‪ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY, CONQUERING DOUBT PART 2‬7










03/06/19

Question: "Should we worship the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: We know that only God should be worshipped (see Exodus 34:14 and Revelation 22:9). Only God deserves worship. The question of whether we should worship the Holy Spirit is answered simply by determining whether the Spirit is God. If the Holy Spirit is God, then He can and should be worshiped.


Scripture presents the Holy Spirit as not merely a “force” but as a Person. The Spirit is referred to in personal terms (John 15:26; 16:7–8, 13–14). He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), He loves (Romans 15:30), He chooses (Acts 13:2), He teaches (John 14:26), and He guides (Acts 16:7). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3–4) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30).


The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity—He shares the attributes of God. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7–10) and omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). He was involved in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit enjoys intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; John 14:16). When we compare Exodus 16:7 with Hebrews 3:7–9, we see that the Holy Spirit and Yahweh are the same (see also Isaiah 6:8 as compared to Acts 28:25).


Since the Holy Spirit is God, and God is “worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3), then the Spirit is worthy of worship. Jesus, the Son of God, received worship (Matthew 28:9), so it stands to reason that the Spirit of God would also receive worship. Philippians 3:3 tells us that believers “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.” There is one God who eternally exists in three Persons. When we worship God, we naturally worship all three members of the Godhead.


How do we worship the Holy Spirit? The same way we worship the Father and the Son. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inward workings of the Holy Spirit to which we respond by offering our lives to Him (Romans 12:1). We worship the Spirit by obedience to His commands. Referring to Christ, the apostle John explains that “those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). We see here the link between obeying Christ and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, convicting us our need to worship by obedience and empowering us to worship.


PART II

Question: "What is the meaning of the Hebrew word ruach?"


Answer: The Hebrew ruach means “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” The corresponding Greek word is pneuma. Both words are commonly used in passages referring to the Holy Spirit. The word’s first use in the Bible appears in the second verse: “The Spirit of God [Ruach Elohim] was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). In Genesis 6:17 ruach is translated “breath of life.” Genesis 8:1 uses ruach to describe the “wind” God sent over the earth to recede the Flood waters. Altogether, the word ruach is found almost 400 times in the Old Testament.


Often, when the Old Testament talks about the “Spirit of the Lord” or the “Spirit of God,” the word for “Spirit” is Ruach. Use of ruach as “spirit” when not linked with God usually is in reference to the human spirit. This can mean the actual spirit of a human (the immaterial part of humans akin to the soul) or to one’s mood, emotional state, or general disposition. Ruach as “breath” or “wind” can be a reference to literal breath or wind, or it can take on a figurative meaning such as in the idiom “a mere breath.”


God’s Ruach is the source of life. The Ruach of God is the One who gives life to all creation. We could say that God’s Ruach has created every other (non-divine) ruach that exists. All living creatures owe the breath of life to the Creative Spirit of God. Moses states this truth explicitly: “God . . . gives breath [ruach] to all living things” (Numbers 27:16). Job understood this truth as well: “As long as I have life within me, the breath [ruach] of God in my nostrils” (Job 27:3). Later, Elihu tells Job, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).


God used the phrase Ruach Yahweh in His promise that the Messiah would be empowered by the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2; see also Isaiah 42:1). This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus; at His baptism in the Jordan River, John saw “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him” (Matthew 3:16).


PART III

Question: "What was the Pneumatomachian heresy / Macedonianism?"


Answer: Macedoniansim was a fourth-century heresy that denied the full divinity or personality of the Holy Spirit. This idea was popularized by a former bishop of Constantinople, a semi-Arian named Macedonius, and he became the namesake of the belief. Those who denied the Spirit’s deity or personality were called Pneumatomachians, which means “opponents of the Spirit” or “Spirit fighters.”


According to the Pneumatomachians (Macedonians), the Holy Spirit was a created entity, subject to the Father and Son, in something of a servant role. This error was addressed and soundly refuted at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. As a reaction against the growing heresy of Macedonianism, church leaders at this council voted to expand the Nicene Creed to more accurately defend the Holy Spirit as fully God and worthy of worship. With that addition, the creed now reads, “And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.” The Council of Constantinople sought to make it clear that the Holy Spirit is consubstantial (homoousious) with the Father and the Son.


We know that Macedonianism was in error because of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 12:31–32 about an action often referred to as the “unpardonable sin.” Jesus stated that blasphemy against this Person of the Trinity would not be forgiven. Blasphemy is defiant irreverence toward God in either verbal or written form, so, by definition, blasphemy can only be directed toward deity. If the Holy Spirit were not fully God, no one could blaspheme Him, so Jesus confirmed the Holy Spirit’s divinity with this warning.


Jesus also equates the Holy Spirit with God in Matthew 28:19 in His address known as the Great Commission. Jesus commanded new disciples to be baptized in the name of all three Persons of the Godhead: the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Son would not list the Spirit along with Himself and the Father, unless the Holy Spirit was equal to them.


Another scriptural example of the separate but equal personhood of the Holy Spirit is found in Luke 4:1–14 and Matthew 4:1–11, when Jesus was led “by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. This shows the Spirit to have a will of His own, and Jesus followed His leading into a treacherous place. When Jesus passed all His tests, He “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Jesus relied on the power of the Spirit for His strength. Only God Himself could empower the Son of God against Satan, and the Spirit did the empowering.


Fortunately, the Pneumatomachian heresy (Macedonianism) was soundly refuted by the end of the fourth century. Defenders of the faith such as Athanasius of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea fought the good fight and opposed the Pneumatomachians. True Christians today recognize the Holy Spirit as a distinct and wonderful Person of the Triune God. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Christians receive spiritual gifts that enable the church to thrive and spread (Luke 24:49; 1 Corinthians 12:1–11; Hebrews 2:4; 1 Peter 4:10). The Holy Spirit is God who dwells inside everyone who has been born again through faith in Christ (John 3:3; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20). The Spirit is the One who teaches us the Word that He Himself inspired (2 Peter 1:21) and confirms to us that we are in fact children of God (Romans 8:16; Hebrews 10:15). God alone can do all that.


PART IV

Question: "What is Pneumatology?"


Answer: The word Pneumatology comes from two Greek words which mean "wind, air, spirit" and "word" - combining to mean "the study of the Holy Spirit." Pneumatology is the study of God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. It answers numerous important questions about the Holy Spirit:


Who / what is the Holy Spirit? There are many misconceptions about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force. Others understand the Holy Spirit as the impersonal power God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit?


When / How do we receive the Holy Spirit? This discussion is controversial because the ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused. The receiving / indwelling of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation. The filling of the Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life.


What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the Body of Christ at the moment of salvation.


How can I be filled with the Spirit? It is important to distinguish between the indwelling and filling of the Spirit. The permanent indwelling of the Spirit is not for a select few believers, but rather for all believers. This is in contrast to the commanded filling of the Spirit found in Ephesians 5:18.


Are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit for today? This is not a question of can the Holy Spirit give someone a miraculous gift. The question is does the Holy Spirit still dispense the miraculous gifts today. Above all else, we entirely recognize that the Holy Spirit is free to dispense gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).


Many Christians have an unbiblical perception of the Holy Spirit. Some understand the Holy Spirit as a power or force given to us from God. This is not Biblical. Pneumatology teaches us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, with a mind, emotions, and will. The Holy Spirit is Jesus' "replacement" on earth (John 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:7). The Holy Spirit is received at salvation (Romans 8:9) and is the permanent possession of every believer in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14). Pneumatology helps us to understand these issues and recognize the Biblical roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.


The study of Pneumatology is of immense benefit to the Christian. In the pages of Scripture, we come face to face with the third Person of the trinity, God himself in spirit, and we see His very personal and intimate ministry to us. Through Him, we come to know God's love for us "because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). To understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to find joy in His role as our Comforter (John 16:7; Acts 9:31) who not only helps and comforts us, but who comes to our rescue when our hearts are so burdened we cannot even pray for relief (Romans 8:26). When we pursue the knowledge of the Holy Spirit we find, to our great delight, that He not only lives within us, but He does so forever, never to leave or forsake us (John 14:16). All these truths are burned into our hearts when we study Pneumatology.


A good summary verse for Pneumatology is John 16:8-11, "When He (the Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned."


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


03/05/19

Question: "What was the purpose of the biblical sign gifts?"

Answer: When we speak of the biblical sign gifts, we are referring to miracles like speaking in tongues, visions, healing, raising the dead, etc. There is no question among believers whether or not they existed, for the Bible plainly describes them. Where disagreement arises among believers is their purpose, as well as the question of whether we should experience them today. Some say that these gifts are a sign of one's salvation, while others say they are a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and yet others say their purpose is to authenticate the message of the gospel. How can we know the truth? We must search the Scriptures to find God's purpose statements about these things.

One of the earliest references to sign gifts in the Bible is found in Exodus 4, when Moses is being instructed by God about the impending deliverance from Egypt. Moses worried that the people would not believe that God sent him, so God gave him the signs of the rod becoming a snake, and his hand becoming leprous. God said these signs were “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (v. 5). If the people still did not believe, God told Moses to take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground, where it would turn to blood (v. 9). The purpose for the children of Israel was that they would believe God's messenger.

God also gave Moses miraculous signs to show Pharaoh, in order that he would let the people go. In Exodus 7:3-5, God told Moses that He would multiply His signs and wonders in Egypt, so “the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” God wanted the Egyptian people to know that He was the one working to deliver the Israelites. In Exodus 10:7, Moses told Pharaoh that the final plague, which would kill the firstborn, was to show that God distinguished between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The signs and wonders confirmed God's message to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, so they would know that Moses was sent by God.

When Elijah confronted the false prophets on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18), he prayed for God to miraculously send fire from heaven so the people would know “you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word....that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God” (v. 36-37). The miracles he and the other prophets performed were a confirmation that God had sent them and that God was at work in their midst.

Joel was given a message of God's judgment on Israel, and within that message was a prophecy of mercy and hope. When the judgment came as prophesied, and the people responded with repentance, God said that He would then remove the judgments and restore His blessing, “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame” (Joel 2:27). Immediately after that statement, God spoke about pouring His spirit on the people, so they would prophesy, see visions, and see wonders happening. When the disciples began speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21), Peter declared “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” What was the purpose? That the people would know the message brought by Peter and the others was God's message.

Jesus' ministry was accompanied by various signs and wonders. What was the purpose of His miracles? In John 10:37-38, Jesus was responding to the Jews who wanted to stone Him for blasphemy, and said, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Just as in the Old Testament, the purpose of Jesus' miracles was to confirm God's hand on His Messenger.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign, Jesus said “"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:39-41). Jesus was very clear that the purpose of a sign was so people would acknowledge God's message and respond accordingly. Likewise, in John 4:48, he told the nobleman “unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The signs were a help to those who struggled to believe, but the message of salvation in Christ was the focus.

This message of salvation was outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:21-23, “…it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” Signs have their purpose, but they are a means to a greater end—the salvation of souls through the preaching of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 14:22, Paul states clearly that “tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.” God used miraculous signs like speaking in tongues to convince unbelievers that the message of Christ was true, but as the rest of the context shows, the more important thing was the clear declaration of the gospel message.

One thing that is often overlooked in discussions about signs and miracles is the timing and placement of them in the Scriptures. Contrary to popular belief, people in Bible times did not see miracles all the time. In fact, the miracles of the Bible are generally grouped around special events in God's dealing with mankind. Israel's deliverance from Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land were accompanied by many miracles, but the miracles faded away soon afterward. During the late kingdom years, when God was about to place the people in exile, He allowed some of His prophets to do miracles. When Jesus came to live among us, He did miracles, and in the early ministry of the apostles, they did miracles, but outside of those times, we see very few miracles or signs in the Bible. The vast majority of people who lived in Bible times never saw signs and wonders with their own eyes. They had to live by faith in what God had already revealed to them.

In the early church, the signs and wonders were primarily centered around the first presentation of the gospel among various people groups. On the day of Pentecost, we read that there were “Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven” gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). It was to these Jews, who had been raised in other lands, and spoke those foreign languages (v. 6-11), that the sign of tongues was first given. They acknowledged that they were hearing in their native tongues about the wonderful works of God, and Peter told them that the only appropriate response was to repent of their sins (v. 38). When the gospel was first presented among the Samaritans, we read that Philip did signs and wonders (Acts 8:13).

Again, when Peter was sent to Cornelius, a gentile, God gave a miraculous sign to confirm His work. “And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (Acts 10:45-46). When Peter was questioned by the other apostles, he gave this as evidence of God's leading, and the others “glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18).

In every instance, the sign gifts were a confirmation of God's message and messenger, in order that people might hear and believe. Once the message was confirmed, the signs faded away. We typically don't have a need for those signs to be repeated in our lives, but we do need to receive the same gospel message.


PART II

Question: "Is there a biblical spiritual gifts list?"

Answer: There are actually three biblical lists of the “gifts of the Spirit,” also known as spiritual gifts. The three main passages describing the spiritual gifts are Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28. We could also include Ephesians 4:11, but that is a list of offices within the church, not spiritual gifts, per se. The spiritual gifts identified in Romans 12 are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 includes the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 includes healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. A brief description of each gift follows:

Prophecy – The Greek word translated “prophecy” in both passages properly means “a speaking forth.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, the word refers to “discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; especially by foretelling future events.” To prophesy is to declare the divine will, to interpret the purposes of God, or to make known in any way the truth of God that is designed to influence people.

Serving – Also referred to as “ministering,” the Greek word diakonian, from which we get the English “deacon,” means service of any kind, the broad application of practical help to those in need. 

Teaching – This gift involves the analysis and proclamation of the Word of God, explaining the meaning, context and application to the hearer’s life. The gifted teacher is one who has the unique ability to clearly instruct and communicate knowledge, specifically the doctrines of the faith. 

Encouraging – Also called “exhortation,” this gift is evident in those who consistently call upon others to heed and follow God’s truth, which may involve correction or building others up by strengthening weak faith or comforting in trials. 

Giving – Gifted givers are those who joyfully share what they have with others, whether it is financial, material, or the giving of personal time and attention. The giver is concerned for the needs of others and seeks opportunities to share goods, money and time with them as needs arise. 

Leadership – The gifted leader is one who rules, presides over or has the management of other people in the church. The word literally means “guide” and carries with it the idea of one who steers a ship. One with the gift of leadership rules with wisdom and grace and exhibits the fruit of the Spirit in his life as he leads by example. 

Mercy – Closely linked with the gift of encouragement, the gift of mercy is obvious in those who are compassionate toward others who are in distress, showing sympathy and sensitivity coupled with a desire and the resources to lessen their suffering in a kind and cheerful manner. 

Word of wisdom – The fact that this gift is described as the “word” of wisdom indicates that it is one of the speaking gifts. This gift describes someone who can understand and speak forth biblical truth in such a way as to skillfully apply it to life situations with all discernment.

Word of knowledge – This is another speaking gift that involves understanding truth with an insight that only comes by revelation from God. Those with the gift of knowledge understand the deep things of God and the mysteries of His Word. 

Faith – All believers possess faith in some measure because it is one of the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on all who come to Christ in faith (Galatians 5:22-23). The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, His promises, and the power of prayer to effect miracles. 

Healing – Although God does still heal today, the ability of men to produce miraculous healings belonged to the apostles of the first century church to affirm that their message was from God. Christians today do not have the power to heal the sick or resurrect the dead. If they did, the hospitals and morgues would be full of these “gifted” people emptying beds and coffins everywhere.

Miraculous powers – Also known as the working of miracles, this is another temporary sign gift which involved performing supernatural events that could only be attributed to the power of God (Acts 2:22). This gift was exhibited by Paul (Acts 19:11-12), Peter (Acts 3:6), Stephen (Acts 6:8), and Phillip (Acts 8:6-7), among others. 

Distinguishing (discerning) of spirits – Certain individuals possess the unique ability to determine the true message of God from that of the deceiver, Satan, whose methods include purveying deceptive and erroneous doctrine. Jesus said many would come in His name and would deceive many (Matthew 24:4-5), but the gift of discerning spirits is given to the Church to protect it from such as these. 

Speaking in tongues – The gift of tongues is one of the temporary “sign gifts” given to the early Church to enable the gospel to be preached throughout the world to all nations and in all known languages. It involved the divine ability to speak in languages previously unknown to the speaker. This gift authenticated the message of the gospel and those who preached it as coming from God. The phrase “diversity of tongues” (KJV) or “different kinds of tongues” (NIV) effectively eliminates the idea of a “personal prayer language” as a spiritual gift. 

Interpretation of tongues – A person with the gift of interpreting tongues could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he did not know the language that was being spoken. The tongues interpreter would then communicate the message of the tongues speaker to everyone else, so all could understand.

Helps – Closely related to the gift of mercy is the gift of helps. Those with the gift of helps are those who can aid or render assistance to others in the church with compassion and grace. This has a broad range of possibilities for application. Most importantly, this is the unique ability to identify those who are struggling with doubt, fears, and other spiritual battles; to move toward those in spiritual need with a kind word, an understanding and compassionate demeanor; and to speak scriptural truth that is both convicting and loving.


PART III

Question: "Did Jesus speak in tongues?"

Answer: The Bible offers no evidence that Jesus spoke in tongues. Many today see “tongues” as some sort of unintelligible, supernatural form of speech. Biblically, the gift of speaking in tongues occurs when someone speaks a language he does not know in order to edify someone who does speak that language (1 Corinthians 14:6).

If Christ were going to speak in tongues, it would have been logical for Him to do so at His baptism when “the Spirit descended on him like a dove” (Mark 1:10). We know that, moments after Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven in words that all could understand (verse 11), but we have no record of Jesus speaking in tongues on this or any other occasion.

Many advocates of today’s tongues movement assume that Jesus must have spoken in tongues. To bolster their point, they point to passages such as Mark 7:34, in which Jesus “looked up to heaven . . . with a deep sigh,” and Mark 8:12, when Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit” (ESV). However, a sigh is not the same thing as the supernatural gift of tongues. Anyone can sigh, for any number of reasons, but it is no proof of the Spirit’s power.

We have record of Jesus speaking in Aramaic, the commonest language spoken in Israel at that time (see Mark 5:41 and Acts 26:14). Most likely, He was also conversant in Hebrew and Greek, since both of those languages were used as well. But whether or not Jesus ever spoke with supernatural power in another language, the Bible does not say.


PART IV

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of miracles?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of miracles is one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:10, where the NIV calls it “miraculous powers” and the ESV and KJV list it as “the working of miracles.” The gift of miracles, or miraculous powers, is different from the gift of healing, which is listed separately in verse 9. Those in the early church who had the gift of miracles had the ability, by the Spirit, to do miraculous things of a different, more powerful kind: the casting out of demons (Acts 16), the striking of Elymas blind (Acts 13), and the raising of Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9) are possible examples. Some in the early church, besides the apostles, who had the gift of miracles were Stephen and Philip (Acts 6:8; 8:6–7, 13). Some scholars understand the specific gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10 to be unique to the apostles, a power they used to confer the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to others through the laying on of hands (see Acts 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:6). The ability to transfer gifts, peculiar to the apostles, would have been something that set them apart from others and greatly aided in the spread the gospel everywhere. Paul speaks of his showing “the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12).

The spiritual gift of miracles is mentioned again in 1 Corinthians 12:28. In this context, Paul emphasizes the fact that all gifts have the same source, the Holy Spirit, and he encourages equality and unity among the believers. Paul compares each believer to a part of a larger whole, like parts of the body (verse 12). Not every part of the body can do everything—not everyone had the gift of miracles (verse 29). We need one another.

The gifts Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12 are as follows: apostleship, prophecy, teaching, miraculous powers (miracles), healing, guidance (messages of wisdom and knowledge), faith, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and helping (1 Corinthians 12:7–10,28). Paul goes on to show in 1 Corinthians 13 how love is “the most excellent way” and the greatest gift (1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13).

The question arises as to whether or not the spiritual gift of miracles is still active today in the church. We believe that the specific gift of miracles ceased with the office of apostle. There were only twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14), and the apostolic gifts are no longer needed to verify the apostles’ message. This in no way limits God’s power or ability to work miracles as He sees fit. We absolutely believe that God still heals and works miracles today.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


03/04/19

Question: "How can I recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send one who would teach and guide all those who believe in Him (Acts 1:5; John 14:26; 16:7). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled less than two weeks later when the Holy Spirit came in power on the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2). Now, when a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately becomes a permanent part of his life (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The Holy Spirit has many functions. Not only does He distribute spiritual gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7–11), but He also comforts us (John 14:16, KJV), teaches us (John 14:26), and remains in us as a seal of promise upon our hearts until the day of Jesus’ return (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit also takes on the role of Guide and Counselor, leading us in the way we should go and revealing God’s truth (Luke 12:12; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10).

But how do we recognize the Spirit’s guidance? How do we discern between our own thoughts and His leading? After all, the Holy Spirit does not speak with audible words. Rather, He guides us through our own consciences (Romans 9:1) and other quiet, subtle ways.

One of the most important ways to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to be familiar with God’s Word. The Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16), and believers are to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and commit them to memory (Ephesians 6:17). The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), and the Spirit will use it to speak to us (John 16:12–14) to reveal God’s will for our lives; He will also bring specific Scriptures to mind at times when we need them most (John 14:26).

Knowledge of God’s Word can help us to discern whether or not our desires come from the Holy Spirit. We must test our inclinations against Scripture—the Holy Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. If it conflicts with the Bible, then it is not from the Holy Spirit and should be ignored. 

It is also necessary for us to be in continual prayer with the Father (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Not only does this keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, but it also allows the Spirit to speak on our behalf: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26–27).

Another way to tell if we are following the Spirit’s leading is to look for signs of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If we walk in the Spirit, we will continue to see these qualities grow and mature in us, and they will become evident to others as well.

It is important to note that we have the choice whether or not to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we know the will of God but do not follow it, we are resisting the Spirit’s work in our lives (Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), and a desire to follow our own way grieves Him (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit will never lead us into sin. Habitual sin will cause us to miss what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us through the Word. Being in tune with God’s will, turning from and confessing sin, and making a habit of prayer and the study of God’s Word will allow us to recognize—and follow—the Spirit’s leading.


PART II

Question: "What is the difference between the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit and God's omnipresence?"

Answer: God’s omnipresence is His attribute of being everywhere at once. He is omnipresent even when we do not experience His presence; He is here, even if we do not recognize Him. God’s manifest presence is, of course, His presence made manifest—the fact that He is with us is made clear and convincing.

God’s omnipresence applies to each Person in the Trinity: the Father (Isaiah 66:1), the Son (John 1:48), and the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:7–8). The fact that God is omnipresent may or may not result in a special experience on our part. However, God’s manifest presence is the result of His interaction with us overtly and unmistakably. It is then we experience God.

The Bible records that each Person of the Trinity has made Himself manifestly present in the lives of certain individuals. God the Father spoke to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3. God had been with Moses all along, but then, in “the far side of the wilderness” near Mt. Horeb (Exodus 3:1), God chose to manifest Himself. God the Son made Himself manifest through the Incarnation, as John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was manifest to the believers in the upper room: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2–4). The result of the manifest presence of God in the lives of the disciples was a world turned upside-down (see Acts 17:6).

