit too, the important thing is the present tense reality of it, manifested in Christlike living and service. The memory of an experience in the past, however wonderful, is by itself of no avail. God is looking for men and women who will never be content with mere experiences and " blessings," but who will take up the Cross daily and follow Jesus and thus manifest in their lives and in their service the reality of those words, " It is no longer I, but Christ that lives in me." This, and this alone is the Spirit-filled life. Growth In Holiness - Zac Poonen The Spirit-filled life is a life of growth in holiness. As a man's own life increases in holiness so does his consciousness of the absolute holiness of God. The two go together. In fact, the latter is one of the tests of whether a person really has the former.
Twenty-five years after his conversion, Paul says, " I am the least of the apostles " (1 Cor. 15:9). Five years subsequently, he says, " I am less than the least of all the saints " (Eph. 3:8). Still a year later he says, " I am (notice, it is not " I was," but " I am") the chief of sinners " (1 Tim. 1:15). Do you see his progression in holiness in those statements? The closer Paul walked with God, the more he was conscious of the corruption and wickedness of his own heart. He recognised that no good thing could be found in his flesh (Rom. 7:18). In Ezekiel 36:26, 27, 31, God says, " I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you...Then you will loathe yourselves for all the evils you did." Only such a man who loathes himself will be able to fulfil the command in Philippians 2:3 to esteem others as better than himself. Having seen his own corruption, he will no longer despise anyone else. He will also be ready to confess failure immediately and will be willing to call sin, sin. The Spirit-filled man does not merely seek to give others the impression that he is growing in holiness, but will actually be doing so. He will not testify of experiences, and try to convince others of his theology of sanctification. He will have such holiness in his life that others will come to him, of their own accord, and ask him the secret of his life. It makes no difference what our doctrine of holiness is. True holiness comes only to the man who seeks after it with all his heart, and not to the one who has merely the correct teaching in his head. There have been godly men in past centuries whose understanding of doctrine led them to believe that they were `entirely sanctified' and who called their unconscious slip-ups `mistakes'. There have been other godly men who called their unconscious slip-ups `sins' and who bemoaned their sinfulness and their lack of devotion to God constantly throughout their earthly lives. But both these groups of men could have been equally saintly in God's eyes, despite the radical difference in the way they evaluated their own lives. Their different temperaments and their differing understandings of the doctrine of sanctification accounted for their differing estimate of their own hearts. The secret of holiness is discovered not through a study of Greek words and tenses in the New Testament but through a wholehearted and sincere desire to please God. God looks at our hearts, not at our brains! Growth in holiness, will always be accompanied, as in Paul's case, by an increasing consciousness of one's own sinfulness in the sight of God. Fulfilling Our Calling - Zac Poonen Spirit-filled service is a service that fulfils God's specific calling. In Colossians 1:23, 25, Paul says, " I am made a minister;" and in 1 Timothy 2:7, " I am ordained an apostle " - ordained by the nail pierced Hands of Jesus, and not by any earthly ritual. God called Paul to be an apostle. This calling was given to him, as he himself says in Colossians 1:25. It was God's gift - not something that he had achieved or earned through his faithfulness. He also says in the same verse that this calling was given him for others. It was a stewardship entrusted to him by God for the work of building up the Church. God has a specific calling for each of us. It is futile to ask God to make us into something that He has not called us to be - for the Holy Spirit decides what gift each of us should have. Paul was called to be an apostle. But not everyone has such a calling. What we do need to seek God's face
about is for power to do that to which he has called us. " Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you fulfil it," was Paul's advice to Archippus (Col. 4:17). God does not put square pegs into round holes. He knows what His Church needs at a particular time in a particular place, and He prepares each of us, (if we are submissive) for a specific task which may be quite different from what we ourselves want to do. " Is everyone an apostle? Of course not. Is everyone a preacher? No. Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles? Can everyone heal the sick? Of course not. Does God give all of us the ability to speak in languages we've never learned (tongues)?...No " (1 Cor. 12:29, 30-LB). But God has placed each of these gifts in the Body of Christ. The important thing for us to recognise what our gift and calling are and to exercise that gift and fulfil that calling. Spirit-filled service is service that fulfils that specific calling which God gives us. If there is one gift that the New Testament specifically encourages us to seek, it is the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:39). This is perhaps the most needed gift in the church today. A prophetic ministry is one that rebukes, corrects, challenges, enlightens, encourages and builds-up (1 Cor. 14:3). We need to pray that God will give us prophets in our churches, who will speak the truth of God, without fear or favour - men of a different calibre from the professional religious scribes, who are more interested in their salary, status and popularity. May the Lord help us each one to seek His face earnestly to find out what His calling is. Being Faithful With Money - Zac Poonen What did Jesus mean when He said that we were to give to God what was due to God? Did He mean that we were to give Him our tithes (10% of our income). Under the old covenant, that was all that the Israelites had to give to God. That was God's due. Once they had done that, the rest was their own. But under the new covenant it is different. Jesus demonstrated by His own life that we are to give 100% to God. Jesus said to His Father, "ALL THINGS that are Mine are Thine" (Jn.17:10). He came to deliver us from the bondage of the Law (the bondage of tithing) and to bring us into the glorious freedom of grace (the freedom that comes from giving 100% to God cheerfully). We give everything to God, not because of some commandment to do so, but first of all, because we recognise that everything is lawfully His in any case. "The earth is the Lord's and all it contains (whether houses, lands, gold, silver or whatever)" (1 Cor.10:26). If we have earned much, we should not forget that "it is the Lord Who gives us power to make wealth" (Deut.8:18). So our money is not our own for us to use as we like. We cannot spend, or lend, or give our money to anyone, without asking the Lord for specific directions in each case - because all our wealth is His now. Secondly, we give the Lord everything, because we love Him with all our hearts. Our money is now held in a joint- account with our heavenly Bridegroom. We don't keep a separate account for ourselves, and give Him 10% every month!! No. We say, "LORD, ALL THAT IS MINE IS THINE". Only such a man can say that he loves God and hates Mammon. To be faithful with money means therefore that we love the Lord so much that we spend the minimum necessary on ourselves - on food, clothes, and in decorating our houses etc., This is the meaning of "forsaking all our own possessions" (Lk.14:33). Even if we have many earthly things, we do not possess any
of them any more as our own. We are detached from all material things. Thus we are delivered from worshipping Mammon in our lives. A pure heart is one that has forsaken all earthly possessions. A pure heart is different from a clean conscience. A pure heart is one that has place in it ONLY for God, and no place for Mammon or for anything else. It is through money and through earthly things that God tests a man to see if He can commit spiritual responsibility to him or not. Jesus said, "If you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you" (Lk.16:13). God can never use any man in His service whom He has not first tested with Mammon. The reason why many churches lack the prophetic word today, is because their leaders have failed the Mammon-test. The reason why most preachers and believers never get any fresh revelation from God, year after year, is because they are not faithful in the way they use their money. They are lavish in the way they spend money on themselves - on their food, clothing and houses, and even on tourism and sightseeing etc., Faithfulness in using mammon also implies avoiding all wastage. After feeding the 5000, Jesus said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that nothing may be lost" (Jn.6:12). Jesus hates wastage of every sort. That applies not only to loaves and fishes, but also to time and money. Godliness involves being frugal in expenditure and being careful not to waste anything that God has given us. If we are not faithful in the use of money, then the only understanding we will ever get of God and His Word will be second-hand - from the preaching of others who are faithful. And such a knowledge of God's Word is NOT revelation, but only a dry knowledge of the facts of Scripture. It may be accurate knowledge, but it will lack the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This is the condition of the vast majority of believers today - in all groups. Praising The Lord In Holy Attire - Zac Poonen It is the spirit of praise confessing our faith in the Lord that puts the enemy to flight. We also see that Jehoshapat's army praised the Lord in holy attire. This is the balance we need in the church the spirit of praise along with the spirit of holiness. In Christendom unfortunately, we find believers today at one of two extremes in this matter. On the one hand we find those who are not living holy lives, who praise God with loud voices and with a lot of emotion. They praise the Lord in other tongues in the meetings and then go home and shout at their wives in their mother tongues!! This is one extreme of deception. To the soulish person who has no discernment, such noise and emotions can look heavenly. But those with discernment will recognise that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom.8:8), no matter how emotionally they sing in 'tongues', or how loudly they praise the Lord. At the other extreme, we see many who sincerely judge themselves and seek to live godly lives, but who never seem to have a spirit of praise in their lives. They seem to believe only in exhorting one another all the time - and they look so serious and gloomy while they are at it! It is written about Jesus in Hebrews 2:12 that He does two things in the midst of the church: Proclaim the Father's Name. and sing the Father's praise.
