True Grace

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Let me give you the heart of the true grace message: It is not a permissive gospel but one that teaches holiness!

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13, NKJV).

According to Paul, we are not walking in grace until we have broken from worldly corruptions. Unless we are endeavoring through the power of the Holy Spirit to lead godly and righteous lives, looking for the Lord’s coming in our every waking moment, we do not know God’s grace.

Many Christians want forgiveness, but that is all. They do not want to be delivered from this present world because they love it. They are attached to their sins, not wanting to give up the pleasures of this earth. So they cling to a doctrine that says, “I can live as I please as long as I say that I believe.”

They do not want to hear about obedience, repentance, self- denial, picking up their cross, taking on the yoke or burden of Christ. They simply want to be excused on Judgment Day and to have all their iniquities overlooked. They expect Jesus to open up the pearly gates, put his arms around them, and lead them down a golden street to their reserved mansion, even though they have never broken from the spirit of this world!

Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). We are to break from this world completely and be conformed to Christ alone!

Jesus justifies us through faith for a purpose. It is to embolden and empower us to resist the devil and overcome the world. “[Jesus Christ] gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).

His Work, Not Ours

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

I believe that justification by faith is the foundational truth of Christianity. You cannot know true rest and peace until you are convinced you can never be made right in God’s eyes by your own works of righteousness.

If you don’t understand the perfect righteousness of Christ that is yours by faith, you will lead a life of toil and sweat. You’ll spend your days trying to please God through legalistic, hopeless attempts to establish your own righteousness. The truth is that you’ll never have any righteousness to bring to the Lord.

No doubt you are familiar with the passage in Isaiah that says all our righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight (see Isaiah 64:6). This does not mean God despises our good works, not at all. We should do good works, but if you think your good works merit your salvation, that they allow you to stand holy before God, then they are nothing but filthy rags.

You may feel good because of the good works you do and even enjoy a moment of victory whenever you resist temptation. You may feel righteous, that God’s favor is on you. The next day, however, you fail. You fall back into a sin, and suddenly you lose all your joy. You think the Lord is angry with you and wonder if you have lost your salvation. 

It is a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows, of up-and-down, hot-and-cold, sin-and-confess, according to how good or bad you think you have been on any given day. It’s a life of misery because you are trying to please God in your flesh!

Beloved, no righteousness of the flesh will ever stand before God. Even the best people among us, the most moral, godly saints, have fallen short of God’s glory. None of us can ever be accepted in the Father’s eyes by our good works. We are accepted by him only as we are in Christ!

When we turn to Jesus with saving, self-emptying faith, we become one in Christ. “…for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NKJV). Being “in Christ” means God credits Jesus’s righteousness to us. All our sins are washed away because of his work, not ours!

A Love Letter to Failure

Gary Wilkerson

My friend Eric had a very hard childhood. His father told him repeatedly, “You’re no good, and you’ll never amount to anything.” 

As Eric grew older he turned to drugs. “I was a terrible addict,” he says. “I mixed together all kinds of things that could have killed me. I was even terrible at being an addict. My needle would break, or I would be short of cash to feed my habit. I felt like a total failure.”

Eric’s life became a complete mess. His addiction drained him of every penny, so he decided to rob a convenience store to buy more drugs. He pulled out a gun and shouted, “Everybody up against the wall!” The store was so crowded that all the people couldn’t fit against the wall. Confused, Eric ran away.

In despair, Eric eventually resolved to shoot himself with the shotgun he had used for the attempted robbery. However, he dropped the gun, and it misfired, wounding him in the side. As Eric drove himself to the hospital, he thought, “I’m such a miserable failure I can’t even kill myself.” After being treated for his wound, Eric walked the streets in total despair. Deep down, he cried out to God, “Are you there at all? Is there any reason for me to keep living?”

Eric heard a voice say, “I’m sending you a love letter.” Somehow Eric knew it was the voice of Jesus. As he sat on a curb with rainwater trickling along the gutter under his legs, he noticed a small booklet floating toward him. Picking it up, he saw that it was a tract entitled, “There is Hope for the Drug Addicted.”

The tract was published by a group called Victory Outreach. Eric found their address, went to them and gave his life to Jesus. Soon he was delivered from his addiction. He gave up every habit, including his belief that he was destined to be a failure. Jesus made Eric a new creature in every way.

This young man had thought his life was over, but it had just begun. He had been blind to the resurrection life that Jesus had been planning for him all along. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV).

The Church that Draws People

John Bailey

One of the most influential people in my ministry was a man named George who used to be in the Hells Angels. They used to call him “Doc” because he dealt the drugs for the group, but now he has a doctorate of divinity, so obviously, God has done a great work in his life. Church is not always the friendliest place for people who are coming in from a hard life, though, and George experienced some church hurt.  

He tells this story. Somebody had invited him to church, so he rode over on his motorcycle. Sitting on the little hill overlooking the church, he paused and prayed, “God, I’m going to walk into this church, and if one person looks at my leather jacket and tattoos and beard and they judge me and sneer at me, I’ll walk out and never be back.”

So he walked in, and it was a really small, country church, and there’s these older ladies who give him hugs and welcome him in. He says, “The work that this moment did to heal me was supernatural.” 

Good preaching and good doctrine are important; no one is denying that, but ultimately, the call of believers is to love God and love other people. That’s what gives our words real power when we share the gospel. In the earliest moments of the church, we see Peter get up on the day of Pentecost and give his sermon, and thousands of people were saved. That’s great, but we might forget what came next.  

“All who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-47, ESV).

They had healthy community where people loved each other and took care of each other. That caught the attention of a Roman and Greek world that couldn’t care less about some Jewish teacher who claimed to be the Savior of the world. The sacrificial love of the church was and still is what will make a dying world sit up and pay attention.

John Bailey is the Vice President of World Challenge Inc. and the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church in Jacksonville, Florida. John has been serving the Lord in pastoral ministry for 35 years, ministering the gospel in over 50 nations, particularly as a pastor and evangelist in Cork, Ireland.

The Flow of Obedience

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

It is important that we understand the motive out of which our obedience springs. If the spring is not pure, everything that flows out of it will be polluted. We must always be careful to check our motives.

The sad truth is that many Christians in these last days obey God only because they are afraid of going to hell. They fear the Lord’s anger, and they only want to make sure that their obedience is “legal.” They have no genuine desire to please him.

Jesus did everything out of love and a desire to bring pleasure to his heavenly father. “Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things. And he who sent me is with me. The Father has not left me alone, for I always do those things that please him” (John 8:28-29, NKJV). 

This was the rock, the foundation upon which Jesus built his life of obedience. It was the spring or the motive out of which the flow of his obedience came. It is to be our rock as well.  

Jesus shut himself up in prayer on the mountaintops in quiet places, often all night long in fellowship with his father. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me”(John 6:38). His one great prayer was “Father, what do you want? What will bring you pleasure? What can I do to fulfill the desire of your heart?” 

That is the attitude of a person who has the Spirit of Christ. It should be our attitude that we might be one who builds on the rock. Our every decision needs to reflect a consciousness of God and a desire to please him. 

The foundational motive of all our obedience must be “I do all things because I want to please my Lord; I want to bring him great pleasure.”