Theologically, we understand that God is omnipresent, but that fact is not readily discerned with the senses. It is a reality, but that reality may not seem relevant to the majority of people on the planet who have no sense of His presence. They feel He is distant, not close, and that feeling becomes their perceived reality.

We know of God’s manifest presence experientially. The manifest presence of the Spirit may not be visible or aural or able to be sensed physically, but His presence is experienced nonetheless. At the times of His choosing, the Spirit manifests His presence, and our theological knowledge becomes an experiential knowledge. Creedal acquaintance becomes loving familiarity.

In Psalm 71, David prays in his distress to his loving, merciful, and righteous God. David understands that God is with him, and that’s the reason he prays. Near the end of the prayer, David says, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more” (verses 20–21). God’s presence was hidden for a time in David’s life, and it was a time of “troubles, many and bitter”; but David trusted to once again know the manifest presence of God, and that would be a time of honor and comfort.

God never forsook Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For a time, however, it seemed that the only potentate in existence was King Nebuchadnezzar—and he was murderously furious at the three Hebrew men. The king, unaware of God’s omnipresence, threw the three into the burning, fiery furnace. And that’s when God manifested His presence: “King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and . . . said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods’” (Daniel 3:24–25). The reality of God’s presence became discernable, even to the pagan king. This was God’s manifest presence.

We can never lose God’s presence in reality, but we can lose the sense of His presence. There is never a time when God is not present with us, but there are times when God is not manifestly with us. Sometimes His presence is not clear or obvious to the human eye or the human spirit. That’s one reason why we are called to “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). God’s omnipresence can exist without our awareness; God’s manifest presence cannot. The whole point of God’s manifest presence is that our awareness of Him is awakened.

Believers always have the Holy Spirit with them. The Bible teaches the indwelling of the Spirit: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit will not be taken from us. He is our Comforter, our Helper, our Paraclete until Jesus returns (John 14:16). At that time Jesus Himself will be with us—manifestly and forever.

But the indwelling of the Spirit is not the same as the Spirit’s manifest presence. Every believer goes through times when he doesn’t “feel” saved or days when he goes through his activities unaware of the Spirit’s presence within him. But then there are times when that same indwelling Spirit visits the believer in a special, manifest way. It could be a song the Spirit brings to mind; it could be a coincidental encounter with a friend; it could be a prompting to prayer, a desire to study the Word, or an ineffable feeling of peace—the Spirit is not limited in how He reveals Himself. The point is that He makes Himself known. He is our Comforter. “By him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15–16).

Should we trust in God’s omnipresence, even when we don’t feel He is with us? Absolutely. God, who cannot lie, says that He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Should we also seek God’s manifest presence? Absolutely. It’s not that we rely on feelings or that we seek after a sign, but we expect the Comforter to comfort His own—and we gladly acknowledge that we need His comfort.


PART III 

Question: "Is being slain in the Spirit biblical?"

Answer: Most commonly, being "slain in the Spirit" happens when a minister lays hands on someone, and that person collapses to the floor, supposedly overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who practice slaying in the Spirit use Bible passages that talk about people becoming "as dead" (Revelation 1:17) or of falling upon their face (Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 8:17-18, 10:7-9). However, there are a number of contrasts between this biblical falling on one's face and the practice of being slain in the Spirit.

1. The biblical falling down was a person's reaction to what he saw in a vision or an event beyond ordinary happenings, such as at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:6). In the unbiblical practice of being slain in the Spirit, the person responds to another's touch or to the motion of the speaker's arm.

2. The biblical instances were few and far between, and they occurred only rarely in the lives of a few people. In the slain in the Spirit phenomenon, falling down is a repeated event and an experience that happens to many.

3. In the biblical instances, the people fall upon their face in awe at either what or whom they see. In the slain in the Spirit counterfeit, they fall backwards, either in response to the wave of the speaker's arm or as a result of a church leader's touch (or push in some cases).

We are not claiming that all examples of being slain in the Spirit are fakes or responses to a touch or push. Many people claim to experience an energy or a force that causes them to fall back. However, we find no biblical basis for this concept. Yes, there may be some energy or force involved, but if so, it is very likely not of God and not the result of the working of the Holy Spirit.

It is unfortunate that people look to such bizarre counterfeits that produce no spiritual fruit, rather than pursuing the practical fruit which the Spirit gives us for the purpose of glorifying Christ with our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Being filled with the Spirit is not evidenced by such counterfeits, but by a life that overflows with the Word of God in such a way that it spills over in praise, thanksgiving, and obedience to God.


PART IV

Question: "Is the Holy Spirit a 'He,' 'She,' or 'It,' male, female, or neuter?"

Answer: A common mistake made with regard to the Holy Spirit is referring to the Spirit as "it," something most translations of the Bible are careful to avoid. The Holy Spirit is a person. He has the attributes of personhood, performs the actions of persons, and has personal relationships. He has insight (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He knows things, which requires an intellect (Romans 8:27). He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He convicts of sin (John 16:8). He performs miracles (Acts 8:39). He guides (John 16:13). He intercedes between persons (Romans 8:26). He is to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-20). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), blasphemed (Matthew 12:31), even insulted (Hebrews 10:29). He relates to the apostles (Acts 15:28) and to each member of the Trinity (John 16:14; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The personhood of the Holy Spirit is presented without question in the Bible, but what about gender?

Linguistically, it is clear that masculine theistic terminology dominates the Scriptures. Throughout both testaments, references to God use masculine pronouns. Specific names for God (e.g., Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Kurios, Theos, etc.) are all in the masculine gender. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to using feminine pronouns. The Holy Spirit is referred to in the masculine throughout the New Testament, although the word for "spirit" by itself (pneuma) is actually gender-neutral. The Hebrew word for "spirit" (ruach) is feminine in Genesis 1:2. But the gender of a word in Greek or Hebrew has nothing to do with gender identity.

Theologically speaking, since the Holy Spirit is God, we can make some statements about Him from general statements about God. God is spirit as opposed to physical or material. God is invisible and spirit (i.e., non-body) - (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). This is why no material thing was ever to be used to represent God (Exodus 20:4). If gender is an attribute of the body, then a spirit does not have gender. God, in His essence, has no gender.

Gender identifications of God in the Bible are not unanimous. Many people think that the Bible presents God in exclusively male terms, but this is not the case. God is said to give birth in the book of Job and portrays Himself as a mother in Isaiah. Jesus described the Father as being like a woman in search of a lost coin in Luke 15 (and Himself as a "mother hen" in Matthew 23:37). In Genesis 1:26-27 God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness," and then "God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them." Thus, the image of God was male and female - not simply one or the other. This is further confirmed in Genesis 5:2, which can be literally translated as "He created them male and female; when they were created, he blessed them and named them Adam." The Hebrew term "adam" means "man" - the context showing whether it means "man" (as opposed to woman) or "mankind" (in the collective sense). Therefore, to whatever degree humanity is made in the image of God, gender is not an issue.

Masculine imagery in revelation is not without significance, however. A second time that God was specifically said to be revealed via a physical image was when Jesus was asked to show the Father to the disciples in John chapter 14. He responds in verse 9 by saying, “The person who has seen me has seen the Father!" Paul makes it clear that Jesus was the exact image of God in Colossians 1:15 calling Jesus "the image of the invisible God." This verse is couched in a section that demonstrates Christ's superiority over all creation. Most ancient religions believed in a pantheon - both gods and goddesses - that were worthy of worship. But one of Judeo-Christianity's distinctives is its belief in a supreme Creator. Masculine language better relates this relationship of creator to creation. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within . . . As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself. Paul echoes this idea in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 when he refers to the creation order as a template for church order.

In the end, whatever our theological explanation, the fact is that God used exclusively masculine terms to refer to Himself and almost exclusively masculine terminology even in metaphor. Through the Bible He taught us how to speak of Him, and it was in masculine relational terms. So, while the Holy Spirit is neither male nor female in His essence, He is properly referred to in the masculine by virtue of His relation to creation and biblical revelation. There is absolutely no biblical basis for viewing the Holy Spirit as the “female” member of the Trinity.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

MAXIMILIANO 


03/03/19

Question: "How can I recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send one who would teach and guide all those who believe in Him (Acts 1:5; John 14:26; 16:7). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled less than two weeks later when the Holy Spirit came in power on the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2). Now, when a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately becomes a permanent part of his life (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The Holy Spirit has many functions. Not only does He distribute spiritual gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7–11), but He also comforts us (John 14:16, KJV), teaches us (John 14:26), and remains in us as a seal of promise upon our hearts until the day of Jesus’ return (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit also takes on the role of Guide and Counselor, leading us in the way we should go and revealing God’s truth (Luke 12:12; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10).

But how do we recognize the Spirit’s guidance? How do we discern between our own thoughts and His leading? After all, the Holy Spirit does not speak with audible words. Rather, He guides us through our own consciences (Romans 9:1) and other quiet, subtle ways.

One of the most important ways to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to be familiar with God’s Word. The Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16), and believers are to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and commit them to memory (Ephesians 6:17). The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), and the Spirit will use it to speak to us (John 16:12–14) to reveal God’s will for our lives; He will also bring specific Scriptures to mind at times when we need them most (John 14:26).

Knowledge of God’s Word can help us to discern whether or not our desires come from the Holy Spirit. We must test our inclinations against Scripture—the Holy Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. If it conflicts with the Bible, then it is not from the Holy Spirit and should be ignored. 

It is also necessary for us to be in continual prayer with the Father (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Not only does this keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, but it also allows the Spirit to speak on our behalf: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26–27).

Another way to tell if we are following the Spirit’s leading is to look for signs of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If we walk in the Spirit, we will continue to see these qualities grow and mature in us, and they will become evident to others as well.

It is important to note that we have the choice whether or not to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we know the will of God but do not follow it, we are resisting the Spirit’s work in our lives (Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), and a desire to follow our own way grieves Him (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit will never lead us into sin. Habitual sin will cause us to miss what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us through the Word. Being in tune with God’s will, turning from and confessing sin, and making a habit of prayer and the study of God’s Word will allow us to recognize—and follow—the Spirit’s leading.


PART II 

Question: "What was the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?"

Answer: The role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is much like His role in the New Testament. When we speak of the role of the Holy Spirit, we can discern four general areas in which the Holy Spirit works: 1) regeneration, 2) indwelling (or filling), 3) restraint, and 4) empowerment for service. Evidence of these areas of the Holy Spirit’s work is just as present in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament.

The first area of the Spirit’s work is in the process of regeneration. Another word for regeneration is “rebirth,” from which we get the concept of being “born again.” The classic proof text for this can be found in John’s gospel: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). This begs the question: what does this have to do with the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament? Later on in His dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus has this to say to him: “You are Israel's teacher…and do you not understand these things?” (John 3:10). The point Jesus was making is that Nicodemus should have known the truth that the Holy Spirit is the source of new life because it is revealed in the Old Testament. For instance, Moses told the Israelites prior to entering the Promised Land that “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). This circumcision of the heart is the work of God’s Spirit and can be accomplished only by Him. We also see the theme of regeneration in Ezekiel 11:19-20 and Ezekiel 36:26-29.

The fruit of the Spirit’s regenerating work is faith (Ephesians 2:8). Now we know that there were men of faith in the Old Testament because Hebrews 11 names many of them. If faith is produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, then this must be the case for Old Testament saints who looked ahead to the cross, believing that what God had promised in regard to their redemption would come to pass. They saw the promises and “welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13), accepting by faith that what God had promised, He would also bring to pass. 

The second aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is indwelling, or filling. Here is where the major difference between the Spirit’s roles in the Old and New Testaments is apparent. The New Testament teaches the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). When we place our faith in Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. The Apostle Paul calls this permanent indwelling the “guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). In contrast to this work in the New Testament, the indwelling in the Old Testament was selective and temporary. The Spirit “came upon” such Old Testament people as Joshua (Numbers 27:18), David (1 Samuel 16:12-13) and even Saul (1 Samuel 10:10). In the book of Judges, we see the Spirit “coming upon” the various judges whom God raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors. The Holy Spirit came upon these individuals for specific tasks. The indwelling was a sign of God’s favor upon that individual (in the case of David), and if God’s favor left an individual, the Spirit would depart (e.g., in Saul’s case in 1 Samuel 16:14). Finally, the Spirit “coming upon” an individual doesn’t always indicate that person’s spiritual condition (e.g., Saul, Samson, and many of the judges). So, while in the New Testament the Spirit only indwells believers and that indwelling is permanent, the Spirit came upon certain Old Testament individuals for a specific task, irrespective of their spiritual condition. Once the task was completed, the Spirit presumably departed from that person.

The third aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is His restraint of sin. Genesis 6:3 would seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit restrains man’s sinfulness, and that restraint can be removed when God’s patience regarding sin reaches a "boiling point." This thought is echoed in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8, when in the end times a growing apostasy will signal the coming of God’s judgment. Until the preordained time when the “man of lawlessness” (v. 3) will be revealed, the Holy Spirit restrains the power of Satan and will release it only when it suits His purposes to do so. 

The fourth and final aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is the granting of ability for service. Much like the way the spiritual gifts operate in the New Testament, the Spirit would gift certain individuals for service. Consider the example of Bezalel in Exodus 31:2-5 who was gifted to do much of the artwork relating to the Tabernacle. Furthermore, recalling the selective and temporary indwelling of the Holy Spirit discussed above, we see that these individuals were gifted to perform certain tasks, such as ruling over the people of Israel (e.g., Saul and David).

We could also mention the Spirit’s role in creation. Genesis 1:2 speaks of the Spirit “hovering over the waters” and superintending the work of creation. In a similar fashion, the Spirit is responsible for the work of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) as He is bringing people into the kingdom of God through regeneration.

All in all, the Spirit performs much of the same functions in Old Testament times as He does in this current age. The major difference is the permanent indwelling of the Spirit in believers now. As Jesus said regarding this change in the Spirit’s ministry, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).


PART III 

Question: "Is the Holy Spirit a 'He,' 'She,' or 'It,' male, female, or neuter?"

Answer: A common mistake made with regard to the Holy Spirit is referring to the Spirit as "it," something most translations of the Bible are careful to avoid. The Holy Spirit is a person. He has the attributes of personhood, performs the actions of persons, and has personal relationships. He has insight (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He knows things, which requires an intellect (Romans 8:27). He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He convicts of sin (John 16:8). He performs miracles (Acts 8:39). He guides (John 16:13). He intercedes between persons (Romans 8:26). He is to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-20). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), blasphemed (Matthew 12:31), even insulted (Hebrews 10:29). He relates to the apostles (Acts 15:28) and to each member of the Trinity (John 16:14; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The personhood of the Holy Spirit is presented without question in the Bible, but what about gender?

Linguistically, it is clear that masculine theistic terminology dominates the Scriptures. Throughout both testaments, references to God use masculine pronouns. Specific names for God (e.g., Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Kurios, Theos, etc.) are all in the masculine gender. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to using feminine pronouns. The Holy Spirit is referred to in the masculine throughout the New Testament, although the word for "spirit" by itself (pneuma) is actually gender-neutral. The Hebrew word for "spirit" (ruach) is feminine in Genesis 1:2. But the gender of a word in Greek or Hebrew has nothing to do with gender identity.

Theologically speaking, since the Holy Spirit is God, we can make some statements about Him from general statements about God. God is spirit as opposed to physical or material. God is invisible and spirit (i.e., non-body) - (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). This is why no material thing was ever to be used to represent God (Exodus 20:4). If gender is an attribute of the body, then a spirit does not have gender. God, in His essence, has no gender.

Gender identifications of God in the Bible are not unanimous. Many people think that the Bible presents God in exclusively male terms, but this is not the case. God is said to give birth in the book of Job and portrays Himself as a mother in Isaiah. Jesus described the Father as being like a woman in search of a lost coin in Luke 15 (and Himself as a "mother hen" in Matthew 23:37). In Genesis 1:26-27 God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness," and then "God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them." Thus, the image of God was male and female - not simply one or the other. This is further confirmed in Genesis 5:2, which can be literally translated as "He created them male and female; when they were created, he blessed them and named them Adam." The Hebrew term "adam" means "man" - the context showing whether it means "man" (as opposed to woman) or "mankind" (in the collective sense). Therefore, to whatever degree humanity is made in the image of God, gender is not an issue.

Masculine imagery in revelation is not without significance, however. A second time that God was specifically said to be revealed via a physical image was when Jesus was asked to show the Father to the disciples in John chapter 14. He responds in verse 9 by saying, “The person who has seen me has seen the Father!" Paul makes it clear that Jesus was the exact image of God in Colossians 1:15 calling Jesus "the image of the invisible God." This verse is couched in a section that demonstrates Christ's superiority over all creation. Most ancient religions believed in a pantheon - both gods and goddesses - that were worthy of worship. But one of Judeo-Christianity's distinctives is its belief in a supreme Creator. Masculine language better relates this relationship of creator to creation. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within . . . As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself. Paul echoes this idea in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 when he refers to the creation order as a template for church order.

In the end, whatever our theological explanation, the fact is that God used exclusively masculine terms to refer to Himself and almost exclusively masculine terminology even in metaphor. Through the Bible He taught us how to speak of Him, and it was in masculine relational terms. So, while the Holy Spirit is neither male nor female in His essence, He is properly referred to in the masculine by virtue of His relation to creation and biblical revelation. There is absolutely no biblical basis for viewing the Holy Spirit as the “female” member of the Trinity.


PART IV

Question: "Is being slain in the Spirit biblical?"

Answer: Most commonly, being "slain in the Spirit" happens when a minister lays hands on someone, and that person collapses to the floor, supposedly overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who practice slaying in the Spirit use Bible passages that talk about people becoming "as dead" (Revelation 1:17) or of falling upon their face (Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 8:17-18, 10:7-9). However, there are a number of contrasts between this biblical falling on one's face and the practice of being slain in the Spirit.

1. The biblical falling down was a person's reaction to what he saw in a vision or an event beyond ordinary happenings, such as at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:6). In the unbiblical practice of being slain in the Spirit, the person responds to another's touch or to the motion of the speaker's arm.

2. The biblical instances were few and far between, and they occurred only rarely in the lives of a few people. In the slain in the Spirit phenomenon, falling down is a repeated event and an experience that happens to many.

3. In the biblical instances, the people fall upon their face in awe at either what or whom they see. In the slain in the Spirit counterfeit, they fall backwards, either in response to the wave of the speaker's arm or as a result of a church leader's touch (or push in some cases).

We are not claiming that all examples of being slain in the Spirit are fakes or responses to a touch or push. Many people claim to experience an energy or a force that causes them to fall back. However, we find no biblical basis for this concept. Yes, there may be some energy or force involved, but if so, it is very likely not of God and not the result of the working of the Holy Spirit.

It is unfortunate that people look to such bizarre counterfeits that produce no spiritual fruit, rather than pursuing the practical fruit which the Spirit gives us for the purpose of glorifying Christ with our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Being filled with the Spirit is not evidenced by such counterfeits, but by a life that overflows with the Word of God in such a way that it spills over in praise, thanksgiving, and obedience to God.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


03/02/19

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of prophecy?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of prophecy is listed among the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Romans 12:6. The Greek word translated “prophesying” or “prophecy” in both passages properly means to “speak forth” or declare the divine will, to interpret the purposes of God, or to make known in any way the truth of God which is designed to influence people. Many people misunderstand the gift of prophecy to be the ability to predict the future. While knowing something about the future may sometimes have been an aspect of the gift of prophecy, it was primarily a gift of proclamation (“forth-telling”), not prediction (“fore-telling”).

A pastor/preacher who declares the Bible can be considered a “prophesier” in that he is speaking forth the counsel of God. With the completion of the New Testament canon, prophesying changed from declaring new revelation to declaring the completed revelation God has already given. Jude 3 speaks of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (emphasis added). In other words, the faith to which we hold has been settled forever, and it does not need the addition or refinement that comes from extra-biblical revelations.

Also, note the transition from prophet to teacher in 2 Peter 2:1: “There were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (emphasis added). Peter indicates that the Old Testament age had prophets, whereas the church will have teachers. The spiritual gift of prophecy, in the sense of receiving new revelations from God to be proclaimed to others, ceased with the completion of the Bible. During the time that prophecy was a revelatory gift, it was to be used for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of men (1 Corinthians 14:3). The modern gift of prophecy, which is really more akin to teaching, still declares the truth of God. What has changed is that the truth of God today has already been fully revealed in His Word, while, in the early church, it had not yet been fully revealed.

Christians are to be very wary of those who claim to have a “new” message from God. It is one thing to say, “I had an interesting dream last night.” However, it is quite another matter to say, “God gave me a dream last night, and you must obey it.” No utterance of man should be considered equal to or above the written Word. We must hold to the Word that God has already given and commit ourselves to sola scriptura—Scripture alone.


PART II 

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of discerning spirits?"

Answer: The gift of discerning spirits, or “distinguishing” spirits, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Like all these gifts, the gift of discerning spirits is given by the Holy Spirit, who disperses these gifts to believers for service in the body of Christ. Every believer has a spiritual enablement for a specific service, but there is no room for self-choosing. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts according to the sovereignty of God and in accordance with His plan to edify the body of Christ. He gives His gifts “just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

When it comes to the gift of discerning spirits, every born-again believer has a certain amount of discernment, which increases as the believer matures in the Spirit. In Hebrews 5:13-14 we read that a believer who has matured beyond using the milk of the Word as a babe in Christ is able to discern both good and evil. The maturing believer is empowered by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures to tell the difference between good and evil, and, beyond that, he can also distinguish between what is good and what is better. In other words, any born-again believer who chooses to focus on the Word of God is spiritually discerning.

There are certain believers, however, who have the spiritual gift of discerning spirits—that is, the God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Word and the deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. We are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), but some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to spot the doctrinal “forgeries” that have plagued the church since the first century. This discernment does not involve mystical, extra-biblical revelations or a voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning are so familiar with the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The spiritually discerning are diligent to “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God.

There are diversities of gifts in equipping the body of Christ, but those diversities are meant for the edification and building of that body as a whole (Ephesians 4:12). And the success of that body is dependent upon all parts of the body faithfully fulfilling their tasks as God has enabled them. No spiritual gift should be used to domineer others or claim for oneself a special anointing from God. Rather, the love of God is to guide our use of the spiritual gifts to edify each other in the Lord.


PART III

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of interpreting tongues?"

Answer: Along with the gift of speaking in tongues is another spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10—the gift of interpreting tongues. The gift of interpreting tongues is the ability to translate a foreign language into the language of the hearers. The gift of interpreting tongues is a separate gift, but it seems to have been used in conjunction with the gift of speaking in tongues.

The gift of tongues was the supernatural ability to speak a foreign language that the tongues-speaker had never learned. We see this gift in use in Acts 2:4–12, as the Jews in Jerusalem heard the gospel preached in a wide variety of languages. A person with the gift of interpreting tongues, then, could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he did not know the language being spoken. This lack of prior knowledge of a language is what distinguishes the spiritual gift from the natural gift of being able to understand and speak a variety of languages. The tongues-interpreter would hear the tongues-speaker and then communicate the message to anyone present who could not understand the language. The goal was that all could understand and benefit from the truth being spoken. According to the apostle Paul, and in agreement with the tongues described in Acts, the gift of tongues was meant to communicate God’s message directly to another person in his or her native language. Of course, if those present could not understand the language being spoken, the tongues were useless—and that’s what made the tongues-interpreter, or tongues-translator, necessary. The goal was the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:5, 12).

