Handcuffed to Jesus

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Paul often refers to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” In Ephesians 4:1, he says being a prisoner of the Lord is actually his vocation, his calling! He considered this God's gift of grace to him (see Ephesians 4:7).

Paul wrote to Timothy: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8, NKJV). Even into his old age, the apostle rejoiced in having been apprehended by the Lord and taken captive to his will. “Yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:9).

Paul could tell you the very hour that the Lord handcuffed him and took him captive. He was on the road to Damascus with letters in hand from the high priest, bound and determined to bring back Christians to Jerusalem. He was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), full of hatred, bitterness and anger in his misguided zeal for God.

As he approached the city of Damascus, “suddenly a light shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:3). He was struck completely blind by that light, which was Christ. Paul testified again and again how he had to be taken by the hand and led into Damascus, a helpless prisoner. He spent three days in an isolated room without sight and without eating anything. He'd been taken captive in spirit, soul, mind and body.

What happened in that room for three days? The Lord was handcuffing Saul and transforming him into Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ!

In this vivid scene, Paul lets go of his independence and submits to Christ's yoke. He stretches forth his hands to Jesus to be handcuffed for life. You can almost hear his agonizing prayer: “O, Lord, I thought I was doing your will. How could I have been so blind? I've been going my way, doing whatever I thought was right. I can't trust my own thoughts.”

My prayer is “Here, Jesus, take my hands and put your manacles on me. Take me prisoner to your will and lead me wherever you want me to go. Keep me handcuffed to your mighty right arm!”

He Will Restore Your Wasted Years

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

How many years did you waste before you repented and surrendered all to Jesus? How many years were eaten up by the cankerworm of sin and rebellion? Now you know you are forgiven, but wouldn't you love to get back those years and live them for the glory of the Lord?

In his final days, Paul looked back over his life and testified, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NKJV).

Paul says, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). In other words, “Forget your past and press on in Jesus!”

Satan's favorite form of harassment is bringing up your past to scare you. He will try to persuade you that an old addiction or lust is going to rise up in your heart and take you back to the old life. He’ll use every weapon in his arsenal to bring you down with fear.

It’s true that you may feel the pangs of remorse as long as you live. Yes, the memories will keep you humble, but in God's eyes, your past is a dead issue. “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…my great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25 NKJV). As far as condemnation and guilt are concerned, God says, "Walk with confidence and freedom into the future!”

We see a picture of such restoration in the New Testament when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. “Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other” (Matthew 12:13). You see, when Jesus restores you, he also heals the wounds.

Beloved, take those old wounds — the worries and regrets about your wasted years — and let God restore to you all the years that were taken away. Press on toward the prize of your high calling in him!

Just for the Family

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there” (Genesis 43:30 NKJV).

This is the heart of our Savior, even toward the sinful. Joseph and his brothers were eating and drinking in the same room, but he sat alone. We dare not pass lightly over this statement. These men were taking a meal in Joseph's presence without being fully restored and without a revelation of love and grace.

We can be in the Lord's presence and still feel unloved. Many Christians will go to God's house to sing and worship, then go home to the same old lie: “God doesn't show me any evidence that he loves me. My prayers go unanswered. He doesn't really care about me the way he cares for other Christians.”

Joseph’s brothers had acknowledged their sin, but they needed to be totally at the end of their bitterness and human resources before Joseph could reveal his love to them. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The brothers were not yet brokenhearted (see Genesis 43:34) so he put them to a final test. As they were leaving for Canaan, Joseph told his steward to slip his personal silver cup into the sack of Benjamin, the youngest brother. They were hardly out of the city when Joseph's men overtook them and accused them of stealing the cup. They were so certain of their innocence that they said, “With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves” (Genesis 44:9).

There was no more fight in them. No more pride. They were humbled, broken; they cried out, "We give up! We surrender."

Then came the revelation of love. “Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers” (Genesis 45:1). They now had a sense of family, of unconditional love and acceptance. The world can hear about God's love, but only family can experience it.

Beloved, God dwells within the humble and brokenhearted. He delights in his family. He has loved us all these past years, even when we were sinners. Rest in his love for you.

The Joy of Sharing Your Faith

Gary Wilkerson

Many Christians in the Western world feel uncomfortable sharing their faith. Some don’t evangelize because they feel like everyone more or less knows about Jesus. Others say that they live out their faith without needing to preach it.

However, Jesus told his followers, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). Jesus’ disciples actively preached the gospel. Guided by the Holy Spirit, they prayed for strangers, accomplished miracles and shared Jesus with everyone in every circumstance. They were radical and relentless.

How can we follow the disciples’ example in today’s world?

We who live in Christ walk even as he walked. The Acts of the Apostles aren’t just inspirational stories and historical record. Neither are they a dry template for evangelism. They are just the beginning of the story, and now it’s our turn to write our chapter. Jesus knew this when he said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Our desperate, anxious world wants to hear what Jesus has done for us! They want to know that today, two thousand years after the apostles lived, they too can know the joyful, transformational love of Jesus.

There is something contagious about being around people who love Jesus so much that his love just flows out of them. I call it a baptism of love. They don’t feel obligated to share the good news. They have been spending time in the presence of God and they can’t help but share the joy of their salvation.

People with this contagious love have decided, “I'm not going to just read my Bible anymore. I want to live it.” They realize that the Book of Acts never really ended; it is meant to continue today. They have had a literal “come to Jesus” moment where they were finished with clinical, academic approaches to evangelism. No more how-to instructions and formulas, no more sweaty palms and stilted conversations, and no more being attached to the results. It’s just you — my neighbor, co-worker, Uber driver, friend — and me, someone who woke up excited to share the joy of knowing Jesus with you. “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:15).

God Goes Beyond What’s Fair

Tim Dilena

Inevitably when someone well known dies, I get asked, “Do you think that person is in heaven?” Before I respond, I always think of John Newton, the eighteenth-century former slave ship captain who became an abolitionist and clergyman. He said, “If I ever reach heaven I expect to find three wonders there: first, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had expected to see there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there.”

Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a vineyard owner who hired workers early in the morning and agreed to pay them a certain amount of money, a denarius, for their day’s wages.

Around midmorning, the vineyard owner caught sight of some others who were loitering in the marketplace, so he offered them work and set wages to tend to his vineyard. He rounded up more workers at noon, at midafternoon and in the early evening, offering the same work for a set wage.

At quitting time, the owner directed his foreman to summon the workers, starting with the last group, and to pay them their wages. Each group received a denarius. By the time the foreman summoned the first group who had worked all day, they believed they would receive more wages because they had worked longer. And yet the foreman handed each person a denarius. The men in the first group complained to the owner, saying it wasn’t fair…but the owner replied, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15, ESV).

Jesus ended this parable by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). I was born again at a very young age, so I am part of that first group of workers Jesus talked about. One day, my payment will be heaven and eternal life.

Others are part of the last group, what I call the eleventh-hour person. They won’t work as long as I and others have, but here’s their payment: heaven and eternal life. You’ve worked hard, lived a good life, followed all the rules, so how is it fair that some guy who lived a terrible life gets the same reward when he seeks forgiveness within moments of his death? Jesus explains that the reward is given because God is generous.

This devotion is an excerpt taken from Tim Dilena’s book The 260 Journey. You can find it in the World Challenge bookstore.  

After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.