At some point in our Christian walk, we cross over what could be referred to as the “obedience line.” That is when someone determines in his heart to go all the way with the Lord. When he realizes that nothing in this world can hold him and he resolves to obey God’s Word in all ways and at all costs.
When you enter into a life of obedience and dependence on Christ with a determination never to go back, every alarm in hell is set off. Why? Because you have become a threat to the kingdom of darkness. When you decided to give all to the Lord, you began to make waves in the unseen world. That’s precisely the time you became a prime target of the enemy.
We are familiar with Peter and his sifting process. Peter thought he was spiritually strong enough to die for Christ. He wasn’t aware of any glaring weakness in himself and he made some strong statements after the Lord told him that Satan wanted to sift him as wheat (see Luke 22:31).
“Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). For three years, Peter had been casting out devils and healing the sick — and that was nothing compared to the greater works God had planned for him and the other disciples. Satan heard and knew what God had planned for Peter and he trembled. Satan always goes after the tree with the most potential to bear fruit and the devil knew Peter was set apart to bear much fruit.
Having already pulled down Judas, Satan now thought he saw a measure of corruption in Peter he could build on to make Peter’s faith fail. Our faith is Satan’s prime target and in the span of just a few short hours, the devil brought circumstances into Peter’s life that severely tested his faith and love for Jesus.
Today, because of the cross of Jesus Christ, we can say to Satan, “You may have gotten permission to sift me, devil, and you may attempt to tear down my faith. But you need to know that Jesus is praying for me” (see John 17:9).
Beloved, if you have failed or grieved the Lord, run into his arms and remember that he is praying for you. You are the Lord’s, so rest in his unconditional love!
Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Christ had gathered his chosen ones for a last moment of communion just before he went to the cross. How sad and sorrowful these men were. Their sole source of comfort on the earth was being taken from them.
Jesus was their guide, teacher, joy, peace and hope, and now he was physically leaving them. They had built their entire world around him and he would no longer be with them.
Of course, Jesus knew that the disciples were about to face persecution, hardships, the loss of earthly goods, and torture for his name’s sake. Yet I doubt those disciples understood Christ’s words to them when he said he would not leave them comfortless. What he was saying, in essence, was: “I will never let you face your battles alone. I will not leave your helpless or powerless against the devil’s onslaughts. You’re going to face hardships, but I know the Father’s plan for you. If you knew and understood it, your hearts would rejoice because I am going to my Father.”
Jesus told these disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (14:16). He was telling the disciples, “I leave you as man, and I will return to you as Spirit.” Yes, the Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of Christ and he abides only in those who are born again in Christ and walk by faith in his finished work on the cross.
The Spirit’s mission is to comfort Christ’s bride in the absence of the bridegroom, Jesus. If there is need for a comforter, there must certainly be discomfort, those who need comforting. Simply put, anyone who follows Christ will face pain and suffering.
God sent the Spirit to use his power to keep you out of the clutches of Satan. He has come to lift your spirit, drive away all despair, and flood your soul with the love of your Father.
“We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
There were ten thousand or more reasons for people to love Jesus and not one reason to hate him. The four Gospels portray him as kind, patient, long-suffering, full of tenderness, forgiving, not willing that one person should perish. He is called a shepherd, a teacher, a brother, a light in darkness, a physician, an advocate, a reconciler. Jesus gave no cause whatsoever that he should be hated by anyone.
So why did the world hate Christ, both then and now? He promised to deliver the people from their chains of darkness and set men everywhere free from all satanic power. However, what we Christians see as a holy gift of deliverance and liberty, the world sees as a form of bondage. They love their sins and have no desire to be free from them.
“You call that freedom?” the nonbeliever asks. “No, here is freedom. We can do as we please with our bodies and minds. We have no restrictions and can worship a god of our own choosing, including no god at all, if we wish.”
Simply put, the world loves the things of the world. The ungodly relish the pleasures of sin. Jesus said they prefer the darkness to the light. “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
Christ tells his followers, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Jesus adds in the same passage, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (15:18). In short, if you are of Christ — if God chose you out of a worldly life to follow his Son, Jesus — you will never be loved or accepted by this world. But just as Christ said he is the light of the world, he declares us also to be the light of the world: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). May we all let our light shine brightly!
Paul often refers to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:1). Paul also wrote, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner” (2 Timothy 1:8). Even into his old age, Paul rejoiced that he had been apprehended by the Lord and taken captive to his will (see Philemon 9).
Paul could tell you the very hour the Lord took him captive. He was on the road to Damascus with official letters from the high priest authorizing him to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem. Scripture says he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). In other words, he was full of hatred, bitterness and anger in his misguided zeal for God.
But as Paul approached Damascus, “Suddenly a light shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:3). He was struck totally blind by that light, which was Christ’s glory. Paul testifies again and again how he had to be taken by the hand and led into Damascus. In short, he was a helpless prisoner. He spent three days isolated in a room, without sight and refusing food. He was a prisoner in spirit, soul, and body.
So what happened in that room? The Holy Spirit was making Saul into Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ. As we read Acts 9, we can almost hear Paul’s agonizing prayer: “Lord, I thought I was doing your will — how could I have been so blind? You have taken away my fleshly sight and given me spiritual eyes to see! All this time I’ve been going my own way, doing whatever I thought was right. But I can’t trust my own thoughts.”
Right now, the Holy Spirit is moving throughout the world, calling all invited guests to prepare themselves and come: “All things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). Many make excuses not to let themselves be bound to the Lord. “They all with one accord began to make excuses” (Luke 14:18).
Jesus is warning us against the last-hour temptation of being enamored with this world and I urge you to yield to his voice. Submit yourself to him and pray this prayer: “Lord, I’m sick of my independent spirit and I’m stretching my arms to you. Put your loving arm around me and bind me to you.”
The prophet Isaiah says godly people dream great things, not just for themselves but for the needy. He speaks of godly people standing up for the lost and serving the outcast.
“You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply” (Isaiah 58:5-9).
What a beautiful vision of God’s glory manifesting through his people, and what a powerful corrective to our concept of how to serve him. God is calling forth a people who induce faith, defeat Satan, and spread love and hope. The destinations he lays out for us may be beyond our imagination to the world, but they cannot be to those who take on his name.
A living faith brings life-giving results. “Thus says the Lord God: ‘This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock’” (Ezekiel 36:37). As our faith increases, so do the results that God brings.
When your dream, your ambition, your goal is fulfilled, will it be a blessing to many? Ask Jesus to lead you into the mission and purpose he has for you to serve others and bring honor to his name.