One of the problems in the church of Corinth was that tongues-speakers were speaking out in the service, exercising their gift of tongues with no interpreter and with no one present who spoke that language. The result was that the tongues-speaker was commanding attention, but his words were meaningless, since no one could understand him. Paul strongly advised that all use of tongues in the church must be interpreted: “In the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). There was no benefit to other church members in hearing something they could not understand. Exercising the gift of tongues in church, simply for the sake of showing everyone that you had the gift, was conceited and unprofitable. Paul told the Corinthians that, if two or three tongues-speakers wanted to speak in a meeting, then a spiritually gifted tongues-interpreter must also be present. In fact, “if there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:28).

The temporal nature of the gift of tongues implies that the gift of interpretation of tongues was also of a temporal nature. If the gift of speaking in tongues were active in the church today, it would be performed in agreement with Scripture. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God’s Word to a person of another language (Acts 2:6–12), and it would be done “in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40), “for God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people” (1 Corinthians 14:33).


PART IV

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of leadership?"

Answer: The Bible discusses the means for the church to accomplish tasks, develop the local congregation, serve the needs of the fellowship, and help it establish a community witness. The Bible describes these means as spiritual gifts, one of which is the gift of leadership. The spiritual gift of leadership in the local church appears in two passages, Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The Greek word translated “rule” or “govern” in these verses designates one who is set over others or who presides or rules or who attends with diligence and care to a thing. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 the word is used in relation to ministers in general: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord.” Here the word is translated “over you.”

Everything rises and falls with leadership. The more skillful and effective the leadership, the better the organization runs and the more the potential for growth increases. In Romans 12:8 the word translated “ruler” indicates care and diligence with reference to the local church. The ruler is to attend, with constant diligence, to his work, which is to watch over the flock and to be ready to sacrifice personal comfort to look after needy sheep.

There are several characteristics of those with the spiritual gift of leadership. First and foremost, they recognize that their position is by the appointment of the Lord and is under His direction. They understand that they are not absolute rulers but are themselves subject to the One who is over them all, the Lord Jesus who is the Head of the church. Recognizing his place in the hierarchy of the administration of the body of Christ prevents the gifted leader from succumbing to pride or a sense of entitlement. The truly gifted Christian leader recognizes that he is but a slave of Christ and a servant of those he leads. The apostle Paul recognized this position, referring to himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1). Like Paul, the gifted leader recognizes that God has called him to his position; he has not called himself (1 Corinthians 1:1). Following Jesus’ example, the gifted leader also lives to serve those he leads, and not to be served by them or lord it over them (Matthew 20:25–28).

James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, had the gift of leadership as he led the church in Jerusalem. He, too, referred to himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). James exhibited another quality of spiritual leadership—the ability to sway others to think rightly, biblically, and godly in all matters. At the Jerusalem Council, James dealt with the contentious issue of how to relate to Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah. “And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His Name’” (Acts 15:13–14). With that opening statement, James led the delegates to think clearly and biblically, enabling them to come to a right decision on this issue (Acts 15:22–29).

As shepherds of God’s people, gifted leaders rule with diligence and possess the ability to discern true spiritual needs from “felt” needs. They lead others to maturity in the faith. The Christian leader leads others to grow in their ability to discern for themselves that which comes from God versus that which is cultural or temporary. Following Paul’s example, the church leader’s words are not “wise and persuasive” from the viewpoint of human wisdom but are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, leading and encouraging others to rest their faith on that very power (1 Corinthians 2:4–6). The goal of the gifted leader is to guard and guide those he leads “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

The spiritual gift of leadership is given by God to men and women who will help the church to grow and thrive beyond the current generation. God has given the gift of leadership not to exalt men but to glorify Himself when believers use His gifts to do His will.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


03/01/19

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of teaching?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of teaching is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:1–12). It is a gift given by the Holy Spirit, enabling one to effectively communicate the truths of the Bible to others. It is most often, but not always, used in the context of the local church. The gift of teaching involves the analysis and proclamation of the Word of God, explaining the meaning, context, and application to the hearer’s life. The gifted teacher is one who has the unique ability to clearly instruct and communicate knowledge, specifically the doctrines of the faith and truths of the Bible.

God gave spiritual gifts to edify His church. Paul instructed the church at Corinth to seek to edify and build up Christ’s church, telling them that since they were “eager” to have spiritual gifts, they should “try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). A spiritual gift (charismata in Greek) is a supernatural, God-given ability to perform a ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. It is given graciously by God and cannot be earned. While a spiritual gift can be developed, it does require a supernatural ability to exercise it. One of these gifts is teaching.

The Greek word for “teach” is didaskalos, which means “to instruct.” We see examples all through the Bible of teaching. Jesus Himself was the Great Teacher, and Jesus commanded His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). Jesus commanded His disciples to teach new disciples everything He had commanded, instructing them in both doctrine and holy living. Christ’s ministers are not to teach the commandments of men or anything that is of their own or other men’s devising, but only that which is ordered by Christ.

There are several contexts in which the gift of teaching can be used: Sunday school classes, Bible schools, colleges, seminaries, and home Bible studies. The one with the gift can teach either individuals or groups. A person with the natural talent to teach can teach just about anything, but a person with the spiritual gift of teaching teaches the content of the Bible. He can teach the message of a book as a whole book or break it down to individual paragraphs or verses. No new material originates from one with the gift of teaching. The teacher simply explains or expounds the meaning of the Bible’s text.

Teaching is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit. One without this gift can understand the Bible as he hears or reads it, but he cannot explain it as one with the gift can. Although it can be developed, the spiritual gift of teaching is not something that can be learned or acquired, as with a college degree. A person with a Ph.D. but without the gift of teaching will not be able to expound the Bible as one without a degree but having the gift of teaching.

In Ephesians 4:11–12, Paul lists foundational gifts for the building up of the local church. The gifts are given for the building up of the body of Christ. In verse 11 teachers are linked with pastors. This does not necessarily suggest one gift, but it does seem to imply that the pastor is also a teacher. The Greek word for pastor is poimen which means “shepherd.” A pastor is one who cares for his people in the same way a shepherd cares for his sheep. Just as a shepherd feeds his sheep, the pastor also has the responsibility to teach his people the spiritual food of the Word of God.

The church is edified through use of the gift of teaching as people listen to the Word of God and hear what it means and how to apply it to their own lives. God has raised up many with this gift to build people up in their faith and enable them to grow in all wisdom and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).

How can Christians know if they have the gift of teaching? They should begin by asking God for opportunities to teach a Sunday school class or Bible study, under the authority and guidance of a gifted teacher. If they find they can explain the meaning of the Bible and others respond favorably, they probably have the gift and should ask God for further opportunities to use and develop their gift.


PART II

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of helps?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of helps is found in one of the spiritual gifts lists in the Bible. The Greek word translated “helps” in 1 Corinthians 12:28 is found only there in the New Testament; therefore, the exact meaning of the gift of helps is somewhat obscure. The word translated “helps” means literally “to relieve, succor, participate in, and/or support.” Those with the gift of helps are those who can aid or render assistance to others in the church with compassion and grace. This gift has a broad range of applications, from helping individuals with daily chores to assisting in the administration of the affairs of the church.

Helping in the body of Christ can take a variety of forms. Some see the gift of helps as given to those who are willing to “lend a hand” and do even the most mundane and disagreeable tasks with a spirit of humility and grace. Helpers are often those who volunteer to work regularly around church buildings and grounds, often laboring in obscurity. Others see helping as assisting the widows and elderly or families to accomplish daily tasks, coming alongside to render assistance in those areas where help is needed. These helpers render a gift of service in the broadest sense, assisting and supporting the body of Christ. 

But there is perhaps a deeper meaning to the spiritual gift of helps. Since it is one of the spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit, all of which are given for the building up of the body of Christ, the spiritual aspect of the gift of helps is perhaps even more important than the practical aspect. Those with the spiritual gift of helps have been given the unique ability to identify those who are struggling with doubt, fears, and other spiritual battles. They move toward those in spiritual need with a kind word, an understanding and compassionate demeanor, and the unique ability to speak scriptural truth in convicting and loving fashion. Their words are “like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11) to the spiritually weak and weary. These helpful Christians can quell anxiety in the downtrodden heart with cheerful and confidently spoken words of truth and joy.

Praise God that He knows us so well. He knows all our needs and challenges and has given the gift of helps to special individuals who can come alongside others in mercy, grace, and love. These precious saints can lift the heart by helping carry a variety of burdens that we cannot, and should not, carry alone.


PART III

Question: "What is the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: The doctrine of eternal procession of the Holy Spirit is an attempt to explain how the Holy Spirit relates to the other members of the Trinity. The concept was introduced in the Nicene Creed as revised at the Council of Constantinople to affirm the deity of the Holy Spirit: “We believe . . . in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.”

According to the Nicene Creed, the Son is begotten (not made) of the Father, and theologians understand this as an eternal begetting. When a person makes something, they make something other than themselves—a sculptor makes a statue. But if that sculptor begets something, it will be another person of the same kind as himself. This is something of the logic behind the creed. The Son is the eternal offspring of the Father. Offspring indicates that He is of the same kind of being as the Father, not a creation, and the fact that He was “begotten” from all eternity means that He is co-eternal with the Father. Admittedly, this is somewhat difficult to understand, but often the sun is given as an illustration. Just as the rays of light stream from the sun, so the Son streams from the Father eternally. Just as the sun and the rays of light co-exist, one is not before the other, so the Father and Son co-exist eternally. This was the logic behind the Nicene Creed.

In the years after Nicaea, the deity of the Holy Spirit began to be questioned. In order to address this, the Nicene Creed was revised at the Council of Constantinople to affirm that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. As the begetting of the Son is eternal, so the procession of the Holy Spirit is eternal. Once again, as rays of light proceed from the sun, so the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and, since this procession is from all eternity, the Father is not temporally prior to the Spirit—both are co-eternal.

The eternal begetting of the Son and the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit were the concepts introduced at Nicaea and Constantinople to affirm the deity of the Son and Spirit and try to explain the relationship between the members of the Trinity in a way that would account for the biblical language. This language seems to give priority to the Father as Father yet still affirms the full deity of the Son and Holy Spirit. They are submissive to the Father but in no way inferior to Him.

Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine points out that one problem with these kinds of formulations is that they attempt to explain the eternal relationships within the Trinity based on the biblical information that addresses the relationships in time (see p. 246). In John 15:26 Jesus tells the disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father. Is Jesus really explaining the eternal relationship of the Father and Spirit here? Or is He simply telling the disciples that the Spirit will come to them from the Father?

It is quite possible that God does not eternally exist as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the ontological Trinity) but that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit explain the way the members of the Trinity relate to us (the economic Trinity). In the way the Trinity has chosen to interact with human beings, one member occupies the Father role, the second occupies the Son role because He was the one who submitted Himself to the Father and was born as a human being, and one occupies the Spirit role because He is the one who empowers believers of live in a way that pleases God. C. S. Lewis envisions it at God the Father who is above us, God the Son who is beside us, and God the Spirit who is in us. If this explanation is correct, the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father when He was sent into the world at Pentecost, but this says nothing about His “eternal procession.”


PART IV

Question: "Will the Holy Spirit be present during the tribulation?"

Answer: The question of the Holy Spirit not being present during the tribulation results from a misunderstanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:7, which reads, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” Right now, prior to the tribulation, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is the restraint of evil. In verses 8 and 9, we learn that the restraining power of the Holy Spirit holds back the “lawless one” (Antichrist) so he is not revealed before God wills it. The passage says the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain the growth of evil, but that does not mean He will have no ministry whatsoever.

In Acts 1:4–5, Jesus promises that His disciples would soon be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts chapter 2, Jesus’ promise is fulfilled. In verses 38 and 39, it is written that “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’”

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is thus assured for every born-again believer, and nowhere in Scripture is that promise rescinded. Regeneration is the Spirit’s work; without Him, no one is saved. If the Spirit were not present during the tribulation, no one could be saved. But the fact is that a multitude that no one can number is saved during the tribulation (Revelation 7:9–14). Therefore, those who come to Jesus during the tribulation period will also be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Give glory to God for making that provision, because tribulation saints will need the guidance and direction of the Spirit during that troubled time.

Another good reason that the Spirit must be present during the tribulation is that He is omnipresent. Since He is everywhere at all times, He must be in the world during the tribulation.

At some point—only God knows when—the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit will be removed, the Antichrist will be revealed to an unwitting and unsuspecting world, and the tribulation period will begin.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO


02/28/19

Question: "What is the gift of encouragement?"

Answer: The gift of encouragement or exhortation is found in Paul’s list of gifts in Romans 12:7–8. The word translated “encouragement” or “exhortation” is the Greek word paraklésis, related to the word paraclete. Paraklésis basically means “a call to one’s side.”

Paraklésis carries the idea of bringing someone closely alongside in order to “exhort,” “urge,” “encourage,” “give joy,” and “comfort” him or her. All of these actions make up the gift of encouragement. For example, Paul often urged and exhorted his readers to act on something he wrote. A good example is Romans 12:1–2, where Paul urges the Romans to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices. By doing this, they would know and understand God’s will.

Interestingly, when Jesus conversed with His disciples on the night of His arrest, He spoke of the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter” (John 14:16, 26; 15:26), which is why the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the “Paraclete,” the One who comes alongside to exhort and encourage us.

A person with the spiritual gift of encouragement can use his gift in both public and private settings. Encouragement is useful in counseling, discipleship, mentoring, and preaching. The body of Christ is built up in faith as a result of the ministry of those with the gift of encouragement.

The gift of encouragement or exhortation differs from the gift of teaching in that exhortation focuses on the practical application of the Bible. Whereas one with the gift of teaching focuses on the meaning and content of the Word, one with the gift of encouragement focuses on the practical application of the Word. He or she can relate to others, in groups and individually, with understanding, sympathy, and positive guidance. Teaching says, “This is the way you should go”; encouragement says, “I will help you go that way.” A person with the gift of encouragement can help another person move from pessimism to optimism.

Probably the best biblical example of someone with the gift of encouragement is Barnabas. His real name was Joseph, but the apostles called him “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). We see Barnabas in Acts 9:27 coming alongside the newly converted Paul and introducing him to a wary church. In Acts 13:43 Barnabas encourages the believers to continue in the grace of God. In Acts 15:36–41 Barnabas chooses John Mark as a ministry partner, despite Mark’s having deserted a previous missionary endeavor. In other words, Barnabas gave Mark a second chance. All through Barnabas’s ministry, he evidenced the gift of encouragement, calling others to his side in order to help, comfort, and encourage them to become more effective for Christ.


PART II

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of healing?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of healing is the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God that miraculously brings healing and deliverance from disease and/or infirmity. It is the power of God that destroys the work of sin and/or the devil in the human body, such as the healings that Jesus and the disciples performed (Matthew 4:24; 15:30; Acts 5:15-16; 28:8-9). The gift of healing given to the church is primarily noted in 1 Corinthians 12, where the spiritual gifts are listed.

Spiritual gifts are powers, skills, abilities, or knowledge given by God through the Holy Spirit to Christians. Paul tells the church that the purpose of the spiritual gifts is to edify other believers and, ultimately, to glorify God. God gives these gifts for His use, but in the Corinthian church, they were apparently a type of status symbol or being used to indicate superiority. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 12:9 refers to “gifts” of healing in the plural, which may indicate that there are different gifts of healing. The gifts of healing could mean a very wide range of skills or abilities. This could be from the power to do miraculous or dramatic healing, like making the lame walk, or the use or understanding of medicine. It could even be the ability to empathize and show love to others to the point of healing an emotional wound.

There has been much debate about the usage of the spiritual gift of healing among Christians. Some believe the gift of healing and some other sign gifts are no longer operative today, while others believe the miraculous gifts are still in use today. Of course, the power to heal was never in the gifted person himself/herself. The power to heal is from God and God alone. Although God does still heal today, we believe His healing through the gift of healing belonged primarily to the apostles of the first-century church to affirm that their message was from God (Acts 2:22; 14:3).

God still performs miracles. God still heals people. There is nothing preventing God from healing one person through the ministry of another person. However, the miraculous gift of healing, as a spiritual gift, does not seem to be functioning today. God can certainly intervene in whatever manner He sees fit, whether in “normal” fashion or through a miracle. Our salvation itself is miracle. We were dead in sin, but God entered our lives and made us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the greatest healing of all.


PART III

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of faith?"

Answer: The spiritual gift of faith is found in the list of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 9 says that some people are given the gift of faith, but the gift is not specifically explained. All believers have been given saving faith by God as the only means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), but not all believers are given the spiritual gift of faith. Like all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gift of faith was given for the “common good,” which means the edifying of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The gift of faith may be defined as the special gift whereby the Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God’s promises, power, and presence so they can take heroic stands for the future of God’s work in the church. The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, and His promises. Examples of people with the gift of faith are those listed in Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter, often called “the hall of faith,” describes those whose faith was extraordinary, enabling them to do extraordinary, superhuman things. Here we see Noah spending 120 years building a huge boat when, up to that time, rain was non-existent and Abraham believing he would father a child when his wife’s natural ability to do so had ended. Without the special gift of faith from God, such things would have been impossible.

As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of faith is given to some Christians who then use it to edify others in the body of Christ. Those with the gift of faith are an inspiration to their fellow believers, exhibiting a simple confidence in God that shows in all they say and do. Extraordinarily faithful people show a humble godliness and reliance on God’s promises, often so much so that they are known to be quietly fearless and zealous. They are so convinced that all obstacles to the gospel and to God’s purposes will be overcome and so confident that God will secure the advancement of His cause, that they will often do far more in the promotion of His kingdom than the most talented and erudite preachers and teachers.

To sum it up, God gives all Christians saving faith. The spiritual gift of faith is given to some, who exhibit extraordinary amounts of faith in their Christian walk and who, by their faith, are a joy and an encouragement to others.


PART IV

Question: "What is the spiritual gift of mercy?"

Answer: In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, one of the Beatitudes is “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Mercy is what we express when we are led by God to be compassionate in our attitudes, words, and actions. It is more than feeling sympathy toward someone; it is love enacted. Mercy desires to answer the immediate needs of others and alleviate suffering, loneliness, and grief. Mercy addresses physical, emotional, financial, or spiritual crises with generous, self-sacrificial service. Mercy is a champion of the lowly, poor, exploited, and forgotten and often acts on their behalf.

A good example of mercy is found in Matthew 20:29–34: “As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.” Notice that the blind men associated mercy not with a feeling but with an action. Their physical problem was that they couldn’t see, so to them, the act of mercy was Christ’s intervention to restore their sight. Mercy is more than a feeling; it is always followed by an action.

This gift has a practical application of active service as well as a responsibility to do so cheerfully (Romans 12:8). Additionally, we are all called to be merciful. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 5:7 promises mercy to those who are merciful toward others. As spiritually dead and blind sinners, we are no better off than the two blind men in Matthew 20. Just as they were utterly dependent on Christ’s compassion to restore their sight, so are we dependent on Him to “show us His mercy and grant us His salvation” (Psalm 85:7). This bedrock understanding that our hope depends on Christ’s mercy alone and not in any merit of ours should inspire us to follow Christ’s example of compassionate service and show mercy to others as it has been shown to us.


GOD BLESS YOU

MAXIMILIANO


02/27/19

Question: "What is the seal of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “deposit,” “seal,” and “earnest” in the hearts of Christians (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30). The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The Greek word translated “earnest” in these passages is arrhabōn which means “a pledge,” that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a “first installment” to assure us that our full inheritance as children of God will be delivered. The Holy Spirit is given to us to confirm to us that we belong to God who grants to us His Spirit as a gift, just as grace and faith are gifts (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through the gift of the Spirit, God renews and sanctifies us. He produces in our hearts those feelings, hopes, and desires which are evidence that we are accepted by God, that we are regarded as His adopted children, that our hope is genuine, and that our redemption and salvation are sure in the same way that a seal guarantees a will or an agreement. God grants to us His Holy Spirit as the certain pledge that we are His forever and shall be saved in the last day. The proof of the Spirit’s presence is His operations on the heart which produce repentance, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), conformity to God’s commands and will, a passion for prayer and praise, and love for His people. These things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.

So it is through the Holy Spirit and His teachings and guiding power that we are sealed and confirmed until the day of redemption, complete and free from the corruption of sin and the grave. Because we have the seal of the Spirit in our hearts, we can live joyfully, confident of our sure place in a future that holds unimaginable glories.


PART II

Question: "Why is the dove often used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: All four Gospel accounts refer to the baptism of Jesus by John at the Jordan River (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Luke says, “And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him.” Because the Holy Spirit is just that—spirit—He is not visible to us. On this occasion, however, the Spirit took on a visible appearance and was doubtless seen by the people. The dove is an emblem of purity and harmlessness (Matthew 10:16), and the form of the dove at Jesus’ baptism signified that the Spirit with which Jesus was endowed was one of holiness and innocence. 

Another symbol involving the dove comes from the account of the Flood and Noah’s ark in Genesis 6-8. When the earth had been covered with water for some time, Noah wanted to check to see if there was dry land anywhere, so he sent out a dove from the ark; the dove came back with an olive branch in her beak (Genesis 8:11). Since that time, the olive branch has been a symbol of peace. Symbolically, the story of Noah’s dove tells us that God declared peace with mankind after the Flood had purged the earth of its wickedness. The dove represented His Spirit bringing the good news of the reconciliation of God and man. Of course, this was only a temporal reconciliation, because lasting, spiritual reconciliation with God only comes through Jesus Christ. But it is significant that the Holy Spirit was pictured as a dove at Jesus’ baptism, thereby once again symbolizing peace with God.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit assumed the form of “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) to signify the miraculous power of the apostles’ message and their radically changed lives. The Spirit’s appearance as the dove at Jesus’ baptism symbolizes the gentle Savior bringing peace to mankind through His sacrifice.


PART III

Question: "What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete?"

Answer: After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon, He then gave them a statement of great encouragement: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16–17).

The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another”; the word carries a secondary notion concerning the purpose of the calling alongside: to counsel or support the one who needs it. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who has been “called to our side.” He is a personal being, and He indwells every believer.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now, in John 14—16, He is preparing to leave them. He promises that the Spirit of God would come to the disciples and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master's physical presence. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter”—another of the same kind. The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God in essence, for both are God.

During the Old Testament age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:12). David, when confessing his sin, asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). But when the Spirit was given at Pentecost, He came to God’s people to remain with them forever. We may grieve the Holy Spirit, but He will not leave us. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How is He with us when He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father? He is with us by His Spirit (the Helper—the Parakletos).

To have the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete is to have God Himself indwelling us as believers. The Spirit teaches us the Word and guides us into truth. He reminds us of what Jesus has taught so that we can depend on His Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit works in us to give us His peace (John 14:27), His love (John 15:9–10), and His joy (John 15:11). He comforts our hearts and minds in a troubled world. The power of the indwelling Paraclete gives us the ability to live by the Spirit and “not gratify the desires of the sinful flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit can then produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23) to the glory of God the Father. What a blessing to have the Holy Spirit in our lives as our Paraclete—our Comforter, our Encourager, our Counselor, and our Advocate!


PART IV

Question: "What is the difference between the Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost?"

