Some of you have been battling a habitual pattern of sin for a long time. You’ve prayed; you’ve cried; you’ve hoped for freedom; you’ve fasted; you’ve been through counseling; you’ve confessed it to friends; you have an accountability group.
But that thing is still like a thorn in your heart. It’s coming against you powerfully, and you’re wondering, “When will I be free from this?”
Well, I would suggest to you that this thorn may be born out of an Absalom attitude in your life. This attitude is when we lose our complete trust in God, when we’re suddenly not sure if he’s sufficient. This is when we no longer say, “Whatever hardship I’m going through, I’m going to rely utterly on my Lord.”
Perhaps you’re not realizing how much God has done for you already, that he loves you so much, that on the cross he won the victory, that his power is sufficient for you. God is saying, “Hold on! It is working for you, but you feel like this is working against you, so you’ve allowed a rebellious Absalom spirit into your life.”
If you want to be free from that habitual pattern of sin in your life, you must deal with the Absalom attitude and say, “God, I’m going to trust you. I’m going to believe in you and walk with you no matter what.”
When things seem to be withheld, it’s for our own good. The trials and testing’s of your faith are working to bring you into greater reliance on God in your life. They are set before you to help you grow in maturity, steadfastness and strength. Trust in God’s goodness and purpose for your life!
Paul said, “So I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just walk by the Spirit. Problem solved! But how in the world do you apply a verse like that? How do you walk in the Spirit? What does that look like on a daily basis?
We can picture what it meant to walk with Jesus. The disciples did that. If Jesus stayed in Capernaum for five days, they stayed in Capernaum for five days. If Jesus stopped for lunch, they stopped for lunch. If he turned to the right and went down the road, they followed behind him. But how do we do that with the invisible Holy Spirit? Some might say, “Just go by the Word.” But it’s that very Word that tells us to walk by the Spirit. Filling our hearts with Scripture builds faith and encourages us. But here we’re told that following the Spirit and keeping in step with him is the only deliverance from indulging our lower nature and its ugly potential. How do we do that?
First of all, reliance on the Spirit means we have his help in repenting of those sins that so easily attach themselves to us. Many believers lie to themselves and are in denial as to the “secret treaty” they’ve made with disobedience. The Holy Spirit alone can hep us keep real with God. Whether we struggle with overt wrong actions or subtler unchristlike attitudes, the Spirit’s light focuses directly on the infection and helps us sincerely turn away from it. Repentance is a 180-degree U-turn from sin and selfishness back to God.
Walking by the Spirit is a twenty-four hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week lifestyle. It’s not about going to church on Sundays. It requires much prayer and sensitivity. As the Holy Spirit does precious work, he influences the formation of desires within us, deadening our selfish tendencies toward sin. We overcome the lower nature not by fighting against it ourselves — a losing battle if there ever was one — but by allowing the Holy Spirit to exert his power, every second of the day, on our behalf. In fact, the only one who can put the flesh to death is the Spirit of life.
The Spirit of Jesus within us wants to lovingly manage our days and lead us out into the clean, fresh air of Christlike words, thoughts, and actions. Ask the Lord to make you holy as he is holy!
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Jesus died on the cross to purchase peace with God for me—and he’s in heaven now to maintain that peace, for me and in me. The peace we have with God through Christ distinguishes our faith from all other religions.
In every other religion besides Christianity, the sin question is never settled. Sin’s dominion simply hasn’t been broken. Therefore there can be no peace: “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22). But we have a God who provides peace by pardoning sin. This is the very reason Jesus came to earth: to bring peace to troubled, fearful humankind.
How does Jesus maintain God’s peace for me? He does it in three ways:
First, Christ’s blood removed the guilt of my sin. In this sense, Paul says, “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus made peace for me through his blood.
Second, Christ maintains my peace and joy in believing: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans15:13).
Third, Jesus causes me to rejoice at the hope of entering glory: “We…rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).
Simply put, peace is the absence of fear. And a life without fear is a life full of peace.
When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t just bask in the glory that God bestowed on him. No, he went to the Father to maintain the hard-won peace he achieved for us at Calvary.
Our Savior is alive in glory right now. And he’s both fully God and fully human, with hands, feet, eyes, hair. He also has the nail scars on his hands and feet, the wound in his side. He has never discarded his humanity; he is still a man in glory. And right now, our man in eternity is working to make sure we’re never robbed of the peace he gave us when he left. He’s ministering as our high priest, actively involved in keeping his body on earth full of his peace. And when he comes again he wants us to “be found of him in peace” (2 Peter 3:14).
Forgiveness is not just a one-time act, but a way of life, meant to bring us into every blessing in Christ. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).
According to Jesus, forgiveness isn’t a matter of picking or choosing whom we would forgive. We can’t say, “You’ve hurt me too much, so I’m not forgiving you.” Christ tells us, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (5:46).
It doesn’t matter who our grudge might be against. If we hold onto it, it will lead to bitterness that poisons every aspect of our lives. Unforgiveness brings on spiritual famine, weakness, and a loss of faith, afflicting not just us but everyone in our circle.
Over the past fifty years of my ministry, I have seen terrible devastation in the lives of those who withheld forgiveness. Yet, I also have seen the glorious power of a forgiving spirit. Forgiveness transforms lives, causing the windows of heaven to open. It fills our cup of spiritual blessing to the brim with abundant peace, joy and rest in the Holy Ghost. Jesus’ teaching on this subject is very specific, and if you want to move in this wonderful realm of blessing, then heed and embrace his words.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Make no mistake: God isn’t making a bargain with us here. He is not saying, “Because you’ve forgiven others, I will forgive you.” We can never earn God’s forgiveness. Only the shed blood of Christ merits forgiveness of sin.
Rather, Christ is saying, “Full confession of sin requires that you forgive others. If you hold on to any unforgiveness, then you haven’t confessed all your sins. True repentance means confessing and forsaking every grudge, crucifying every trace of bitterness toward others. Anything less isn’t repentance.”
This goes hand in hand with his Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). His point: Forgive others, so you can move into the blessings and joy of sonship. God can then pour on tokens of his love. And when you forgive, you’re revealing the Father’s nature to the world.
"That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:21-23).
Jesus says, in essence, “The glory that you gave me, Father, I have given to them.” Christ is making an incredible statement here. He is saying that we’ve been given the same glory that the Father gave to him. What an amazing thought. Yet, what is this glory that was given to Christ and how do our lives reveal that glory? It is not some aura or emotion; it is unimpeded access to the heavenly Father!
Jesus made it easy for us to access the Father, opening the door for us by the Cross: “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The word “access” means the right to enter. It signifies free passage, as well as ease of approach: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (3:12).
Do you see what Paul is saying here? By faith, we’ve come into a place of unimpeded access to God. We’re not like Esther in the Old Testament. She had to wait for a sign from the king before she could approach the throne. Only after he held out his scepter was Esther approved to come forward.
By contrast, you and I are already in the throne room. And we have the right and privilege of speaking to the King at any time. Indeed, we’re invited to make any request of him: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
When Christ ministered on earth, he didn’t have to slip away to prayer to obtain the Father’s mind. He said, “I can do nothing on my own. I do only what the Father tells me and shows me” (see John 5:19). Today we have been given the very same degree of access to the Father that Christ had. You may say, “Wait a minute. I have the same access to the Father that Jesus did?”
Make no mistake. Like Jesus, we’re to pray often and fervently, seeking God, waiting on the Lord. We don’t have to slip away to beseech God for strength or direction, because we have his very own Spirit living within us. And the Holy Spirit reveals to us the mind and will of the Father.