His Last Words on the Cross: It Is Finished

John 19:30 – When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished..

These were His final words on the Cross.  Just seconds before He bowed His head and gave up the ghost He opened His mouth and proclaimed to heaven, to hell, and to earth: It is finished!

CrossMore meaningful and significant words had never fallen on human ears: It is finished.

What had been in the plan and mind of God from the foundations of world was now complete.  It is finished.

It is finished.  It’s done.  On the Cross, I completed what I came to do.  My purpose for coming is now complete.

It’s Done

The debt for sin: Paid in full.  It is finished.

Redemption: Complete.  It is finished.

Principalities: Spoiled.  It is finished.

Powers of darkness: Made a show of openly.  It is finished.

Healing: Purchased.  It is finished.

Restoration: Acquired.  It is finished.

Eternal life: Secured.  It is finished.

Condemnation: Silenced.  It is finished.

Ordinances against us: Abolished.  It is finished.

Chains: Broken.  It is finished.

Prison doors: Opened.  It is finished.

Sight: Recovered.  It is finished.

Bruises: Healed.  It is finished.

Captives: Delivered. It is finished.

Guilt: Pardoned.  It is finished.

Accusations: Cast down.  It is finished.

Judgments: Released.  It is finished.

The transformation of my life into His image is work in progress.  But what the Cross of Calvary accomplished is finished.  The work is done.  The task is complete.

This understanding has revolutionized my prayer and my thinking.  It has done something remarkable to my faith.  We are not trying to finish a work.  The work is already finished.  Jesus already did it.  He said, “It is finished.”  We’re not trying to convince God to do something.  It’s already finished.  We need a shift in our faith!  We need to understand what it means and what it does when we take His word at face value.  It is finished!

Healing

The healing is already done!  Notice what the prophet said before Calvary:

Isaiah 53:5 – But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him; And with his stripes we are healed.

Contrast that with what Peter said after Calvary:

1 Peter 2:24 – 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Healing has already been paid for!  Healing has already been purchased and secured.  It is finished!

That changes the way we pray.  That changes our focus.  We’re not praying, “Oh, God, please heal!” He’s already finished the work!  He’s already paid for it.  Now we’re praying what’s already been paid for to be manifest in the situation. Our prayer is, “Be healed in Jesus Name! Receive it in Jesus’ Name.  Sickness, you have to go, because Jesus already paid the debt.”

It’s the difference between trying to persuade or convince God to do something versus informing or enforcing something God has already done.

It’s Time to Go!

A judge can rule that a tenant is in violation of a lease.  A verdict is rendered.  The decision is made and entered into the record.  The judge signs the decree and the court stamps the paperwork.  It is finished!

crossBut the deadbeat tenant is still in the house!  He’s not going to go voluntarily.  Even though the case and ruling is finished, someone – in the authority of the judge – has to confront the tenant and inform him he must go!  The issue is not pending or awaiting a ruling.  It is finished.  It’s not up for debate or deliberation.  It’s already done. But someone must inform and enforce what the judge has already decided.

That’s what prayer is.  We’re not trying to convince God to heal, save, or deliver.  He already did it at the Cross.  He said, “It is finished!”  Our prayer is just informing the unwanted tenant that he must go.

That’s a different mindset.  That’s a different sort of faith.  Sometimes while praying we forget what Calvary already did.  We need to remind ourselves, “It is finished.”  My prayers are just enforcing upon the enemy what Jesus already paid for.

Your healing is already paid for.

Your deliverance is already paid for.

Victory has already been secured.

The miracle has already been bought by the blood.

We Are Distributors

It’s time to pray with that kind of faith and understanding.  Stand in the completed work of the Cross.  Stand by faith upon His words, “It is finished.”  Declare in Jesus’ authority what has already been finished by Him.

We are not producers – we are distributors.  Jesus was the producer.  So quit trying to produce something.  He already produced the work.  We are simply distributing what Christ already produced.

We’re not manufacturers.  We are distributors!  We are not trying to manufacture a healing, a miracle, or a victory.  It is already finished.  We are simply distributors – freely giving out what Jesus has already secured.  We are just enforcing on earth what has already been finished in heaven.

Not every tenant leaves easily.  Some situations require persistence in prayer.  Sometimes removing an unwanted tenant requires some reinforcements – others to pray and intercede with you.  But keep the faith.  Don’t stop praying.  The enemy must go because the miracle, healing, victory, provision has already been paid for!  It is finished!

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Here’s a Mop!

