GREATER THAN JOHN THE BAPTIST

Luke 7:28 – I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

John pointed to the greater, Jesus. John recognized his call and purpose in God. John said, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I” (Matthew 3:11). Jesus was the mightier one. John went on to recognize that Jesus would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit and fire. John only baptized to prepare the way, but Jesus was the way. He who is the way has equipped each believer to manifest His life in the world. Believers, filled with the Holy Spirit are the greatest witness to the fact that light has entered the world.

We can be critical of the church and perhaps there is much to be critical about, but reality is, without the Lord’s church in the earth, this world would be steeped in unimaginable darkness. That is not an excuse to be at ease, but a call to rise up and be “greater than John the Baptist.” The greater than John, Jesus, is living in us through the Holy Spirit. Throughout history, the church has been the greatest witness to the fact that light is in the world. Individually and corporately we are to testify to Christ’s resurrection life and power. “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised up in Him” (Ephesians 2:5).

Many of God’s people are slumbering. Many churches are focused inwardly rather than outwardly. The church can be more like a theater than the model Jesus gave, which was a Vine (John 15). It is time to awake from slumber. It is time to throw off the theater mentality. It is time to become “greater.” As the people of God, let us come back to God’s original intent, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Week after week, God’s people listen to the message of truth, but are they filled with the Holy Spirit in order to do the message? The greater is not in the listening, but in the doing. The Spirit of God is calling to the church of today, be the light of the world. He is calling to God’s Shepherds, preach the word and be instant in season and out. He is manifesting His power and making us know that we do not have to go it alone. He is with us to equip and reveal the greater than John. He is with us as we witness Jesus, the Christ, alive from the dead who delivers from darkness and fills all who will believe with His Holy Spirit, dispelling darkness and manifesting light.

Father, awake me from slumber. As I listen, fill me with Your Holy Spirit of promise. Cause me to be greater than John as Jesus declared. Thank You for making me part of the vine. I ask You to allow me to bear much fruit and that the fruit will remain and multiply.

GENUINE FAITH WILL BE TESTED

1 Peter 1:6-7 – In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter knew what he was talking about, having been through the fire himself. You cannot talk about “fiery trials” if you have not been through them yourself. A known teacher in the body of Christ told the story about sitting with a young man who was talking about doing great things for God. The teacher was intently looking into the young man’s eyes. The young man asked him, “Why are you looking so intently at me?” The teacher responded, “I am looking for the scars.”

The Christian walk is not for the faint of heart. Jesus was “a man’s man.” Peter spoke about being protected by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). Peter went on to help believers understand that we greatly rejoice in what God has done, even though for a little while we go through various trials. Trials prove our faith. One can evaluate their maturity level based on how they handle trials. Peter teaches believers that the trials of our faith are “more precious than gold which perishes.” Gold is a very precious metal. Peter says that the “trials of our faith” are more precious than gold. Even gold is tested by fire to remove impurities. Is it any wonder that our “faith” is also tested by fire?

It is important to understand that we do not bring glory to God through our success, but rather through our faithfulness. Paul taught us to remain steadfast, “. . . resist in the evil day, having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13-14). Paul and Barnabas strengthened the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

As I look back over my life, I am reminded of many trials and tribulations. I did not enjoy the times of testing, but I am grateful for what they produced. It is in pressing through that we find growth. It is similar to a weight lifter. One must learn how to use the weights to gain the greatest benefit. The weight lifter must push through the pain, not to the point of injury, but to the point of breaking down the tissues so they can be rebuilt to a greater strength. I can truthfully say that I increased in faith because of the various trials I have gone through. I rejoice in the Lord because He has proven Himself to be faithful.

Finally, Paul admonishes us, “to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). Aren’t you glad you do not have to trust your strength? He is the source of strength, He is the supplier of all you need, and He is counting your faith more precious than gold, even tried gold that has gone through the fire.

Father, I thank You for all Your promises. I am weak, but You are strong. I give You the distress of trials. I pray that when Jesus returns, every trial I have known will be found to result in praise, glory, and honor to You.