Jesus is not only the Messenger of the Father Who brings His Word to us, but also the Praiseleader and the Song-leader in the church. These then are the two areas in which we must all follow Jesus as our Forerunner and our Elder Brother, in the meetings of the church. When we stand up to share the Word in the church it is the Name of our Lord that we must proclaim, and not our own. We are not there to show others how well we can preach, or how faithful we have been. Neither are we to preach AT people with some word we have found in the Scriptures for their need!! All such preaching is earthly, soulish and demonic, and is a disgrace to the Lord's Name. The testimony of Jesus alone is the spirit of all anointed prophecy (Rev.19:10). We must also follow Jesus in raising our voices to praise the Father in the church. It is not enough to pray. We must praise God too. Ten lepers prayed to Jesus for healing. Only one praised Him. Unfortunately it is like that in the church too. The Weakness Of God's Elect - Zac Poonen In 2 Chronicles 20, we see a picture of how we can wage this warfare against Satan. There we read of a great multitude that came against King Jehoshapat. But Jehoshapat did the right thing, when confronted by so many enemies. He got the whole nation of Judah to seek God in fasting and prayer. Then he prayed to God acknowledging their weakness, their foolishness and their faith. He said, "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee" (v.12). This is the secret of all effective prayer - to recognise our weakness and our foolishness, and to trust God utterly to fight the battle for us. Jesus pictured "the elect"(the church) as a poor, helpless, old widow who has to fight against a strong enemy, with no human help or resources (Lk.18:1-7). It is only when we recognise our weakness like that, that we can depend on the Lord. Only then can we exercise faith. God curses those who lean on human resources, with barrenness. He has said, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, for he will be like a barren bush in the desert" (Jer.17:5). Many are constantly defeated by sin, and overcome by Satan, only because they are strong in themselves. They have strong opinions about everyone and everything, they speak stinging words, and they are quick to judge others. God leaves such believers alone, and they never ever become overcomers. Those who argue and dispute are certainly not weak and powerless. They are strong, and are therefore easy targets for Satan - for he always wins the battle with those who argue. That is how he won the battle with Eve in Eden. Don't ever get into an argument therefore with your husband or your wife or with anyone else - for you will never win. It is always the Devil who will win in such cases. Those who take revenge on others also prove thereby that they are strong people capable of handling their problems themselves. The weak widow needs to plead with the judge (Lk.18:2), but strong people don't!! They fight themselves! Others are strong because their bank-accounts are large, or because their employers can be trusted to pay them faithfully on the first of every month. Their trust is not in God, but in man. And so they are barren. It is only when we come to
the end of our resources that God works to help us. Jesus waited until Lazarus had died - when he had lost all his strength - before He came to help him. He waits on high even today, for us to come to the same zero-point. Jehoshapat confessed that he did not know what to do - and that is a good confession to make, for God has promised to give wisdom to all those who acknowledge their lack of it. But we have to ask for it in faith (Jas.1:5,6). And that was what Jehoshapat did. He did not merely acknowledge his impotence and his lack of wisdom, He concluded his prayer with an expression of absolute trust in God. He said, "But our eyes are on Thee". In other words, he was telling God, "We are expecting you to work on our behalf". AND GOD DID!! True And False Prophets - Zac Poonen We read in Daniel 11:32, that those who are influenced by the spirit of the antichrist will use smooth words (flattery) to draw people to themselves. The one unmistakable characteristic of every false prophet in history has been flattery. And the one unmistakable characteristic of every true prophet has been rebuke. False prophets flatter people in order to win them to their group, or to build their own kingdoms, or to get honour, or to get money, etc., Many of these false prophets correspond faithfully with people, in order to retain their personal hold over them. Their letters will not however contain words of rebuke and correction (as in the letters of the Lord and of the apostles - as we read in Revelation 2 and 3 and in the epistles). Instead, they will only contain words of flattering commendation. Smooth words will only defile your heart with pride and self-satisfaction. Words of rebuke on the other hand will cleanse your heart and make it pure. Jesus said "Those whom I love, I reprove and I discipline" (Rev.3:19). Rebuke is one mark of Divine love. When God sends a prophet into our midst, to rebuke us, that is a proof of the fact that God loves us. When God forsakes a church, it will "no longer have a prophet in its midst" (Psa.74:1,9) to rebuke it. Instead, it will have preachers who preach smooth words (2 Tim.4:3,4). That is a sad condition for any of God's people to be in. In Revelation 2 and 3, we see that even though five of the seven churches there were in a bad shape, yet the Lord had not forsaken them as yet. The proof of this is seen in the fact that He sent a prophet (John the apostle) to rebuke and correct them through his letters. John had strong words even for the elders - words such as, "You have left your first love....You are spiritually dead....You are wretched and poor and blind and naked". If those elders and those churches did not respond to those words of rebuke, and repent, they would be forsaken. Once the Lord "takes away the lampstand" (Rev.2:5), He will not send His prophets to rebuke that church any more. The false prophets will then take over, and smooth words will be heard regularly at the meetings, Sunday after Sunday!! This has happened in church after church, in
generation after generation, throughout these twenty centuries. And it is happening all around us today. It is at such a time, that there is a great need for those "who know God, who are strong, and who will do great things for Him" (v.32). Because they know God, they will fear no man. But there is only one way to know God - and that is through the daily sacrifice. The veil has to be rent if we are to enter into the Most Holy Place where God dwells. So don't ever allow the daily sacrifice to be taken away from your life. If your husband or wife treats you badly - DIE. When you suffer unrighteously - DIE. If your brothers betray you and hate you - DIE. As you die to your Self-life, you will get to know God and Jesus better. Suffering According To God's Plan - Zac Poonen God does not protect His faithful children from suffering. He knows that suffering is necessary for our spiritual growth. And the church in Smyrna was not spared suffering. But the Lord encouraged them saying, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer."(Rev.2:10). The Lord warned them that Satan was going to cast some of them into prison. God has given Satan the power to cast believers into prison unjustly. But we must remember that Satan can't do anything to us without first getting God's permission. And even if we are cast into prison, it will only be in order to test us (Rev.2:10). God uses even imprisonment to fulfil His purposes. Paul said, "My circumstances (in prison) have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel" (Phil.1:12-14). God used Paul's imprisonment to fulfil a number of purposes: (i) to sanctify Paul; (ii) to convert a number of Paul's jailers; (iii) to give Paul an opportunity to write his epistles; and (iv) to encourage many other believers to preach fearlessly. Truly our God is able to turn the tables on Satan in such a way that everything (including imprisonment) works only for the fulfillment of the Divine purposes (Rom.8:28; Psa.76:10). How long we spend in prison is also determined by the Lord. "You will have tribulation ten days", the Lord tells them (Rev.2:10). It is our Heavenly Father Who decides the length of time that His children have to undergo tribulation. Even in the days of the great tribulation, Jesus said that "for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short." (Mt.24:22). "God remembered Noah" when the flood was on the earth (Gen.8:1). And He wont forget His elect when they are encompassed by the great tribulation on earth. "I will not forget you...I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands", is His Word to us (Isa.49:15,16). It is a great comfort for us to know this. And we must remember it in the days to come, when we have to suffer for the Lord's sake. He will never allow us to be tested beyond our ability. He has His Hand on the control knob and He will turn down the pressure (that we are facing) when the right time comes. "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life", is the Lord's exhortation (Rev.2:10). We should be willing even to die if necessary, in order to stand true to the Lord. Don't follow the example of believers who compromise their witness just for the sake of a little earthly gain - some honour or promotion or money etc., How will such believers stand true to the Lord in the day when we wont be allowed to buy even our necessary food without the
mark of the Antichrist (Rev.13:16,17)? Surely such "believers" will accept "the mark of the beast" in order to survive. Remember that the crown of life is a far greater reward than any earthly honour and even than physical life itself. Again the Lord recognises that not all have ears to hear such a message. And so He calls those who have ears to hear, to hear. The overcomers will not be hurt by the second death (Rev .2:11). The second death is eternal death - being cast away from the presence of God for all eternity, into a lake of fire. It is significant that the promise of escaping the second death is made only to the overcomers. That's why it is so important to overcome sin - for death is the end- result of sin (as James 1:15 makes clear). The fundamental message of the Spirit throughout the New Testament is that we should overcome sin in every form. Reaction To Criticism And Opposition - Zac Poonen When the children of Israel were rebellious and said "Let us appoint another leader," Moses just fell on his face and kept quiet. We read that, "Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel." (Num. 14:5). He refused to vindicate himself. When Korah and about 250 other leaders of Israel rebelled against Moses' leadership, again we read that, "when Moses heard this, he fell on his face." (Num. 16:4). He would not defend himself, or hold on to his position, or assert his authority. When his own sister and brother criticised him behind his back and God began to judge them for it, again Moses was on his face praying that God would show them mercy. "Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, "Oh God, heal her, I pray!" (Num. 12:13). Truly he was the humblest man on earth during his lifetime. The Bible records that, "Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth." (Num. 12:3). God can commit himself only to such men. Power and authority over others have a way of corrupting people. There is a saying in the world that "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!" But absolute power did not corrupt Moses even slightly. God tested him again and again through the rebellion of his flock. Each time Moses passed the test. Spiritual leadership has great dangers attached to it. But blessed are those who know how to fall on their face in the dust again and again, and how to hold their tongues and refrain from selfjustification and self-assertion . God's promise to His servants is that He Himself will vindicate them. He has said, "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgement you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me" (Isa. 54:17). It is best therefore to leave such matters to God rather than to take them into our hands. Our only task is to commit our cause to Him Who judges righteously, as Jesus did. "While being reviled, Jesus did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously." (1 Pet. 2:23). Three times in Isaiah 53:7, it is recorded that Jesus was silent - when afflicted, when sheared and when led to the slaughter. "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth." (Isa. 53:7).
One who does not know how to keep silent on such occasions can never expect to be a spiritual leader. The opposition that we face is one means by which God tests our faith, to see whether we can trust Him to take care of the situation or not. An Example - Zac Poonen A spiritual leader will be such an example to others, that he will be able to say to them, "Follow me as I follow Christ". He will seek to lead others to be connected to Christ alone as their Head. Many Christian leaders, however, seek to attach believers to themselves. And they're happy when those believers are more attached to them than to other leaders. Such leaders then become like little "gods" to their flock. They misuse the Scriptural teaching on submission to elders for their own benefit. The Bible says that the Antichrist will one day sit in the temple of God and present himself to people as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The church is the temple of God and the apostle John said that there were people with the spirit of the antichrist in the churches, even in his days (1 John 2:18,19)! There are many more like that today. Sin came into this universe when a created being wanted to go up and become bigger and more visible in the eyes of others and become like God. That's how Lucifer became Satan. We should never forget that. If ever we see that spirit within ourselves, we should recognise it for what it is - the spirit of Satan. Salvation, on the other hand, came when the Son of God humbled Himself and became as invisible as possible. We shouldn't forget that either. Sin came through the pride of Lucifer and salvation came through the humility of Jesus. When people see the way today's Christian leaders advertise themselves on public platforms and in their magazines, do you think they get a true picture of the self-effacing, humble Jesus? Not at all. The examples that today's younger believers need to see are humble, self-effacing men who seek to hide themselves and to be unknown, who don't want to be highly spoken of, and who do their work quietly and disappear. This is the ministry we should all covet. Supposing you did a piece of work for the Lord and no-one knew that you had done it. That should excite you! On top of that, if someone else got the credit for what you did, that should excite you even more! If you're like that, you're truly a priest after the order of Melchizedek. I remember as a young Christian, looking around at the Christian leaders and elders in the churches that I moved about in, in those days. I'm sorry to say that I didn't see this spirit of Jesus in any of them. I'm not judging them, because I'm not their judge. I'm only saying that I couldn't respect them as godly examples for me to follow. We don't have to judge anyone. But we must be able to discern people. Immediately after Jesus spoke about not judging others, He told His disciples to be careful to discern the pigs, the dogs and the false prophets from others (Compare Matt.7:1 with verses 6 and 15). If we don't have discernment, we'll certainly be led astray by the dogs and the false prophets (See Phil.3:2). So I didn't judge my elders, but I didn't see them as worthy examples to follow, because they didn't have the spirit of a servant, like Jesus had. They were not people who wanted to wash the feet of the saints. It was then that I decided that I would look at Jesus alone, until I saw a Christian leader whose example also I could follow. We have a very great responsibility to demonstrate to the next generation what Christlikeness really means. People who look at us - the way we live, preach and serve - should be able to see in us what it means to be a true servant of the Lord, in the style of the apostles and prophets of old, and not in the style of 20th-century film-star-like evangelists. Whether we realise it or not, we're leaving
behind us an image, wherever we go - an image that's going to remain in people's minds long after we've gone away and long after they have forgotten the messages that we preached to them. When Paul called the elders of the church in Ephesus to bid farewell to them, notice what he told them in Acts 20:17-35. He reminded them that he had been with them for three years (verse 31) and that he had preached to them night and day. Three years is more than 1000 days. And so if Paul actually preached twice every day, as it seems to imply here, he must have preached over 2000 sermons there. Ephesus was the place where they had once had a great revival and where Christians had burnt their old books of magic and witchcraft costing nearly half a million rupees. It was also the place where handkerchiefs that had touched Paul's body were used to heal the sick and deliver the demon-possessed. God did some amazing miracles through Paul in Ephesus on a scale that hadn't been seen anywhere else (See Acts 19:11,12,19). At the end of all this, what does Paul remind the elders of? Does he remind them of his sermons or the miracles? No. He tells them to remember the humble way he had lived among them, from the first day they had seen him (v.19). Even if they forgot his sermons, they could never forget how he lived among them. His life had made a permanent impact on them. They could never forget his compassion and his simplicity. They'd remember that he had worked hard with his own hands as a tentmaker to support himself and his coworkers - so that he would not be a burden to them and also to be an example to other Christian workers (v.34,35). They would never forget that during all those three years, Paul never desired money, or gifts, or even a new set of clothes, from any of them (verse 33)! Paul also reminded them how he had proclaimed the WHOLE counsel of God to them uncompromisingly (Acts 20:27). He hadn't been a man-pleaser, seeking popularity for himself. He had preached repentance and every other unpopular subject, if it was profitable for his hearers, even if some got offended thereby (Acts 20:20, 21). Perfect Security - Zac Poonen We have an Almighty Father and so we're certainly not orphans. Let's not behave like orphans then. When you're fearful or anxious, you're insulting your heavenly Father - for you are thereby saying that you have no confidence in Him, that you feel He can't do anything for you in your difficult situation, either because He is powerless or because He doesn't care! That is the testimony of an unbelieving heart. If you really believed that God loved you and cared for you and was Almighty, why would you ever need to be anxious? There's a poem about a two birds that has often challenged me: Said the robin to the sparrow, "I would really like to know Why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so." Said the sparrow to the robin, "Friend, I think that it must be That they have no heavenly father such as cares for you and me." Jesus said "Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 10:31). If Jesus is Lord of our life, and we have no ambition on earth, but to do the will of God, then we can be sure that "all things WILL work together for our good," whatever may happen to us or around us (Rom. 8:28).