Answer: Of the modern English translations of the Bible, it is only the King James Version of the Bible which uses the term “Holy Ghost.” It occurs 90 times in the KJV. The term “Holy Spirit” occurs 7 times in the KJV. There is no clear reason as to why the KJV translators used Ghost in most places and then Spirit in a few. The exact same Greek and Hebrew words are translated "ghost" and "spirit" in the KJV in different occurrences of the words. By "ghost," the KJV translators did not intend to communicate the idea of "the spirit of a deceased person." In 1611, when the KJV was originally translated, the word "ghost" primarily referred to "an immaterial being."

With recent Scripture translations, "Spirit" has replaced "Ghost" in most instances. Some of this came about because words don't always hold their meanings. In the days of Shakespeare or King James, ghost meant the living essence of a person. Looking back, we see that "breath" or "soul" were often used as synonyms of "ghost." During these times, spirit normally meant the essence of a departed person or a demonic or paranormal apparition. As language evolved, people started saying "ghost" when speaking of the vision of a dead person while "spirit" became the standard term for life or living essence, often also for "soul." With slight exceptions, "ghost" and "spirit" changed places over some 300 years.

The real issue is that both "Holy Ghost" and "Holy Spirit" refer to the Third Person of the Trinity, coequal and consubstantial with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3,4; 28:25,26; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6). He is the gift of the Father to His people on earth to initiate and complete the building of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). He is also the agency by which the world is convicted of sin, the Lord Jesus is glorified, and believers are transformed into His image (John 16:7-9; Acts 1:5, 2:4; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:22). Whichever term we use, we remember that this Holy Ghost is God's active breath, blowing where He wishes, creating faith through water and Word.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/26/19

Question: "What is praying in the Spirit?"

Answer: Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. First Corinthians 14:15 says, "So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Jude 20 says, "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit." So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

The Greek word translated "pray in" can have several different meanings. It can mean "by means of," "with the help of," "in the sphere of," and "in connection to." Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit's leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

Some, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, equate praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues. Discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions "pray with my spirit." First Corinthians 14:14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said? Therefore, praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit, by the leading of the Spirit, and according to His will, not as praying in tongues.


PART II 

Question: "What is the fruit of the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit's presence in the life of a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian's life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit's job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." This passage describes all people, to varying degrees, when they do not know Christ and therefore are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful flesh produces certain types of fruit that reflect our nature, and the Holy Spirit produces types of fruit that reflect His nature.

The Christian life is a battle of the sinful flesh against the new nature given by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As fallen human beings, we are still trapped in a body that desires sinful things (Romans 7:14-25). As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us and we have the Holy Spirit's power available to conquer the acts of the sinful nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13). A Christian will never be completely victorious in always demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the main purposes of the Christian life, though, to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives"and to allow the Holy Spirit to conquer the opposing sinful desires. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to exhibit and, with the Holy Spirit's help, it is possible!


PART III

Question: "How does God distribute spiritual gifts?"

Answer: Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians chapter 12 make it clear that each Christian is given spiritual gifts according to the Lord's choice. Spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7, 14:12). The exact timing of the giving of these gifts is not specifically mentioned. Most assume that spiritual gifts are given at the time of spiritual birth (the moment of salvation). However, there are some verses that may indicate God gives spiritual gifts later as well. Both 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 refer to a gift that Timothy had received at the time of his ordination "by prophecy." This likely indicates that one of the elders at Timothy's ordination spoke about a spiritual gift that Timothy would have to enable his future ministry.

We are also told in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and in 1 Corinthians 14:12-13 that it is God (not us) who chooses the gifts. These passages also indicate that not everyone will have a particular gift. Paul tells the Corinthian believers that if they are going to covet or long after spiritual gifts, they should strive after the more edifying gifts, such as prophesying (speaking forth the word of God for the building up of others). Now, why would Paul tell them to strongly desire the "greater" gifts if they already had been given all they would be given, and there was no further opportunity of gaining these greater gifts? It may lead one to believe that even as Solomon sought wisdom from God in order to be a good ruler over God's people, so God will grant to us those gifts we need in order to be of greater benefit to His church. 

Having said this, it still remains that these gifts are distributed according to God's choosing, not our own. If every Corinthian strongly desired a particular gift, such as prophesying, God would not give everyone that gift simply because they strongly desired it. If He did, then who would serve in all of the other functions of the body of Christ? 

There is one thing that is abundantly clear"God's command is God's enablement. If God commands us to do something (such as witness, love the unlovely, disciple the nations, etc.), He will enable us to do it. Some may not be as gifted at evangelism as others, but God commands all Christians to witness and disciple (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We are all called to evangelize whether or not we have the spiritual gift of evangelism. A determined Christian who strives to learn the Word and develop his teaching ability may become a better teacher than one who may have the spiritual gift of teaching, but who neglects the gift. 

Are spiritual gifts given to us when we receive Christ, or are they cultivated through our walk with God? The answer is both. Normally, spiritual gifts are given at salvation, but also need to be cultivated through spiritual growth. Can a desire in your heart be pursued and developed into your spiritual gift? Can you seek after certain spiritual gifts? First Corinthians 12:31 seems to indicate that this is possible: "earnestly desire the best gifts." You can seek a spiritual gift from God and be zealous after it by seeking to develop that area. At the same time, if it is not God's will, you will not receive a certain spiritual gift no matter how strongly you seek after it. God is infinitely wise, and He knows through which gifts you will be most productive for His kingdom.

No matter how much we have been gifted with one gift or another, we are all called upon to develop a number of areas mentioned in the lists of spiritual gifts: to be hospitable, to show acts of mercy, to serve one another, to evangelize, etc. As we seek to serve God out of love for the purpose of building up others for His glory, He will bring glory to His name, grow His church, and reward us (1 Corinthians 3:5-8, 12:31"14:1). God promises that as we make Him our delight, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4-5). This would surely include preparing us to serve Him in a way that will bring us purpose and satisfaction.


PART IV

Question: "Are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit for today?"

Answer: First, it is important to recognize that this is not a question of whether God still performs miracles today. It would be foolish and unbiblical to claim God does not heal people, speak to people, and perform miraculous signs and wonders today. The question is whether the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, described primarily in 1 Corinthians 12–14, are still active in the church today. This is also not a question of can the Holy Spirit give someone a miraculous gift. The question is whether the Holy Spirit still dispenses the miraculous gifts today. Above all else, we entirely recognize that the Holy Spirit is free to dispense gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

In the book of Acts and the Epistles, the vast majority of miracles are performed by the apostles and their close associates. Paul gives us the reason why: “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Corinthians 12:12). If every believer in Christ was equipped with the ability to perform signs, wonders, and miracles, then signs, wonders, and miracles could in no way be the identifying marks of an apostle. Acts 2:22 tells us that Jesus was “accredited” by “miracles, wonders, and signs.” Similarly, the apostles were “marked” as genuine messengers from God by the miracles they performed. Acts 14:3 describes the gospel message being “confirmed” by the miracles Paul and Barnabas performed.

Chapters 12–14 of 1 Corinthians deal primarily with the subject of the gifts of the Spirit. It seems from that text “ordinary” Christians were sometimes given miraculous gifts (12:8-10, 28-30). We are not told how commonplace this was. From what we learned above, that the apostles were “marked” by signs and wonders, it would seem that miraculous gifts being given to “ordinary” Christians was the exception, not the rule. Beside the apostles and their close associates, the New Testament nowhere specifically describes individuals exercising the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

It is also important to realize that the early church did not have the completed Bible, as we do today (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, the gifts of prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, etc. were necessary in order for the early Christians to know what God would have them do. The gift of prophecy enabled believers to communicate new truth and revelation from God. Now that God’s revelation is complete in the Bible, the “revelatory” gifts are no longer needed, at least not in the same capacity as they were in the New Testament.

God miraculously heals people every day. God still does amazing miracles, signs, and wonders and sometimes performs those miracles through a Christian. However, these things are not necessarily the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. The primary purpose of the miraculous gifts was to prove that the gospel was true and that the apostles were truly God’s messengers. The Bible does not say outright that the miraculous gifts have ceased, but it does lay the foundation for why they might no longer occur to the same extent as they did as recorded in the New Testament.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/25/19

“How do I identify my spiritual gift?"

There is no magic formula or definitive test that can tell us exactly what our spiritual gifts are. The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). A common problem for Christians is the temptation to get so caught up in our spiritual gift that we only seek to serve God in the area in which we feel we have been gifted. That is not how the spiritual gifts work. God calls us to obediently serve Him in all things. He will equip us with whatever gift or gifts we need to accomplish the task He has called us to.

Identifying our spiritual giftedness can be accomplished in various ways. Spiritual gift tests or inventories, while not to be fully relied upon, can definitely help us understand where our gifting might be. Confirmation from others also gives light to our spiritual giftedness. Other people who see us serving the Lord can often identify a spiritual gift in use that we might take for granted or not recognize. Prayer is also important. The one person who knows exactly how we are spiritually gifted is the gift-giver Himself"the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to show us how we are gifted in order to better use our spiritual gifts for His glory.

Yes, God calls some to be teachers and gives them the gift of teaching. God calls some to be servants and blesses them with the gift of helps. However, specifically knowing our spiritual gift does not excuse us from serving God in areas outside our gifting. Is it beneficial to know what spiritual gift(s) God has given us? Of course it is. Is it wrong to focus so much on spiritual gifts that we miss other opportunities to serve God? Yes. If we are dedicated to being used by God, He will equip us with the spiritual gifts we need.


PART II

Question: "What is the gift of speaking in tongues?"

Answer: The first occurrence of speaking in tongues occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. The apostles went out and shared the gospel with the crowds, speaking to them in their own languages: "We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" (Acts 2:11). The Greek word translated tongues literally means "languages." Therefore, the gift of tongues is speaking in a language a person does not know in order to minister to someone who does speak that language. In 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, Paul discusses miraculous gifts, saying, "Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?" (1 Corinthians 14:6). According to the apostle Paul, and in agreement with the tongues described in Acts, speaking in tongues is valuable to the one hearing God's message in his or her own language, but it is useless to everyone else unless it is interpreted/translated.

A person with the gift of interpreting tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30) could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he did not know the language that was being spoken. The tongues interpreter would then communicate the message of the tongues speaker to everyone else, so all could understand. "For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says" (1 Corinthians 14:13). Paul's conclusion regarding tongues that were not interpreted is powerful: "But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:19).

Is the gift of tongues for today? First Corinthians 13:8 mentions the gift of tongues ceasing, although it connects the ceasing with the arrival of the "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10. Some point to a difference in the tense of the Greek verbs referring to prophecy and knowledge "ceasing" and that of tongues "being ceased" as evidence for tongues ceasing before the arrival of the "perfect." While possible, this is not explicitly clear from the text. Some also point to passages such as Isaiah 28:11 and Joel 2:28-29 as evidence that speaking in tongues was a sign of God's oncoming judgment. First Corinthians 14:22 describes tongues as a "sign to unbelievers." According to this argument, the gift of tongues was a warning to the Jews that God was going to judge Israel for rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah. Therefore, when God did in fact judge Israel (with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), the gift of tongues would no longer serve its intended purpose. While this view is possible, the primary purpose of tongues being fulfilled does not necessarily demand its cessation. Scripture does not conclusively assert that the gift of speaking in tongues has ceased.

At the same time, if the gift of speaking in tongues were active in the church today, it would be performed in agreement with Scripture. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God's Word with a person of another language (Acts 2:6-12). It would be in agreement with the command God gave through the apostle Paul, "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two"or at the most three'should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God" (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). It would also be in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:33, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."

God most definitely can give a person the gift of speaking in tongues to enable him or her to communicate with a person who speaks another language. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the dispersion of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11). Just imagine how much more productive missionaries could be if they did not have to go to language school, and were instantly able to speak to people in their own language. However, God does not seem to be doing this. Tongues does not seem to occur today in the manner it did in the New Testament, despite the fact that it would be immensely useful. The vast majority of believers who claim to practice the gift of speaking in tongues do not do so in agreement with the Scriptures mentioned above. These facts lead to the conclusion that the gift of tongues has ceased or is at least a rarity in God's plan for the church today.


PART III

Question: "What is the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift?"

Answer: There are similarities and differences between talents and spiritual gifts. Both are gifts from God. Both grow in effectiveness with use. Both are intended to be used on behalf of others, not for selfish purposes. First Corinthians 12:7 states that spiritual gifts are given to benefit others and not ourselves. As the two great commandments deal with loving God and others, it follows that one should use his talents for those purposes. But to whom and when talents and spiritual gifts are given differs. A person (regardless of his belief in God or in Christ) is given a natural talent as a result of a combination of genetics (some have natural ability in music, art, or mathematics) and surroundings (growing up in a musical family will aid one in developing a talent for music), or because God desired to endow certain individuals with certain talents (for example, Bezalel in Exodus 31:1-6). Spiritual gifts are given to all believers by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3, 6) at the time they place their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. At that moment, the Holy Spirit gives to the new believer the spiritual gift(s) He desires the believer to have (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Romans 12:3-8 lists the spiritual gifts as follows: prophecy, serving others (in a general sense), teaching, exhorting, generosity, leadership, and showing mercy. First Corinthians 12:8-11 lists the gifts as the word of wisdom (ability to communicate spiritual wisdom), the word of knowledge (ability to communicate practical truth), faith (unusual reliance upon God), the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues (ability to speak in a language that one has not studied), and interpretation of tongues. The third list is found in Ephesians 4:10-12, which speaks of God giving to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. There is also a question as to how many spiritual gifts there are, as no two lists are the same. It is also possible that the biblical lists are not exhaustive, that there are additional spiritual gifts beyond the ones the Bible mentions.

While one may develop his talents and later direct his profession or hobby along those lines, spiritual gifts were given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of Christ's church. In that, all Christians are to play an active part in the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. All are called and equipped to be involved in the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). All are gifted so that they can contribute to the cause of Christ out of gratitude for all He has done for them. In doing so, they also find fulfillment in life through their labor for Christ. It is the job of the church leaders to help build up the saints so they can be further equipped for the ministry to which God has called them. The intended result of spiritual gifts is that the church as a whole can grow, being strengthened by the combined supply of each member of Christ's body.

To summarize the differences between spiritual gifts and talents: 1) A talent is the result of genetics and/or training, while a spiritual gift is the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. 2) A talent can be possessed by anyone, Christian or non-Christian, while spiritual gifts are only possessed by Christians. 3) While both talents and spiritual gifts should be used for God’s glory and to minister to others, spiritual gifts are focused on these tasks, while talents can be used entirely for non-spiritual purposes.


PART IV

Question: "Is speaking in tongues evidence for having the Holy Spirit?"

Answer: There are three occasions in the book of Acts where speaking in tongues accompanied the receiving of the Holy Spirit"Acts 2:4, 10:44-46, and 19:6. However, these three occasions are the only places in the Bible where speaking in tongues is an evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book of Acts, thousands of people believe in Jesus and nothing is said about them speaking in tongues (Acts 2:41, 8:5-25, 16:31-34, 21:20). Nowhere in the New Testament is it taught that speaking in tongues is the only evidence a person has received the Holy Spirit. In fact, the New Testament teaches the opposite. We are told that every believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14), but not every believer speaks in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:29-31).

So, why was speaking in tongues the evidence of the Holy Spirit in those three passages in Acts? Acts 2 records the apostles being baptized in the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him to proclaim the gospel. The apostles were enabled to speak in other languages (tongues) so they could share the truth with people in their own languages. Acts 10 records the apostle Peter being sent to share the gospel with non-Jewish people. Peter and the other early Christians, being Jews, would have a hard time accepting Gentiles (non-Jewish people) into the church. God enabled the Gentiles to speak in tongues to demonstrate that they had received the same Holy Spirit the apostles had received (Acts 10:47, 11:17).

Acts 10:44-47 describes this: "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.'" Peter later refers back to this occasion as proof that God was indeed saving the Gentiles (Acts 15:7-11).

Speaking in tongues is nowhere presented as something all Christians should expect when they receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and are therefore baptized in the Holy Spirit. In fact, out of all the conversion accounts in the New Testament, only two record speaking in tongues in that context. Tongues was a miraculous gift that had a specific purpose for a specific time. It was not, and never has been, the only evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO


02/24/19

“What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives today?"

Of all the gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. First, He does a work in the hearts of all people everywhere. Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Spirit into the world to "convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7-11). Everyone has a "God consciousness," whether or not they admit it. The Spirit applies the truths of God to minds of men to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. Responding to that conviction brings men to salvation.

Once we are saved and belong to God, the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts forever, sealing us with the confirming, certifying, and assuring pledge of our eternal state as His children. Jesus said He would send the Spirit to us to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever" (John 14:16). The Greek word translated here "Counselor" means "one who is called alongside" and has the idea of someone who encourages and exhorts. The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the hearts of believers (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 12:13). Jesus gave the Spirit as a "compensation" for His absence, to perform the functions toward us which He would have done if He had remained personally with us.

Among those functions is that of revealer of truth. The Spirit's presence within us enables us to understand and interpret God's Word. Jesus told His disciples that "when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). He reveals to our minds the whole counsel of God as it relates to worship, doctrine, and Christian living. He is the ultimate guide, going before, leading the way, removing obstructions, opening the understanding, and making all things plain and clear. He leads in the way we should go in all spiritual things. Without such a guide, we would be apt to fall into error. A crucial part of the truth He reveals is that Jesus is who He said He is (John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit convinces us of Christ's deity and incarnation, His being the Messiah, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension, His exaltation at the right hand of God, and His role as the judge of all. He gives glory to Christ in all things (John 16:14).

Another one of the Holy Spirit's roles is that of gift-giver. First Corinthians 12 describes the spiritual gifts given to believers in order that we may function as the body of Christ on earth. All these gifts, both great and small, are given by the Spirit so that we may be His ambassadors to the world, showing forth His grace and glorifying Him.

The Spirit also functions as fruit-producer in our lives. When He indwells us, He begins the work of harvesting His fruit in our lives"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are not works of our flesh, which is incapable of producing such fruit, but they are products of the Spirit's presence in our lives.

The knowledge that the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence in our lives, that He performs all these miraculous functions, that He dwells with us forever, and that He will never leave or forsake us is cause for great joy and comfort. Thank God for this precious gift"the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives!

PART II

“How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?"

An important verse in understanding the filling of the Holy Spirit is John 14:16, where Jesus promised the Spirit would indwell believers and that the indwelling would be permanent. It is important to distinguish the indwelling from the filling of the Spirit. The permanent indwelling of the Spirit is not for a select few believers, but for all believers. There are a number of references in Scripture that support this conclusion. First, the Holy Spirit is a gift given to all believers in Jesus without exception, and no conditions are placed upon this gift except faith in Christ (John 7:37-39). Second, the Holy Spirit is given at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Galatians 3:2 emphasizes this same truth, saying that the sealing and indwelling of the Spirit took place at the time of believing. Third, the Holy Spirit indwells believers permanently. The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a down payment, or verification of their future glorification in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).

This is in contrast to the filling of the Spirit referred to in Ephesians 5:18. We should be so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that He can possess us fully and, in that sense, fill us. Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13-14 states that He dwells within every believer, but He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and His activity within us can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). When we allow this to happen, we do not experience the fullness of the Spirit's working and His power in and through us. To be filled with the Spirit implies freedom for Him to occupy every part of our lives, guiding and controlling us. Then His power can be exerted through us so that what we do is fruitful to God. The filling of the Spirit does not apply to outward acts alone; it also applies to the innermost thoughts and motives of our actions. Psalm 19:14 says, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer."

Sin is what hinders the filling of the Holy Spirit, and obedience to God is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained. Ephesians 5:18 commands that we be filled with the Spirit; however, it is not praying for the filling of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes the filling. Only our obedience to God's commands allows the Spirit freedom to work within us. Because we are still infected with sin, it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit all of the time. When we sin, we should immediately confess it to God and renew our commitment to being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.


PART III

“What does it mean to grieve / quench the Holy Spirit?"

When the word “quench” is used in Scripture, it is speaking of suppressing fire. When believers put on the shield of faith, as part of their armor of God (Ephesians 6:16), they are extinguishing the power of the fiery darts from Satan. Christ described hell as a place where the fire would not be “quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48). Likewise, the Holy Spirit is a fire dwelling in each believer. He wants to express Himself in our actions and attitudes. When believers do not allow the Spirit to be seen in our actions, when we do what we know is wrong, we suppress or quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We do not allow the Spirit to reveal Himself the way that He wants to.

To understand what it means to grieve the Spirit, we must first understand that this indicates the Spirit possesses personality. Only a person can be grieved; therefore, the Spirit must be a divine person in order to have this emotion. Once we understand this, we can better understand how He is grieved, mainly because we too are grieved. Ephesians 4:30 tells us that we should not grieve the Spirit. We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (4:17-19), by lying (4:25), by being angry (4:26-27), by stealing (4:28), by cursing (4:29), by being bitter (4:31), by being unforgiving (4:32), and by being sexually immoral (5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed.

Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin. Just as we do not like to be grieved, and just as we do not seek to quench what is good'so we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.


PART IV

“Is a believer supposed to be able to feel the Holy Spirit?"

While certain ministries of the Holy Spirit may involve a feeling, such as conviction of sin, comfort, and empowerment, Scripture does not instruct us to base our relationship with the Holy Spirit on how or what we feel. Every born-again believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that when the Comforter has come He will be with us and in us. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever"the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17). In other words, Jesus is sending one like Himself to be with us and in us.

We know the Holy Spirit is with us because God's Word tells us that it is so. Every born-again believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but not every believer is controlled by the Holy Spirit, and there is a distinct difference. When we step out in our flesh, we are not under the control of the Holy Spirit even though we are still indwelt by Him. The apostle Paul comments on this truth, and he uses an illustration that helps us to understand. "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Many people read this verse and interpret it to mean that the apostle Paul is speaking against wine. However, the context of this passage is the walk and the warfare of the Spirit-filled believer. Therefore, there is something more here than just a warning about drinking too much wine.

When people are drunk with too much wine, they exhibit certain characteristics: they become clumsy, their speech is slurred, and their judgment is impaired. The apostle Paul sets up a comparison here. Just as there are certain characteristics that identify someone who is controlled by too much wine, there should also be certain characteristics that identify someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We read in Galatians 5:22-24 about the "fruit" of the Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit's fruit, and it is exhibited by the born-again believer who is under His control.

The verb tense in Ephesians 5:18 indicates a continual process of "being filled" by the Holy Spirit. Since it is an exhortation, it follows that it is also possible to not be filled or controlled by the Spirit. The rest of Ephesians 5 gives us the characteristics of a Spirit-filled believer. "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:19-21).

We are not filled with the Spirit because we feel we are, but because this is the privilege and possession of the Christian. Being filled or controlled by the Spirit is the result of walking in obedience to the Lord. This is a gift of grace and not an emotional feeling. Emotions can and will deceive us, and we can work ourselves up into an emotional frenzy that is purely from the flesh and not of the Holy Spirit. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature " Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16, 25).

Having said that, we cannot deny that there are times when we can be overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the Spirit, and this is often an emotional experience. When that happens, it is a joy like no other. King David "danced with all his might" (2 Samuel 6:14) when they brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Experiencing joy by the Spirit is the understanding that as children of God we are being blessed by His grace. So, absolutely, the ministries of the Holy Spirit can involve our feelings and emotions. At the same time, we are not to base the assurance of our possession of the Holy Spirit on how we feel.