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion.

Philippians 2:22: that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.

We have focused the last few weeks on Paul’s frustration with a shortage of quality leaders and why Timothy was the one sent by Paul to minister to the Philippians. We’ve discussed Timothy’s unselfish attitude and genuine motives.

Before we move to the next passage in chapter two, let’s look at one more reason why Paul used timothy for the important assignment of traveling to Philippi to check on the Philippians: Timothy had proven himself by serving with Paul!

22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.

Growing Up in the Church

I grew up in the church. My father was the pastor. As young teenager in a pastor’s family, I did just about every remedial task possible in our small, new church. My dad worked me! He said, “so, you want to do something for God and be used by God? Ok, here’s a mop!” I cleaned the church bathrooms. I cut the church grass. My father and I were at every Saturday work day. I manned the nursery. I taught about every Sunday school class at one time or another. There is probably not any job in the local church that I wasn’t given to do while growing up in the church.

PhilippiansI served in a variety of places long before I ever stood behind a pulpit and preached a sermon. Many times my spiritual ambitions and dreams seemed loftier than the mundane jobs I was given by my father.

I’ve learned a lot since those early years in a small home mission’s church. I’ve learned that dad knew what he was doing when he handed me a broom. Remedial tasks often serve to prove whether a person is ready for greater responsibility:

Matthew 25:21 – …thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things….

A Sign to a Father

A willingness to serve wherever needed proved to my father that I was ready to be given greater responsibility in the church. Those who feel like they’re too good to clean Sunday school classrooms, cut the church grass or pick up people for Sunday school are really not ready for greater spiritual responsibilities like ministering the Word of God or overseeing the Church of God.

Timothy served alongside Paul as a “son with the father.” Typically the son is given what many think are less honorable tasks. But Timothy’s willingness to be a servant and do whatever task given proved to Paul that Timothy was ready for more responsibility.

A Sign to the Philippians

Not only did Timothy’s heart of a servant prove something to Paul, it proved something to the Philippians!

…But ye know the proof of him….

The Philippians knew the heart of Timothy, because they knew his record of faithfulphilippians service. They received the ministry of Timothy because they had seen the faithful service of Timothy. I know young men or women who wonder why some don’t readily receive their ministry. Perhaps it’s because the “some” have been a silent witness of an unwillingness to serve. Or perhaps they’ve seen an arrogant attitude that says, “I’m too good to clean a church bathroom!”

I didn’t do all those remedial tasks in the church to be seen of men.   I don’t think that ever crossed my mind. But the church folks must have seen me doing them. And when the time came to step in the role of the pastor of that church, the saints had no trouble in submitting to my spiritual leadership and honoring me as their pastor.

I’m certainly not likening myself to Timothy nor pinning a star on my lapel. This story in Philippians just reminds me of how grateful I am for a father who knew what he was doing when he gave me the church mower. Looking back now, I’m so thankful God helped me have a willingness to serve. Serving as a young man in our church opened the door to greater spiritual responsibility. Had I not be willing to serve “as a son with the father,” perhaps I wouldn’t be the pastor of Faith Apostolic Church today.

~Matthew Ball

The Impotence of Safe Zones and Safe Churches

Safe Zones

A dark and disturbing trend is descending over institutions of higher learning in our land of the free and home of the brave. Students are demanding “safe zones” on college campuses, where they can be shielded from uncomfortable or dissenting viewpoints. In these so-called, safe places, ideas that might offend are unwelcome. The free exchange of differing viewpoints – free speech as our founding fathers called it – is deemed less important than an environment that doesn’t offend.

Safe ZoneThe sad irony is that safe zones in places of higher learning undermine the very purpose of those places. It is the free exchange of ideas – even offensively different ideas – that encourages growth and learning. How can iron sharpen iron when there is no clashing of thought? Safe zones produce weak minds. It is the conflict that produces growth.

Safe Churches

I’ve heard a lot of chatter recently in religious circles about safe places, safe zones and safe conversations. One pastor has openly declared that his church is a “safe church.” It’s bad enough that hypersensitivity about offending someone has infiltrated schools and workplaces.  But when that attitude creeps into the church, we are in danger of losing our effectiveness.

While I certainly don’t advocate purposely being offensive or confrontational, we mustn’t forget that the truth does indeed confront.   The truth confronts religious tradition. The truth confronts humanism. It confronts sin. Jesus said, “Speak the truth in love.” Such a statement is unnecessary unless the truth has the potential to offend someone.

