WHO HAVE YOU WON TO CHRIST?

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“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mk16:15 NKJV

One day a pastor told the manager of a big department store, “I’ve talked about carpets and bedding and appliances with you many times, but I’ve never talked about my business. Will you give me a few minutes?” After being led to a private office, the pastor took out his New Testament and urged the manager to become a Christian. Finally, tears began to roll down the man’s cheeks and he said, “I’m seventy years old. I was born in this city, and more than a hundred ministers and five hundred officers of various churches have known me in a business capacity. But you’re the only man who has ever talked to me about my soul.” That day he knelt down and gave his life to Christ. We’ve got the cart before the horse! We keep thinking if we can just bring visitors to church they’ll get saved. And thank God that happens. But when those in the New Testament church met together to celebrate, usually they’d already been won to Christ by someone before they got there! Christ’s last act was winning a soul. His last command was for us to win souls. And His last prayer on the cross was for the forgiveness of a soul. You don’t have to be theologically articulate; you just have to be in love with Jesus. When you’re in love, it shows on your face and expresses itself in your words. Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up…will draw all men unto me” (Jn 12:32). Don’t worry about drawing people to Christ, just introduce Him and He will do the drawing.

THE TIME IS NEAR

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“Know that it is near—at the doors!” Mt 24:33 NKJV

Almost three thousand years ago, God said through the prophet Amos that just before the coming of the Lord, the Jews would return from the four corners of the earth and rebuild the nation of Israel. “I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God” (Am 9:14-15 NIV). In 1948 the nation of Israel was born. In 1949 they elected their first president, hoisted their own flag, instituted their own constitution and started minting their own money. It’s an amazing fulfillment of prophecy. Now read what Jesus said: “Learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Mt 24:32-33 NKJV). In Scripture the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. Surrounded and threatened by hostile neighbors, she stands today as a testimony to the accuracy and reliability of God’s prophetic Word. And the same Christ who announced the rebirth of Israel made an even greater promise to those of us living in the end of the age. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev 3:11 NKJV). Are you ready? Are you living your life in the light of His soon return?

GOD IS FIGHTING WITH YOU

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“Occupy till I come.” Lk 19:13

God has promised you victory. “I give you authority…over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk 10:19 NKJV). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him wholovedus”(Ro8:35&37NKJV). Yousay,“Buttheoddsagainstmedon’tlookgood.” Then you need to look at “God’s odds.” According to His mathematics one can defeat a thousand enemies, but two can defeat ten thousand (See Dt 32:30). God loves to take something that looks small and insignificant, multiply it by Himself and bring victory out of it. When God told Gideon He would use him and three hundred soldiers to destroy an army of hundreds of thousands, Gideon reminded God that he came from the smallest tribe and the smallest family. But God said, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (Jdg 6:16). One “surely” from God does away with all our “maybe’s” and “what if’s.” Gideon told his three hundred men: “When I blow with a trumpet…blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, ‘The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon’” (Jdg 7:18). When you’re swinging your sword on this side, look over your shoulder and you’ll see the Lord swinging His sword on the other side. You’re not alone. God is fighting alongside you, so you will win.

“THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET”

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“Give me life through your word.” Ps 119:37 NLT

Jane Johnson Struck set out on a frigid winter evening to deliver dinner to the family of a friend who had died. Snarled in traffic and juggling an already overloaded schedule, she was feeling sorry for herself—and irritated when she arrived and found nobody home. Using her cell phone to let them know she’d been there, she was dumbfounded when the answering machine kicked in and a familiar voice started singing: “Grab your coat, collect your hat, Leave your worries on the doorstep; Life can be so sweet on the sunny side of the street.” It was her friend Annie, the one who died after a prolonged battle with breast cancer, leaving three kids and a grieving husband. Struck writes: “People who’d been touched by Annie’s larger-than-life personality, perseverance, and testimony in the face of grueling and unfair circumstances, hadn’t expected to hear her voice on the machine. Her indomitable spirit amazed me…she’d talked openly about her prognosis, yet never hesitated to give God glory for the grace and peace she experienced. She knew that life with Jesus, come what may, was a walk on the sunny side of the street.” The Psalmist prayed, “Give me life through your word.” Struck continues: “As I listened to Annie’s voice on the machine…even in death God used her life to challenge me. I drove home pondering how He illuminates the darkest journey…how pity parties keep me from savoring life’s sweetness…then asking forgiveness for my selfish attitudes. It was a powerful reminder that one day life will be complete on the sunny side of the street…in heaven, where there’s no darkness, disease or death.”

