If we love the world and the things of the world, we can’t be God's: “"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). If we covet, wanting more and more things, we are not one of His sheep: “Nor thieves, nor covetous . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10).
These believers will be goats, but not just because they lust for things or they didn’t help the needy. The Lord will tell them, “You misrepresented Me to the world. You caused the ungodly to identify Me with prosperity, money, success. You deceived the poor by telling them I wanted to make them rich. And you told the sick they were suffering because they lacked faith.
“I blessed you. I poured out My resources on you, because I loved you. But you didn't open your ears to the needy cries around you. Instead, you choked on your own goods. If you were Mine—if you loved Me—you would have obeyed My commands.”
You may say, “Brother Dave, this is too hard. Surely God isn’t like that.” Read the words of Ezekiel: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness . . . neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49, italics mine). When God judged Sodom, He didn’t mention their homosexuality or idolatry. It was all about pride, ease and neglect of the needy. They had no concern for the poor.
How can you get involved with the needy? That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. If you are convicted by this message, go to Him. He will lead you directly to the needs He wants you to meet, in one of these areas of hands-on love ministry. This is not meant to put you under guilt or condemnation, but to help you search your heart in light of Jesus’ words.
The Lord doesn’t expect any of us to do it all. But I know He expects us to be personally committed to hands-on involvement in at least one of these areas of need. Can you say you’re ready to stand before Christ on that day, knowing you’re helping feed or clothe the poor, visiting prisoners, blessing or visiting widows and the fatherless?
For months I have been praying for widows, the fatherless and the poor. We receive letters from destitute people who can no longer pay for insurance or afford housing. I’ve pleaded with God, “You are the Lord of hosts. Feed them. Meet their needs.” Finally, the Lord answered me, “You must do more than pray for them, David. You can do something about it. You feed them. It’s within your power to do.”
Make no mistake: no one can be saved by good works alone, but we will be judged by whether we did them. Yet the issue isn’t how many needy people I feed or clothe. The central issue is: “Do I profess Christ as my Lord, and then live only for myself? Do I misrepresent Jesus by hoarding and spending time accumulating things? Do I shut my eyes to the needs of the poor and helpless?”
Our witness to a sin-cursed world must include both preaching and manifestation, both Word and deed. Our proclamation of Christ can’t be divorced from our helping works. As James says, such works help to prove the power of the gospel.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:14-16).
Multitudes of Christians respond to Jesus’ prophecy in two ways. There are those of the “easy gospel” who say, “God isn’t that hard. This is all doomsday preaching. My God is too loving to judge that severely.” Then, those of the “hard gospel” say, “This is just too strict, too demanding. I can’t accept such a disturbing word. I can never measure up to it.”
So both gospels go their own way, justified and unmoved. One group continues staging revivals for the unsaved. Others keep holding prayer meetings, asking God to meet the needs of the poor. At Christmastime, we distribute baskets to needy families, and at other times, we slip a few coins to beggars. But, tragically, little is done about having a full-time, hands-on commitment to do as Jesus has commanded.
We will never know God’s peace in our time of affliction until His purpose for it has become a settled truth in our souls. We have to understand that our dark hour, our painful testing, has been permitted by the Lord for His own glorious purpose. What is that purpose? Simply put, we are going to be the focus of incredible Holy Ghost comfort.
We are going to come out of the fire cleansed and stronger. And we’ll be given a ministry that is greater even than that of the world’s most famous preachers—the ministry of proven comfort and victory for a hurting people. The result of this ministry will be as Daniel described: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).
What an incredible calling we have! We suffer great trials in order to become God’s comforting hands to others.
My daughter Debi and her husband Roger lost their twelve-year-old daughter, Tiffany, to brain cancer. I know the agony they went through, the nights of wondering, “What possible purpose could God have in this?”
Some time ago, Debi was in a mall when she saw a woman sitting on a bench with tears streaming down her face. Debi approached her and asked, “Can I help you at all?” The woman responded, “You could never understand what I’m going through.” Finally, Debi coaxed the woman to tell her about her pain. The woman explained, “I’ve lost a child to cancer.”
At that moment, the sweetness of heaven descended. Debi put comforting arms around that woman, and as my daughter shared her own story, both women found a measure of God’s healing love.
Dear saint, God has not forgotten you in your deep, dark trial. I leave you with this encouragement from the Psalmist: “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). In this very simple instruction, the apostle Paul is telling us in plain terms, “If the Holy Spirit is living in you, let Him have full control of your life. We are all to be led by the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit was sent to be our constant, infallible guide, and He abides in all who confess Christ as Lord and Savior. The Spirit claims our bodies as His dwelling place, reigning in residence in our hearts.
Most Christians have no trouble accepting that the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus and that He is continually at work in us, at every moment. Most of us have called on Him countless times for comfort in our times of crisis. We give honor to the Spirit, preach about Him, and teach on His gifts and fruit. We pray to Him, seek Him, beseech Him to rend the heavens and revive His Church. Many Christians have experienced genuine manifestations of the Spirit, but it seems to me that we know very little about what it means to walk in the Spirit.
Understanding the truth about walking in the Spirit could deliver many from confusion, strife, distress, indecision, even the lusts of the flesh. So, what is this truth? Paul has summed it up clearly: “Let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
There are only two ways for a Christian to walk: in the flesh, or in the Spirit.
The flesh has its own stubborn will; it does whatever it chooses, then asks God to bless those choices. It rises up and declares, “The Lord gave me a sound mind, and I can make choices intelligently. I don’t have to wait for His direction. God helps those who help themselves.”
But walking in the Spirit is just the opposite. We surrender our will to the Holy Spirit, and trust His still, small voice to direct us in all things. Indeed, the Holy Spirit was sent to set up the complete government of Christ in our lives. The Bible tells us, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23), and the Spirit does this ordering. He desires to lead and direct our every move.
Almost any Christian can tell you, “Jesus died for my sins.” But, surprisingly, few can say what His resurrection means in their daily life. They know certain parts of the story—that Jesus died and rose again—but not enough to apply God’s powerful truths to the way they live and believe. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Christ’s resurrection has radical consequences not just for eternal life but for everyday life. What is the purpose of the resurrection? Most of us associate it with eternal life, not with daily life on earth. How is the resurrection significant in our marriage, our job, our family? How does it affect a life inundated by 200 data messages a day, a life harried with errands, chores, obligations, demands?
Paul reminds us that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection are of first importance. “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25, ESV, my emphasis). What does Paul mean when he says Jesus was raised so that we might be justified?
Justification has to do with newness of life. Without it, we would be stuck in an unchanging cycle of sin and forgiveness. Think about the practical weight that sin carries in our lives. How many times have you lain awake at night grieving over something awful you’ve said or done? Shame, guilt and condemnation come with everyday life; we can’t get away from it. Yet Paul tells us Jesus was “delivered up” to cleanse us of these very things.
So, is it enough to be forgiven of our sins? That’s where the last part of the verse comes in: Jesus was “raised for our justification.” Not only are our trespasses gone, but we are justified—meaning, it’s as if we had never committed those sins. Now we are a delight in God’s eyes. In short, we are resurrected into newness of life—every day!
What a great and powerful truth. Yet, Christians often don’t experience this newness in everyday life. I admit there are days when I say to my wife, Kelly, “Is this really newness of life? I’m frustrated, cranky, disappointed.” Try as we might, we don’t personally possess the power to renew our lives. We can’t simply make ourselves new. That comes from Jesus alone—and it’s through what is called resurrection power.