WORD FOR MARTYRS

Rev 2:10 – Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The book of Revelation is full of stories about martyrs. One of the passages that haunts me is found in Revelation 15, I call it the song of the martyrs. “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”

These are those who gave their lives for the testimony of Jesus during the Great Tribulation. They were worshipping God for the privilege of dying for His Name.

Who better to encourage martyrs than Jesus, the One who gave His life for us. Today’s verse is a word of encouragement to future martyrs in the church in Smyrna. The bishop himself, Polycarp, would give his life in several years. Here are some observations on this verse from Adam Clarke.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. This may be addressed particularly to Polycarp, if he was at that time the bishop of this Church. He had much to suffer; and was at last burnt alive at Smyrna, about the year of our Lord 166. We have a very ancient account of his martyrdom, which has been translated by Cave, and is worthy of the reader’s perusal. That account states that the Jews were particularly active in this martyrdom, and brought the sticks, by which he was consumed. Such persons must indeed have been of the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.”

The head of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp, disciple of John. It is from Polycarp that we know that John authored Revelation. These early Christians had a different perspective of eternity and dying. Some of the early church fathers were known to request prayer that they would be chosen to die for Christ. I haven’t heard prayer requests like that lately. What can we learn from these early Christians? First, there is a grace that is bigger than anything, even death. Secondly, that eternity is real and should be in the forefront of our thoughts. Finally, that we have a cause worth living for and worth dying for. Until we see that for ourselves we haven’t really begun to live.

RENEWAL AND REFRESHING

Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

This promise became from precious to me during an unusually difficult season in my life. I had been pastoring Victory Fellowship for a number of years and had experienced favor and blessing on everything from family to church and in my personal spiritual experience. The body of Christ went through a season of very unusual difficult times in the late 1980’s and the blowback from that was effecting every part of my life. I was feeling it with family drama, financial and ministry problems, and my spiritual condition was not the best. These problems brought me to a place of spiritual hunger and thirst, times of refreshing began to break out in my life. I love the Amplified Bible’s rendition of this verse. “So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord”. Here are some thoughts from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“To urge them to turn from sin to faith in Christ, Peter said that “Times of refreshing [will] come from the Lord.” For years the Jews have been expecting the messianic age, the golden age of blessings. The prophets themselves spoke about the coming of spiritual strength and blessings. This new age has dawned with the coming of Christ. Peter’s “times of refreshing” is one way of speaking about the baptism in the Spirit. The people can now experience the renewal or “refreshing” of their souls through the joys and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result of their repentance, not only will their sin be forgiven and they will receive relief from their guilt, but they will also experience spiritual renewal through the Holy Spirit.”

So maybe you are feeling a little exhausted and out of breath by the adversity that we all face in this life. Living in this world guarantees resistance and exhaustion. We can take courage from this incredible promise, the Lord send times of refreshing again and again from the presence of the Lord. The Lord is faithful to His people, spiritual hunger and thirst is a sure sign that renewal is well on the way.

MIGHTY TO SAVE

Isa.63:1 – Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

I have an unusual memory that I recall from time to time of a street preacher in Seoul, Korea. Parris and I were there attending a church growth conference with Dr, Yonggi Cho and were taking a break at an outdoor sidewalk cafe. A Korean street preacher approached us and began to preach to us in his best English sermon. He said Jesus is mighty to save. He is able to save, heal, and provide for us. I clearly remember him repeating, “He is able; able to save, able to heal, and able to supply all of my need”. He had that sermon down, he seemed excited to find an American to preach it to. Jesus is mighty to save. His salvation is complete; able to save us to the uttermost. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes today’s verse.

“By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification….. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of His name to bend the knee before Him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.” The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep His people holy after He has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven.”

Salvation is the work of God. Think about it for a moment; the work of God begins with a holy attraction. The Bible often calls this spiritual hunger. Unexplainably we find ourselves attracted to the Lord. Once that happens you are done, He will not stop until you are finally consumed by His love and transformed by His power. He is mighty to save.