I AM UNDONE

Isaiah 6:5 – Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (KJV).

The New American Standard Version translates Isaiah 6:5 “for I am ruined!” When one is undone they feel ruined. This is not a bad place to come before God. Job also experienced this deep sense of being undone in God’s presence. His response was “I will ask You and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eyes see You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Job had many opinions about God, especially in defending himself against the accusations of his four friends. Job was well established in his position of being right.

We must become undone before God before He can lift us up to the place He has prepared for us in Christ. Even Jesus, though He had no sin, He humbled Himself before God the Father. The Father lifted Him up and gave Him a name above every name. As we take the same position of Isaiah and Job, the knowledge of being “undone” and “retracting” all our conceited words through repentance, opens the door for a great experience with the Lord.

When the Lord touches our tongue, we will have something worthwhile to contribute. When we repent of our opinions and acknowledge that He alone has the right viewpoints, then God will deal with those who stand against us with their opinions. We are living in a time when many in the body of Christ are repenting of their strong positions which are rooted in self-exalted thoughts. The Lord is granting His body grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to lay down self and be united by pressing into the Lord Jesus Christ to know His plan and will.

It is unnecessary to “defend God” or “our positions.” We are to represent His Word, what He has said, and let Him defend Himself through fulfilling His word, whether by judgment or by salvation. It is in His presence we will find fulfillment and not in peoples acceptance. God will give us acceptance through others, but they are not our source of fulfillment.

If we have been buried with Christ and raised up with Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, then our identity is in Him, side by side with one another for His purpose and glory. It is time to let go of anything that originates in us and spend time listening for the voice of God through His written word and the united word of the Spirit as He works through the body of Christ in the earth. Listen for the themes of Scripture and the themes being spoken in a united way to this generation.

Father, I come to You undone. I recognize that I am most opinionated. Help me, as You did Job, to become quiet before You. Speak to me of the areas You want to change in my life. Give me grace to receive Your correction. Cause me not to defend myself nor You. Help me to be a faithful representative of Your character and will.

REFINEMENT

Proverbs 17:3 – The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts.

The natural man looks more for what he can get from a relationship than what he can give. Before sin dominated in the garden, Adam and Eve had their eyes on the glory of God and saw each other through the purity God had breathed into Adam’s nostrils. Disobedience to God’s word through listening to the voice of the tempter brought a choice outside of God’s plan and destiny for humankind. It plunged Adam and Eve and their posterity into a need for the “refiner’s fire.”

God deals with His creation in two ways, individually and corporately. In the garden the Lord began with Adam, then Eve, and finally the Serpent. He then drove all three from the garden. The Serpent is brought low and eventually judged by the seed of the woman. Adam and Eve, and their descendants, entered into the refiner’s fire through the individual judgments God placed on the man and the woman.

The cross of Christ became the place of God’s judgment in dealing with mankind’s sin. When we embrace the cross personally and by faith receive what Christ has done for us, we are raised up into the newness of His life and we begin a journey of experiencing the refiner’s fire in the exchange of our life for His.

The primary way the Lord has chosen to refine us is through relationships. Nobody can refine themself. The main reason for this is that it is most difficult to recognize the areas in one’s own life which needs refining. It takes external pressure. Marriage is the primary relationship the Lord uses in the refining process. Next are children that demand attention and cause us to refocus our time, energy, and resources. If we are not blessed with children, the Lord has no shortage of pressures to use in the refining process.

I cannot help believing that the refining process is what John the Baptist was prophesying when he said,“ As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). The fire is the fire of “refinement.” Even our Lord was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus knew the fire before He experienced the glory.

Refinement is not a popular message. God’s promise of blessing receives much more popularity, but the only way to true blessing is through the fire. Refinement may not sound encouraging, but it will bring the greater weight of glory if we will embrace God’s purpose and His ways.