YOU’RE PROTECTED FROM EVIL (3)

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“I give…you power…over…the enemy.” Lk 10:19

Have you dabbled in the occult and now you’re wondering what to do? Repent and renounce it. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us…and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn 1:9 NKJV). Note the words “all unrighteousness.” It doesn’t matter what you’ve done; there are no big sins and little sins. God forgives them all! Learn from your past, leave it, and don’t look back. “No one who has become part of God’s family makes a practice of sinning, for Christ…holds him securely and the devil cannot get his hands on him” (1Jn 5:18 TLB). Is Satan powerful? Yes, but Jesus is all-powerful! He said, “All power in heaven and on earth is given unto me,” then he delegated that power to you. “Behold, I give you…all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk 10:19 NKJV). God has given you three powerful weapons of protection: (1) The sword. “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17 NKJV). Satan has the advantage when you don’t know what God says, but he flees when you stand on the Scriptures. (2) The shield. “Taking the shield of faith…you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (v. 16 NKJV). Your faith is a protective shield against the arrows of doubt and fear Satan directs at you. (3) The Spirit. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Ac 1:8 NKJV). Positioned “in Christ” and filled with the Holy Spirit, you’re more than a match for the forces of evil that surround you.

YOU’RE PROTECTED FROM EVIL (2)

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“Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Ps 17:8 NIV

Here are three ways you can open yourself up to the power of evil: (1) By choice. The author of The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey, said, “A successful witch or wizard must first surrender totally to Satan.” You’re probably wondering what kind of person would say or do such a thing. But the fact is, God gives each of us a free will capable of surrendering to Christ or to Satan. Paul writes, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves…so…present your [bodies] as slaves of righteousness” (Ro 6:16,19 NKJV). (2) By unrestrained indulgence. When any natural desire is indulged to excess, it can become an addiction and a force of destruction. Now, let’s be clear here: addiction doesn’t mean someone is demon possessed. Many Christians battle stubborn habits, and Christ has promised to set them free (See Jn 8:32). When you were saved Christ moved in and Satan moved out, because Christ won’t live in a duplex with the Devil. (3) By dabbling in the occult. God told Israel that those who put their trust in mediums were to be cut off from the community (See Lev 20:6). Ever wonder why spiritual mediums can’t pick the right lottery number, win a fortune, and feed the starving masses? Because they’re fake, that’s why! Speaking of Satan, Jesus said, “There is no truth in him…he is a liar and the father of [lies]” (Jn 8:44 NKJV). Don’t mess with the powers of darkness. The only true guidance that comes from a star, comes from Jesus, “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev 22:16 NKJV).

YOU’RE PROTECTED FROM EVIL (1)

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“No evil shall befall you.” Ps 91:10 NKJV

Here’s a promise you can stand on in times of trouble: “Because you have made the Lord…the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (vv. 9-11 NKJV). There’s a spiritual realm around you that’s as real as the physical one you live in. One is the world of darkness, the other is the world of light. One is governed by Satan, the other is governed by God. How else can you account for the brutal, senseless killing of men, women, and children at the hands of evil people? Paul explains it like this: “We are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world” (Eph 6:12 TLB). Does that mean you’re supposed to live in fear? No, and here’s why: (1) You are shielded by the blood of Jesus. Just as the angel of death on the night of the Passover couldn’t enter a home with blood on its doorposts, the blood of Jesus is a protective shield around you that the Devil cannot penetrate. (2) The odds are on your side. When Satan fell from heaven he took one- third of the angels with him. That means we still have two angels for every one of his! “Angels…[are] ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14 NIV). Rejoice: as a redeemed child of God you are protected from evil!

