“Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away” (Matthew 27:59-60).
When Jesus was placed in the tomb following his crucifixion, he left the disciples heartbroken and baffled. When the massive stone rolled in front of the doorway to seal the tomb, everyone had a sad sense of finality. After all, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and then he bowed his head and died.
Jesus’ faithful followers believed he was the hope of the world, the salvation of Israel, the light of the Gentiles. He was the great healer who raised the dead, set captives free, and preached the good news to the poor. And then he was gone!
When Jesus pronounced, “It is finished,” his followers must have thought he meant that it was completely over, the end of the story. Their reaction to his burial bore out their sense of hopelessness — but they did not know what was happening just on the other side of the stone.
Too often, as Christians endure the trials of life, they also experience feelings of despair. All they see is a stone permanently rolled into place, separating them from hope. But just like the followers of Jesus, they are looking at things from this side of the stone. Inside the tomb resides resurrection life — a miracle just waiting to happen!
The devil may declare victory, but a powerful shaking is beginning. Jesus is on the move and at some point, in his glorious timing, he will step through that doorway into your life and your trial will be changed in an instant. Satan does not have the last word. Death no longer has its sting. Light has conquered darkness and the love of Jesus has conquered all evil.
Is there a stone standing between you and God’s deliverance right now? God is present in your life at this very moment (he is never not at work), and the stone is being rolled away. He has triumphed over all the powers of darkness and by faith his victory is yours.
“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8).
Jesus took captivity captive, which means that the former restrictions on your life — the voices that have told you that you are not smart enough or talented enough, the negative words that have been spoken over you — are all gone. You are now a new creation in Christ and you have a unique calling.
This unique calling on each of our lives will inevitably lead us to places where we do not have the natural strength to go in order that Christ might be glorified through it all. That is why he “gave gifts to men.” In other words, we are each given exactly what we need in order to fulfill his purpose in our lives.
As a young pastor in Canada, I was determined to win the whole world to Christ! I set out with a passion to do what I felt needed to be done, fasting, praying, and traveling extensively to minister. In doing so, I completely depleted my physical strength by the time I was thirty-seven years old. God lovingly but definitely showed me that when I stand before him one day, there will be no reward for things he did not ask me to do. He wanted me to be responsible for the small congregation I was entrusted with — all one hundred and fifty-eight of them. He made it clear to me that their walk with God was my main responsibility. That day I declared, “Lord, for the rest of my life I will serve you where you plant me and not look beyond what you have given me to do.” A great joy came into my heart and my physical strength began to return.
Remember, God has strategically placed you exactly where you are. You do not have to be great in the eyes of men. Just serve well and trust him daily for the grace to fulfill all his purposes for your life — up until the very moment you stand before his throne and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (see Matthew 25:23).
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
“Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2). The apostle Paul was urging the Ephesians here, “Jesus truly loves you, so walk as one who is greatly loved by God!”
Many Christian believers have known about God’s love since childhood when they sang a favorite children’s chorus: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Others may have theological knowledge of God’s love because they heard sermons about it and even memorized Scriptures. But they have never understood, deep down, the love that God has for them nor experienced the peace that such understanding brings to the heart.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Rooted and grounded here means “to build under you a deep and stable foundation of knowing and understanding the love of God to you.” In other words, the knowledge of God’s love to you is the foundational truth upon which all other truths must build!
God wants you to be able to seize the truth of his love and make it the foundation of your Christian walk. He wants you to put out your spiritual hands and say, “I’m going to lay hold of this truth and appropriate it in my life.”
May the Holy Spirit enable you to comprehend the truth of Christ’s love for you — today!
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).
The sin of drifting away from Christ is the most tragic, dangerous sin of all — and no believer is immune. Even the most devoted believer can begin drifting by getting lazy and passive about the things of the Lord. Once that begins to happen, it becomes harder and harder to get back into intimate communion with Christ. You may know certain people who were once tender, loving Christians yet today they seem like different people. Most drifters do not recognize themselves as being in danger.
The history of God’s people has been one of backsliding, neglecting and forgetting God. Moses and the prophets seemed incredulous at the tendency of God’s people to quickly forget the Lord and drift back to their old ways.
Just before he died, Moses looked back over the history of God’s children in the wilderness. Nearly an entire generation of complaining, backbiting, unbelieving people had been wiped out by God’s judgment, consumed in the hot desert. But a faithful remnant — tried, tested, separated — remained true to the Lord. Moses told them, “Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor; for the Lord your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed [idol worship]. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today … For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:3-4, 7).
Moses was essentially saying, “You stayed true in a time of great apostasy! You never gave in to idol worship, as those did who were destroyed. And no one has had God nearer to them than you have.” These were the ones who entered the Promised Land — into the Lord’s fullness.
Do you remember a time when you felt nearer to him than you do now? When you felt his presence more readily and heard his voice more clearly? It might be time to examine your heart to be sure you are continuing to press in with Jesus.
“When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).
When Jesus speaks of going into a secret place to seek the Father, he is talking about something much greater than a physical closet. He is referring to any place where you can be alone with him in intimate communion.
Do you have a place of prayer? Do you have a habit of shutting yourself in with God? It could be in your car while you commute to work or in your study at home. The Holy Spirit woos you and your spirit responds, “I must talk with my Father today!” Having a prayer habit, a daily practice of disciplining yourself to come before God, is vital to your spiritual growth.
Jesus warned against hypocrisy in prayer. He drew a dramatic distinction between those who seek God in the secret place and those who pray so that they can be seen by others as holy. Hypocrites are actors, people who act holy in order to receive the praise of others. Jesus said there are many such actors in his church: “When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).
Far too many Christians do not practice a wonderful, daily communion with the Lord. The vast majority pray only in church and at meals, with perhaps a few quick words to God before going to bed. Beloved, there is absolutely no power in haphazard, on-again-off-again praying. God sees the very depths of your being and he desires for you to seek him with all your heart.
The habit of daily drawing near to God is meant for every one of us! “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (Psalm 119:2).