God wants us to live in perfect security in His Fatherly love and care for us. We must be convinced that His care for us began even before we were born. He was the One Who determined who our parents should be, what our temperament should be, how much education we would receive, where we would live etc., Once we are convinced of this, we will find that we live in perfect rest, without a single complaint against our circumstances or our parents or anyone else (Psa. 139:16). God can make even the anger of man to praise Him (Psa. 76:10). One of the clearest examples of this is found in the life of Joseph. If you read Genesis chapters 37 to 50, you'll see how God's sovereign power made all the evil things that different people did to Joseph, to work together for his good, just because he was faithful to his God. God promised the Israelites that those who honoured their parents would live long on the earth (Eph. 6:2,3). How could God promise that unless He was able to keep each such person from being murdered by an enemy and from dying of cancer or an accident etc., God is well able to do that - even today. It's only our unbelief that prevents us from enjoying the benefits of God's sovereign power. The Kingdom Of God - Zac Poonen In Math 6:9,10 Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come...." True salvation should give us a longing to be delivered from self-centredness, so that God now becomes the centre of our lives and the centre of our petitions in prayer. We who were wrong side up at one time, have been straightened up by the Lord, so that we long to put God first in every area of our lives now. One of the clearest evidences of true spirituality is that a man detests his self-centredness and longs to be totally centred in God. The man who comes to God wanting to be centred in Him says, "Our Father, who art in heaven. The greatest longing in my heart is that Your Name will be glorified and reverenced throughout the earth." Then he realizes that God's Name is not being reverenced on earth and so he goes on to the next petition and says, "Father, I am longing for You to come and establish Your kingdom on earth so that all the earth will fear and reverence Your Name." That's a prayer that all men and women of God have been praying for over 1900 years. The time has now drawn near for it to be answered. Only one who is disgusted with the evil in this world can pray this prayer. Peter says, "We are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). Look at the violence and immorality that there is in the world today. As we read the newspapers, one of the main prayers that should ascend from our hearts is, "Father, I long for Your kingdom to come. I am not asking this for my personal comfort. I long that your reign of righteousness will come soon, so that Your Name will be glorified on this earth which was created for Your glory." Jesus said that the last days would be like the days of Noah. Noah was one righteous man in the midst of a corrupt and evil world. He was a preacher of righteousness and he must have been disgusted with what he saw around him. (2 Pet. 2:5). He longed for righteousness from the depth of his heart, and he preached it without compromise. And his prayer must have been a similar one, "Thy kingdom come." All believers will acknowledge that Christ is coming back soon to establish His kingdom on earth. But what is the evidence that we really believe this? It says in 1 John 3:3, "And every one who has this hope fixed in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
The proof that we really believe in Christ's return is that we get ready, preparing ourselves as a bride for her bridegroom. This will mean a clean life, it will mean paying our debts, it will mean settling our quarrels - right now, because we are purifying ourselves as He is pure. Only such a man can pray this prayer, "Thy kingdom come." To repeat this prayer without purifying ourselves to be ready for Christ's return, is to reduce this prayer to a ritual. The kingdom of God means the government of God, the absolute rulership of God. It means making Jesus Christ absolute Lord over every area of our life. If we want the kingdom of God to come, it must first come in our hearts, in our homes, and in our churches. In these places we must give no place to Satan or to the flesh. Our longing should be that the kingdom of God should so fill our hearts, our homes and our churches that there will be no room there for anything else. The Holy Spirit came to bring "the kingdom of God with power" to earth (Mark. 9:1). Our local churches should be a demonstration to the world today of what the kingdom of God is like - that which will one day cover the whole earth. Here is where we have failed the Lord. When Jesus told us to seek God's kingdom first and not to be anxious about earthly things, what He meant was that if we really wanted to be anxious about something, we should be anxious that the kingdom of God should come on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:33). How many of us are burdened with that type of anxiety - for the purity of the church and the coming of God's kingdom?
May God find many among us who will seek His kingdom first. God Helps Those Who Are Weak - Zac Poonen The world says that God helps those who help themselves. But the Bible says that God helps those who are UNABLE to help themselves. He is the God of the weak and the helpless. He calls Himself the God of the widows, orphans and strangers. Deuteronomy 10:17,18 says, "For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the ORPHAN and the WIDOW, and shows His love for the ALIEN by giving him food and clothing." He doesn't call Himself the God of the rich and the mighty - because they have access to human and financial help. He is the God of the weak and the helpless, who have no access to human or financial help. God is on the side of the weak. That's why He has to make us weak before He can help us. He gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to make him weak, so that Paul might know the power of God resting on his life always. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul says,"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me - to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." As long as you are depending on your wealth and your influential friends to see you through life comfortably, God will leave you to your own devices. He won't even answer your prayer for help - for He sees that your confidence
is in the arm of flesh - your bank account and the influential men you know. But if you could only come to the place of weakness - where you are no longer depending on human resources or people - then you would be the most blessed person on the face of the earth. For then, God Himself will be your support. It is blessed to be weak and helpless, for then we can trust in God for everything. King Asa of Judah was a man whom God had helped more than once. Yet when he had a severe disease of the feet, he depended on his doctors, and not on the Lord, to heal him. "And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. So Asa died" (2 Chron. 16:12, 13). Because he was the king, Asa had enough money to pay for the best doctors in the land. But all his influence and his wealth could not heal him of his disease. How much better it would have been if he had trusted in the Lord! There was nothing wrong in his being TREATED by the doctors. There was everything wrong in his DEPENDING on them. It is best to be in the place where you have the Lord alone as your Helper. If you are one of those who desires God's best in life, you will find that God weans you away, again and again, from leaning on the arm of flesh. He will make you weak, so that you might lean only on Him. Consider how God dealt with Elijah. When there was a famine in Israel, God fed Elijah through crows and a brook. "The word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. And it shall be that you shall drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.' So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook."(1 Kings 17:4-6). Twice a day the crows brought him bread and meat and there was always enough water in the brook. This happened so regularly that Elijah was in danger of depending on the brook and the crows rather than on God. And so God decided to change the channel of supply. "And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land."(1 Kings 17:7) One morning, Elijah went down to the brook and found that it had dried up. God was teaching His servant to stop depending on crows and brooks. He Who could make a meat- eating crow to go against its own nature to provide meat for His servant, could well be trusted to provide an alternate means of supply now. And so God told Elijah to go to Zarephath. And there God was going to take care of His servant - not through a rich businessman, but through an old, helpless, poverty-stricken widow. She was the last person in Zarephath whom we would have selected for such a task. But God's ways are different from ours. He delights to use the least likely channel of supply, so that our faith might rest, not on the channel, but on God. "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God."(1 Cor.1:27-29). It will be a wonderful day in our life when the crows that have fed us for so long, stop coming. Then we can start trusting in God alone. When the person who has promised to help you lets you down, don't complain against him. God must have stopped him from helping you, so that you can learn to lean on the living God. God is a jealous God and He will not share His glory with another. "I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another." (Isa.42:8). "Thou shalt have no other gods but Me" is a word that we need to hear again and again, for our flesh has such a tendency towards idolatry - to lean