There is no conversion without conflict.

Many religious leaders have become so obsessed with not offending anyone that they have become spiritually impotent. If your message is so “safe” that no one could possibly object, then it’s too safe to make any real impact.

We shouldn’t purposefully make the message offensive, but the true message will offend some. And if it offends no one, then it has been so diluted that it has lost its power to convert. There is no conversion without conflict. There is no revelation without adversity – just ask John the revelator.

GospelIt wasn’t a watered-down, safe, palatable message of Jesus that caused some to walk away, and at the same time, others to say, “Where else could we go? Only You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus taught some hard sayings. Some rejected Jesus, some accepted Jesus, but rarely, if ever, was anyone indifferent. People were usually either forsaking all to follow Him or picking up stones to kill Him. Some cried, “we’ve never heard this kind of teaching.” Others cried, “blasphemy!”

Revival or Riot?

I’ve often heard people say of the apostles and early church, “Everywhere they went it was revival or riot!” That’s actually not true. It was revival and riot. Think about it. At the same time, it was revival and riot. Their message was so powerful some surrendered all and were converted. Others took up stones to kill them or tried to run them out of town. When’s the last time anyone tried to run us out of town for our message? I’m not advocating that we be purposefully divisive or confrontational. I’m just afraid we’ve become so worried about offending that our message has lost its power to convert.

Safe conversations don’t produce conversions. Safe places don’t have revival. Safe congregations are just places where people congregate.

No Conversion without Conflict

I’ll never forget something I heard from pastor Marrell Cornwell. He said we avoid the conflict. We avoid teaching or preaching parts of the Word that might make someone uncomfortable. When dealing with a potential convert, we like to highlight the blessings of being a Christian, but hide the demands or requirements in the fine print. We avoid telling them the Truth when it might clash with their ideology. We delay sharing the “hard sayings” until we’ve loved them long enough and they love us deep enough that they won’t walk away. What pastor Cornwell said is so profound. He said, “It is the conflict that produces conversion.” We’re avoiding the very thing that produces a true disciple.

We’re reluctant to say, “Yes, baptism must be in Jesus’ Name.” Or, “Yes you must be filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.” We delay as long as possible the talk of holiness or marital fidelity or how fornication is not pleasing to God. We avoid conflict. Yet, we are avoiding the very thing that brings conversion.

“How dare you tell me I was baptized wrong!” “Are you telling me my grandmother wasn’t saved?” “I think all religions just lead to the same place – I can’t accept that Jesus is the only way!” We shy away from conversations that might lead to such responses. But, in doing so, we are shying away from the very thing that produces a convert. There is no conversion without a crisis of faith. It’s the clashing of realities – the painful awareness of one’s lost-ness – that brings conversion. The acceptance of the truth rarely happens without first, a rejection and an offense.

The Early Church

Look at Paul! He kicked against the pricks. He fought the Way. He resisted the Truth. When he finally came face to face with the One, the pillars of his entire religious upbringing came crashing down. But it was the conflict, the crises, and the painful realization that his truth had been error, which brought him to conversion. And what a convert he made!

Too many modern Christians are so afraid of making people uncomfortable that there is nothing in their message that might prick the heart. In safe churches there is no talk of sin, judgment, repentance or the coming of the Lord. But there is no conversion without a pricking of the heart. Just look at the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost.

Speaking in TonguesI heard recently of a so-called, apostolic church that frowns upon anyone speaking in tongues during their services. Spiritual gifts are stifled. In the attempt to be a seeker sensitive, safe church, nothing is done that might appear odd or strange to an unbeliever. On the Day of Pentecost the perturbed crowd cried, “What meaneth this?” But the “What meaneth this” turned into “What must we do?”

There is no birth without pain and conflict. No one is converted without a “passing away” of old things. And a passing away is never easy. There’s always pain involved. There’s always separation involved.

Safe places are impotent. Safe sermons are powerless. Safe churches don’t produce real converts. They are so afraid of running people off that no-one is running to Jesus. May God give us the courage to speak the truth in love. May we preach the truth without fear or favor – for only the Truth can set men free.

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: If the Lord Wills…

Thanks for joining me for our Friday devotion!  Today we’re looking again at Philippians 2:19:

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you…”

The New Living Translations reads:

“ If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you….”

philippiansIt sure seems like a good idea. It makes total sense to send Timothy to the Philippians, doesn’t it? Timothy is my son in the faith. I trust Timothy. He is one of the few men in my life who is like-minded.  It seems logical for me to send Timothy as a messenger to Philippi.