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/23/19

“What are the names and titles of the Holy Spirit?"

The Holy Spirit is known by many names and titles, most of which denote some function or aspect of His ministry. Below are some of the names and descriptions the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit: 

Author of Scripture: (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16) The Bible is inspired, literally “God-breathed,” by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. The Spirit moved the authors of all 66 books to record exactly what He breathed into their hearts and minds. As a ship is moved through the water by wind in its sails, so the biblical writers were borne along by the Spirit’s impulse.

Comforter / Counselor / Advocate: (Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7) All three words are translations of the Greek parakletos, from which we get “Paraclete,” another name for the Spirit. When Jesus went away, His disciples were greatly distressed because they had lost His comforting presence. But He promised to send the Spirit to comfort, console, and guide those who belong to Christ. The Spirit also “bears witness” with our spirits that we belong to Him and thereby assures us of salvation. 

Convicter of Sin: (John 16:7-11) The Spirit applies the truths of God to men’s own minds in order to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. He does this through the conviction in our hearts that we are not worthy to stand before a holy God, that we need His righteousness, and that judgment is certain and will come to all men one day. Those who deny these truths rebel against the conviction of the Spirit. 

Deposit / Seal / Earnest: (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14) The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

Guide: (John 16:13) Just as the Spirit guided the writers of Scripture to record truth, so does He promise to guide believers to know and understand that truth. God’s truth is “foolishness” to the world, because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Those who belong to Christ have the indwelling Spirit who guides us into all we need to know in regard to spiritual matters. Those who do not belong to Christ have no “interpreter” to guide them to know and understand God’s Word.

Indweller of Believers: (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19) The Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of God’s people, and that indwelling is the distinguishing characteristic of the regenerated person. From within believers, He directs, guides, comforts, and influences us, as well as producing in us the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). He provides the intimate connection between God and His children. All true believers in Christ have the Spirit residing in their hearts. 

Intercessor: (Romans 8:26) One of the most encouraging and comforting aspects of the Holy Spirit is His ministry of intercession on behalf of those He inhabits. Because we often don’t know what or how to pray when we approach God, the Spirit intercedes and prays for us. He intercedes for us “with wordless groans,” so that when we are oppressed and overwhelmed by trials and the cares of life, He comes alongside to lend assistance as He sustains us before the throne of grace. 

Revealer / Spirit of Truth: (John 14:17; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16) Jesus promised that, after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit would come to “guide you into all truth.” Because of the Spirit in our hearts, we are able to understand truth, especially in spiritual matters, in a way that non-Christians cannot. In fact, the truth the Spirit reveals to us is “foolishness” to them, and they cannot understand it. But we have the mind of Christ in the Person of His Spirit within us.

Spirit of God / the Lord / Christ: (Matthew 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Peter 1:11) These names remind us that the Spirit of God is indeed part of the triune godhead and that He is just as much God as the Father and the Son. He is first revealed to us at the creation, when He was “hovering over the waters,” denoting His part in creation, along with that of Jesus who “made all things” (John 1:1-3). We see this same Trinity of God again at Jesus’ baptism, when the Spirit descends on Jesus and the voice of the Father is heard. 

Spirit of Life: (Romans 8:2) The phrase “Spirit of life” means the Holy Spirit is the one who produces or gives life, not that He initiates salvation, but rather that He imparts newness of life. When we receive eternal life through Christ, the Spirit provides the spiritual food that is the sustenance of the spiritual life. Here again, we see the triune God at work. We are saved by the Father through the work of the Son, and that salvation is sustained by the Holy Spirit.

Teacher: (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13) Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach His disciples “all things” and bring to their remembrance the things He said while He was with them. The writers of the New Testament were moved by the Spirit to remember and understand the instructions Jesus gave for the building and organizing of the Church, the doctrines regarding Himself, the directives for holy living, and the revelation of things to come. 

Witness: (Romans 8:16; Hebrews 2:4; 10:15) The Spirit is called “witness” because He verifies and testifies to the fact that we are children of God, that Jesus and the disciples who performed miracles were sent by God, and that the books of the Bible are divinely inspired. Further, by giving the gifts of the Spirit to believers, He witnesses to us and the world that we belong to God.


PART II

“Is the Holy Spirit God?"

The short answer to this question is, yes, the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible is fully God. Along with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ), God the Spirit is the third member of the Godhead or the Trinity.

Those who challenge the idea that the Holy Spirit is God suggest that the Holy Spirit may simply be an impersonal force of some kind, a source of power controlled by God but not fully a person Himself. Others suggest that perhaps the Holy Spirit is just another name for Jesus, in spirit form, apart from His body.

Neither of these ideas lines up with what the Bible actually says about the Holy Spirit, though. The Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a person who has been present with the Father and the Son since before time began. The Spirit is integral to all of the things that God is described as doing in the Bible.

The Spirit of God was present at and involved in the creation (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6). The Holy Spirit moved the prophets of God with the words of God (2 Peter 1:21). The bodies of those in Christ are described as temples of God because the Holy Spirit is in us (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus was clear that to be “born again,” to become a Christian, one must be born “of the Spirit” (John 3:5).

One of the most convincing statements in the Bible about the Holy Spirit being God is found in Acts 5. When Ananias lied about the price of a piece of property, Peter said that Satan had filled Ananias’s heart to “lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3) and concluded by saying that Ananias had “lied to God” (verse 4). Peter’s words equate the Holy Spirit with God; he spoke as if the Spirit and God were one and the same.

Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Helper, was different from Himself. The Father would send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, after Christ departed. The Spirit would speak through them about Jesus (John 15:25; 16:7). All three Persons Jesus mentions are God while being distinct from each other within the Trinity.

The three members of the Trinity show up, together yet distinct, at Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus comes up from the water, the Spirit descends on Him like a dove while the voice of the Father is heard from heaven saying that He is pleased with His beloved Son (Mark 1:10–11).

Finally, the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a person, not a mere force. He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). He uses His mind to search the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). And He has fellowship with believers (2 Corinthians 13:14). Clearly, the Spirit is a person, just as the Father and the Son are persons.

Indeed, the Bible is unequivocal that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, God, just as Jesus Christ and the Father are God.


PART III

“What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?"

Believers have the indwelling Spirit of Christ, the Comforter who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer (Jude 1:20) and “intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27). He also leads the believer into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18) and produces His fruit in those yielded to Him (Galatians 5:22–23). Believers are to submit to the will of God and walk in the Spirit.

A “walk” in the Bible is often a metaphor for practical daily living. The Christian life is a journey, and we are to walk it—we are to make consistent forward progress. The biblical norm for all believers is that they walk in the Spirit: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25, KJV; cf. Romans 8:14). In other words, the Spirit gave us life in the new birth (John 3:6), and we must continue to live, day by day, in the Spirit.

To walk in the Spirit means that we yield to His control, we follow His lead, and we allow Him to exert His influence over us. To walk in the Spirit is the opposite of resisting Him or grieving Him (Ephesians 4:30).

Galatians 5 examines the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. The context is freedom from the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1). Those who walk in the Spirit “eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (verse 5) and are free from the Law (verse 18). Also, those who walk in the Spirit “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (verse 16). The flesh—our fallen nature under the power of sin—is in direct conflict with the Spirit (verse 17). When the flesh is in charge, the results are obvious (verses 19–21). But when the Spirit is in control, He produces godly qualities within us, apart from the strictures of the Law (verses 22–23). Believers “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (verse 24), and now we walk in the Spirit (verse 25).

Those who walk in the Spirit are united with Him and the bearers of the fruit the Spirit produces. Thus, those who walk in the Spirit walk in love—they live in love for God and for their fellow man. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in joy—they exhibit gladness in what God has done, is doing, and will do. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in peace—they live worry-free and refuse anxiety (Philippians 4:6). Those who walk in the Spirit walk in patience—they are known for having a “long fuse” and do not lose their temper. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in kindness—they show tender concern for the needs of others. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in goodness—their actions reflect virtue and holiness. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in faithfulness—they are steadfast in their trust of God and His Word. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in gentleness—their lives are characterized by humility, grace, and thankfulness to God. Those who walk in the Spirit walk in self-control—they display moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to the flesh.

Those who walk in the Spirit rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them in thought, word, and deed (Romans 6:11–14). They show forth daily, moment-by-moment holiness, just as Jesus did when, “full of the Holy Spirit, [He] left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” to be tempted (Luke 4:1).

To walk in the Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit, and some results of the Spirit’s filling are thankfulness, singing, and joy (Ephesians 5:18–20; Colossians 3:16). Those who walk in the Spirit follow the Spirit’s lead. They “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly” (Colossians 3:16, ESV), and the Spirit uses the Word of God “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Their whole way of life is lived according to the rule of the gospel, as the Spirit moves them toward obedience. When we walk in the Spirit, we find that the sinful appetites of the flesh have no more dominion over us.


PART IV

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"

The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was predicted by John the Baptist (Mark 1:8) and by Jesus before He ascended to heaven: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4); for the first time, people were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and the church had begun.

First Corinthians 12:12–13 is the central passage in the Bible regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Notice that we “all” have been baptized by the Spirit—all believers have received the baptism, synonymous with salvation, and it is not a special experience for only a few. While Romans 6:1–4 does not mention specifically the Spirit of God, it does describe the believer’s position before God in language similar to the 1 Corinthians passage: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

The following facts are necessary to help solidify our understanding of Spirit baptism: First, 1 Corinthians 12:13 clearly states that all have been baptized, just as all been given the Spirit to drink (the indwelling of the Spirit). Second, nowhere in Scripture are believers told to be baptized with, in or by the Spirit, or in any sense to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that all believers have had this experience. Third, Ephesians 4:5 seems to refer to Spirit baptism. If this is the case, Spirit baptism is the reality for every believer, just as “one faith” and “one Father” are.

In conclusion, the baptism of the Holy Spirit does two things, 1) it joins us to the body of Christ, and 2) it actualizes our co-crucifixion with Christ. Being in His body means we are risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4). We should then exercise our spiritual gifts to keep that body functioning properly as stated in the context of 1 Corinthians 12:13. Experiencing the one Spirit baptism serves as the basis for keeping the unity of the church, as in the context of Ephesians 4:5. Being associated with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection through Spirit baptism establishes the basis for our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10; Colossians 2:12).

HAPPY BLESSED DAY!!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/22/19

“Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?"

Simply put, no, the Holy Spirit will never leave a true believer. This is revealed in many different passages in the New Testament. For example, Romans 8:9 tells us, “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” This verse very clearly states that if someone does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then that person is not saved. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit were to leave a believer, that person would have lost the saving relationship with Christ. Yet this is contrary to what the Bible teaches about the eternal security of Christians. Another verse that speaks to the permanence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of believers is John 14:16. Here Jesus states that the Father will give another Helper “to be with you forever.”

The fact that the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer is also seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where believers are said to be “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” The picture of being sealed with the Spirit is one of ownership and possession. God has promised eternal life to all who believe in Christ, and as a guarantee that He will keep His promise, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer until the day of redemption. Similar to making a down payment on a car or a house, God has provided all believers with a down payment on their future relationship with Him by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The fact that all believers are sealed with the Spirit is also seen in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. The Holy Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). Instead, the Spirit came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). After his adultery with Bathsheba, David feared that the Holy Spirit would be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit filled Bezalel to enable him to produce the items needed for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-5), but this is not described as a permanent relationship. All of this changed after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers (Acts 2). The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to always be with us and never forsake us.

While the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, it is possible for our sin to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Sin always has consequences in our relationship with God. While our relationship with God is secure in Christ, unconfessed sin in our lives can hinder our fellowship with God and effectively quench the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That is why it is so important to confess our sins because God is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, while the Holy Spirit will never leave us, the benefits and joy of His presence can in fact depart from us.


PART II

“What is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?"

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit—the pouring out of God’s Spirit to fill and indwell people—was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2). This event was predicted in the Old Testament: in Isaiah 44:3 God said to Israel, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” The Holy Spirit is pictured as the “water of life” that saves and blesses a dying people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted another prophecy as being fulfilled: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. . . . And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:28–29, 32).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era, the church age. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was a rare gift that was only given to a few people, and usually for only short periods of time. When Saul was anointed king of Israel, the Holy Spirit came upon him (1 Samuel 10:10), but when God removed His blessing on Saul, the Holy Spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:14). The Holy Spirit came for specific moments or seasons in the lives of Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), and Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6) as well, to enable them to do His will and serve Israel. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers in Christ, and He came to stay. This marked a major change in the Holy Spirit’s work.

Before His arrest, Jesus had promised to send His disciples the Holy Spirit (John 14:15–17). The Spirit “lives with you and will be in you,” Jesus said (John 14:17). This was a prophecy of the indwelling of the Spirit, another distinctive of the church age. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 marked the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, too, as the Holy Spirit came upon all believers in a powerful, visible (and audible) way. Luke records the event: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2–4). Immediately, the Spirit-filled believers went into the streets of Jerusalem and preached Christ. Three thousand people were saved and baptized that day; the church had begun (verse 41).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon humanity was the inauguration of the New Covenant, which had been ratified by Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20). According to the terms of the New Covenant, every believer is given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Ever since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has baptized every believer into Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13), as He comes to permanently indwell God’s children.

In the book of Acts, there are three “outpourings” of the Holy Spirit, to three different people groups at three different times. The first was to Jews and proselytes in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The second was to a group of believing Samaritans (Acts 8). The third was to a group of believing Gentiles (Acts 10). Significantly, Peter was present at all three outpourings, probably in fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:17–19. Three times, God sent the Holy Spirit with demonstrable signs, as the Great Commission was being fulfilled. The same Holy Spirit coming upon Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the same manner in the presence of the same apostle kept the early church unified. There was not a “Jewish” church, a “Samaritan” church, and a “Roman” church—there was one church, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).

The outpouring of the Spirit is different from the filling of the Spirit. The outpouring was a unique coming of the Holy Spirit to earth; the filling happens whenever we are surrendered to God’s control of our lives. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). In this regard it is possible for the believer either to be “filled with the Spirit” or to “quench” the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). In either case, the Holy Spirit remains with the believer (as opposed to the Old Testament era, when the Holy Spirit would come and go). The filling of the Spirit comes as a direct result of submission to God’s will, and the quenching is a direct result of rebelling against God’s will.

Some still look for an “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit on a specific group of people in a specific place or time, but there is no biblical support for the repeat of such a Pentecost-style event. The church has already begun; the apostles have already laid that foundation (Ephesians 2:20). Sometimes we sing songs that ask the Holy Spirit to “come”; the reality is that He has already come to us—at the moment of salvation—and, once He comes, He doesn’t leave. The outpouring of the Spirit is a completed prophecy that ushered in the church age and the New Covenant in which all believers are given the Holy Spirit.


PART III

“What does the Holy Spirit do?"

The Bible is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is active in our world. The book of Acts, which sometimes goes by the longer title of “The Acts of the Apostles,” could just as accurately be called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.” After the apostolic age, there have been some changes—the Spirit does not inspire further Scripture, for example—but He continues to do His work in the world.

First, the Holy Spirit does many things in the lives of believers. He is the believers’ Helper (John 14:26). He indwells believers and seals them until the day of redemption—this indicates that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is irreversible. He guards and guarantees the salvation of the ones He indwells (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer (Jude 1:20) and “intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).

The Holy Spirit regenerates and renews the believer (Titus 3:5). At the moment of salvation, the Spirit baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ (Romans 6:3). Believers receive the new birth by the power of the Spirit (John 3:5–8). The Spirit comforts believers with fellowship and joy as they go through a hostile world (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The Spirit, in His mighty power, fills believers with “all joy and peace” as they trust the Lord, causing believers to “overflow with hope” (Romans 15:13).

Sanctification is another work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The Spirit sets Himself against the desires of the flesh and leads the believer into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18). The works of the flesh become less evident, and the fruit of the Spirit becomes more evident (Galatians 5:19–26). Believers are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), which means they are to yield themselves to the Spirit’s full control.

The Holy Spirit is also a gift-giver. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4). The spiritual gifts that believers possess are given by the Holy Spirit as He determines in His wisdom (verse 11)

The Holy Spirit also does work among unbelievers. Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, ESV). The Spirit testifies of Christ (John 15:26), pointing people to the Lord. Currently, the Holy Spirit is also restraining sin and combatting “the secret power of lawlessness” in the world. This action keeps the rise of the Antichrist at bay (2 Thessalonians 2:6–10).

The Holy Spirit has one other important role, and that is to give believers wisdom by which we can understand God. “The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). Since we have been given the amazing gift of God’s Spirit inside ourselves, we can comprehend the thoughts of God, as revealed in the Scripture. The Spirit helps us understand. This is wisdom from God, rather than wisdom from man. No amount of human knowledge can ever replace the Holy Spirit’s teaching (1 Corinthians 2:12–13).


PART IV

“Is the Holy Spirit a person?"

Many people find the doctrine of the Holy Spirit confusing. Is the Holy Spirit a force, a person, or something else? What does the Bible teach?

The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person—that is, He is a personal being, rather than an impersonal thing. First, every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is “he” not “it.” The original Greek language of the New Testament is explicit in confirming the person of the Holy Spirit. The word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter and would naturally take neuter pronouns to have grammatical agreement. Yet, in many cases, masculine pronouns are found (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13-14). Grammatically, there is no other way to understand the pronouns of the New Testament related to the Holy Spirit—He is referred to as a “He,” as a person.

Matthew 28:19 teaches us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a collective reference to one Triune God. Also, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3). We are to obey Him (Acts 10:19–21) and honor Him (Psalm 51:11).

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.

The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.

And the personhood of the Holy Spirit is affirmed by His role as the third Person of the Godhead. Only a being who is equal to God (Matthew 28:19) and possesses the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality could be defined as God. 

In Acts 5:3–4, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as God, stating, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Paul likewise referred to the Holy Spirit as God in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, stating, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is a person, as Scripture makes clear. As such, He is to be revered as God and serves in perfect unity with Father and Son to lead us in our spiritual lives.


PART V

What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?"

The concept of “blasphemy against the Spirit” is mentioned in Mark 3:22–30 and Matthew 12:22–32. Jesus has just performed a miracle. A demon-possessed man was brought to Jesus, and the Lord cast the demon out, healing the man of blindness and muteness. The eyewitnesses to this exorcism began to wonder if Jesus was indeed the Messiah they had been waiting for. A group of Pharisees, hearing the talk of the Messiah, quickly quashed any budding faith in the crowd: “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons,” they said (Matthew 12:24).

Jesus rebuts the Pharisees with some logical arguments for why He is not casting out demons in the power of Satan (Matthew 12:25–29). Then He speaks of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: “I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (verses 31–32).

The term blasphemy may be generally defined as “defiant irreverence.” The term can be applied to such sins as cursing God or willfully degrading things relating to God. Blasphemy is also attributing some evil to God or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him. This particular case of blasphemy, however, is called “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 12:31. The Pharisees, having witnessed irrefutable proof that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, claimed instead that the Lord was possessed by a demon (Matthew 12:24). Notice in Mark 3:30 Jesus is very specific about what the Pharisees did to commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’”

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has to do with accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled. This particular type of blasphemy cannot be duplicated today. The Pharisees were in a unique moment in history: they had the Law and the Prophets, they had the Holy Spirit stirring their hearts, they had the Son of God Himself standing right in front of them, and they saw with their own eyes the miracles He did. Never before in the history of the world (and never since) had so much divine light been granted to men; if anyone should have recognized Jesus for who He was, it was the Pharisees. Yet they chose defiance. They purposely attributed the work of the Spirit to the devil, even though they knew the truth and had the proof. Jesus declared their willful blindness to be unpardonable. Their blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was their final rejection of God’s grace. They had set their course, and God was going to let them sail into perdition unhindered.

Jesus told the crowd that the Pharisees’ blasphemy against the Holy Spirit “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). This is another way of saying that their sin would never be forgiven, ever. Not now, not in eternity. As Mark 3:29 puts it, “They are guilty of an eternal sin.”

The immediate result of the Pharisees’ public rejection of Christ (and God’s rejection of them) is seen in the next chapter. Jesus, for the first time, “told them many things in parables” (Matthew 13:3; cf. Mark 4:2). The disciples were puzzled at Jesus’ change of teaching method, and Jesus explained His use of parables: “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. . . . Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:11, 13). Jesus began to veil the truth with parables and metaphors as a direct result of the Jewish leaders’ official denunciation of Him.

Again, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be repeated today, although some people try. Jesus Christ is not on earth—He is seated at the right hand of God. No one can personally witness Jesus performing a miracle and then attribute that power to Satan instead of the Spirit.

The unpardonable sin today is the state of continued unbelief. The Spirit currently convicts the unsaved world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). To resist that conviction and willfully remain unrepentant is to “blaspheme” the Spirit. There is no pardon, either in this age or in the age to come, for a person who rejects the Spirit’s promptings to trust in Jesus Christ and then dies in unbelief. The love of God is evident: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And the choice is clear: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).


PART VI

“What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?"

To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is verbal or written reproach of God's name, character, work, or attributes.

Blasphemy was a serious crime in the law God gave to Moses. The Israelites were to worship and obey God. In Leviticus 24:10–16, a man blasphemed the name of God. To the Hebrews, a name wasn’t just a convenient label. It was a symbolic representation of a person’s character. The man in Leviticus who blasphemed God’s name was stoned to death.

Isaiah 36 tells the story of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, and his attempt to demoralize Jerusalem before he attacked. After pointing out Assyria's many victories, he says, "Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" (Isaiah 36:20). Sennacherib committed blasphemy by assuming Israel’s God was equal to the false gods of the surrounding nations. The king of Judah, Hezekiah, points out this blasphemy in his prayer to God, in which he asks that God deliver them for the purpose of defending His own honor (Isaiah 37:4, 17). And that’s exactly what God did. Isaiah 37:36-37 explains, "Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there." Later, Sennacherib was murdered in the temple of his god Nisroch (Isaiah 37:38).

Followers of God are also responsible to make sure their behavior doesn't incite others to blaspheme God. In Romans 2:17-24, Paul scolds those who claim to be saved through the law and yet still live in sin. Using Isaiah 52:5, Paul tells them, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (verse 24). In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul explains that he had abandoned two false teachers to Satan so they would “be taught not to blaspheme”; thus, promulgating false doctrine and leading God’s people astray is also a form of blasphemy.

Jesus spoke of a special type of blasphemy—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—committed by the religious leaders of His day. The situation was that the Pharisees were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ miracles, but they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to the presence of a demon (Mark 3:22-30). Their portrayal of the holy as demonic was a deliberate, insulting rejection of God and was unforgiveable.

The most significant accusation of blasphemy was one that happened to be completely false. It was for the crime of blasphemy that the priests and Pharisees condemned Jesus (Matthew 26:65). They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. That would, indeed, be a reproach on God's character—if it wasn't true. If Jesus were just a man claiming to be God, He would have been a blasphemer. However, as the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus could truthfully claim deity (Philippians 2:6).

The fact is, every time we do or say something that gives others a false representation of the glory, holiness, authority, and character of God, we commit blasphemy. Every time we misrepresent our position as children of God, we are damaging His reputation. Fortunately, Jesus forgives even the sin of blasphemy. Peter attacked Jesus' purpose (Matthew 16:22), Paul tried to make others blaspheme (Acts 26:9-18), and Jesus' own brothers thought He was insane (Mark 3:21). All repented, and all were forgiven.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/21/19

“What is the power of the Holy Spirit?"