THE WORKING OF THE SPIRIT

Titus 3:5,6 – But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Christian life is basically the life of the Holy Spirit expressed through His sons and daughters. Christianity is not a creed or a set of beliefs, it is the life of the Spirit expressed in and through us. This is why I need continual renewal, the Christian life is just not something we can do or perform. This new life is started when we are born again (regeneration) and is empowered and maintained by the renewing of the Holy Spirit on a consistent basis. The Holy Spirit gives us moral strength, freedom from addictive or compulsive lifestyles, spiritual hunger, spiritual understanding, giftings, and power for ministry. Paul said I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. That must mean I can do nothing of value without Him. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s passage.

“Here is the principal efficient, namely, the Spirit of God; it is the renewing of the Holy Ghost… We are said to be born of the Spirit, to be quickened and sanctified by the Spirit, to be led and guided, strengthened and helped, by the Spirit. Through him we mortify sin, perform duty, walk in God’s ways; all the acts and operations of the divine life in us, the works and fruits of righteousness without us, all are through this blessed and Holy Spirit, who is therefore called the Spirit of life, and of grace and holiness; all grace is from him. Earnestly therefore is he to be sought, and greatly to be heeded by us, that we quench not his holy motions, nor resist and oppose him in his workings.”

It is by the help of the Holy Spirit that we can pray, preach, and understand the scripture. He is the One Who awakens us and continues to draw us by giving us a spiritual hunger. I have come to the conclusion that I need Him continually in my life. Renewal is not the optional cherry on top that happens occasionally, it is an absolute necessity in my life. Let Jeremiah’s prayer be our prayer

Lam.5:21 – “Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old.”

BRAND NEW

Rev.21:5 – Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

The Word of God is quite amazing to me. No matter how much you study it you can never master it. Like God Himself, His Word is limitless. Today’s verse is a great example. In this one verse of scripture are two words that are absolute game changers. The first word is poeio translated as ‘make’. This word is where our word poetry comes from. This is describing the creative power of God. It is used as a continuous action verb describing the constant working of God. The second word is kainos which is our word for ‘new’. Kainos means new in species, better, renovated, or higher excellence. You take these words together and it says that the Lord is continually making our lives new and better by His creative power working in us. This is how Jonathan Edwards describes this verse.

“Hence this new state of things is called a new heaven and a new earth. Christ came to restore all things with respect to the elect that, whatever there is of the ruinous effects of the fall through the whole universe, all might be fully and perfectly healed in Christ; that old things might pass away and all things become new; that man himself might be a new creature, both in his soul by conversion and sanctification, and in his body by the resurrection, and the world as to him might become a new creation; and so not only himself created anew in Christ Jesus, but everything created anew as to him fully and perfectly. Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” Hence the end of the world, when this shall be perfected, is called the “times of refreshing” and the “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19–21).”

As John’s prophesy in the book of Revelations is coming to an end He is showing His work of renewal and redemption and how it is eradicating the results of the fall in His sons and daughters. No matter how difficult your life has been, no matter how far you have wandered from Him, His power of redemption and renewal is greater. He is continually making all things new in my life and in your life. His renewing love never ceases. Embrace His renewing power today.

THE HIGH PRIEST

Rev.1:13 – and among the lampstands was one like the Son of Man, dressed in a robe and with a golden sash wrapped around his chest.

It is hard for many Christians to really imagine the present day ministry of Jesus. He is really a man, flesh and bones, seated in heaven as our Heavenly High Priest. The Apostle John had a rare encounter with Jesus on the Island of Patmos where he was in exile because of his preaching of the word of God. He was praying in the Spirit on a Sunday when suddenly Jesus Himself was standing on the beach in front of Him. He was quite different in appearance from the last time John had seen Him at His ascension in Israel. He had eyes like lightning, a face like the blazing sun, a voice like a trumpet blast, and a two edged sword coming out of His mouth. John saw Him as He is now. His dress spoke of His current heavenly ministry as our High Priest. Gordon Fee shares about John seeing Jesus as our Heavenly Priest.