But Paul prefaced his statement about sending Timothy to the Philippians with the words,

“If it’s the Lord’s will…”

Paul had lived for God long enough to know that just because something seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the will of God.

Paul had come to learn that every decision should be made after seeking God’s guidance and direction. He had learned the wisdom in always asking, “Lord, is this Your will?” I’m certain Paul was well acquainted with Isaiah’s words:

Isaiah 55:9 – For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, And my thoughts than your thoughts.

Paul was wiser at this point of his ministry. When he was younger he assumed it a good thing to go preach in Asia and Bithynia, but the Spirit forbade him!

Acts 16:6-7: Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

Why did the Spirit forbid them? It wasn’t the will of God. God knows. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We would do well to never assume to know the answer or the course of action but to always seek after God’s will.

“If the Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise…”

Obviously, Paul did preach in Asia at some point because the scriptures tell us that all of Asia heard the Word of God. But in Acts 16, it wasn’t the right time. Some things may ultimately be God’s will but perhaps not God’s will right now. God’s timing is perfect, just like His ways are perfect.

I’ve heard the old-timers use the disclaimer, “If the Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise…” Their wisdom comes from the scripture:

James 4:15 – For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. KJV

Too many people are haphazard with the will of God. I’m afraid some go weeks or months or years without seeking the will of God. They don’t pause long enough to ask the question, “Is this the Lord’s will?” They make decisions without giving thought to God’s plan and purpose.

When we say, “Lord willing,” we are acknowledging that God’s plan is important to philippiansus and we are seeking to know for sure if the decision we’re contemplating is His will. By saying, “Lord willing,” we are demonstrating that He is in control of our lives and His will always trumps our own.  When we say, “Lord willing,” we are confessing that only God knows what tomorrow holds.

I think we’ve all experienced the trouble that follows making decisions without seeking God’s will. We’ve learned that hard way that God’s way is best.  Don’t assume anything. Our plans should always come with the footnote, “If it’s the Lord’s will.” Before every decision, every move, every step, seek God. Ask Him to reveal His will.  He will not hide it from you. He delights in revealing His plan to those who ask.

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Stay Positive!

Thanks for joining me for our Friday devotion!  Today we’re looking at Philippians 2:19:

Philippians 2:19: But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.

PhilippiansPaul is writing this letter to the Philippians from prison. He was living in a day when communication was drastically different. Paul had no cell phone. He had no access to email or social media. There was no post office to deliver a package or letter. The only way Paul could find out how the Philippians were doing was by sending a messenger. So Paul sent Timothy to Philippi to see how the church was faring.

Paul was anticipating a good report even though he had not personally checked on the Philippians in some time. The New International Version says is like this:

“…that I may be cheered when I hear your state.”

He expects to rejoice when he hears about their condition. Obviously, a negative report would not have brought him joy. So it’s clear he was anticipating hearing good things from Timothy about the Philippians.

PhilippiansDon’t you love positive people? Don’t you love people who are always expecting the best and looking for the best? Paul was like that.

Some people are just the opposite. They always anticipate bad news and come to expect the worst in people and in situations.  Some people I know would have written the message like this:

I’m sending Timothy to you. I expect he’ll bring back a disappointing report. I’m sure things are falling apart in Philippi.  “

People like that are draining. They sap your faith and energy. Furthermore, no one wants to hang around those kind of people.

We don’t want to be naïve nor turn a blind eye to real issues, but we can choose to keep a positive outlook. Choose to look for the best in people. Choose to anticipate the best in situations because we tend to get what we expect over time.

We tend to get what we expect over time.

The Philippians were not perfect. They had a lot of growing up to do. They were still somewhat young in their faith. Paul was not blind to the fact that the Philippians had plenty of maturing to do. Yet he still was expecting to hear a report that would bring him joy.

Leadership Note

Great leaders make a conscious choice to focus on the good. Paul could have focused on what was wrong with the Philippians. He could have been fixated on all that still needed improvement.  But he chose to focus on what was right with the Philippians. Great leaders have that quality.

Warding off Discouragement

Paul’s positive attitude inoculated him against discouragement. A key to joy is keeping a positive attitude and staying focused on the good.  Our enemy tries to get us so focused on what is wrong in our lives that we fail to see what’s right in our lives.

How’s your outlook? What are you focused on? What do you see in people and in situations? A key to effective leadership and personal joy is keeping the right attitude.

~Matthew Ball