upon human and financial resources. God wants us to be dependent on Him alone for all our needs. Then we can live in victory all the time. Arresting The Downward Trend - Zac Poonen In Rev. Chs.2, 3 & 4 when we look at the five messengers and churches that are rebuked by the Lord we see in them a definite downward trend: (1) In Ephesus, we see the loss of first love for the Lord. When we lose our devotion for Christ, we have taken the first step downwards. In a little while, this leads on to our losing our love for our fellow-believers too. (2) In Pergamum, we see that worldliness has crept in slyly through the teaching of Balaam. The Nicolaitans (who were kept out of the church at Ephesus) have now got power here. When devotion to Christ is lost, worldliness creeps in and the religious hierarchy takes over the church. Once a religious hierarchy has taken over the leadership of a church, Babylon is built easily. (3) In Thyatira, the church has become thoroughly worldly, and as a result religious harlotry is rampant. A woman now has power to influence the church, and is proclaiming false grace and counterfeiting the gifts of the Spirit too (prophecy in particular). (4) In Sardis, we see hypocrisy. Sin is covered up and man's opinion is valued more than God's. The messenger of the church is spiritually asleep (unaware of spiritual realities). The form of godliness however hides from the eyes of men the spiritual death that the Lord sees in him. (5) In Laodicea, things have degenerated to such an extent that the body has not only died, but also begun to decay and stink. Lukewarmness and spiritual pride are the cause of the death. In the above four churches, there was something good that the Lord could still see in each of them. But here in Laodicea He could see nothing. None of the messengers of the above churches were aware of the true spiritual condition of their own lives or of their churches. All of them were complacent because of the high opinion they had of themselves. They could not hear what the Lord had to say to them personally, because they were all busy preparing sermons to preach to others. They were more interested in preaching than in seeing their own need. It is very easy, once a person has become the messenger of a church, to imagine that he himself is beyond the need for correction. The Bible speaks of "an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction" (Eccl.4:13). The messengers of these five churches were all like that foolish king. Their word had been law for so long that they could not even imagine the possibility of their now being wrong in any matter!! Such was their deluded state. They imagined that they could never lose the anointing of God from their lives. Their proud attitude was what made them spiritually deaf. King Saul was another foolish king who had started out well but who fell by the wayside very soon. He was "little in his own eyes" when he was first anointed by the Lord as king (1 Sam.15:17). But he did not keep himself in low thoughts about himself. And so he lost the anointing of God. The anointing then moved on to young David. Saul realised this, but he refused to face up to it. He stubbornly continued to sit on his throne and sought to kill David. Finally, God took away Saul's
life and put David on the throne. We see similar situations in many churches today. The anointing of the Spirit has departed from many who were once the Lord's messengers, and is now resting powerfully on some younger brothers in their churches. But the "old and foolish kings" cannot bear to see this. So what do they do? Their jealousy and their selfish desire to preserve their kingdoms prompts them to suppress those young brothers in one way or the other. Perhaps something similar may have been happening in the five backslidden churches of Asia Minor as well. So the Lord gave those messengers one last warning. There is no partiality with God and He has no special favourites. Even the apostle Paul realised that he could fall away and be disqualified if he was not careful to live a disciplined life (1 Cor.9:27). Paul told Timothy, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." (1 Tim.4:16). Timothy had to watch over his own life first of all. He would then be able to experience salvation from un-Christlikeness in his own life and thus be enabled to lead others to such a salvation as well. This is the way the Lord has appointed for all His messengers in every church. Paul told the elders of the church in Ephesus also to watch their own lives first of all and then the lives of their flock (Acts 20:28). This is the responsibility of every messenger of the Lord - to preserve his own life first of all in purity and under the constant anointing of the Spirit. "Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head." (Eccl.9:8). The Lord had wanted to speak to these messengers directly. But they did not have listening ears. Finally He had to speak to them through an apostle. Thank God that there was at least a John who could hear the Lord's voice clearly. In spite of their failures however, the Lord had hope for all five messengers - for He still held them all in His right hand (Rev.2:1). If they repented, they could become glorious brothers once again. And their churches could radiate the glory of the Lord once more. If however they failed to heed this last warning, then the Lord would cast them off. Shepherds And Hirelings - Zac Poonen In Ezekiel 34:3-6, the Lord rebukes the shepherds of Israel. He rebuked them for eating the fat of the sheep and clothing themselves with their wool. They had not strengthened the sickly, nor healed the diseased, nor bound up the wounded sheep. They had not gone out to bring back the scattered sheep, nor protected the sheep from wild animals. Instead they had ruled the sheep with force and severity. They were hirelings and not true shepherds. Hirelings are like teachers. They seek their own and work for pay. In contrast, we see in verses 11-16 how a true shepherd behaves. He cares for his sheep, feeds them, leads them to rest, seeks the lost sheep, brings back the backslidden ones, and strengthens the sick ones. A good shepherd even lays down his life for the sheep. A spiritual father is such a shepherd to his flock. This is our calling as servants of the new covenant. We must not think of our ministry as consisting merely of preaching in the meetings. Maybe there is some discouraged brother somewhere who needs a visit and a word of encouragement. Someone else may need deliverance because he is being oppressed by Satan. We have to look at all such people as lambs that have been captured by Satan the lion (1 Pet.5:8). Like David, we must go out against the lion, attack it, and deliver the lambs out of its mouth (1 Sam.17:34,35). That is how a true shepherd acts. When he comes across a difficult brother, he
fights with Satan, and doesn't criticise the brother. Thus he delivers the lamb from the lion's mouth. Haven't we all seen fathers and mothers sitting up with their sick children, by their bedsides the whole night, caring for them. Teachers have no time for such self-denying care. They will only tell their sick students to come back to school after they get well. It is when we have spiritually sick brothers in our midst, that we discover whether we are actually fathers or teachers. If you have a difficult wife, you will soon discover whether you are a shepherd-husband or a hirelinghusband. If you had a spiritual wife however, you might never have discovered your true state! God told the shepherds in Ezekiel's time that Israel had gone to Babylon because of the failure of their shepherds. Many of God's people are dwelling in Babylon today, for the same reason : Their shepherds have failed them. 1 Timothy 3:1 says that if a man aspires to be an elder in a church, he is desiring a fine work. Yes, it is certainly a fine work to be a blessing and a help to others in the church, as a spiritual father. May none of us however desire the title and the honour of being known as elders and servants of God. May God help us to take this matter seriously. Hindering Younger Workers - Zac Poonen A self-centred Christian leader hinders others below him from becoming leaders, let his own position be threatened. And so he ministers in such a way as to make himself a necessity to those to whom he ministers. This is utterly contrary to God's will. Oswald Chambers once said that anyone who made himself a necessity to some other soul had got out of God's order. God alone is the only absolute necessity to any human soul. May none of us ever try to take that place. No one is indispensable in Christ's Church. God's work can easily carry on without us. In fact, it can carry on much better without the help of those conceited folk who consider themselves indispensable! We must recognise this fact constantly. And so, we must be willing to withdraw into the background anytime God calls us to. But the self-centred Christian worker will never accept that. He will want to hold on to his position for as long as possible. Many such "Christian leaders" are rotting away on their "thrones" today, hindering the work of God. They do not know what it is to face graciously into the background and let someone else take their place. You've probably heard the saying that success without a successor is a failure. Jesus recognised this and trained people to carry on His work. In 3 1/2 years He had trained people to take over the leadership. Paul recognised the necessity of training other people to carry on the work. In 2 Timothy 2:2, he says, "Now Timothy, what I have committed to you. I want you to pass on to other people who will in turn be able to train others (right on upto the fourth generation)" (Paraphrase). What Paul was saying in effect was, "You must ensure that you commit this treasure to others. Don't ever hinder people younger than you, from coming up." The people in
the business world recognise this principle too. But many Christian leaders do not. Truly, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." It is indeed nothing but self-centredness that makes a man jealous of someone younger doing things better than he. Cain was jealous of the fact that Abel had been accepted by God and that he himself had been rejected. If Abel had been older than he, that might have been tolerable. But it was the awful fact that his younger brother was better than he that made him furious enough to slay Abel. We see the same in the case of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph received Divine revelations, and that made all his ten elder brothers green with jealousy and they tried to do away with him. King Saul was jealous of young David, because the women sang, "Saul has slain thousands while David has slain ten thousands." From that day he determined to kill him. Man's history - and alas, the history of the Christian Church too - is filled with the same story over and over again. On the other hand, what a refreshing contrast it is to look at a man like Barnabas in the New Testament. He was a senior worker who took the newly-converted Paul of Tarsus under his wing, when no one else would accept Paul. Barnabas brought him to the church in Antioch and encouraged him. In Acts chapter 13, we read that Barnabas and Paul went out together on a missionary journey. And when Barnabas saw that God was calling this junior worker, Paul, to a larger ministry than his own, he willingly stepped back and graciously faded into the background. And the phrase, "Barnabas and Paul" changes almost unnoticed to "Paul and Barnabas" in the book of Acts. The Christian Church suffers today, because there are few like Barnabas who know what it is to step back and let another be honoured. We are willing to step back in matters of no importance. When passing through a door, for example, we don't mind stepping back and permitting another to go through first. But in the realms that matter - such as position and leadership in the Christian Church - we are not so ready to step back. Our self-life is so deceitful. We can have a false humility in things that don't count. But it is in important matters that we see ourselves as we really are. Human Insufficiency - Zac Poonen Spirit-filled service is a service that is conscious of human insufficiency. Notice Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 10:1, " I am base among you " - or, in other words, " I don't have an impressive personality." Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul was only 4 feet 10 inches tall. He was bald, and beset by an eye-disease. He did not have a filmstar-like personality. The success of his labours did not depend on any human factor, for there was nothing impressive about his appearance or his speech. Concerning his preaching, Paul writes to the Corinthians, " I was with you in fear and much trembling " (1 Cor. 2:3). When he preached, he felt conscious of his weakness, rather than of the power of God flowing through him. This is Spirit-filled service - for, remember, that a church was established in heathen Corinth as a result of Paul's preaching.