FREEDOM THAT BRINGS TRUE LIBERTY

Luke 22:32 – I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

Peter thought he was ready to fully serve the Lord. After Jesus gave Peter His counsel, Peter replied “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” From Peter’s viewpoint, he had given his all to the Lord. Remember, it was Peter who had the confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). He was seen as a principal leader among the twelve. Peter thought the work in him was finished.

Jesus responds to Peter’s commitment to go to prison and die for Jesus, telling Peter in verse 34, within the next 24 hours you’re going to deny Me three times. I am sure that sent Peter into a tailspin. It is a good thing Jesus had prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. Peter was about to receive the greatest test of his life. Without the prayer of Jesus, there is no telling what would have happened to Peter.

True freedom is found in the Lord Jesus Christ as our High Priest. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). As with Peter, our freedom begins in the knowledge that Jesus is praying for us so that our faith will not fail.

True freedom is found in conversion. I do not mean gaining information about Jesus and saying we believe in Him. True conversion is turning from depending on our natural life as our source to depending on the Holy Spirit as our source of life and knowledge. Peter was still trying to figure things out on his own. He thought he had surrendered all to Jesus, but he had not yet undergone the death process. Death to self is required in order to know true conversion. It is a process we learn and not a one-time experience we have. Note what Jesus said to Peter – “when once you have turned again” (verse 32). It is the again part that is difficult. Peter, like us, vacillated between his natural life and the new life the Spirit was generating in him.

After conversion we begin to turn our attention to others. An evidence of “self” being crucified is our willingness to give up our life to serve others in their need. Jesus knew Peter was not ready for the task he was destined to accomplish. The Lord pointed the way forward as He said “when you are converted” (KJV). Jesus has a purpose for each one of us, but there is a process we must go through. Many get hung up in the process. Some get burned out trying to “strengthen” others before they are fully converted themselves.

Father, I humble myself before You. Keep me from arrogance which causes me to think I can serve You out of my own strength. I am weak, but You are strong! Help me to live a lifestyle of conversion, walking in faith, being changed daily, and strengthening others in their journey.

DETERMINATION

1 Corinthians 2:1 – I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

One who is determined has their mind made up. They have decided or resolved to do a certain thing. They are resolute and unwavering in their decision. Paul’s determination came from something beyond him. It came from the power of the cross of Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Watchman Nee wrote in his book, “The Latent Power of the Soul” that God put tremendous ability in man’s soul beyond what we normally use. The problem is that “soul power” belongs to the old nature and not the new. Determination for the believer must be associated with the cross of Christ and not some natural reasoning from our old nature.

A sign the Holy Spirit is at work in us is in the destroying our confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). In Philippians 3:4, Paul goes on to say that more than anybody, he could put his confidence in his flesh. He chose not to because he recognized he died with Christ and now his source of life came from the resurrection power of the Lord. If we try to cling to natural virtues while God desires to bring forth the life of His Son in us, we find ourselves fighting against God. The virtue of Christ is in the “Fruit of the Spirit” alone.

Our determination should be rooted in the freedom of Christ which brings true liberty in our life experience. The biblical order that leads to a determination to follow the Lord is found in repentance, forgiveness, conversion, and a life of trust in God.

Individuality, independence, and natural reasoning are all a part of self-preservation. True freedom comes when I let go of hurts, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. This includes anything which relates to “self-preservation.” Only the wisdom of God through the cross of Christ can supply the power for our human condition.

Now is a great time to embrace Christ’s cross. For some, it may be the first time. For others, it could be a renewal of a commitment made years ago. Allow the Lord to conquer more of the natural man to include your plans, efforts, and reasoning. Ask Him to release a greater degree of His Life through the Holy Spirit in your planning, your work, and, your thought process. Be determined to know less of what you know and to know more of Jesus and Him crucified. Only through this kind of determination can we know the demonstration of His power and His life released through us.

Father, let the mind of Christ be in me. I want to embrace Christ more and more. Please conquer every area of the natural man. Cause me to become as determined as Paul became in knowing Christ and His cross each day of my life.