The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God. The Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, has appeared throughout Scripture as a Being through and by whom great works of power are made manifest. His power was first seen in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1–2; Job 26:13). The Holy Spirit also empowered men in the Old Testament to bring about God’s will: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Samuel 16:13; see also Exodus 31:2–5; Numbers 27:18). Although the Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people in the Old Testament, He worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own. All of Samson’s feats of strength are directly attributed to the Spirit coming upon him (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).

Jesus promised the Spirit as a permanent guide, teacher, seal of salvation, and comforter for believers (John 14:16-18). He also promised that the Holy Spirit’s power would help His followers to spread the message of the gospel around the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The salvation of souls is a supernatural work only made possible by the Holy Spirit’s power at work in the world.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon believers at Pentecost, it was not a quiet event, but a powerful one. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4). Immediately afterward, the disciples spoke to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. These people hailed from a variety of nations and therefore spoke many different languages. Imagine their surprise and wonder when the disciples spoke to them in their own tongues (verses 5–12)! Clearly, this was not something the disciples could have accomplished on their own without many months—or even years—of study. The Holy Spirit’s power was made manifest to a great number of people that day, resulting in the conversion of about 3,000 (verse 41).

During His earthly ministry, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and empowered by the Spirit to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Spirit equipped the apostles to perform miracles, too (2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 2:43; 3:1–7; 9:39–41). The power of the Holy Spirit was manifest among all the believers of the early church through the dispensation of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom, and more.

All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). And, although some of the spiritual gifts have ceased (e.g., speaking in tongues and prophecy), the Holy Spirit still works in and through believers to accomplish His will. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel. The Holy Spirit’s powerful indwelling is an amazing gift we should never take lightly.


PART II

“When / How do we receive the Holy Spirit?"

The apostle Paul clearly taught that we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. First Corinthians 12:13 declares, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body"whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free"and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Christ: "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe: "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession'to the praise of his glory."

These three passages make it clear that the Holy Spirit is received at the moment of salvation. Paul could not say that we all were baptized by one Spirit and all given one Spirit to drink if not all of the Corinthian believers possessed the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 is even stronger, stating that if a person does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to Christ. Therefore, the possession of the Spirit is an identifying factor of the possession of salvation. Further, the Holy Spirit could not be the "seal of salvation" (Ephesians 1:13-14) if He is not received at the moment of salvation. Many scriptures make it abundantly clear that our salvation is secured the moment we receive Christ as Savior.

This discussion is controversial because the ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused. The receiving/indwelling of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation. The filling of the Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life. While we hold that the baptism of the Spirit also occurs at the moment of salvation, some Christians do not. This sometimes results in the baptism of the Spirit being confused with "receiving the Spirit" as an act subsequent to salvation. 

In conclusion, how do we receive the Holy Spirit? We receive the Holy Spirit by simply receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior (John 3:5-16). When do we receive the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit becomes our permanent possession the moment we believe.


PART III 

“What is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?"

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the action by which God takes up permanent residence in the body of a believer in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come and go from the saints, empowering them for service but not necessarily remaining with them (see Judges 15:14; 1 Chronicles 12:18; Psalm 51:11; Ezekiel 11:5). Jesus revealed to His disciples the new role the Spirit of Truth would play in their lives: “He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). The apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

These verses are telling us that the believer in Jesus Christ has the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, living in him. When an individual accepts Christ as personal Savior, the Holy Spirit gives the believer the life of God, eternal life, which is really His very nature (Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:4), and the Holy Spirit comes to live within him spiritually. The fact that the believer’s body is likened to a temple where the Holy Spirit lives helps us understand what the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is all about. The word temple is used to describe the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum in the Old Testament tabernacle structure. There, God’s presence would appear in a cloud and meet the high priest, who came once a year into the Holy of Holies. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest brought the blood of a slain animal and sprinkled it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. On this special day, God granted forgiveness to the priest and His people.

Today, there is no Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and the animal sacrifices have ceased. The believer in Christ has become the inner sanctum of God the Holy Spirit, as the believer has been sanctified and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). The believer in Christ becomes the habitation of the Holy Spirit of God. In fact, Scripture also says that the believer is indwelt spiritually by Christ (Colossians 1:27) and by God the Father (1 John 4:15)—the Trinity is involved.

As the Holy Spirit lives in the believer, He brings about some life-changing results:

1) The indwelling Spirit comes to a soul dead in sin and creates new life (Titus 3:5). This is the new birth Jesus spoke of in John 3:1–8.

2) The indwelling Spirit confirms to the believer that he belongs to the Lord and is an heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ (Romans 8:15–17).

3) The indwelling Spirit installs the new believer as a member of Christ’s universal church. This is the baptism of the Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12:13.

4) The indwelling Spirit gives spiritual gifts (God-given abilities for service) to the believer to edify the church and serve the Lord effectively for His glory (1 Corinthians 12:11).

5) The indwelling Spirit helps the believer understand and apply the Scripture to his daily life (1 Corinthians 2:12).

6) The indwelling Spirit enriches the believer’s prayer life and intercedes for him in prayer (Romans 8:26–27).

7) The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers the yielded believer to live for Christ to do His will (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit leads the believer in paths of righteousness (Romans 8:14).

8) The indwelling Spirit gives evidence of new life by producing the fruit of the Spirit in the believer’s life (Galatians 5:22–23).

9) The indwelling Spirit is grieved when the believer sins (Ephesians 4:30), and He convicts the believer to confess his sin to the Lord so that fellowship is restored (1 John 1:9).

10) The indwelling Spirit seals the believer unto the day of redemption so that the believer’s arrival in the Lord’s presence is guaranteed after this life (Ephesians 1:13–14).

When you accept Christ as your Savior (Romans 10:9–13), the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart, bringing with Him an entirely new life of love, relationship, and service to the Lord.


PART IV

“Who is the Holy Spirit?"

There are many misconceptions about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force. Others understand the Holy Spirit as the impersonal power that God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit? Simply put, the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures, including Acts 5:3-4. In this verse Peter confronts Ananias as to why he lied to the Holy Spirit and tells him that he had "not lied to men but to God." It is a clear declaration that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. We can also know that the Holy Spirit is God because He possesses the characteristics of God. For example, His omnipresence is seen in Psalm 139:7-8, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." Then in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, we see the characteristic of omniscience in the Holy Spirit. "But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

We can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed a divine person because He possesses a mind, emotions, and a will. The Holy Spirit thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). He makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Trinity. As God, the Holy Spirit can truly function as the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus promised He would be (John 14:16, 26, 15:26).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/20/19

Maintaining Spiritual Integrity

"In order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:10).

Seek to have a life that bears scrutiny.

In our society, those whose lives are marked by moral soundness, uprightness, honesty, and sincerity are usually thought of as people of integrity. However, society's standards often fall far short of God's. Spiritual integrity calls for the highest possible standard of behavior and requires supernatural resources available only to those who trust in Him.

Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-10 outlines the path to spiritual integrity. It begins with love that abounds with knowledge and discernment (v. 9) and progresses to the pursuit of excellence (v. 10). The result is sincerity and blamelessness—two characteristics of godly integrity.

The Greek word translated "sincere" in verse 10 speaks of genuineness and authenticity. It literally means "without wax" and is an allusion to the practice of inspecting pottery by holding it up to the sunlight. In ancient times pottery often cracked during the firing process. Rather than discarding cracked pieces, dishonest dealers often filled the cracks with wax and sold them to unsuspecting customers. Holding a pot up to the sunlight revealed any flaws and protected the customer from a bad purchase.

Following that analogy, biblical integrity requires that you be without wax, having no hypocrisy or secret sins that show up when you're under pressure or facing temptation.

"Blameless" speaks of consistency in living a life that doesn't lead others into error or sin. Your standard is the same away from church as it is at church.

Being blameless isn't easy in a world that unashamedly flaunts its sinful practices. You must guard against losing your sensitivity to the heinousness of sin and unwittingly beginning to tolerate or even accept the sin that once shocked you. That's when you lose integrity and begin to cause others to stumble.

Diligently pursue integrity with a view toward glorifying Christ in all things until He returns!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy (Jude 24).
  • Prayerfully guard your heart and mind from the subtle evil influences that can erode your integrity and make you ineffective for the Lord.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 39.

  • How was Joseph's integrity challenged?
  • How did God honor Joseph's commitment to integrity?


PART II

God's Great Mercy

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Because of His mercy, God desires to lift sinners out of their pitiful condition.

Several years ago I spent about a week in India. Each day I saw countless starving, diseased people with no home but a few square feet of filthy street. I could not help but feel compassion and pity on those people who lived in such misery.

In a spiritual sense, though, before God saved us, we were each even more pathetic than any beggar in India. Spiritually, we “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:1, 3-5). God saw our wretched condition and was moved to do something about it.

How does mercy compare with grace? Mercy has respect to man’s wretched, miserable condition; grace has respect to man’s guilt, which has caused that condition. God gives us mercy to change our condition; He gives us grace to change our position. While grace takes us from guilt to acquittal, mercy takes us from misery to glory.

Doesn’t it give you great joy to know that God not only removed your guilt but looked at you and had compassion? And He’s not through giving us mercy: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). We can always “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great mercy, for the forgiveness and blessings you have as His child.

For Further Study

  • Luke 15:11-32 contains the well-known parable of the prodigal son, a moving illustration of God’s loving compassion. What was the son’s condition when he returned?
  • What was his father’s reaction?
  • How does God respond to us when we turn to Him in repentance and humility?


PART III

Are You Mourning as Christ Commands?

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

Two crucial determinants will tell you if you are mourning over sin as Jesus commands. First, you will have true sensitivity to and sorrow for your sins. Your primary concern will be how your sin detracts from God’s glory, not how its exposure might embarrass you or hurt your reputation.

The mock piety of hypocrites demonstrates no sensitivity to sin, only to their personal prestige and pride (cf. Matt. 6:1–18). Likewise, the mock gratitude of those like the Pharisees who think they are better than others (cf. Luke 18:11) certainly does not show mourning for sin. King Saul twice admitted he had sinned when he did not destroy King Agag and all the Amalekites, and even asked Samuel for pardon, but he was more concerned for his own honor than God’s (1 Sam. 15:10–35).

If your mourning is godly, you will lament the sins of other believers and the world, as well as your own. You will agree with the psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your law” (Ps. 119:136). You will weep over your community, as Jesus did over His (Luke 19:41).

The second way to know if you are mourning rightly is to check your sense of God’s forgiveness. Have you experienced the sense of spiritual freedom and real release that comes with knowing your sins are forgiven? Can you point to true happiness, peace, and joy in your life that only God gives in response to mourning for sin (cf. Ps. 126:5–6)?

Ask Yourself

What is your main problem with sin—only that it gives you that sick feeling of guilt and hypocrisy? Only that it seems to expose you around those who know you best? Take all the personal inconveniences out of the equation, and be more gravely concerned that your sin offends the God you profess to serve.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Leviticus 13:2 bright spot. This probably refers to inflammation. a leprous sore. This is a term referring to various ancient skin disorders that were sometimes superficial, sometimes serious. It may have included modern leprosy (Hansen’s disease). The symptoms described in vv. 2, 6, 10, 18, 30, and 39 are not sufficient for a diagnosis of the clinical condition. For the protection of the people, observation and isolation were demanded for all suspected cases of what could be a contagious disease. This biblical leprosy involved some whiteness (v. 3; Ex. 4:6), which disfigured its victim but did not disable him. Naaman was able to exercise his functions as general of Syria’s army, although a leper (2 Kin. 5:1, 27). Both Old Testament and New Testament lepers went almost everywhere, indicating that this disease was not the leprosy of today that cripples. A victim of this scaly disease was unclean as long as the infection was partial. Once the body was covered with it, he was clean and could enter the place of worship (see vv. 12–17). Apparently the complete covering meant the contagious period was over. The allusion to a boil (vv. 18–28) with inflamed or raw areas and whitened hairs may refer to a related infection that was contagious. When lepers were cured by Christ, they were neither lame nor deformed. They were never brought on beds. Similar skin conditions are described in vv. 29–37 and vv. 38–44 (some inflammation from infection). The aim of these laws was to protect the people from disease, but more importantly, to inculcate into them by vivid object lessons how God desired purity, holiness, and cleanness among His people.

Mark 3:13 called…those He Himself wanted. The Greek verb “called” stresses that Jesus acted in His own sovereign interest when He chose the 12 disciples (see John 15:16).

Mark 3:14 appointed twelve. Christ, by an explicit act of His will, formed a distinct group of 12 men who were among His followers. This new group constituted the foundation of His church (see Eph. 2:20).

Mark 3:15 have power. This word is sometimes rendered “authority.” Along with the main task of preaching, Jesus gave the 12 the right to expel demons (see Luke 9:1).


DAY 21: How does Jesus display the proper use of anger?

In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus was in a synagogue, where there was a man with a withered hand. This describes a condition of paralysis or deformity from an accident, a disease, or a congenital defect. It became another situation for the Pharisees to “accuse” Him (v. 2) of a violation of the Sabbath—an accusation they could bring before the Sanhedrin.

Jesus countered the Pharisees with a question that elevated the issue at hand from a legal to a moral problem. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…evil, to save…kill?” Jesus asks (v. 4). He was forcing the Pharisees to examine their tradition regarding the Sabbath to see if it was consistent with God’s Old Testament law. Christ used a device common in the Middle East—He framed the issue in terms of clear-cut extremes. The obvious implication is that failure to do good or save a life was wrong and not in keeping with God’s original intention for the Sabbath. But the Pharisees kept silent, and by so doing implied that their Sabbath views and practices were false.

Jesus’ “anger” (v. 5) with human sin reveals a healthy, moral nature. His reaction was consistent with His divine nature and proved that He is the righteous Son of God. This kind of holy indignation with sinful attitudes and practices was to be more fully demonstrated when Jesus cleansed the temple (see 11:15–18; Matt. 21:12, 13; Luke 19:45–48). The “hardness of their hearts” refers to an inability to understand because of a rebellious attitude (Ps. 95:8; Heb. 3:8, 15). The Pharisees’ hearts were becoming more and more obstinate and unresponsive to the truth (see 16:14; Rom. 9:18).


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/19/19

The Meaning of Grace

“‘The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth’” (Exodus 34:6).

God’s grace is His undeserved favor shown to sinners.

God’s grace has always been a focus of praise for believers. Today’s verse is quoted several times in the Psalms and elsewhere in Scripture (for example, Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Paul is grateful for God’s abundant grace in 1 Timothy 1:14, and John writes, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Today some of our favorite hymns are “Amazing Grace,” “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”

What exactly is grace? It is simply God’s free, undeserved, and unearned favor. It is a gift given by God not because we are worthy of it, but only because God, out of His great love, wants to give it.

Grace is evident to Christians in two main ways. The first is electing, or saving, grace. God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). “By grace [we] have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s grace to sinners, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).

Another grace in our lives is enabling, or sustaining, grace. We didn’t just receive grace to be saved; we now live in grace. It is the grace of God that enables us to live the Christian life. When Paul asked that some debilitating “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) be removed, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). Paul elsewhere says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Remember, we have earned neither saving nor sustaining grace. Nothing we can do can make us worthy of one more bit of grace. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Ex. 33:19). This truth should make us all more grateful because He saved us and sustains us despite our sin. It should also make us humble because we have no worthiness to boast about (Eph. 2:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His grace in saving and sustaining you.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 9:8-19.

  • How did God extend grace to Noah and his family?
  • What was the visible sign or symbol?


PART II

Hindrances to True Mourning: Love of Sin

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

A general love of sin is the greatest hindrance to true spiritual mourning, because holding on to sins causes our hearts to harden.

One of the less advertised but more common sins is the sin of despair, which is essentially the same as giving up on God and putting ourselves outside His grace—refusing to believe He can save or help us. The prophet Jeremiah wrote this of such people: “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’” (Jer. 18:12). Despair attempts to hide God’s mercy behind our self-made cloud of doubt.

Another hindrance to mourning is the sin of conceit. It seeks to hide the sin itself and tell us we really have nothing to mourn about. Conceit is analogous to a physician treating cancer as if it were just a common cold. If Christ had to shed His blood on the cross for our sin, then sin must be significant and something over which we must mourn.

To be a true mourner, it’s imperative that you remove all basic, sinful hindrances that keep you from mourning. Otherwise you will grieve the Holy Spirit, question the truth of His Word, and restrict His grace from plowing up your hard heart and leading you to obey Him.

Ask Yourself

It’s time to get honest about your sins today, identifying and confessing anything that stands between you and free-flowing fellowship with your Lord and Savior. Is it despair? Conceit? Whatever it is, you probably know it well. Repent of it all. And walk again in the beauty and freedom of holiness.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

Maximiliano 



01/18/19

A Prayer for Godliness

"This I pray" (Phil. 1:9).

Your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity.

As we come to our study of godliness in Philippians 1:9-11, we note that this passage is a prayer. Typically, Paul's prayers reflected his concern that his readers would mature spiritually. That is impossible without prayer because spiritual growth depends on the Holy Spirit's power, which is tapped through prayer.

Prayer is so vital that Jesus instructed His disciples to pray at all times (Luke 18:1). Paul commands us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Peter said we should be "of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer" (1 Pet. 4:7).

Scripture gives many other commands to pray, but the true test of your spirituality is your compulsion to pray, not simply your obedience to commands. As a Christian you exist in a spiritual realm in which prayer is as natural as breathing is in the natural realm. Just as atmospheric pressure exerts force on your lungs, compelling you to breathe, so your spiritual environment compels you to pray. Resisting either brings devastating results.

The more you see life through God's eyes, the more you are driven to pray. In that sense your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity. Paul prayed with urgency day and night because he shared God's love for His people and His concern for their spiritual maturity.

Examine your own prayers. Do you pray from a sense of duty or are you compelled to pray? Do you pray infrequently or briefly? Do your prayers center on your own needs or the needs of others? Do you pray for the spiritual maturity of others? Those important questions indicate the level of your spiritual maturity and give guidelines for making any needed changes in your pattern of prayer.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege and power of prayer.
  • If you have neglected prayer or if your prayers have been centered on yourself rather than others, confess your sin and ask God to give you a sense of holy urgency in praying as you should.
  • Is there someone for whom you should be praying more consistently?

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6:1-28.

  • What was Daniel's pattern of prayer?
  • What accusation did the political leaders bring against Daniel?
  • What was the king's attitude toward Daniel?
  • How did God honor Daniel's faith?


PART II

God's Sacrificial Love

“‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).

God’s love is vicarious and sacrificial.

Today we continue a short study of a topic that brings joy to every Christian: God’s love. Both Paul and John call His love “great” (Eph. 2:4; 1 John 3:1), because only great love would provide such a sacrifice as God did in Christ.

We have already seen that God’s love is unconditional, unrequited, and righteous. God’s love is also vicarious; it bears the pain of others. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah wrote: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (53:4). Christ bears our earthly sorrows, and, infinitely more significant, He bore the pain and punishment for our sins.

True love is a sacrificial love that gives without expecting anything in return. God gives so many good things to everyone, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Son. As John 3:16 teaches, love was His motive for sending Christ to die; He wanted to provide salvation for us.

Again we must examine ourselves after seeing God’s love. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Are you encouraging and helping other Christians in difficulty? Also, ask yourself if you love regardless of the sacrifice. Some will “love” up to the point of pain or inconvenience but no further. However, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). Love is not always easy, but it’s always best.

So much more could be said about God’s love. Countless books and hymns have been written about it. We can get only a basic understanding in these few paragraphs. But let this introduction serve as a starting point for a lifelong study of God’s love. It’s one of the greatest themes in the Bible; you can’t miss it.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for strength to bear the burdens of others and to love with sacrificial love.

For Further Study

  • Jesus talks about His love for us in John 15:9-17. In what ways should we respond to God’s love?
  • Based on these verses, think of specific ways you can demonstrate your love for God and others.


PART III

The Result of Godly Mourning

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

The positive result for those who mourn is very clear: “they shall be comforted.” God reserves the blessing of His comfort exclusively for the contrite of heart. Those of us who mourn over sin will have our tears wiped away by Jesus’ loving hand.

The Old Testament similarly speaks of God’s comfort for the true spiritual mourners. Isaiah said that Messiah would come “to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:2–3; cf. Ps. 23:4).

In one sense, this “comfort” will be realized only when we meet our Messiah face-to-face. In heaven the Lord “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Even the most discontented Christian is assured that eternal comfort awaits God’s children in glory.

But God is also the God of present comfort. As we continually mourn over sin, He will continually comfort us. The Scripture declares that “God our Father” has already “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16; cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Cor. 1:3). May we walk, therefore, in the light and joy of His blessed comfort, even on this side of its heavenly fulfillment.

Ask Yourself

Have you given up hope of finding comfort in your here and now? The promise of God’s comfort can be yours to claim as you grieve over sin and surrender your heart to holiness. You needn’t wait to feel relief. It’s as near as your next humble prayer.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/17/19

God's Unfailing Love

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

God’s love is unconditional and righteous.

We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.

First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.

God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful,but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).

We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.

For Further Study

First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.


PART II

True Happiness vs. Worldly Happiness

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

The world still operates according to the old popular song lyrics that say, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” This philosophy basically tells us to hide all our problems and pretend to be happy; and of course people apply this outlook to sin all the time.

Nevertheless Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Godly mourning and confession of sins bring the only kind of happiness worth having—godly happiness that no amount of human effort, optimistic pretense, or positive thinking can produce.

There is a real need in today’s church to cry instead of laugh. The foolishness, frivolity, and embracing of the world’s view of happiness in the name of Christianity should make us mourn, because we know the difference between empty happiness and true happiness. God’s rebuke to the self-satisfied and indulgent happy is strong: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).

True happiness does not ignore sin or make light of it; instead it sorrows over sin, turns from it, and flees to God for genuine forgiveness. And in so doing, it finds lasting joy.

Ask Yourself

Does this message sound depressing and cheerless to you? Have you bought the world’s line that happiness can be found only by ignoring sin, not by dealing with it? Aren’t you tired, though, of constantly coming up empty, never quite satisfied? Run weeping into the welcoming arms of God’s forgiveness.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/16/19

The Joy of Pleasing God

"The blameless in their walk are [God's] delight" (Prov. 11:20).

Your love for God brings Him joy.

Our focus so far this month has been on the joy we experience in knowing and serving Christ. Before we turn our attention to the theme of godliness, I want you to consider two additional aspects of joy: the joy of pleasing God, and how to lose your joy. Pleasing God is our topic for today.

Perhaps you haven't given much thought to how you can bring joy to God, but Scripture mentions several ways. Luke 15:7, for example, says, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Verse 10 adds, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Repentance brings joy to God.

Faith is another source of joy for God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." That's the negative side of a positive principle: when you trust God, He is pleased.

In addition to repentance and faith, prayer also brings God joy. Proverbs 15:8 says, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight."

Righteous living is another source of joy to God, as David acknowledges in 1 Chronicles 29:17: "I know, O my God, that Thou triest the heart and delightest in uprightness." Solomon added that those who walk blamelessly are God's delight (Prov. 11:20).

