Today I want to challenge you to allow the oil of God’s encouragement to be poured into you so you can rise above negative thinking and prepare to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life!
The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me”. Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!’ And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:43-46
Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That was the cynical, piercing remark of a man who probably lived in Bethsaida, a colourful, cosmopolitan, attractive place. Nathaniel, along with others, had nothing good to say about Nazareth.
Is that how others talk about you? More importantly, is that how you talk about yourself? God is more interested in what you say about yourself, than what others say about you. Many people are influenced by a form of negative thinking which is destructive and inhibits them in everything they seek to do. You may have a bold exterior, but you know that on the inside you are plagued by self-doubt that comes out of negative experiences. And the enemy, of course, puts his spin on it all so that God’s will for our lives is frustrated through the negativism that I call “Nazareth thinking”!
Nazareth was a remote, tiny Galilean town, high up on the hills. It was inaccessible, insignificant and wasn’t even included in the census lists of the period. It didn’t count! Nothing great or particularly important ever happened there. Nazareth was a byword for insignificance itself.
Are you suffering from ‘Nazareth negativism’?
Now, this deep seated negativism surrounding Nazareth is a problem that we can all face. You may say, “None of my family ever amounted to much” and therefore you have a very low expectation of yourself. You may be suffering from Nazareth negativism. It’s like a weight that presses you down and holds you back – an inferiority that chokes your self-confidence. You keep saying to yourself over and over again, “I can’t! I can’t!.” But it is time to learn to say, “I can! I can! I can!”
It is not just a question of positive thinking. We are walking with Jesus, so Christians ought to be the most positive people on the earth. But sadly, we’re often the most negative people because the enemy has a vested interest in accusing us and tearing us down. We become slaves to the opinion of others as we strive to show them that we’re not really as bad as we think we really are! And then we’re trapped in an encircling gloom of depression and hopelessness. You wake up morning by morning to the daily realisation that you are living in Nazareth!
Jesus is at your address!
Jesus is forever known as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. That is what made Nathaniel jump in and say, “This is ridiculous. The one who is supposed to fulfil the law and the prophets is from… Nazareth?” God had a purpose in raising Jesus in Nazareth! First of all, it was a means of protection. He came up out of Egypt and was raised in Nazareth – a place of security, a place remote and out of view – where Jesus could be kept secure and where he wouldn’t be noticed for a period of time. But also it was a fulfilment of prophecy. It was God’s way of doing things!
God caused Jesus to arise out of the obscurity of Nazareth because he specialises in picking up the lonely, the despised, the rejected, the forgotten and the forsaken and giving them a place in his kingdom. If you are living in Nazareth today – God is on your side. Look at the marvellous way the apostle Paul puts this:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
1 Corinthians 1: 26-29
Because we serve the God of Nazareth we’ve been delivered from everything that makes us insignificant including the accusations of the enemy. God will bypass the complacent and the arrogant, the mighty and noble, and put his Spirit upon the hungry hearts of the lowly people who say, “Lord I may not have much to give you, but such as I have I give it to you.” You are a brand snatched from the fire. In Zechariah 3 we read the story of Joshua the high priest who was clothed in filthy garments. Standing next to him was Satan, the adversary, accusing him constantly.
And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan. The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Zechariah 3:2
And then the Lord commanded that Joshua’s filthy clothes be removed and that he be given the beautiful, dignified, spotless garments of the high priestly ministry. And so God silenced forever the accusations of the enemy!
You count before God!
God has set you free, given you new clothes and has silenced forever the accusations of the enemy. Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses from every sin! The accusations of the enemy have no more power over you. No weapon formed against you shall prosper and you shall refute every tongue that accuses you. This is your heritage because you belong to him! He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that he may seat him with princes · with the princes of his people. Psalm 113:7-8
We are a kingdom of priests
The Lord Jesus raised us out of the dung hill and he’s set us among princes. And now the stench of the dung hill is no longer around us. Instead there is a fragrance of heaven, the sweet perfume of the kingdom resting upon us. It speaks not of who we were but of who we are. We sit now in a dignified place among the other nobles in the kingdom of God. We are a kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood. That’s what he’s made us because he’s the God of Nazareth! Another reason why Jesus is identified with Nazareth is because God takes the devil on his own grounds.
God doesn’t do his battles in the safety and security of heaven – he goes into enemy territory! He doesn’t play at home, he goes and plays in enemy territory. Because that’s where it counts, and that’s where he wins! He’s the God of Nazareth. God has no fear of the devil. He defeats him on his own ground. Where is the devil’s ground? What is the devil’s territory? Sin, sickness, demonisation and death – and Jesus met each one and defeated them at the cross!
Isaiah 53 tells us this so clearly: For He was despised and rejected hy men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6
That’s what it means to be a Christian! You acknowledge that Jesus Christ has carried your sins on the cross and that by believing in him you are set free! Jesus had no fear – he went straight into sin’s territory itself and broke the power of the enemy.
He still calls himself ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’
After Jesus had emerged from the grave as the victorious, resurrected Lord, he still called himself “Jesus Christ of Nazareth”! Forever he is recognised as Jesus of Nazareth – not Jesus Christ of Bethlehem, the place of his birth, nor Jesus Christ of Jerusalem, the place of his death, but Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the place of his obscurity! And it’s that name he’s pleased to honour.