When the Spirit of God speaks through a man, the man himself is not usually conscious of being God's mouthpiece. I'm always wary of those folk who are so sure, when they stand in the pulpit, that God is speaking through them (and who are not hesitant to say so). My experience with such people has been that God has never spoken through them at all. They've just had conceited ideas of being prophetic voices. The man through whom God speaks is usually not conscious of that fact at all. The Apostle Paul says in one of his writings, " I think I am giving you counsel from God's Spirit when I say this " (1 Cor. 7:40-LB). He was not sure whether God was speaking through him. Yet we know that it was God's Voice, for what Paul himself was unaware of it. Spirit-filled service is one that is conscious of human insufficiency. As Paul says, " When I am weak, then I am strong " (2 Cor. 12:10). The Spirit-filled servant of God goes again and again to God, like the man in the parable, saying, " I have nothing to give others. Please give me the living bread " (Luke 11:5-8). The Lord's servant is perpetually conscious of his own insufficiency. Let us not have any mistaken ideas of Spirit-filled service. It has no great awareness of God's power, but on the contrary of fear and uncertainty. It is only long after the labours are all over than on looking back there will be the assurance that God did indeed work through us. The Holy Spirit And God's Word - Zac Poonen We need to remember that the Holy Spirit always operates in line with the Word of God - for He Himself has written that Word, and He does not change. We see this truth in the very first paragraph of Scripture. When darkness covered the earth, the Spirit of God brooded upon it, and the Word of God went forth - " Let there be light." And the joint operation of that Creative Word and of the Holy Spirit brought light where there was formerly darkness; it brought fulness and form where previously there were emptiness and shapelessness (Gen. 1:1-3). The new birth is attributed to the implantation of the Word of God in us (1 Pet. 1:24), as well as to the operation of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Sanctification, likewise is the result of the working of God's Word and of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 17:17; 2 Thess. 2:13). In the same manner, the fulness of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Word of God go together. This becomes clear when we compare Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9, with Colossians 3:15-21. In the Ephesian passage, we are told that giving thanks, praising God and submitting to one another in Christ-like home relationships, is the result of being filled with the Spirit. Whereas in the Colossian passage, these same things are said to be the result of being filled with the Word of God. We need to recognise this truth if we are to be balanced Christians. A steam-engine needs not only steam in order to move forward, but also rail-tracks. We need the steam of God's Spirit if we are to make spiritual progress, but we also need the rails of God's Word to keep us from going astray. One is not more important than the other. Both are equally important. Some who claim to be full of steam, have ignored to rails and got stuck in the mud. Placing a premium on experience, they have not been careful to test everything by God's Word, and as a result have gone off the track. Like a derailed engine blowing its whistle furiously, many of them make a lot
of noise in their meeting, but there is no spiritual progress - no growth in Christlikeness - in their lives. Some others have gone to the opposite extreme. Although they have kept on the rails, they have despised the need for fulness of steam in the engine (or have imagined that they have the fulness when they haven't), and they are stuck too. They emphasise the importance of the Word of God and are careful about every jot and tittle in it - they keep admiring and polishing the rails. But they don't recognise that they need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. They are fundamental in their doctrines, all right - the rails are perfectly straight - but there is not sufficient steam to move the engine. They are dead right in their doctrines, but they are also both dead and right! Let us avoid both extremes. All Sufficient Grace - Zac Poonen "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph.2:8). We began our Christian life - receiving forgiveness of sins and the baptism in the Spirit - by grace, through faith. One day when Jesus Christ our Lord returns in glory, we will be caught up to meet Him in the air. That too will be by grace and through faith. So, the beginning and the end of our Christian life on earth are by grace and through faith. What we need to learn is that everything in between, is also to be received on the same principle. By grace, through faith, we can overcome everything evil, and fulfil our God- appointed task on earth. God knows all the future. There is nothing that is going to happen to us tomorrow or next week or next year that can surprise God. He knows the end from the beginning. This should give us great comfort. For if God knows that you are going to be faced with a massive trial or temptation tomorrow or next week, He will certainly give you grace to cope with it. The Lord told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."(2 Cor.12:9). His grace IS sufficient for every need. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." (2 Cor.9:8). Grace is available in abundance to help us in our time of need. "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." (Heb.4:16). Whatever your need might be, God's grace is available to help you meet it. We are therefore invited to come BOLDLY to the throne of grace to receive that grace. We have been defeated in the past, because we have not received that grace. The story can be different in the future. If we humble ourselves and cry out for grace in our time of need, God will not disappoint us. The Bible says that those who receive abundance of grace will reign in life through Jesus Christ. "For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more then those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." (Rom.5:17). That was God's will for Adam - that he might have dominion and rule over everything. Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and LET THEM RULE over all the earth.'" Adam's disobedience prevented that
from being fulfilled in his life. But now God has raised up a new race on earth - the sons of God who live by faith in Jesus Christ - who are to live with the dignity of kings, and reign on earth. No sin need any longer have dominion over you, if you will humble yourself and receive God's grace. No fear or anxiety need ever again enter your heart. No one on earth can make life miserable for you any more - not your boss, not your neighbour, not your relatives, not your enemies and not Satan. Thanks be to God Who always leads us in His triumph in Christ. How wonderful it is to live under God's New Covenant of grace! The promised land lies open before you! Go in and possess it! Our Attitude To Corrections - Zac Poonen One way in which God breaks our strength and pride is by correcting us through our leaders. Almost all believers find it very difficult to receive correction. It's not easy for even a two-yearold child to receive correction - especially if it's given publicly. When was the last time you joyfully accepted public correction? Have you accepted it even once in your life? If not, then it's not surprising that you lack spiritual authority. When someone, who is over you in the Lord, corrects you, it doesn't matter if he did it in a harsh way. You must still humble yourself under the hand of God Who allowed your leader to correct you - even if you didn't deserve the correction and even if it wasn't your fault. Jesus was publicly humiliated and falsely accused by His enemies of many things. But He never complained. And He has given us an example to follow. Even if God allows an enemy to criticize you, just ask yourself whether there's any truth in his criticism. That's all that matters. He's actually giving you a free check-up! Don't bother about how he did the "scanning" or what the motive behind the scanning was! Such matters are unimportant. All you need to ask yourself is whether the "scan" revealed some unChristlikeness in your life. Our enemies often tell us more truths about ourselves than our friends do. So we should not write off all criticism as false. If I've got a black stain on my face and an enemy points it out to me, I should be thankful to him, because he has shown me something that I couldn't have seen myself. I can then go and wash off that stain! It doesn't matter even if he said it to me with an evil motive or to humiliate me. He still helped me to cleanse myself! This was one big difference between Peter and Judas Iscariot. When Peter told the Lord foolishly to avoid going to the cross, the Lord rebuked him sternly saying, "Get behind me, Satan". That was the strongest rebuke that Jesus ever gave any man. Even the Pharisees were only called "vipers". But Peter was called "Satan". Jesus' strongest rebukes were reserved for those who were closest to Him. He rebukes most those whom He loves the most (Rev.3:19). Soon after that, when many disciples were getting offended with the Lord's teaching and leaving Him, the Lord asked His disciples if they too wanted to go away. It was Peter who then replied saying, "Lord to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:60, 66-68). What were the words of eternal life that Peter had heard? "Get behind me Satan"! Do we see words of correction as words meant to lead us to eternal life? That's how Peter saw correction and that's what made him the man he became. There was yet another occasion when Peter accepted correction from the Lord. Peter had told the Lord at the last supper that even if all the other disciples denied the Lord, he wouldn't. The Lord immediately replied that Peter would deny Him thrice within the
next 12 hours. But Peter didn't get offended with that reply. It was such a man that the Lord finally took up and made His chief apostle and spokesman on the day of Pentecost. Because Peter humbled himself under correction, God exalted him. Having learnt from his own experience, Peter now exhorts all of us in 1 Peter.5:5,6 to humble ourselves always. We'll never lose anything by humbling ourselves. One day God will exalt us. In contrast to Peter's attitude to correction, look at Judas Iscariot's attitude to correction. When a woman anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume, Judas said it was a waste to spend money like that, when it could have been given to the poor (John 12:5; Matt.26:10-13). Jesus corrected Judas very gently and asked him to leave the woman alone, because she had done a good work. But Judas was offended. In the very next verse (Matt.26:14), we read that Judas went immediately to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus. The timing of this is very significant. Judas was hurt, because Jesus had corrected him publicly. All that Jesus had told Judas was that his assessment of the woman's action was not correct. But that was enough to upset him. When you're not broken, one small thing will be enough to offend you. But look at the eternal consequences of Judas' reaction. And look at the eternal results of Peter's reaction. Both of them were tested by correction - one failed, while the other passed. Today, we're being tested in the same way. If public correction offends us, it only proves that we're seeking the honour of men. If so, it's good to know it now, so that we can cleanse ourselves from such honour-seeking. God may have allowed such a situation to show us how much we are slaves to man's opinions. Now we can cleanse ourselves and be free. So, let's have Peter's attitude to correction at all times - whether the Lord corrects us directly by His Spirit or through someone else. This is the pathway of eternal life for all of us. If we humble ourselves, we'll receive grace from God and He will exalt us at the right time. Elisha's Faithfulness - Zac Poonen God anointed Elisha with a double portion of the anointing that Elijah had. This was God's seal of approval on Elisha's life. But before God anointed him thus, he had been tested. As in the case of all true servants of God, Elisha too was called to the ministry, while he was faithfully doing his secular duties. "Elijah found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him."(1 Ki. 19:19). Thereafter, Elisha spent many years doing menial jobs for the prophet Elijah. He was known as the one "who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."(2 Ki. 3:11b). He did not seek great things for himself, but God had great plans for that young man. Before Elijah went up to heaven, Elisha had to be tested. And so Elijah told Elisha to stay on in Gilgal, while he himself went on to Bethel. Elisha refused to stay back but was determined to go with Elijah. At Bethel, Elijah again tried to shake off Elisha by saying that he had to go to Jericho. But Elisha stuck on like a leech. Finally, at Jericho, Elisha was tested once more in a similar way. Again, Elisha passed the test of persistence and accompanied Elijah to Jordan. It was thus that he got the double portion of the anointing - God's best for his life (2 Ki.2:1-14). What is the message here for us? There are various stages in our spiritual development at which God tests us to see whether we are satisfied with what we have already received or whether we will press on to God's highest. Gilgal stands for the place where our sins are forgiven. "The Lord
said to Joshua, `Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.' So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day."(Josh. 5:8,9). Many Christians get thus far and stop there. Some press on till Bethel (meaning 'the house of God') - which stands for fellowship with believers in the family of God. "And Jacob called the name of that place Bethel. Then Jacob said, `This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house.'" (Gen. 28:19,22). Some stop here. But a few go still further to Jericho - which stands for the manifestation of the supernatural power of God. "The people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat.....and they took the city (of Jericho)."(Josh. 6:20). This is as far as most Christians ever go. Very, very few go all the way to Jordan - which stands for identification with Christ in His death, as symbolised in baptism. "Then Jesus arrived at the Jordan, coming to John, to be baptized by him."(Mt. 3:13). Very, very few are willing to walk the way of the cross - "the new and living way that Jesus has inaugurated for us through His flesh." (Heb. 10:20). But it is these few, who are wholehearted enough to press on to total death to Self, who receive the double portion - God's best. All of us are being tested today, as to what stage we will stop at. A Consuming Fire- Zac Poonen In Isaiah's prophecy we read the following words: "Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless (hypocrites - KJV). Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning? He who walks righteously, and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain, and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil" (Isa.33:14,15). The first qualification to dwell with this consuming fire mentioned here is: "He who walks righteously and speaks with SINCERITY" (Isa.33:15)". That refers to those who walk according to the light they have, in sincerity in their private lives. They may not be perfect, but they are SINCERE. They are not hypocrites. If there is one thing that we must fear more than anything else in the church , it is giving people an impression about our spirituality that is not true. Do you give others the impression that you pray a lot, when you don't pray at all? Do you give them the impression that you fast much when you don't actually fast that much? Do you want others to consider you as wholehearted when you are not? Then you are in danger of falling away - not because you are imperfect, but because you are insincere. God desires truth in our inward part. The hypocrites in Zion tremble, because they are afraid of being exposed. The second qualification to live with the consuming fire is "rejecting unjust gain" (Isa.33:15) - in other words, being righteous and faithful in money matters. We may have thought that the alternative master to God is Satan. But Jesus Himself stated in Luke 16:13 that that alternative master to God was Mammon (money and material riches)! No believer imagines that he can love God and Satan at the same time. But there are multitudes of believers who imagine that they can love money and God simultaneously. No believer will ever fall down and worship Satan. But there are millions of believers today who worship Mammon and who imagine that they can worship God too. But they cannot worship God, if they are not faithful with money. They don't realise that Mammon draws a person away from the true and living God.
