Our church basketball team was competing against some intimidating players and the score was uncomfortably close. The other team pulled ahead in the last few minutes of the game, and our team had a decision to make. With just a few minutes left they could play half-heartedly just to make it through the game, or they could press in and finish well. They chose to give it their all, and they won the game in the final seconds. We were on our feet cheering wildly for them. The effort they put forth from the very start was important, but they had to accelerate when it got close to the end because the situation called for it.
According to Scripture, we are living in the last days and we have a choice to make. We can casually live our lives, blending into the darkness around us, or we can press into the Kingdom of God with all our time, resources and effort and be overcomers. I can’t help but wonder if we are not wasting precious time that could be used for Jesus. Are we busy entertaining ourselves and securing our present and future comfort instead of living the gospel and making it known to others? Or have we accepted the challenge to accelerate and make the final seconds count? We are facing an intimidating foe, but we already have the assurance of victory if we follow Jesus Christ to the end.
Are we giving Him our all, or have we become caught up in the spirit of this world? There are a few minutes left in this dispensation of time and it is crucial that we examine how we are spending it.
In these last days, we have at our disposal the Spirit of the Living God Who has chosen to enable us to do the work of His kingdom by placing in us His power and His wisdom. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and explained what was happening. He said, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:16-18)
We are still living in the last days. His Spirit will still work in us and through us, so why isn't He? Could it possibly be because we are too full of the world to allow Him in? That we are just going through the motions of religion, instead of being empowered by the Spirit? When we make the decision to lose our lives so we can gain His, we will learn the value of depending on Him and obeying Him even when it doesn’t make sense to us. It will change everything about our lives and will cost all our time and effort. We become powerless when we are not willing to surrender everything to gain Christ.
Another passage of Scripture concerning the last days describes this dilemma in detail. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 in the Amplified Bible depicts the moral and spiritual condition of our times. "But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]."
Think about it. Most people are so stressed that they are like a rubber band stretched to the limit and ready to break. There is trouble everywhere we turn making life in general hard to bear, not to mention all the catastrophes. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities and chaos in our own strength is stressful. Let’s read on.
"For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. [[They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God."
Pick up a newspaper. Watch the news on television or check it out on your mobile device. Just take a look around you. It is incredible how accurately this portion of Scripture describes our world today. How did we get here? Verse five gives us the answer: "For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them]." He says those who should have the power of God active in their lives have turned to a form of religion and do not have His Spirit working through them.
When we lose the power of God in our lives, we fall into the same pattern as the world. We begin to view salvation as a transaction made with the organized church instead of the genuineness of the powerful transformation the Holy Spirit brings in our lives. We talk fondly about the power our forefathers had in their lives but are strangers to the power of the Holy Spirit in our own. So, we struggle to carry on His work without Him.
There is a downward spiral to this kind of life. We are at a loss as how to handle our own spiritual struggles or those of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are at a loss because we lack the power of God to give us His wisdom and to guide and empower us.
When we are in charge of the gospel, we begin to make changes to our beliefs and God's commandments so that they accommodate our "form of religion". That’s why so many preach a cheap, easy gospel that fits well into our busy lifestyles. It is a neatly packaged gospel that doesn't offend anyone, doesn’t cost us anything and that we can manage and control. That is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. The essence of His gospel is total surrender and total freedom; persecution and blessing; spiritual warfare and perfect peace; meekness and power; losing and gaining.
When will we get tired of being defeated in our prayer life, our relationships, and trying to micro-manage God? It is not our responsibility to figure out everything. God doesn't need our help. He desires our surrender and for us to get close enough to hear Him. If we can figure it out and control it, then it is not God!
We cannot save people by manipulating the mood and atmosphere. We cannot change people's hearts by coercing them to repeat a prayer. If God is not drawing them, they cannot come to Him. We need the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to do the work Jesus commissioned us to do. That’s why Jesus sent Him.
2 Peter 3 speaks of the last days with its "scoffers, walking after their own lusts" and wasting time with unbelief. It says "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." But he calls for those who will hear to draw close to God and stay faithful, to look for the "coming of the day of God" and for "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Then he tells us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
The more we allow the Spirit of God to develop the nature and power of Jesus Christ in us, the more He can accomplish through us. Now is the time for the true Church, the Body of Christ, to rise up and be the Church, without spot and blemish, completely sold out to Him. Until we know Him intimately, we will remain strangers to the power of the Gospel and the Spirit Who has been given to us.
The church in Galatia had become confused about the true gospel and was following after false teaching. Paul wrote to them and said, “I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel. Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you [with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel] and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) [into something which it absolutely is not]. (Galatians 1:6-7 - Amplified Bible)
We are in the last days. There are many false teachings and false spirits that claim to be Christian, but if they are not following the teachings of Jesus, they are not Christian. They are proclaiming a man-made teaching in His name, but are without His power. We cannot afford to be slack in these last days. We need to read His Word for ourselves and believe what it says no matter who offers a different gospel. Now is the time to accelerate. Now is the time to live and move and have our being in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are in the “last seconds”. What are we going to do?
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