Throughout the book of Acts, starting in chapter 3:1-10, when the beggar outside the Temple is healed, disease, demons and death itself are challenged by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It’s that name that the Father is pleased to honour and it’s that name that Jesus is pleased to give credit to!
But what about Nazareth and you? You say, “Well, the world doesn’t recognise me! It doesn’t even notice me!” But that may be part of God’s plan. The world and mankind in general look on the outside but God looks on the inside – otherwise David would never have been chosen to kill Goliath or to become King. When Samuel the prophet was called to anoint one of Jesse’s sons, he went through all of the sons – the finest, the oldest, right through all the way down to the shepherd boy tucked away in the hills (see 1 Samuel l6:1-l3). God said to the prophet Samuel, “You anoint him.” And there was an argument going on. The others where strong and attractive but it’s what’s going on in the inside that counts. If the world looks on from the outside and discounts you, know that you count before God!
Jesus’ hidden period, the period of his obscurity in Nazareth was an essential time for him. Before Jesus was to be revealed publicly he had to first satisfy the Father privately. That’s why, after those years of obscurity, he had this testimony from the Father: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!” Before you ever set foot in the public arena to be noticed you need to know what it is to please God in the private place. It is far more important to get commendation from heaven than to yearn after the approval of men which is short-lived.
The world may not notice you but God is watching! And when the time is right he will tell the world about you! That’s what Nazareth living is all about!
You need to change how you see yourself
God can take your negative Nazareth and make it his glorious Nazareth! It’s time to stop empowering the enemy with your weakness and to start giving God an opportunity to show his strength through your weakness. You can allow the enemy to beat you and manipulate you and bring you down so that you are forever imprisoned by Nazareth thinking, or you can yield your life to God and say, “God, come and take my weaknesses and make them an occasion for your strength!”
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or how much you feel you still have to learn. It doesn’t matter how much you feel you’ve failed, the God of Nazareth is with you! Jesus is living on the inside of you!
That, after all, was the great strength of the apostle Paul. On one occasion he put his finger on it when he testified how he asked God to remove a certain weakness from him and God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness”. It wasn’t just Paul’s evaluation of himself. It was God’s way for his life and Paul knew it: “When I am weak, then I am strong”. The anointing of God was upon him! And so he said, “Now you know that when I preach, you’re not believing me because I’m good-looking. You’re not believing me because I’ve learnt how to polish my diction. You’re believing me because the anointing of God is upon me and you see in my weakness God’s strength made perfect! So I would rather glory in weaknesses than to try and boast in some supposed strength that I don’t have anyway.”
God himself… was living in Nazareth!
No-one noticed Jesus when he lived in Nazareth and the very first public announcement linking Jesus’ name with the town met with scepticism and cynicism: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, was living in Nazareth!
Be ready to believe that God lives in your Nazareth and be ready to live your Nazareth unto him! Make it your aim to please God no matter what your circumstances and despite your weaknesses. If you are going to wait before you get completely healed of everything before you do anything, you’re going to end up doing nothing! You have to accept the fact that you are surrounded by weaknesses, but you need to know that you can please God despite such things.
God cares for you and he’s willing to bind you up if you’ve been damaged in some way. If you felt that you’ve been isolated in some ghetto of Nazareth thinking, he says, “It’s time to change your thinking!”. You’ve got to stop saying, “I’ll never amount to anything.” You’ve got to say, rather, “I am his workmanship in Christ Jesus. He’s making something beautiful out of my life! God is always working in me to do his will and his good pleasure.” You can also stop saying, “I’m no good” and you can start learning to say, “God has chosen me for good!”
You’ve got to see yourself as God sees you!
This is not arrogant boasting – it’s boasting in Christ and in what he has made you. Turn your back on the things that hold you. And say, “Lord, I am now living in the new identity you have given me. I am no longer dominated by, ‘I can’t! It’ll never work! I won’t be able to do it!’” That’s why so many people fail to serve God as well as they could, because they don’t think God is interested in them. They don’t think God can do anything with what they’ve got. No, God can use you and will use you!
You’ve got to change your thinking. Stop being so down on yourself. You’ve got to see yourself as God sees you! From now onwards when you think of Jesus of Nazareth, say, “YES, Lord! That’s me! That’s me!”
Think about this then allow the Holy Spirit to bring these words into your heart, deep into your spirit. The devil has a vested interest in bringing you into self-condemnation – don’t do his work for him – neither in your own life nor in the lives of other people! You must see yourself as God sees you! Secure in Jesus Christ. Don’t let accusation or criticism, coming from outside or coming from within, hinder you. Show the devil who you are in Christ by your attitude, your words and by your actions.
Be set free in Jesus’ name from anything that holds you back. You can do what God has called you to do. God loves you, God wants to lift you up. God wants to bless you and use you. You are a royal person! You’ve been made in the image of God! You’ve been redeemed by Jesus Christ! You are part of his body on the earth, and the Spirit of God lives in YOU!