Discipline to Finish the Race

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:28-30, NKJV).

Christ knew many of his followers would not have what it took to see them through. He knew they would turn back and not finish the race. I believe this is the most tragic condition possible for a believer. They start out fully intending to lay hold of Christ, to grow into a mature disciple and become more like Jesus; then they drift away. Such a person is the one who laid a foundation and could not finish because he did not first count the cost.

What a joy it is to meet those who are indeed finishing the race! These believers are growing in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ. They are being transformed daily, from moment to moment. Paul says to them encouragingly, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is not heaven these believers seek but Christ in his glory!

I know that many who read this particular message are in the process of pausing or taking a step backward. It may seem like a small step, but it will cause a swift descent away from his love. If this is true of you, realize the Holy Spirit is calling you all the way back, back to repentance, self-denial and surrender. At this very moment, time is a big factor. If you ever intend to lay hold of Christ, do it now. See it through!

Forgoing ‘Freedoms’ Out of Love

Gary Wilkerson

In the book 1 Corinthians, Paul was responding to a letter he had received from a Corinthian family of Christians who had reported some problems in the church.

Part of his letter says, “But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:7-9, ESV).

Many commentaries pronounce that this chapter is where strong Christians are having to placate weak Christians, and that interpretation implies Paul should be saying to these weak Christians, “Come on, guys, grow up. Start eating meat sacrificed to idols. It’s no big thing. Go into the bars and temples. Spend your time with these different things. It’s okay for you. Get with it!”

That is actually the opposite of what Paul is saying.

Because of their former associations, some believers are not going to be able to accept or do the same kinds of things that don’t bother certain Christians. In other words, these ‘weak’ believers used to go to these bars. They used to go to these clubs. They used to engage in those kinds of sexual activities. They used to compromise with all these things.

Now all of a sudden, there’s something in their heart that says, “Man, that’s my former life. I can’t go back.” They understand the Word of the Lord when it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and points out that a person who returns to his past poor choices is like a dog going back to its own vomit (see Proverbs 26:11).

They truly grasp the prayer “Oh God, keep my conscience pure.”

This is not works-based faith. This is not me earning my salvation by trying to behave like a good, moral Christian. This has far less to do with morality than it has to do with honoring the righteousness of Christ that is freely given to us. Paul wanted Christ-followers to be people who have a tender conscience and a soft heart toward the Word of the Lord. We are called to honor Christ in every part of our lives.

Trials for a Greater Purpose

Carter Conlon

Perhaps today you are experiencing betrayal, persecution, torment in your mind, trouble with your children, the loss of someone close to your heart or some other experience that has left you with almost unspeakable pain. It has driven you to prayer where you ask, “Lord, is this really necessary? Can’t you just take it away in a moment? Why the struggle? Why the fury?”

Our answer lies in the Psalmist’s poem, “He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters. He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Psalm 105:17-19, NKJV).

The Hebrew word for “tested” is seraph, which means “to melt metal, to refine, to purge gold or silver by fire in order to separate it from the impurities in it.” Here is what the scripture is saying: God gave Joseph a promise, but until that promise became a reality, the Word of God led Joseph to a place where he was put through the fire and purged of everything within him that was unlike the heart of God.

God knew there would be a myriad of people who were going to need provision, not only Joseph’s own family but also the nation where he lived. There would be people starving and without hope. The Lord wanted to put something in Joseph’s hand that would bring deliverance to his generation, but he simply could not put this kind of treasure in the hands of an untested vessel.

As you head into a season of hardship, have you ever considered that the Lord is sending you ahead as he did Joseph? His mercy is sending you ahead to prepare you so that he might put something in your hand for people who will be in need.

The apostle Peter explained it this way: “ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NKJV).

Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.

Communion Is Greater than Service

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Jesus told his disciples, “I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30, NKJV). The Lord has spread a table in the heavenlies for his followers. What an exciting prospect!

When the apostle Paul said, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8), I believe he meant that we have been assigned a seat in the heavenlies with Christ at his royal table. Paul was saying, “Always show up. Never let it be said your seat is empty.”

The sad truth is that the church of Jesus Christ simply does not comprehend what it means to keep the feast. We do not understand the majesty and honor accorded us by having been raised by Christ to sit with him in heavenly places. We have become too busy to sit at his table. We mistakenly derive our spiritual joy from service instead of communion. We run ourselves ragged giving our bodies and minds to his work, but we seldom keep the feast.

We do more and more for a Lord whom we know less and less.

The one thing our Lord seeks above all else from his servants, ministers and shepherds is communion at his table. This table is a place for spiritual intimacy, and it is spread daily. Keeping the feast means coming to him continually for food, strength, wisdom and fellowship. Ever since the Cross, all spiritual giants have had one thing in common: They revered the table of the Lord.

Our vision of Christ today is too small, too limited, but as we continually come to the Lord’s table and spend time in his presence, our understanding of his awe-inspiring person will grow. Someone with an increasing revelation of Christ’s vastness need fear no problem, no devil, no power on this earth. He knows that Christ is bigger than it all.

If we had this kind of revelation of how vast he is, how boundless and immense, we would never again be overwhelmed by life’s problems.

Faith to Withstand the Battle

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Let me tell you how and where Paul produced his epistles. He wrote them in dark prison cells. He wrote them after being scourged or having survived another shipwreck. He was intimately familiar with hardship and suffering.

Paul knew that all of the truth and revelation he taught came from the battlefield of faith, and he rejoiced in his afflictions for the gospel’s sake. He said, “Now I can preach with all authority to every prisoner who’s been locked up with no hope, to everybody who has ever looked death in the face. God’s Spirit is making me a tested veteran so I can speak his truth to everyone who has ears to hear.”

If you’re going through hardship, God hasn’t turned you over to the power of Satan. No, he’s allowing your trial because the Holy Spirit is performing an unseen work in you. Christ’s glory is being formed in you for all eternity. You’ll never get true spirituality from someone or something else. If you’re going to taste God’s glory, it’s going to have to come to you right where you are in your present circumstances, pleasant or unpleasant.

I believe one of the great secrets of Paul’s spirituality was his readiness to accept whatever condition he was in without complaining. He writes, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, NKJV).

Paul is saying, “I don’t try to protect myself from my unpleasant circumstances. I don’t beg God for relief from them. On the contrary, I embrace them. I know from my history with the Lord that he’s doing something eternal in me.”

Our part in every trial is to trust God for all the power and resources we need to find contentment in the midst of our suffering. Please don’t misunderstand me. Being “content” in our trials doesn’t mean we enjoy them. It simply means we no longer try to protect ourselves from them. We are content to stay put and endure whatever is handed to us because we know our Lord is conforming us to the image of his Son.