“The figure, John says, was like a son of man, which all of his readers will know from the Gospel narratives is the title Jesus used of himself. But it does not appear here in titular form; rather it is expressed in the precise language of Daniel 7:13, where the mysterious figure (from the perspective of the readers of the OT) who stood before Daniel was described as “one like a son of man.” For Daniel this would have meant simply “a human figure,” almost certainly intended to describe Israel’s hoped-for Messiah. But at “the same time, and thus creating a unique collage of images, John describes his array as that of Israel’s chief priests: he was dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his waist. In so doing, John is deliberately borrowing language from the Septuagint, where it is used exclusively for the full-length tunic of the high priest; thus his readers would readily understand that Jesus, the “son of man,” is also being presented as the great high priest.”

This amazing encounter was preparing John for an unveiling of the future of man and our planet. All revelation flows from Jesus. The words that John was about to write would impact the world for the next 2000 years.

SHOWERS

Ezek.34:26 – And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.

This is an amazing prophetic word involving renewal for all of us. I found some amazing commentary on this verse from Matthew Henry. First, Henry says that this blessing begins in the local church.

“The heavens shall yield their dews; the trees of the field also shall yield their fruit. The seat of this plenty is God’s hill, his holy hill of Zion, for on that mountain, in the gospel church, it is, that God has made to all nations a feast; to that those must join themselves who would partake of gospel benefits.”

Secondly, Henry points out that the cause of this season of blessing is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

“The cause of this plenty is the showers that come down in their season, that descend upon the mountains of Zion, the graces of Christ, his doctrine that drops as the dew, the graces of Christ, and the fruits and comforts of his Spirit, by which we are made fruitful in the fruits of righteousness.”

He goes on to point out the effect of these outpourings, we are refreshed and God is glorified by the fruit in our lives.

“The instances of this plenty are the blessings of heaven poured down upon us and the productions of grace brought forth by us, our comfort in God’s favor and God’s glory in our fruit-bearing.”

Next, Henry says that the effect is far reaching. Everywhere the river flows there is healing and there is life.

“The extent of this plenty is very large, to all the places round about my hill; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, shall go forth light to a dark world, and the river that shall water a dry and desert world; all that are in the neighborhood of Zion shall fare the better for it; and the nearer the church the nearer its God.”

Finally Henry says that those effected by renewal will be extremely blessed and blessing to all they associate with.

“And, lastly, The effect of this plenty is, I will make them a blessing, eminently and exemplarily blessed, patterns of happiness. They shall be blessings to all about them, diffusively useful.”

Times of renewal are sure as long as the church exists. Lord, let me and our church step into these Showers of Blessing today.

RICH OR JUST MISERABLE AND POOR

Rev.3:17- Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

This verse is terrifying to me. Is it possible that the church has lost its authority and ability to prophesy to this generation because we have become like it? I often think of something Dick Mills said to me during the renewal that happened in our church in 1994. He had just walked a few steps into the meeting when he turned to me and said this was the same anointing he had felt in his youth at Angeles Temple with Aimee Semple McPherson. Brother Mills said that the anointing that had come out of the Azusa Street Revival had continued in many churches for thirty years. He said it lifted when the churches got tired of being criticized for being different. Sadly, that is what we are experiencing today. Ashamed of the power of His presence, many have been consumed by the spirit of this age. Here are some thoughts from Craig Koester about this present predicament.

“Very much the same way one can boil a frog by placing it in cold water and then turning on the heat, so the church, which of necessity must be in the world, at the same time is constantly, and often quite unwittingly, in danger of becoming like the world in which it is situated. This has been especially true of Western Christendom, and especially so in times of plenty, when the church tends to enjoy the same “upward mobility” experienced by the majority of the middle class, as they try to emulate the wealthy. The upshot of such assimilation is that the church has rather totally lost its prophetic voice, calling out God’s coming judgments on the world to which it has so easily accommodated itself. At this point we must once again prophesy to the world, not simply to change the world, but to keep it from changing us.”