The third qualification to live with the consuming fire is shutting our ears from hearing about bloodshed (Isa.33:15). This is more than avoiding gossipping. This refers to not wanting to HEAR even someone else gossipping. A Godfearing man will shut his ears not only to the main Accuser of the brethren (Rev.12:10), but to the Accuser's agents as well!! If we could look at this earth from heaven's standpoint, we would see millions of people all over the world, tearing others to pieces with their tongue from early morning to late at night, every day. But if you want to live with God, the consuming fire, you must discipline yourself not to listen to such accusations. Even if you have to listen to them in situations where it is impossible for you to get up and walk out of the room, you should switch off your mind inwardly from listening. Let people around you be corrupt but why should you lose God's grace in your life? If you are serious about living with the consuming fire, then stop listening to all accusations. God has given us the ability to switch off our mind from inside. Do that. Stop your ears from bloodshed. A fourth qualification that is mentioned here, to live with the consuming fire, is shutting our eyes from looking upon evil. These two bodily senses - hearing and seeing - are the main channels through which good and evil enter our minds. We must decide what we allow to enter in. One who lives with the consuming fire does not look upon what will defile his spirit. Only when you allow God to consume all that is worldly and that can be consumed in your life, will you be able to live with Him Who is a consuming fire. Whatever is left in you then will be incombustible!! God is going to populate heaven with such people - who have nothing combustible left in them. God is preparing us for heaven. When we sing the song, "Heaven came down and glory filled my soul", what are we talking about? We are talking about that consuming fire coming into our soul, that burns up everything that can be burnt up. Can we willingly say to the Lord, "Lord, I only want those things left in my life, that cannot be burned, so that You and I can live in fellowship with each other forever." Divine Discipline- Zac Poonen In order to fulfil His promises to Jacob, God had to discipline him severely. Jacob required twenty years of Divine chastening to come to the point where he would accept God's highest for his life. First of all, God placed alongside another shrewd person. Laban was just as smart as Jacob, and as they lived together and came into close contact with each other, plenty of friction was generated and some of Jacob's rough edges were rubbed off. God knows whom to place us with in order to purge us of our crookedness. God measures out His disciplines to us, according to our individual need; and He makes all things work together for our good, even when He places us alongside someone like Laban - provided we don't rebel against God's providences. Many people have learnt sanctification through God leading them to marry someone just like themselves. "The sparks fly when iron strikes iron" (Prov. 27:17-LB) - but it sharpens both pieces of iron! Jacob, as last, begins to reap what he had sown. All his life he had been cheating others. Now he gets cheated himself. He goes through his wedding ceremony, thinking he is marrying Rachel, but discovers the next morning that he has actually married Leah! He had met his match in Laban! He now gets a taste himself of the bitter medicine that he had been doling out to others. God does not discipline without a purpose or arbitrarily. He knows what dosage each person needs and gives accordingly. With the merciful, God shows Himself merciful; and with the stubborn, He shows Himself stubborn (Psa. 18:25). He knows how to deal with every Jacob.
Jacob's problems were not yet over. After fourteen years of hard work, he obtained Rachel, only to discover that she was barren. God was merciful and finally gave Jacob a child through her, but even this brings no change in Jacob. He still cannot trust God, but continues to scheme. He next plans to rob Laban of his property. Jacob was clever. He knew all the tricks of the trade, and he knew how to get the best of Laban's cattle. How long God had to wait before Jacob learned to trust in Him and forsake his own human ingenuity. It is the same problem that God has with many of His children today. He is not impressed by our cleverness. He waits for us to see the folly of all that, before He can use us to fulfil His will. We find Jacob finally scheming to run away from Laban. He is tired of living with his father- in-law and wants to go away. But when he does run away, he finds that he has only jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. He hears that Esau is approaching him with a large army and that Laban is pursuing him from the rear. The one who tries to escape God's disciplines finds that it is not an easy task. If Jacob had left the matter in God's hands, God would have released him from Laban in His own way. But Jacob had not learned to trust God yet. Finding himself hedged in and his life in danger, Jacob now begins to pray. He is quick to remind God of His promises made at Bethel (Gen. 32:9-12). But prayer alone is not sufficient for Jacob. He has to scheme too. He thinks up a clever plan of saving part of his company at least just in case God lets him down. How very much like those who talk of trusting God and "living by faith," but all the time have some earthly source of security to fall back upon just in case faith alone does not work! Jacob was indeed very much like us. And how often we find, as Jacob found when he met Esau, that our fears were unfounded, that there was no need to have schemed and worried and doubted God. Esau's heart was in God's hands, and God could turn it in whichever direction He chose. "When a man is trying to please God, God makes even his worst enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov. 16:7-LB). God had told Jacob clearly that He would take care of him. But Jacob could not believe God's promise. Jacob had twenty long and painful years of chastening under God's hand. We are not given all the details of what Jacob underwent - but he must have had a very rough time. It must have been physically exhausting too - working and sleeping out in the open, exposed to the sun and the dew and the rain. But all this discipline was necessary, in order to shatter Jacob's self-sufficiency and self-confidence. Only in later years, when he looked back, would he able to appreciate what God took him through - not now. "God's correction is always right and for our best good, that we may share His holiness. (But) being punished isn't enjoyable while it is happening - it hurts! But afterwards, we can see the result, a quiet growth in grace and character" (Heb. 12:10, 11-LB). The Life And Ministry Of Jesus- Zac Poonen It is written about Jesus that "God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power". What was the result? "He went about DOING GOOD and HEALING (DELIVERING) ALL WHO WERE OPPRESSED BY THE DEVIL, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38). The world around us is full of people who are suffering because Satan has oppressed and harassed and bound them in some way or the other. When God is with us, we will do what Jesus did - go around doing good to them and delivering them from Satan's bondage. It is impossible to do that without being anointed with the Holy Spirit. If Jesus Himself could not fulfil such a ministry without the anointing of the Spirit, how can we? When we see the baptism and the gifts of the Spirit in the context of Jesus' ministry, we can never go wrong. Jesus not only lived a holy life, He also had a
ministry to others. He preached, healed the sick, cast out demons, and made disciples. We can never serve God effectively as His servants in the church if we are not anointed as Jesus was. There are many who study the Word carefully and preach it accurately, but they don't have the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon them. Therefore their ministry is dry and dead. As servants of the new covenant, our preaching must always be in the power of the Spirit. Jesus was never dull or boring or stale at any time when He preached - because He was anointed. When we are anointed as He was, we too will never be dull or boring or stale. Instead, our ministry will be a refreshing blessing to everyone. When Jesus preached the Word to the disciples who were walking to Emmaus, they testified that their hearts "burned within them" (Lk.24:32). That is how a truly anointed ministry is - it makes people's hearts burn. And that is how our ministry should be always. There must never be a time when we're not under the anointing of the Spirit. Then we will always have a word to give to those in need whom we come across, even as Jesus had (See Isa.50:4) In Acts 1:1, it says that the gospel of Luke describes "all that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach." So the Acts of the Apostles is a record of what Jesus CONTINUED to do and teach. In the gospels, we have the record of what Jesus did with His physical body. In the Acts we have the record of what He did with His spiritual Body. So the Acts of the Apostles is actually the acts of Jesus through the apostles. Jesus is not engaged in some other ministry on earth today, than what He did when he came to earth 2000 years ago. He is still "going around doing good and delivering all who are oppressed by the devil" - through the members of His spiritual Body, the church. And so it is an awesome responsibility that we have to be a servant of the Lord in His Body. Let us never take it lightly. If Jesus Who lived such a perfect life for 30 years needed to be anointed with the Holy Spirit before He began to serve the Father, how dare we engage in such a ministry without a similar anointing. If we have not been anointed by the Spirit as yet, it must be because we have not sought for it sufficiently. And if we have not sought for it, it is probably because we have not valued it sufficiently. And if we have not valued it, it must be because we have been self- sufficient. Let us repent then of our self-sufficiency - and allow God to circumcise our hearts of all self-confidence. The Primary Ministry Of The Holy Spirit- Zac Poonen The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to help us overcome our self-centredness. The Bible says, "We naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite to the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces (our self-life and the Holy Spirit) are constantly fighting each other to win control over us" (Gal. 5:17-LB). In these days, particularly, when many Christians are confused about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is good for us to bear in mind that His chief ministry is to help us put to death the deeds of the flesh (the self-life). He does many other things in and through us. Let us not despise any of them. But this is His primary ministry - to put the self- life to death - and if we are not allowing Him to carry out this in our lives, then all our other experiences are valueless. The Bible says, "If you live after the flesh, you will die, but if you through the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body , you will live - for as many as are led by the Spirit (in this way) are the