Repentance, faith, prayer, and righteous living all please God because they are expressions of love. That's the over-arching principle. Whenever you express your love to Him—whether by words of praise or acts of obedience—you bring Him joy.

Doesn't it thrill you to know that the God of the universe delights in you? It should! Let that realization motivate you to find as many ways as possible to bring Him joy today.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of bringing Him joy.
  • Thank Him for His grace, which enables you to love Him and to express your love in repentance, faith, prayer, and righteous living (cf. 1 John 4:19).

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 3:3-15.

  • What did Solomon request of God?
  • What was God's response?


PART II

The Comfort of God's Omniscience

“And [Peter] said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You’” (John 21:17).

Since God knows all things, He knows our struggles and will help us through them.

It’s comforting to know that in the vastness of the universe, I’m not lost in insignificance; God knows me personally. Have you ever wondered if He knows you’re there? Some godly people in Malachi’s time wondered that. Malachi spoke words of judgment against the wicked, but the faithful believers feared that God might forget them and that they too would be consumed by God’s wrath. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’” (Mal. 3:16-17). God has a book, and He doesn’t forget who belongs in it. I know that God knows me and that I belong to Him.

David, too, found comfort in God’s omniscience. He said, “Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Ps. 56:8). It was customary for hired mourners at funerals in David’s time to catch their tears in a bottle, perhaps to prove they earned their money. David knew that none of his trials went unnoticed by God. Not only does He know about them, He cares about them too.

You might be frustrated sometimes in your Christian walk as you see sin in your life. But happily for us, God knows that we still love Him in spite of our failings. In John 21, Peter kept trying to convince Christ that he loved Him, although his words and actions didn’t always prove it. Finally Peter said, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (v. 17). Peter appealed to the Lord’s omniscience. We can do the same thing when we stumble.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for knowing and caring about your struggles.

For Further Study

Read Job 42:1-6.

  • What did Job acknowledge about God?
  • What did that lead him to do?


PRAISE GOD FOR HIS BLESSINGS!

Maximiliano 


02/15/19

God Knows Everything

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).

God knows everything, and so He knows our sin.

Our time in history has been called “the Information Age.” Computers work around the clock storing the glut of information from all branches of knowledge. And this flood of data is growing bigger all the time. Without the help of advanced technology, we could process and interpret only a tiny fraction of it.

In contrast, God is omniscient; He knows everything. Our Scripture for today says, “His understanding is infinite.” Isaiah asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?” (40:13-14). The answer to all those questions is, “No one.”

Since His knowledge is infinite, God never learns anything, nor does He forget anything. When you pray, you’re not telling God something He doesn’t know. He merely chooses to work through our prayers.

God knows every detail of our lives. Jesus says, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). God doesn’t have to count them because He intrinsically knows how many there are. He also knows all our thoughts (Isa. 66:18). David says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all” (Ps. 139:4). In that same psalm, David goes on to say, “Even the darkness is not dark to Thee” (v. 12). You can’t hide anything from the knowledge of God.

God’s omniscience should be a deterrent to our sinning. Think about some of the wrongs you did as a child when your parents weren’t around. You never would have done those things in front of them because you didn’t want to be punished. And you might have gotten away with a few things. But “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccles. 12:14). Even though the eternal penalty for sin has been paid by Christ, God still disciplines us when we sin (Heb. 12:5-11). Is there anything in your life you would be ashamed about if God knew? If so, repent, because He does know!

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His infinite knowledge.

For Further Study

Read David’s praise for God’s omniscience in Psalm 139:1-6. What specific areas of God’s knowledge does he mention?


HAVE AN AWESOME BLESSED DAY!


Maximiliano 


02/14/19

Our Response to God's Power

"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. . . . They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31).

Relying on God’s power gives us confidence to live as Christians.

What should be our response to God’s power? First, we should worship Him. Our response should follow what God told Israel: “The Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice” (2 Kings 17:36).

Understanding God’s power should also give us confidence: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Because of His strength, we can live the Christian life each day with confidence. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Our eternal hope rests on the power of God. His power saved us and will “raise [us] up on the last day” (John 6:40). That day should be the great hope of the Christian, because whatever troubles we have on earth, our heavenly destiny is still secure.

When I’m tempted to worry, I’m comforted to remember that God’s power is greater than any problem I have. The psalmist says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). The God who made everything can certainly handle our troubles!

God’s power also gives us spiritual victory. Paul instructs us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). When the adversary comes and you’re on guard, you don’t fight him; you go tell the commander, and he leads the battle. God will bring about the victory because “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Satan may be powerful, but he’s no match for God.

Finally, understanding God’s power gives us humility. Peter exhorts us, “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). Apart from God’s gracious power we are nothing and can do nothing (John 15:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for each of these ways He uses His power for our benefit.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 121. In what ways does God demonstrate His power to us?


PART II

“What is the power of the Holy Spirit?"


The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God. The Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, has appeared throughout Scripture as a Being through and by whom great works of power are made manifest. His power was first seen in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1–2; Job 26:13). The Holy Spirit also empowered men in the Old Testament to bring about God’s will: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Samuel 16:13; see also Exodus 31:2–5; Numbers 27:18). Although the Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people in the Old Testament, He worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own. All of Samson’s feats of strength are directly attributed to the Spirit coming upon him (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).


Jesus promised the Spirit as a permanent guide, teacher, seal of salvation, and comforter for believers (John 14:16-18). He also promised that the Holy Spirit’s power would help His followers to spread the message of the gospel around the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The salvation of souls is a supernatural work only made possible by the Holy Spirit’s power at work in the world.


When the Holy Spirit descended upon believers at Pentecost, it was not a quiet event, but a powerful one. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4). Immediately afterward, the disciples spoke to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. These people hailed from a variety of nations and therefore spoke many different languages. Imagine their surprise and wonder when the disciples spoke to them in their own tongues (verses 5–12)! Clearly, this was not something the disciples could have accomplished on their own without many months—or even years—of study. The Holy Spirit’s power was made manifest to a great number of people that day, resulting in the conversion of about 3,000 (verse 41).


During His earthly ministry, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and empowered by the Spirit to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Spirit equipped the apostles to perform miracles, too (2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 2:43; 3:1–7; 9:39–41). The power of the Holy Spirit was manifest among all the believers of the early church through the dispensation of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom, and more.


All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). And, although some of the spiritual gifts have ceased (e.g., speaking in tongues and prophecy), the Holy Spirit still works in and through believers to accomplish His will. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel. The Holy Spirit’s powerful indwelling is an amazing gift we should never take lightly.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO


02/13/19

Evidences of God's Power

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know . . . what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Ephesians 1:18-19).

God’s power is seen in creation, preservation, redemption, and resurrection.

Think of all the energy we get from the sun, and multiply that by the innumerable stars in space. But God by His great power created all the stars with no effort whatsoever: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host” (Ps. 33:6). He just spoke, and they were made.

God’s power also preserves the universe. Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3), and “in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Chaos would result unless His sustaining hands were directing the orderliness of creation (Ps. 104; Jer. 31:35-36).

God’s power was beautifully demonstrated at the cross. Satan was subdued, death was conquered, and the penalty for our sins was paid. The gospel “is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes” (Rom. 1:16). When we were saved, God made each of us “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Not only that, but “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God’s power saved us and gives us strength to live lives pleasing to Him.

The power of God is also made evident in resurrection. Did you know that someday God is going to resurrect every human being who ever lived? The righteous will be raised to eternal life, and the unrighteous to eternal damnation (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:11-15). Billions of people, long dead, will be resurrected. What tremendous power!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for the power He has shown in His beautiful creation.
  • Thank God that by His power He made you into a new creation and will someday raise you to eternal life.

For Further Study

Psalm 33 is a song of praise to God for His power and sovereignty. Examine what it teaches about God’s power, and read it as your own prayer of praise.


PART II

“Is there power in the name of Jesus?"


Any power attributed to the name of Jesus originates in the Person of Jesus. When we “believe in Jesus’ name,” we are trusting in the finished work of the risen Christ on the cross (1 John 5:13). Jesus is not a magic word. There is nothing special about the arrangement of the letters in His name. Had Jesus not been God in the flesh who lived a perfect life, died for the sins of all who would believe, and rose again, we wouldn’t even be talking about His name. Any power that Christians access in Jesus’ name comes from true faith in who Jesus is and what He does for sinners.


There is no magical power in the name of Jesus—there is only power in Jesus Christ, Himself. By simply calling out the name of “Jesus,” one cannot expect a special power, outcome, or better standing with God. The name of Jesus is precious, however, and brimming with meaning. From Pastor Kevin DeYoung: “What about Jesus? ‘And you shall call his name Jesus,’ the angel told Joseph, ‘for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). More than a great teacher, more than an enlightened man, more than a worker of miracles, more than a source of meaning in life, more than a self-help guru, more than a self-esteem builder, more than a political liberator, more than a caring friend, more than a transformer of cultures, more than a purpose for the purposeless, Jesus is the Savior of sinners.”


The saving, healing, protecting, justifying, redeeming power of God resides in the Person of Christ, and Jesus is His name. And how did the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of the universe choose to wield His power? Through His Son, born in humble circumstances—a Babe with all the power of the King (Luke 2:11–12). Jesus lay down His life to save sinners, and He exercised His authority to raise it up again (John 10:18) so that any who call on His name in faith can receive forgiveness of sins and salvation for all eternity (Romans 10:13). That is the resurrection power of the Savior—He alone is the force behind His name.


It is in Jesus’ name God instructs us to pray (John 16:23–24). Believers are invited to pray in Jesus’ name with an expectation that God answers prayers endorsed by Jesus’ name (John 14:13–14). Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority (Luke 10:19) and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come by faith in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name demonstrates our faith in God’s power to act when we believe that Jesus’ name is more than just a grouping of letters but a representation of who He actually is.


Jesus was a very common name in first-century Israel. The only thing that sets apart the name of Jesus of Nazareth is the Person it belongs to and what He did for us. In Christ “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). But where there is no faith, no relationship, or no submission to His lordship, the name Jesus is nothing but a word.


We are wise to guard ourselves from the temptation to misuse the name of Jesus. The Bible tells the intriguing story of a group of seven Jews in Ephesus who attempted to cast out demons using the name of Jesus. These men did not know Jesus. They were not believers. Instead they sought the admiration of others and an opportunity to make names for themselves. They had not submitted to God and thus failed to cause the spirits to flee (James 4:7). Once, a demon mocked the seven exorcists, who were essentially trying to perform magic tricks using “Jesus” as their incantation of choice: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” the evil spirit taunted. Then the evil spirit empowered the man it possessed to beat the would-be magicians until they were bloody and naked (Acts 19:13–16). These seven men attempted to misuse the power in the name of Jesus for their own gain, but we serve a God who will not be manipulated and cannot be fooled (Job 12:16).


The name of Jesus, the one who saves His people from their sins, denotes all the power of the mighty Creator Himself. Jesus gives believers the authority to serve, work, and pray in His name when we do so believing in Jesus’ saving power and desiring God’s will. Jesus, with the authority of the Father, exercised power to save sinners, and His name is the only name we can call on for salvation (Acts 4:12). As adopted sons and daughters into God’s family, Christians experience God’s saving grace through faith in the Person of Jesus. When we call on Him, we participate in His power and find that “the name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).


Like many truths of the Bible, man can and will attempt to misuse and thwart what is good for his or her own gain—but our God cannot be deceived. We encounter God’s holy power when we place our faith in Jesus Christ.


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 


02/12/19

God Has Unlimited Power

“‘Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all’” (1 Chronicles 29:11).

God has unlimited power and ultimate control over everything.

There is no limit to God’s power. Revelation 19:6 says, “The Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” In fact, one Hebrew name for God is El Shaddai (El means “God”; Shaddai means “almighty”). Another word for “almighty” is “omnipotent.”

God can do anything effortlessly. It is no more difficult for Him to create a universe than it is for Him to make a butterfly. We get tired when we work, but God’s infinite power never lessens: “The creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isa. 40:28).

Not only does God have unlimited power but also the authority to use it. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). But God’s power, authority, and will are in harmony with His nature. He cannot sin, neither can He accept impenitent sinners. Such actions would contradict His holiness.

People often question what God does because they don’t understand that He can do anything He wants. They ask, “Why did God do that?” I’ve often replied, “Because He wanted to.” He showed His sovereignty—His ultimate control of everything—in showing mercy to some like Isaac and Jacob, while hardening the hearts of others like Pharaoh (Rom. 9:6-21). To those who object to God’s right to control such things, Paul said, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay . . . ?” (vv. 20-21).

Never question God’s use of His power. He is in control, and “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds” (Ps. 145:17). We can trust that whatever He does, it’s for the best.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His infinite power and sovereignty.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 40:21-31.

  • How has God demonstrated His power?
  • How has He demonstrated His sovereignty?
  • What comfort should that bring to you?


PART II

“How can we rely on the power of God?"


We often hear about the power of God, and Scripture is full of examples of His power in action. He is “the great God, mighty and awesome” (Nehemiah 9:32). We are taught to rely on His great power to get us through trials such as a job loss, a sticky divorce, bankruptcy, hateful persecutions, a debilitating illness, or the loss of a loved one. Learning to rely on the power of God is part of living the Christian life.


The apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of the power of God when he writes of “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority” (Ephesians 1:19–21). The Greek word translated “great” is megethos, which means “strong” or “great,” and it appears only here in the New Testament. This word obviously wasn’t sufficient for Paul to express God’s great power, so he adds the word incomparably or, in Greek, hyperballon, related to a verb that literally means to “throw beyond the usual mark” or to “excel or surpass.” So, the full idea of the expression hyperballon megethos is that of a power beyond measure, a super-abounding or surpassing power, power that is “more than enough.”


Greek authorities tell us that, because the term megethos is found only here in all the New Testament, this reflects the outreach of Paul’s mind when he sought to describe the power of God. Paul was “stretching at the seams” as he tried to describe the power of God and pour more meaning into his words. What Paul is really telling us is that God’s power exceeds or surpasses everything—it is unimaginable power. God spoke the universe into existence, raised Jesus from the dead, and “placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22), and He has power far beyond any possibility of being measured. Paul simply could not say enough about the greatness and majesty of God, and he had difficulty finding the words to express his thoughts about the power of God.


How can we learn to rely on the enormous power of God? First of all, we choose to remember the things that God has done: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced” (Psalm 105:4–5). Every miracle recorded for us in the Bible should give us encouragement that His strength is more than enough for our need.


Also, to rely on the power of God, we must learn to cease trusting in our frail efforts and hand our resources over to the One who can do anything. God’s power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The disciples were at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to feed the 5,000; it was not until they brought the small amount of food they had to Christ that anyone was fed. Joshua stood helpless before the walls of Jericho, but he learned to trust the Lord’s battle plan. Zerubbabel faced the daunting task of rebuilding the temple, and God reminded him that the work would be done “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).


Prayer is a vital part of relying on the power of God, as we pray, “Thy will be done” (Luke 11:2, KJV). Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7–8). It was after a prayer meeting in the early church that “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). It was during a prayer meeting that Peter was miraculously released from prison (Acts 12).


The resurrection of Jesus certainly demonstrates the great power of God and is the great hope of all believers. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19). Peter said we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:3–4, NASB). No matter what happens in this world, we have the power of God and Jesus’ resurrection; the Lord will grant us an inheritance and sustain us through eternity. We “through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (verse 5). As Martin Luther sang during the Protestant Reformation, “The body they may kill; / God’s truth abideth still.”


No matter how weak or ill-equipped we may at times feel, we can rely on the power of God. We have the assurance that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). We have confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in our lives: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).


THANK YOU GOD FOR SHARING YOUR BEAUTIFUL HEART FULL OF LOVE WITH US. 


MAXIMILIANO 



02/11/19

God Is Always with Us

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

Understanding God’s omnipresence should encourage us in times of distress and keep us from sinning.

It is a great comfort as a Christian to know that God is always present in me both essentially and relationally. No matter what the trial, He is there. Sometimes He might seem faraway, but He’s really no further away than He’s ever been. His promise to us is, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

God is always with us to support our service to Him. When God called Moses to proclaim His message and lead Israel out of slavery, Moses protested because of his lack of speaking abilities (Ex. 4:10). But God said, “I . . . will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (v. 12). Jesus commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). If you doubt you have the power to witness, remember that you have the same resource as any evangelist—the presence and power of God!

God’s continual presence is also a shield against sin. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Nothing will ever tempt us without His giving us the strength to resist.

The omnipresence of God should also motivate us to holiness. Most of us prefer to sin with no one else watching. But when we sin—whether in thought, word, or action—we sin in the presence of God. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21-22). Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want God to see, because He’ll see it anyway!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the comfort He brings to you through His continual presence.

For Further Study

Hebrews 13:5 is a quote from Deuteronomy 31:6. Read Deuteronomy 31:1-8. What was the basis for Moses’ admonition to “be strong and courageous”?


PART II

The Joy of Intercession

"Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all" (Phil. 1:4).

Intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a righteous person.

There's the story of a special nurse who knew the importance of intercessory prayer. Each day she used her hands as instruments of God's love and mercy toward those in her care, so she found it natural to use her hand as a scheme of prayer. Each finger represented someone she wanted to pray for. Her thumb was nearest to her and reminded her to pray for those who were closest and dearest. The index finger was used for pointing, so it stood for her instructors. The third finger was the tallest and stood for those in leadership. The fourth finger was the weakest, representing those in distress and pain. The little finger, which was the smallest and least important, reminded the nurse to pray for her own needs.

Undoubtedly that nurse knew the joy of praying for others. Paul knew it too. Given the same circumstances, a lesser man would be consumed with his own well-being, but Paul modeled what he teaches in Philippians 2:4: "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Such an attitude is the heart of effective intercessory prayer.

Those who lack the joy of the Holy Spirit often harbor negative thoughts toward others, which debilitates compassion and hinders prayer. That's tragic because intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of righteous people (James 5:16).

Analyze your own prayers. Are they generous with praise to God for His goodness to others? Do you pray for the needs of others? Practice doing so, and the joy of intercession will be yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for specific people and specific needs.
  • Thank God for what you see Him doing in the lives of others.

For Further Study

John 17 is Christ's intercessory prayer for His disciples, including us (v. 20). After reading that chapter, complete the following statements:

  • Eternal life is . . .
  • Christ's mission on earth was to . . .
  • The world's reaction to Christ and His followers is . . .
  • The best way to convince the world that Christ was sent by the Father is to . . .


PART III

What Is Poverty of Spirit?

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

Poverty of spirit means recognizing how truly deficient we are apart from God. It means seeing ourselves as we really are: spiritually lost, hopeless, and helpless. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyone is spiritually impoverished, regardless of his or her material accomplishments, educational achievements, or even religious knowledge and church activities.

The “poor in spirit” are people who have recognized their spiritual destitution and their total inability to save themselves—their complete dependence on God. They know their only hope of salvation is to repent and ask for forgiveness, leaning on the sovereign grace and mercy of God. Such a person knows he has no spiritual merit of his own and that his personal strength or wisdom is insufficient to earn him lasting spiritual reward.

“In spirit” expresses the understanding that poverty of spirit can’t be merely a hypocritical, outward act. Being a genuine spiritual beggar reflects true humility, not some phony, pretentious, mild-mannered behavior. Real poverty of spirit is what the prophet said the Lord looks for and affirms: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2; cf. Pss. 34:18; 51:17).

Augustine in his Confessions says pride was his greatest barrier to salvation. Until he realized that his achievements and possessions were nothing, Christ could do nothing for him. It’s the same for any who would be poor in spirit.

Ask Yourself

What specific items or attitudes threaten your ability to remain “poor in spirit”? How does a person maintain a comfort level in God’s presence without losing the perspective of being undeserving of the privilege?


GOD BLESSED YOU DEARLY!

Maximiliano 


02/10/19

God Is Everywhere

“‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee’” (1 Kings 8:27).

God is in all places; He is not confined by space.

No matter how big the universe is, God is bigger. His being fills up all of infinity. He is omnipresent—everywhere present. God says, “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” (Jer. 23:24). Solomon said at the dedication of the temple, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). There are no limits of time or space to His presence.

Some may object to the doctrine of omnipresence, saying, “Wouldn’t the sin in the world defile an omnipresent God?” No. God is in the hearts of sinners convicting them of sin. He is also in Hell where He “is able to destroy both soul and body” (Matt. 10:28). Though God’s essence is everywhere, He never mingles with impurity. In a similar way, Jesus lived among sinners and was “tempted in all things as we are, yet [He was] without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Isaiah exhorts people to “call upon [God] while He is near” (55:6); yet Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked.” How can He be near some people and far from others when He is everywhere all the time? To answer this, we must distinguish between God’s essence and His relation to people. He is everywhere in His essence, but with specific individuals He is far or near relationally. When we become Christians, Christ dwells in us. God can fill us with His fullness (Eph. 3:19), and the Spirit who lives in us can also fill us (1:13; 5:18). But before God’s Spirit indwelt us relationally, His essence convicted us of sin and saved us.

The Old Testament tells us that God dwelt between the wings of the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. That location was a symbol of God’s presence. Today the church represents God’s presence on earth. In the Millennium, Christ’s rule on the throne of David in Jerusalem will represent God’s presence. In Heaven His presence will be represented by the throne of Revelation 4—5. Remember, though, that the symbol of God’s presence never restricts His essence.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God that He is omnipresent, and thank Him that He lives in you.

For Further Study

  • What does Psalm 139:7-18 teach about God’s omnipresence?
  • What was David’s response (vv. 17-18)?


PART II

The Joy of Recollection

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" (Phil. 1:3).

A key to Christian joy is to recall the goodness of others.

Though Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote to the Philippians, his mind wasn't bound. Often he reflected on his experiences with the Philippian Christians. As he did, his thoughts turned to prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all that the Lord had done through them.

I'm sure Paul remembered when he preached in Philippi and God opened Lydia's heart to believe the gospel (Acts 16:13-14). Subsequently everyone in her household was saved (v. 15). Surely her kindness and hospitality were bright spots in an otherwise stormy stay at Philippi.

He must also have remembered the demon-possessed girl whom the Lord delivered from spiritual bondage (v. 18), and the Philippian jailer, who threw Paul and Silas into prison after they had been beaten severely (vv. 23-24). Perhaps the girl became part of the Philippian church—the text doesn't say. We do know that the jailer and his whole household were saved, after which they showed kindness to Paul and Silas by tending to their wounds and feeding them (vv. 30-34).

The many financial gifts that the Philippians sent to Paul were also fond memories for him because they were given out of love and concern. That was true of their present gift as well, which was delivered by Epaphroditus and went far beyond Paul's need (Phil. 4:18).

Paul's gratitude illustrates that Christian joy is enhanced by your ability to recall the goodness of others. A corollary is your ability to forgive shortcomings and unkindnesses. That goes against the grain of our "don't get mad—get even" society but is perfectly consistent with the compassion and forgiveness God has shown you. Therefore be quick to forgive evil and slow to forget good.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Take time to reflect on some people who have shown kindness to you and encouraged you in your Christian walk. Thank God for them. If possible, call them or drop them a note of thanks. Assure them of your prayers, as Paul assured the Philippians.
  • If you harbor ill-will toward someone, resolve it quickly and begin to uphold that person in prayer.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 5:23-26; 18:21-35. What were our Lord's instructions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation?