So what is our response? How do we return to our first love and stay separate from the world? This is what Jesus said in the same passage Rev.3:20 – ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’ Jesus is asking His church to open its heart for His passion once again. Only then will we have the moral authority to prophesy to this generation.

“Infusing Grace”

by Parris Bailey

MERRY WEDNESDAY!

I believe we will spend the rest of our lives and the angels too, contemplating the wonders of salvation. How a person could be going one way and then change into another man by Christ’s efficacious grace is just supernatural. When we read the conversion of Paul on the Damascus Road we realize just how suddenly salvation can come. His conversion wasn’t gradual but immediate. One can say repentance is a sovereign gift of God in ones life. Jonathan Edwards quotes; “They are in themselves filthy, vile creatures and see themselves to be so. They have an excellence and a glory in them because they have Christ dwelling in them…. Tis some thing of God. This holy heavenly spark is put into the soul in conversion, and God maintains it there. All the power of hell cannot put it out…. Though it be small … ’tis a powerful thing. It has influence on the heart to govern that, and brings forth holy fruits in the life, and won’t cease to prevail ’til it has consumed all the corruption that is left in the heart and ’til it has turned the whole soul, as it were, into a pure, holy and heavenly flame. The principle, once born, grows: In conversion this spiritual principle begins again to be restored, though it be but in an imperfect degree . . . gets more and more powerful”.

When infused grace comes into our lives everything changes. Our understanding becomes enlightened whereas before we walked in darkness having no conviction or understanding of the reality of spiritual things. There was no ability to be free from the bondage of sin or have freedom from guilt. Jonathan Edwards when writing on grace said, ‘In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces: our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are, in this respect, wholly passive and wholly active.’ Edward believed that Nature cannot change nature; only super-nature can.

Piper when talking about grace he uses the term irresistible grace in which he defines ‘More specifically irresistible grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can be saved.’ It does one well to remember just how rebellious we were and hellbent on sin. Piper is not saying that God forces us to believe against our will, but we have a way of being persuaded. This is the beautiful work of redemption upon a fallen man of which the world wonders. Once we were blinded but now we see. Grace becomes infused within our hearts and regeneration occurs.

“Life is in the quickening Spirit.” WA Criswell RC Sproul says, “To be “born again” is to experience a second genesis. It is a new beginning, a fresh start in life. When something is started, we say that it is generated. If it is started again, it is regenerated. The Greek verb geniauo that is translated as “generate” means “to be,” “to become,” or “to happen.” Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is a change. It is a radical change into a new kind of being.

FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD

Rev.1:5 – and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood —

John saw a resurrected man on the beach of the Isle of Patmos. Jesus was not a vision or a spirit, He came to John bodily and physically. That in itself has huge implications. First, the Creator, God Himself, was standing in front of John as a human. God became a man for all time. He died for us and is ministering as a priest for us before the Father in heaven. Here, Jesus is saying that He was the first man to raise permanently from the dead. Several others had been raised from the dead throughout history only to die again and go back into the grave. Jesus was raised in a new incorruptible body. He was the first of an entire race who will experience this. His body is an eternal, immortal body. Someday I too will have one. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this.

“The beginning, the first-born from the dead. In 1 Corinthians xv. 20, Christ is called the first-fruits of them that slept; and here, the chief and first-born from the dead; he being the first that ever resumed the natural life, with the employment of all its functions, never more to enter the empire of death, after having died a natural death, and in such circumstances as precluded the possibility of deception. The arch, chief, head, or first, answers in this verse to the first-fruits, Jesus Christ is not only the first who rose from the dead to die no more, but he is the first-fruits of human beings; for as surely as the first-fruits were an indication and pledge of the harvest, so surely was the resurrection of Christ the proof that all mankind should have a resurrection from the dead.”

For John this could be personal. John was in exile and all of the other apostles had been martyred (or would be shortly). Jesus was telling him, as well as us, that the final and greatest enemy, death itself, had been totally defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the book of Revelation unfolds we see the final scene of the great plan of God. The dead will be raised, we will be given new bodies like His, we will be comforted by Christ, and will rule with Him for eternity.