sons of God" (Rom. 8:13,14). Verse 14 is often quoted out of context and made to refer to the Spirit's guidance in relation to where we are to go or what we are to do. But it is really connected with the previous verse and refers to the Holy Spirit leading us to put to death our self-centred desires. The verse also teaches that this is the identifying mark of the sons of God. In the parable in Luke 15, we notice that the father's love was the same for both his sons. He did not love the elder son any less than the younger. He came out of his house for both his children. When his younger son came home, he went out of the house to welcome him, and when his elder son refused to come into the house, he went out to invite him in too. In fact he even tells him, "Son, you are ever with me and all that I have is yours." Do you see the largeness of God's heart even towards self-centred individuals? He loves us and wants to give us all that He has. But He has to deliver us from our self-centredness first. God does not love the harlot more than the self-righteous Pharisee. He loves both equally and He gave His Son to die for both. But the response in the hearts of the two may be different; and that is what makes the difference ultimately in the Father's house. The younger son who was once away from the father's house is now sitting at the table enjoying his father's riches. The elder son who had been inside all along is now outside. Truly, as the Lord said, many who are first now will be last in eternity, and many who are last here will be first there. It is only as we are willing to humble ourselves and acknowledge our corruption and respond wholeheartedly to the Father's love, that we shall be able to feast with Him at His table. Humility- Zac Poonen Humility has tremendous value before God. It says in 1 Peter 3:4 that a meek and gentle spirit is extremely precious to God - whether found in a woman or in a man. Jesus Himself had a humble and gentle heart and told us to learn these virtues from Him (Matt.11:28). A gentle and a quiet spirit is one that is not agitated or in unrest. Some washing machines have what is called an "agitator". It turns one way and then the other way - perpetually. It is never at rest, it is always "agitating"! In the hearts of all who are born of Adam too, there is an "agitator". If anyone rubs them the wrong way, the agitator starts "agitating". But those who are humble and gentle in spirit have got rid of this agitator. They are not offended or hurt, when anyone says or does something to them , or when they don't say or do something that was expected of them. They have put their "agitator" on the cross. Peter says that the beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit is "imperishable"! This is the secret of eternal beauty. The world is full of women nowadays who are wanting to look younger. But what is the beauty that is really imperishable? It is a gentle and a quiet spirit. And this is for men too! This is what will make you really precious to God - if you have a gentle, quiet spirit that is not agitated or offended, that doesn't get into bad moods, that is not grumpy or angry. You need never lose control of yourself at any time either, for the fruit of the Spirit is selfcontrol. Let the world be full of people who have "agitators" but that's not for us any longer. Praise the Lord, we can get rid of our agitators permanently. When Jesus told His disciples that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, what did He mean? The righteousness of the Pharisees was a matter of "right" and "wrong". But Jesus wanted the righteousness of His disciples to comprise of more than that. It was to include humility, brokenness, gentleness and quietness of spirit as well. He told them that
otherwise they would NEVER enter the kingdom of God. I don't know how many of us really believe what Jesus said. In Hebrews 4:1, we are asked to fear lest we do not enter into this "rest" that Jesus offers - this freedom from "agitating". And in verse 11, we are told to be diligent to ensure that we enter into that rest. Have you entered into that rest yourself? Have you forgiven all those who have cheated you, and those who have wronged you? Have you cleansed your heart of all bitterness, hatred, anxiety and greed? This is what will enable us to enter into that rest of God. There is no person or situation in the world, that can ever prevent Romans 8:28 ("All things work together for good for those who love God....") and 1 Corinthians 10:13 ("God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability....") from being fulfilled in your life, if you are a disciple of Jesus. We can never be tempted beyond our ability. That is impossible - because God is faithful to His promises. And everything - yes, everything - will work for our good. A humble person can never fall, because he is already at ground-level! How then can he fall down!! When God's Word says, "He is able to keep you from falling" (Jude 24), it is thus that the Lord keeps us - by keeping our faces in the dust before Him. Then it becomes impossible to fall. The way of escape promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the way of humbling ourselves. We humble ourselves, because we believe that God will give us grace and lift us up. Just as in waterbaptism, we submit readily to someone who immerses us in the water, because we believe that he will lift us up again. In the same way, we also believe that the God who allows some situation to crush us will lift us up and bring a resurrection in our lives too. God is a consuming fire who is determined to consume every bit of pride from every corner of our hearts - if we will let Him. He will arrange people and circumstances in such a way that every particle of pride is totally consumed. Let us cooperate then with Him and allow the Spirit to do a perfect work within us. Persecution Is Inevitable- Zac Poonen We read in Daniel 11:33, that in the last days, godly people will be attacked, imprisoned and killed. True servants of God are always persecuted. James was killed by King Herod (Acts 12:2). No angel came to set him free. Abel was killed. Every true prophet in the Old Testament was persecuted. (Acts 7:52). John the Baptist was beheaded. Jesus was crucified. Stephen was stoned to death. Paul was beheaded. History tells us that Peter himself was finally crucified - and no angel came to rescue him then. As far as we know, all the apostles, except John, were killed. Many Godfearing missionaries have been killed in heathen lands. The Bible clearly teaches that the church will go through the great tribulation before Jesus comes, and that many of God's finest saints will be killed during that time (Rev.13:7). Some of God's finest saints have been killed in Communist lands even in our lifetime. God's purposes are different for each person.But one thing is certain: If you desire only to glorify God in your earthly life and to walk in the will of God, you will be immortal until your life's work is done. "Those who have spiritual understanding will have a wide teaching ministry in the last days....... Wise leaders of God's people will share their wisdom with many others."(Dan. 11:33 - Living, and Good News Bible). On the other hand, there will also be many in the last days "whom the Lord hates, who go around sowing discord among the brothers" (Prov.6:16-19). We do not fight against such people, because we refuse to fight with flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). We fight only with Satan, and we leave it to the angel of the Lord to deal with all our human opponents.
Many years ago I decided that I would never fight with any human being concerning any matter and I have never regretted that decision. When anyone comes to quarrel with me, I either keep quiet, or get up and go away. When people accuse me by letter, I do not reply. It is sheer waste of time to reply to such people. I only forgive them, bless them, love them, AND LEAVE THEM ALONE. I want to concentrate all my energies on fighting Satan. I have realised that God can deal with these agents of the Accuser better than I can. Vengeance belongs to God alone (Rom.12:19). We read further in Daniel 11:34 that "many will join with these evil men in their hypocrisy". Many will become hypocrites in a time of persecution. They will act like wholehearted brothers when in the midst of the church, and talk about judging themselves and taking up the cross etc., But when they are in the midst of their worldly friends and their unconverted relatives, they will seek man's honour and behave and speak in such a way as to be accepted by them. There are many believers who having a root of bitterness within them have defiled others in the church (Heb.12:15). But God has been longsuffering with all of them, and so they are all still in the church. But in due course, they will all be exposed (if they don't repent), and then they too will fall away, like others before them. If we know God, we will remain "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph.3:17) - and rooted in the church too. If others hate us and betray us and kick us out of their houses, we will forgive them, love them and wait for another opportunity to serve them. And when that opportunity arises, we will be quick to grasp it, to bless them to the best of our ability. No-one will be able to make us evil. If another person's evil behaviour makes us evil, then we too become servants of Satan like him. We are told that in the last days, "even those with insight will fall" (Dan.11:35). But if they humble themselves and judge themselves, there will be hope even for them. They can then be "refined, purged and made pure" (v.35). Those who don't judge themselves however will fall into Satan's hands, even though they had insight and understanding of God's ways at one time. Today is the day of grace, and those who repent and judge themselves can still ascend to great heights spiritually. But you have to be honest and you have to walk in the light. This refining and purging will carry on until "the end of time" (Dan.11:35), so that God can fulfil His goal of conforming us to the likeness of Christ. So we must not expect an easy time on earth, until Jesus comes. In the world we shall have tribulation - CONTINUOUSLY. Your Decisions Determine What You Become- Zac Poonen "I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me" (Jn.6:38). Jesus tells us here in His own words what He came on earth to do. And in this one sentence we have a description of how Jesus lived every single day of His life on earth. The thirty years of Jesus' life in Nazareth are referred to as hidden years. But here Jesus tells us what He did during every day of those 30 years: He denied His own will and did His Father's will. When Jesus was with the Father in heaven from eternity past, He never had to deny His own will, for His own will was the same as His Father's. But when He came to earth in our flesh, that flesh had a selfwill that was diametrically opposed to the Father's will at every single point. The only way in which Jesus could do His Father's will then was by denying His own self-will all the time. This was the cross that Jesus bore throughout His earthly life - the crucifixion of His own will - and which He now asks us to bear every day, if we are to follow Him. It was the consistent denial of His own will that made Jesus a spiritual Man. And it is the constant denial of our self- will that will make us spiritual too.