VOLUNTEERS, NOT CONSCRIPTS

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“Whatever we do, it is…because Christ’s love controls us now.” 2Co 5:14 TLB

Paul writes, “Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit, but because Christ’s love controls us now.” God is looking for volunteers, not conscripts. Conscripts are motivated by law; volunteers are motivated by love. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, enlistment centers all over America were jammed with boys too young to fight, men who had retired, and even the blind. One elderly man said to a recruitment officer, “I’d consider it my greatest privilege to die defending this country.” Why do men and women do this? Duty? Yes, but something even greater—devotion! Their hearts have been captured by a cause. Facing the loss of his freedom, his family, his ministry, and possibly his life, Martin Luther told the ecclesiastical powers of his day, “I will not recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God!” No one should ever have to beg and pressure you to teach a Sunday school class, work with young people, give to the cause of Christ, visit the sick, lonely and needy, or serve others. You should be begging for the privilege! Paul said, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Php 3:7-8). Commitment to Christ is like signing your name on a blank check and saying, “Lord, You fill in the amount.” You’re not doing God a favor by serving Him; He’s honoring you by allowing you to serve Him. Today, measure what you would do for the Lord—by what you actually do.

THREE PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESS

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“That you may be successful wherever you go.” Jos 1:7 NIV

God wants you to succeed in life (See Jos 1:8). Once you’re convinced of that: (1) Take into account your temperament. A filet cooks best at a very high heat for a short time, but a chuck roast cooks best at a lower heat for a longer time. Either way, you can have a delicious meal. You just need to know what kind of meat you have, and how to cook it. Are you getting the point? (2) Overcome your fear of being different from others. Because Daniel wouldn’t eat the king’s food or bow to his idols, he landed in a lions’ den. But he came out, and was promoted to a top spot in government (See Da 6:28). You can’t be part of the crowd and still “stand out.” To achieve great things you must trust God, disregard the negative opinions of people, and pursue your destiny. (3) Resist the apathy that often accompanies aging. Keep the enthusiasm of your youth, and mix it with the wisdom of your old age. Don’t lose your sense of idealism. Don’t let day-to-day difficulties discourage you or allow life’s disappointments to get you down. At every age and stage of life there are obstacles and advantages, trials and triumphs. It’s up to you to make the most of the positive, and not let the negative derail you. At seventy, Paul said, “I am ready to come…to…Rome to preach” (Ro 1:15 TLB). At eighty, Moses led Israel out of slavery. At eighty-five, Caleb said, “Give me the mountain…the Lord promised me” (Jos 14:12 NCV). You’re only “old” when your regrets take the place of your dreams.

CARE ENOUGH TO CONFRONT

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“Warn…those who are out of line” 1Th 5:14 AMP

Warn…those who are out of line…encourage the timid…help…the weak.” Sadly, we’d rather stay quiet and be popular than speak difficult truth into the lives of others. One teacher writes: “A church isn’t a group of individuals who happen to meet in the same place every week; it’s a spiritual body…a loving family. It’s far easier to comfort and encourage than to warn or exhort, but both are necessary. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love so that the whole body may ‘grow up in all things.’ If we don’t take the time to exhort, encourage, warn, comfort, uphold and be patient…we [all] suffer in the end. Your body doesn’t function properly when one part is hurting or performing poorly. And the church suffers when one of its members is unruly, fainthearted, weak, or falls into bad doctrine. Letting a body part fester, or not supporting a part that’s hurt, can lead to irrecoverable damage…letting serious issues go unaddressed does a grave disservice to the member in question.” As parents we love our children too much to let bad behavior go unchecked. Down the road we know it will negatively affect their attitude toward authority, relationships, accountability, and personal discipline. We care enough to correct and guide them. Paul says, “If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out” (Gal 6:1 TM). The truth is the only safe ground to stand upon, and your goal should be to speak it in love.