Every day we make decisions concerning various matters. We make decisions in relation to how we are going to spend our money or our spare time, or how to speak to, or about someone, or how to write a particular letter, or how to react to another's behaviour, or how much time to spend in studying the Word or in prayer or in serving the church etc., We react to the actions and words and behaviour of people around us from morning till night. We may not be realising it, but we make at least a hundred decisions every day - and in each of those decisions we decide either to please ourselves or to please God. Many of our actions are not the result of conscious decisions. But even then, we do them in one of these two ways - either seeking to please ourselves or to glorify God. Our unconscious actions are determined by the way we make our conscious decisions. Finally, it is the sum total of these decisions that determine whether we become spiritual or carnal. Think of the millions of decisions that we have made ever since we were first converted. Those who have consciously and consistently chosen to deny their self-will many times each day and to do the will of God, have become spiritual. On the other hand, those who have rejoiced merely in the forgiveness of their sins, and who therefore chose to please themselves most of the time have remained carnal. Each person's decisions have determined what he has finally become. You are today as humble and as holy and as loving as you yourself have chosen to be, through the thousands of decisions that you have made in the various situations of life in past years. Spirituality is not something that comes through one encounter with God. It is the result of choosing the way of self-denial and of doing God's will CONSISTENTLY day after day, week after week, and year after year. Consider the spiritual state of two brothers (both converted to Christ on the same day), ten years after their conversion. One is now a mature brother with spiritual discernment, to whom God can commit much responsibility in the church. The other is still a child, without discernment, and needing to be fed and encouraged by others constantly. What is it that has made such a difference between the two? The answer is: The little decisions that they took during each day of the ten years of their Christian life. If they continue on in the same way, in another 10 years, the difference between them will be even more pronounced. And in eternity, their differing degrees of glory will be as different as the light emitted by a 2000-watt bulb and a 5- watt bulb!! "One star differs from another star in glory" (1 Cor.15:41). Respectable And Dead- Zac Poonen In the Church at Laodicea (Rev.3:14-22) they were neither immoral nor evil. But they were not on fire for God either. They were just plain "lukewarm" (v.16). They were dead right in their doctrines - but they were both dead and right! They were morally respectable - and spiritually dead! The Lord wants our hearts to be on fire at all times - aflame with a fervent love for Him and for other believers. "Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out", was the old-covenant Law (Lev.6:13). Symbolically we see here what God expects the normal state of the true disciple of Jesus to be. Anything less than this is sub-standard. When the burning bush was aflame with the fire of the
Lord, no insects or germs could survive within it. And when our hearts are aflame with the fire of the Spirit, no unloving attitudes can survive therein either. This is one way by which we can test whether we are hot, cold or lukewarm : To be "hot" is to love others fervently. To be "cold" is to be bitter and unforgiving towards others. To be "lukewarm" is to have neither bitterness nor love towards others. When a believer says, "I have nothing in my heart against anyone", he is lukewarm. Did Jesus say, "All men will know that you are my disciples when you have nothing in your hearts against each other"? No. The absence of evil attitudes towards each other is NOT the identifying mark of the disciples of Jesus (cf. Jn.13:35). We must have something in our hearts. We must have fervent love for all our fellow-believers. Love is a positive virtue and not just the absence of evil. To cast out the spirit of bitterness from our heart and then to leave it cleansed and empty is the surest way to be lukewarm and to finally end up in a worse state than at the beginning (Lk.11:2426). The world says, "Something is better than nothing". If so, then one would think that it is better to be lukewarm than cold. But that is not what the Lord says. He says, "I would that you were cold" (v.15). He would rather see us totally worldly than half-hearted. The lukewarm, compromising Christian does a lot more damage to the cause of Christ on earth than the worldly unbeliever. The unbeliever does not take the name of Christ, and so his worldliness cannot be a hindrance to the gospel. But a compromising, half-hearted Christian takes the name of Christ and disgraces that Name among the heathen by his worldliness. The cold, worldly unbeliever is also far more likely to come to an awareness of his spiritual need than the lukewarm, self-righteous Pharisee (See Mt.21:31). It is for these reasons that the Lord says that He would rather see us cold than lukewarm. In practical terms this means that if you have no longing to be free from the love of money or from anger and impure thoughts (to take just three areas of sin), it would be better if you remained an unbeliever than one claiming to be a disciple of Jesus. There is more hope for you if you are cold than if you are lukewarm. This is amazing, but true. The Sovereignty Of The Spirit- Zac Poonen The Holy Spirit is sovereign and works in varied ways. Jesus said, " Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit " (John 3:8-LB). You can't control the wind - either its speed or its direction. So too with the Holy Spirit. And yet many believers think that they can control Him and make Him work according to their rules and patterns. When the Second Person of the Trinity was here on earth, the Pharisees tried to tie Him down with their petty rules and traditions. But he refused to be locked up in their
water- tight compartments. The descendants of the Pharisees in evangelical Christianity are today trying to tie down the Third Person of the Trinity. But He refuses to work according to manmade patterns. He blows where He wishes. We can hear the sound of His working, but He will not be controlled or directed by us. We cannot say that He should work in the same way in other lives as He has worked in ours; neither should we expect Him to work today in the same way as He worked in days past. No. He is Sovereign. The best thing that we can do is to set our face towards the direction in which the wind is blowing and to let that wind carry us along. The Holy Spirit cannot be tied down in any doctrinal compartment of any denomination. We shall find that He surprises us by the way He works. Both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals need to recognise this. The Holy Spirit may at times manifest Himself like a whirlwind. There may be deep stirrings of the emotions and even physical reactions too. We must be willing to accept this. God spoke to Job out of a whirlwind (Job 38:1). But we also need to remember that the Spirit may at times blow like a gentle breeze. When Elijah heard the whirlwind, it says that God was not in the whirlwind (1 Kings 19:11). No. Every stirring of the emotions is not from God. And so we must be careful. To Elijah, God spoke in a gentle breeze (1 Kings 19:12). The Holy Spirit does not always blow like a tornado. Sometimes He does, but not always. We should not expect Him to blow like a whirlwind all the time in everyone's life, just because He did so once in someone's life. Equally, we should not expect Him to blow always like a gentle breeze. We do need His blowing as a tornado upon many of our churches today, to uproot the things that are dishonouring to Christ therein. The wrapping should never be mistaken for the gift. The Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift of the Risen Lord to His Church. When He falls upon people, it may be with shouts of Hallelujah, tears of joy and the gift of tongues, or it may be quietly, silently and without much emotion. Temperaments vary, and the Spirit of God (unlike many Christians) is willing to adapt Himself to each temperament. It is foolish therefore to expect that others should receive the Gift in the same wrapping in which we received Him - whether spectacular or commonplace. Only babies are taken up with the tissue-paper in which a gift comes to them. Mature men recognise that the gift itself is more important than the wrapping. The Apostle Paul was converted through a vision of Jesus. But he did not preach that all needed a similar vision before they could be saved. No. He recognised that it was the inner reality that mattered, in whatever wrapping it might come. So too with the fulness of the Holy Spirit. Acceptable Sacrifices- Zac Poonen The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart, that is aware of its own nothingness and helplessness (Psa.51:17). That is what Abel had, and what Cain did not have. And that is why it is written, "The Lord had regard for Abel, and (therefore) for his offering ...... But the Lord had no regard for Cain and (therefore) not for his offering either (Gen.4:4,6). Faith is the helpless dependence of the soul upon God and it was "by faith that Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain" (Heb.11:4). Therefore Abel's gifts were acceptable to God.
There is a great deception in the teaching that what made the difference between Abel and Cain was that Abel offered blood and Cain did not. The application of such teaching is that what makes a man acceptable to God is his presenting the blood of Jesus before God. It is almost as though the way the man lives and the condition of his heart (whether broken or not, whether with faith or not) makes no difference. All he does is plead the blood of Jesus as though it were some type of magic charm, and he gains acceptance with God. This is a lie and many are being deceived by it. The blood of Jesus cannot be claimed by anyone and everyone. It does NOT say in the Scriptures that the blood of Jesus can cleanse anyone and everyone from their sins. No. That is a subtle perversion of Scripture. What the Scripture does say is that the blood of Jesus will cleanse all those "WHO WALK IN THE LIGHT AS GOD IS IN THE LIGHT" (1 Jn.1;7). To walk in the light of God, one must have a broken and a contrite heart, as Abel had. Only then can one's offering be acceptable to God. If a man says that he trusts in the blood of Jesus, but has a proud and arrogant spirit, God will resist him and oppose him (1Pet.5:6), just like He did Cain. It is only the humble who receive grace from God (Jas.4:6). Our offerings of worship, prayer and service are acceptable to God ONLY if they come from a broken and contrite heart of faith (humble dependence an God). It is not the fluency of our speech or the efficiency of our service that God looks at, but rather the attitude of our hearts. This is the first lesson that we can learn from this incident in Genesis 4. From the days of Cain and Abel and on until the end of time, the sacrifices of God have always been a broken and contrite spirit. He does not change. His laws remain the same. God would not have accepted Cain even if Cain had brought a lamb and shed its blood, for his heart was proud and lifted up. Humility of heart is the first step to salvation Then we can come into the light and ask for the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all sin. It is only the humble of heart who can shout Paul's shout of triumph, "If God be for us, who can be against us " (Rom.8:31), because God is only on the side of the humble. The proud cannot say that, for God is against them. Anyone who has high thoughts concerning himself, as Cain had, will end up like Cain too, even if he keeps claiming the blood of Jesus. "Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Gal.6:7). And that law applies universally without respect of persons. Man's Extremity - God's Opportunity- Zac Poonen Isaac, unlike Ishmael, was not the product of Abraham's strength, for Abraham had become sterile by then. Isaac was born through God strengthening impotent Abraham. This is the type of service that lasts for eternity. One " Isaac " is worth a thousand " Ishmaels." All " Ishmaels " will have to be cast out finally. Abraham could keep Ishmael for some time, but finally God asked him to cast him out (Gen. 21:10-14). Only Isaac could remain with him. There is a spiritual lesson here. That service which is the result of God working through us, will alone remain for eternity. Everything else will be burnt up. You may have heard the saying, " Only one life, it will
soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last." It would be more accurate to say, " Only what Christ does through me will last." Paul lived and laboured according to God's living and working through him (Gal. 2:20: and Col. 1:29). Hence his life and labours were so effective. He lived by faith and he worked by faith. In Genesis 16:16, we read that Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael. In the very next verse (Gen. 17:1), we read that Abraham was 99 years old when God appeared to him again. We see here a gap of thirteen years. Those were years when God waited for Abraham to become impotent. God could not fulfil His promise, till Abraham had become impotent. This is God's way with all His servants. He cannot work through them till they recognise their impotence. And in some cases, He has to wait for many years. Abraham needed to learn what it really meant to trust God. He had to learn that it was only when he became impotent that he could truly exercise faith. In Romans 4:19-21, we read that although Abraham knew that his body was impotent to produce a son, yet that did not worry him. He was strong in faith and glorified God by believing that God was well able to perform what He had promised. He did not waver in unbelief, for his feet stood firm on the rock of God's Word to him. But when could Abraham exercise such faith? Only when he had come to an end of all confidence in his own ability. We too can exercise real faith only when we reach that state of utter helplessness. This is God's way, so that no flesh may ever glory in His presence. This does not however mean that we do nothing. No. God does not want us to be reduced to a state of inactivity. That is the other extreme of error. God used Abraham to produce Isaac. God didn't do it all by Himself, for Isaac was not born, apart from Abraham, through a virgin-birth. No. But there was a difference between the birth of Ishmael and the birth of Isaac. In both cases, Abraham was the father. But in the first case, it was in dependence upon his own strength; in the second, in dependence upon the power of God. That was the difference - and what a vital difference! An End Of Ourselves- Zac Poonen It is not the size of a work that impresses God. The world looks for size and numbers. But God is looking for works of faith - even if they be the size of mustard seeds. And so, when God brings us to an end of ourselves, hedging us in on every side and shattering our hopes, let us take heart! He is preparing us for greater usefulness by bringing us first to the place of impotence. He's equipping us to produce Isaacs. This was how Jesus prepared His apostles for His service. What do you think was the purpose of His training them for three and a half years? They were not being coached to write scholarly theses that would earn each of them a doctorate in theology. That's how some people today feel they can be equipped to serve the Lord. But Jesus didn't train His apostles for that. None of the twelve disciples (except perhaps Judas Iscariot!) would have qualified for a basic theological degree (by our standards), even if they had tried. Jesus trained them to learn one lesson primarily - that, without Him they could do nothing (John 15:5). And, I tell you, a man who has learned that lesson is worth more a hundred theological professors who haven't learnt that lesson.
Total dependence upon God is the mark of the true servant of God. It was true even of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on earth, as the Servant of Jehovah. In a prophetic reference to Him in Isaiah 42:1, God says, " Behold My Servant, whom I uphold." He does not stand in His own strength; He is upheld by God. Because Christ emptied Himself thus, God put His Spirit upon Him, as the next verse says (Isa. 42:2). Indeed, it is only on those who have come to an end of themselves and who have emptied themselves of self-confidence and self-sufficiency, that God pours out His Spirit. Look at some of the remarkable statements that Jesus made, which clearly show how emptied of self He was: " The Son can do nothing of Himself " (John 5:19). " I can of Mine own self do nothing " (John 5:30). " I do nothing of Myself " (John 8:28). " I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father Who sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak " (John 12:49). " The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of Myself " (John 14:10). Amazing! The perfect, sinless Son of God lived by faith. Emptied of all dependence upon His own self, He depended entirely on His Father. It is thus that God calls us to live too. When we are self-sufficient, we try to use God to help us serve Him. But when we are emptied, God can use us.