PART III

Distinctiveness of the Beatitudes

A + A - RESET

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

The series of conditional blessings Jesus promises, beginning with this verse and continuing through verse 12, are known as the Beatitudes. This name refers to a state of happiness or bliss. The blessedness promised in each is a divine characteristic, one that men and women can realize only as they share in God’s nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). When believers are truly blessed, they don’t experience merely an external, circumstantial feeling of happiness, but a deep sense of spiritual contentedness and well-being based on the objective spiritual reality that they belong to God.

We must understand that Christ’s beatitudes are distinctive and firm pronouncements, not merely ambiguous probabilities. Our Lord does not say that if we have the qualities the Beatitudes set forth, we are only likely to be happy; nor is this simply His wish for us. Adherence to these attitudes and practices will result in blessedness, just as surely as judgmental woes await those who are the subject of His pronouncements in Matthew 23.

The blessed life is the opposite of the cursed life. Blessedness is possessed by those who truly have the inner characteristics of the Beatitudes. Conversely, cursedness represents those who don’t know the Beatitudes, such as the Jewish religionists of Jesus’ time.

The Beatitudes are also distinctively progressive, each leading to the next in logical succession. Poverty of spirit demonstrates a right attitude about ourselves. That leads to mourning, gentleness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, showing mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking. If we have these traits we will rebuke the world so that it persecutes us and allows us to be lights in its midst.

Ask Yourself

We have often stated—rightly so—that God is more interested in making us holy than making us happy. So does it surprise you to see that happiness is a gift Jesus offers to those who take His Word to heart? What’s wrong with a theology that looks suspiciously at happiness?


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/09/19

God Doesn't Change

“‘Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end’” (Psalm 102:27).

God never changes, so He can be trusted to do what He says.

God alone is unchanging (or as the theologians say, immutable). The psalmist says, “Even [the heavens and earth] will perish, but Thou dost endure. . . . Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Ps. 102:26-27). Though Israel deserved destruction for its sin, God was faithful to His covenant with Abraham, saying, “I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). James calls God “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (1:17).

What about those verses that say God changed His mind (e.g., Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:10)? Let’s look at an example. Jonah warned the wicked city of Nineveh of impending judgment. The city immediately repented, and “when God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (3:10). Who changed? The people of Nineveh! God’s nature to punish evil and reward good remained the same, but the object changed.

You can’t blame the sun for melting the wax and hardening the clay. The problem is in the substance of the wax and clay, not in the sun. In a similar way, our standing before God determines how God acts toward us.

What does God’s unchanging character mean? To unbelievers, it means judgment. When God says, “The person who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:20) and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), He means it. When He says Hell is eternal (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:10, 13-15), then it is.

To Christians, His immutability means comfort. If He loved me in the past, He loves me now and forever. If He forgave and saved me, He did so forever. If He promised me anything, His promise stands forever. If the Bible says, “My God shall supply all your needs” (Phil. 4:19), we know the power that supplied Paul’s needs is the same power that will supply ours. God told Israel, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), and His love for us is the same.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His immutability, and thank Him for the comfort that brings you.

For Further Study

Find some promises God makes to His children in Scripture, and ask for faith to believe them, even when belief is difficult.



02/08/19

The Joy of God's Peace

A + A - RESET

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:2).

Nothing you face today is beyond the purview of God’s grace and peace.

Paul's wonderful benediction for grace and peace was ever on his heart. He offered it in each of his epistles and expounded on it throughout his writings.

Grace is the outpouring of God's goodness and mercy on undeserving mankind. Every benefit and provision you receive is by God's grace. That's why Peter called it "the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 1:10). Just as your trials are manifold or multifaceted, so God's multifaceted and all-sufficient grace is correspondingly available to sustain you.

Peace, as used in Philippians 1:2, speaks of the calmness and absence of strife characteristic of one in whom God's grace is at work. The New Testament also links it to mercy, hope, joy, and love. To experience those graces is to experience true peace.

It is said that when Bible translators were seeking a word or phrase for "peace" in the language of the Chol Indians of South Mexico, they discovered that the words for "a quiet heart" gave just the meaning they were looking for. That's an appropriate parallel because peace guards the soul against anxiety and strife, granting solace and harmony.

Colossians 3:15 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body." In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul says to "be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Although "grace to you and peace" was a common greeting in the early church, it was an uncommon experience in the unbelieving world. The same is true today because only those who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ receive grace and peace.

Are you experiencing God's peace? Remember, nothing you face today is beyond the purview of God's all- sufficient grace and surpassing peace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Ephesians 2:14-18 and praise God for Christ, who is your peace, and for His gracious work on your behalf.

For Further Study


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


MAXIMILIANO 


02/07/19

God's Holiness Revealed

“The Lord is righteous in all His ways” (Psalm 145:17).

God’s holiness is evident in everything He does, particularly in creation, the law, judgment, and salvation.

The whole purpose of the Old Testament is to reveal the holiness and righteousness of God, who is utterly perfect and pure. In fact, the Hebrew word for “holy” is used more than 600 times in the Old Testament to indicate moral perfection.

What are some areas in which we see God’s holiness? First, we see it in the original perfection of His creation: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). All of creation was in tune with God’s holy character.

Later God laid down His righteous, moral law for Israel. In it He gave rules about worship and society. He prescribed penalties for murder, adultery, and stealing. He condemned lying, coveting, and many other sins. There were many rules, but they revealed a God who is infinitely right and without error, flaw, or tolerance for sin. The law showed God’s character: “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12).

God’s holiness will ultimately be demonstrated “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). His judgment on sin is a reflection of His holiness; He must punish it.

Perhaps the supreme expression of God’s holiness is seen in sending His Son to die on the cross (cf. Rom. 8:3-4). God paid the highest price, but it was the only price that could satisfy His holiness. Jesus Christ is Himself “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14); so only He could “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). God’s holiness is so infinite, and our unholiness is so great, that only the sacrifice of the God-man could pay for the enormity of our sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He sent His Son to die for our sins, so we could be “holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4).

For Further Study

Some of God’s laws for the Israelites are given in Exodus 21—23. Note in particular the penalties for breaking these laws. What does this passage teach you about God’s character?


PART II

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Exodus 25:17 mercy seat. The lid or cover of the ark was the “mercy seat” or the place at which atonement took place. Between the Shekinah glory cloud above the ark and the tablets of Law inside the ark was the blood-sprinkled cover. Blood from the sacrifices stood between God and the broken law of God!

Exodus 25:31 lampstand. Situated opposite the table of showbread on the south side of the Holy Place stood an ornate lampstand, or menorah, patterned after a flowering almond tree. It provided light for the priests serving in the Holy Place. Care was taken, according to God’s instructions (27:20, 21; 30:7, 8; Lev. 24:1–4), to keep it well supplied with pure olive oil so that it would not be extinguished. The lampstand is seen as typifying the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the true Light which came into the world (John 1:6–9; 8:12).

Matthew 24:2 not one stone shall be left here. These words were literally fulfilled in A.D. 70. Titus, the Roman general, built large wooden scaffolds around the walls of the temple buildings, piled them high with wood and other flammable items, and set them ablaze. The heat from the fires was so intense that the stones crumbled. The rubble was then sifted to retrieve the melted gold, and the remaining ruins were “thrown down” into the Kidron Valley.

Matthew 24:14 preached in all the world. Despite all the tribulations that would come—the deception of false teachers, the wars, persecutions, natural disasters, defections from Christ, and all the obstacles to the spread of the gospel—the message ultimately penetrates every part of the globe. God is never without a witness, and He will proclaim the gospel from heaven itself if necessary (see Rev. 14:6). and then the end will come. “The end” refers to the final, excruciating birth pangs. This is how Christ characterizes the time of Great Tribulation described in the verses that follow.


DAY 7: Why all the specific details about the tabernacle, and what do they mean for us today?

Ever since God dictated the blueprints of the tabernacle to Moses, people have wondered about the significance of the exact details. Several terms are used to indicate times in the Bible when events, persons, or things represent larger ideas: typology and foreshadowing. For example, the sacrifice of the lambs in the Old Testament had not only a limited immediate significance in understanding the cost of forgiveness, but this practice also foreshadowed the eventual sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus, on the cross.

Because at least some parts of the tabernacle hold special significance—the ark representing God’s covenant with His people—students of Scripture have looked for other possible deeper meanings. Ingenuity in linking every item of furniture and every piece of building material to Christ may appear most intriguing; but if New Testament statements and allusions do not support such linkage and typology, students ought to proceed with caution. The beauty and efficiency of the tabernacle’s design presents a tribute to God’s creative character, but those who look for hidden meaning in every tent peg and covering stitch run the risk of missing the big picture in the details. The New Testament points repeatedly to the awesome fact of God’s presence with people as represented in the Tabernacle. Other New Testament lessons (particularly the Book of Hebrews) help identify the intended symbols and deeper meanings.


GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/06/19

God Is Holy

“‘There is no one holy like the Lord’” (1 Samuel 2:2).

God’s holiness means He transcends everything else and is completely righteous and separated from evil.

Holiness is arguably God’s most significant attribute. The angels don’t sing, “Eternal, eternal, eternal” or “Faithful, faithful, faithful” or “Mighty, mighty, mighty.” Rather, they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty” (Rev. 4:8; compare Isa. 6:3). His holiness sums up all He is. The psalmist says, “Holy and awesome is His name” (Ps. 111:9). Moses sings, “Who is like Thee among the gods, O Lord? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11). And Hannah prays, “There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides Thee, nor is there any rock like our God” (1 Sam. 2:2).

What does it mean that God is holy? The words translated “holy” in the Bible have the root meaning of “separation.” God’s being and character transcend everything else. He is not subject to the frailties and limitations of His creation. God is completely without sin. He does not just conform to a holy standard; He is the standard.

God’s righteousness is related to His holiness. Holiness is the standard, and righteousness is its active fulfillment. Or you might say His holiness is His complete separation from all that is sinful, and His righteousness is the manifestation of that holiness.

David understood how holy and righteous God is. He says, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways” (Ps. 145:17), and “Thy righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, Thou who hast done great things; O God, who is like Thee?” (Ps. 71:19).

Sadly, many today completely misunderstand God’s righteousness. If they really understood how holy God is, do you think they would live the way they do? But they ignore God’s standard, thinking He won’t really judge them because they’re basically good people. But “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” toward the wicked (Ps. 7:11). Since God is holy, the penalty for any sin—however small that sin might seem—is death (Rom. 6:23).

Don’t let the world corrupt your view of God. Don’t treat your sin lightly. Instead, confess it, forsake it, and seek to please a holy God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask that you would have the same righteous hatred of sin that God does.

For Further Study

Read the Book of Habakkuk.

  • What are the prophet’s questions?
  • What are God’s answers?
  • Study in detail Habakkuk’s response in chapter 3.


PART II

The Joy of Sainthood

"To all the saints in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1).

Every Christian is a saint.

Many people think of saints as men and women who are especially holy or who have been canonized by an official church body. Usually only those who have been long dead and have extraordinary religious accomplishments to their credit qualify.

God, however, has a different perspective on sainthood. Paul called the Corinthian believers saints (1 Cor. 1:2) then went on for many chapters correcting their sinful practices. He called the Roman, Ephesian, and Colossian believers saints but they weren't perfect either.

What then qualifies someone as a saint? The answer is in Philippians 1:1: "To the saints in Christ Jesus" (emphasis added). That's the criterion. Sainthood is not reserved for the spiritually elite. It belongs to every believer because every believer is in Christ Jesus.

If you love Christ you also are a saint. That might come as a surprise to those who know you best, but it's true nonetheless!

The hallmark of sainthood is holiness. In fact, the Greek word translated "saints" in Philippians 1:1 (hagios) literally means "holy ones." It is used throughout the New Testament to speak of anyone or anything that represents God's holiness: Christ as the Holy One of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, holy Scriptures, holy angels, holy brethren, and so on.

To God, you are holy and beloved in Christ (Col. 3:12). You have received a saintly calling (1 Cor. 1:2) and a saintly inheritance (Col. 1:12). You have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14), and every other spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).

With that privilege comes the responsibility of living a holy life. That's why Scripture admonishes you to present your body as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) and to live in a manner worthy of your saintly status (Eph. 5:3).

The power for godly living is the Holy Spirit, who indwells you. As you yield to Him through prayer and obedience to God's Word, the characteristics of a true saint become increasingly evident in your life. Make that your commitment today.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for choosing you as one of His holy ones.
  • Pray that your life will be a consistent testimony to the reality of true sainthood.

For Further Study

What are the privileges and responsibilities of saints as outlined in Psalm 34?


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 



02/05/19

Healings Validate Jesus’ Earthly Ministry

“The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them” (Matthew 4:24).

Jesus’ miraculous healing ministry powerfully augmented the divine veracity of His teaching and preaching ministry. But any completely honest observer will concede that our Lord’s words alone provide sufficient evidence that He was the Messiah. The apostles left everything to follow Him before He did any healing or performed any other miracle. Many who heard and believed when Jesus taught in their villages had no need for healing, and neither did their relatives or friends. In that sense they were like those who believed John the Baptist’s message even though “John performed no sign” (John 10:41).

Yet in spite of the overwhelming adequacy of Jesus’ verbal teaching, His Father saw fit to provide a healing ministry to supplement it. Alexander Maclaren has written, “It may be doubted whether we have an adequate notion of the immense number of Christ’s miracles. Those recorded are but a small portion of those done. Those early ones were illustrations of the nature of His kingdom; they were His first gifts to His kingdom subjects.”

Concerning the gospel of the kingdom, Hebrews 2:3–4 says, “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Like Christ’s words, His healings and other miracles provided a preview of His glorious earthly kingdom.

Ask Yourself

How dependent are you on the specific, visible, measurable acts of God on your behalf? How often does His Word alone brighten your heart, even when your prayers seem to be waiting on His answer? What does one do to get his or her heart operating this way?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Exodus 23:23 My Angel. Usually taken to be a reference to the Angel of Yahweh, who is distinguished from the Lord who talks about Him as another person. Yet, He is identified with Him by reason of His forgiving sin and the Lord’s name being in Him (v. 21). Neither Moses nor some other messenger or guide qualify for such descriptions. The key to victory in the upcoming takeover of the Land would not be Israel’s military skill but the presence of this Angel, who is the preincarnate Christ.

Psalm 19:1–6 The testimony of the universe comes forth consistently and clearly, but sinful mankind persistently resists it. For this reason, general revelation cannot convert sinners, but it does make them highly accountable (see Rom. 1:18ff.). Salvation comes ultimately only through special revelation, i.e., as the Word of God is effectually applied by the Spirit of God.

Matthew 23:25 you cleanse the outside. The Pharisees’ focus on external issues lay at the heart of their error. Who would want to drink from a cup that had been washed on the outside but was still filthy inside? Yet the Pharisees lived their lives as if external appearance were more important than internal reality. That was the very essence of their hypocrisy, and Jesus rebuked them for it repeatedly.

Matthew 23:39 you shall see Me no more. Christ’s public teaching ministry was over. He withdrew from national Israel until the time yet future when they will recognize Him as Messiah (Rom. 11:23–26). Then Christ quoted from Psalm 118:26.


DAY 6: What broke Jesus’ heart about His people?

Read Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: “I wanted to gather your children together,…but you were not willing!” God is utterly sovereign and therefore fully capable of bringing to pass whatever He desires (see Is. 46:10)—including the salvation of whomever He chooses (Eph. 1:4, 5). Yet, He sometimes expresses a wish for that which He does not sovereignly bring to pass (see Gen. 6:6; Deut. 5:29; Ps. 81:13; Is. 48:18). Such expressions in no way suggest a limitation on the sovereignty of God or imply any actual change in Him (Num. 23:19). But these statements do reveal essential aspects of the divine character: He is full of compassion, sincerely good to all, desirous of good, not evil—and therefore not delighting in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:32; 33:11).

While affirming God’s sovereignty, one must understand His pleas for the repentance of the reprobate as well-meant appeals—and His goodness toward the wicked as a genuine mercy designed to provoke them to repentance (Rom. 2:4). The emotion displayed by Christ here (and in all similar passages, such as Luke 19:41) is obviously a deep, sincere passion. All Christ’s feelings must be in perfect harmony with the divine will (see John 8:29)—and therefore these lamentations should not be thought of as mere exhibitions of His humanity.

“Your house is left to you desolate” (v. 38). A few days earlier, Christ had referred to the temple as His Father’s “house”(21:13). But the blessing and glory of God were being removed from Israel (see 1 Sam. 4:21). When Christ “departed from the temple” (24:1), the glory of God went with Him. Ezekiel 11:23 described Ezekiel’s vision of the departure of the Shekinah glory in His day. The glory left the temple and stood on the Mount of Olives, exactly the same route Christ followed here (see 24:3).


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/04/19

God Is One

“‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!’” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

There is only one true God.

When God freed Israel to take her to the promised land, He said: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). Later Moses told the Israelites, “The Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deut. 4:35) and “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (6:4). Israel was to believe in the one and only God.

But Jesus claimed to be God. Is He God number two? Not at all. In Mark 12:29-30, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” If Jesus were another God He might have said, “Split your allegiance between the two of us.” But Jesus says we are to love God with undivided commitment. Therefore He agrees with Moses that there is only one God. However, He also says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

Paul also discusses the unity of God in 1 Corinthians 8. The pagan priests in Corinth would often sell the meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Some new Christians were offended when other Christians ate that meat. In response, Paul told them, “Concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world” (v. 4). Since an idol represented a nonexistent god, there was nothing wrong with eating the food. He continued, “There is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (vv. 4-6). How can all things be from God the Father, for whom we exist, and by the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we exist? Because they are one.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God as David did: “For this reason Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like Thee, and there is no God besides Thee” (2 Sam. 7:22).

For Further Study

Read Ezekiel 6.

  • What was God’s response to Israel’s idolatry?
  • How does God feel about anything that might take first place in your heart instead of Him?


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 



02/03/19

The Joy of Exalting Christ

"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1).

If exalting Christ is your goal, anything that furthers the gospel will bring you joy.

Next to the Lord Himself, Paul is perhaps the greatest illustration that joy is not necessarily related to one's circumstances.

Paul wrote to the Philippians from a prison cell, yet he spoke of joy and contentment. His life was a series of difficulties and life-threatening situations (see 2 Cor. 11:23-33). In fact the Lord, shortly after confronting him on the road to Damascus, said, "[Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16). Yet in every situation Paul found cause for rejoicing.

His compelling desire to exalt Christ drove him to endure trial after trial. When Christ was exalted, Paul rejoiced. That was evident in Philippi where, after a brief ministry in which God redeemed a businesswoman named Lydia and expelled demons from a slave girl, Paul and Silas were falsely accused, unjustly beaten, and thrown into prison. Even that didn't stifle their joy, for at "about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25).

That was such a powerful testimony to the joy of the Lord that soon afterward the jailer and his entire family believed the gospel and were saved.

Even when imprisonment prevented Paul from ministering as effectively as he desired, and when others usurped his apostleship and preached Christ out of envy and strife, he remained undaunted (Phil. 1:18). His circumstances were secondary to the priority of exalting Christ.

Is that your perspective? It can be! If your priority is to exalt Christ in every circumstance, whatever furthers that purpose will bring you joy.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord to help you maintain the priority of exalting Christ in every area of your life.
  • If you feel envy or resentment toward others who proclaim the gospel (Phil. 1:15-17), confess that and learn to rejoice whenever Christ is exalted.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 15:1-21 and Psalm 99. How did Moses, Miriam, and the psalmist exalt the Lord?


GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO


02/02/19

Joy Versus Happiness

"Rejoice in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1).

Happiness is related to circumstances; joy is a gift from God.

Not long ago it was common to see bumper stickers proclaiming every conceivable source for happiness. One said, "Happiness is being married." Another countered, "Happiness is being single." One cynical sticker read, "Happiness is impossible!"

For most people happiness is possible but it's also fickle, shallow, and fleeting. As the word itself implies, happiness is associated with happenings, happenstance, luck, and fortune. If circumstances are favorable, you're happy. If not, you're unhappy.

Christian joy, however, is directly related to God and is the firm confidence that all is well, regardless of your circumstances.

In Philippians 3:1 Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord" (emphasis added). The Lord is both the source and object of Christian joy. Knowing Him brings joy that transcends temporal circumstances. Obeying Him brings peace and assurance.

Joy is God's gift to every believer. It is the fruit that His Spirit produces within you (Gal. 5:22) from the moment you receive the gospel (John 15:11). It increases as you study and obey God's Word (1 John 1:4).

Even severe trials needn't rob your joy. James 1:2 says you should be joyful when you encounter various trials because trials produce spiritual endurance and maturity. They also prove that your faith is genuine, and a proven faith is the source of great joy (1 Pet. 1:6-8).

You live in a world corrupted by sin. But your hope is in a living God, not a dying world. He is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24). That's your assurance of future glory and eternal joy! Until that time, don't neglect His Word, despise trials, or lose sight of your eternal reward. They are key ingredients of your present joy.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for any difficult circumstances you might be facing. Ask Him for continued grace to see them through His perspective and not lose heart (Gal. 6:9).
  • Be aware of any sinful attitudes or actions on your part that might diminish your joy. Confess them immediately.

For Further Study

Read Acts 16:11-40.

  • What difficulties did Paul and Silas face in founding the Philippian church?
  • How did God use their difficulties for His glory?


GOD BLESS YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


02/01/19

Pursuing the Knowledge of God

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

God’s greatest desire for us is that we seek diligently to know Him.

To know God and all that He has revealed about Himself is the highest pursuit of life. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Such a realization should really be the starting point for all of life’s other pursuits.

As David gave his throne to his son Solomon, his primary counsel was that Solomon know God: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9).

Knowing God not only determines the quality of one’s present life, but also the destiny of one’s life in eternity. Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is simply knowing God in an intimate way for the rest of eternity. It begins here on earth when we believe in Christ and partake of His very nature and life.

How can we know God? The Lord says, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Solomon teaches us, “For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:3-5). This pursuit of God must be our top priority in life. Otherwise, it is so easy to be distracted by the pursuit of money, career success, personal power and prestige, or any earthly endeavor that demands our time and energy.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that you know Him personally.

For Further Study

Read 2 Peter 1:1-11.

  • What are the benefits to those who know God?
  • What qualities should be evident in your life?


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/31/19

We are secure because of the promise and power of God, and the prayers of Christ, but also because of the presence of the Spirit. 


The Holy Spirit is in us, the guarantee of future glory,


and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. - 2 Corinthians 1:22


We are sealed by the Spirit to the day of redemption.”  Now, all of that emphasizes eternal security from the standpoint of the power of God, the presence of God through His Spirit, and the prayers of Jesus Christ.  


The whole trinity secures us forever, so that no Christian who believes in the Lord will ever be lost.  That’s eternal security.  And our salvation and our security is based on the covenantal faithfulness of God.  


23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24 He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24


God preserves His people from apostasy.  He preserves His people from defection.  And He brings all of them to heaven.  That’s clearly the teaching of Scripture.  


Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!  - Psalm 31:24


The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;  - Psalm 37:23


Psalm 41:2 

“The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed on the earth.”  


Psalm 97:10, “You that love the Lord, hate evil.  He preserves the souls of His saints.  He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”  


The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. - 2 Timothy 4:18


You’re saved because you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, and yet you’re not saved without exercising faith. 


You’re secure because of the covenant faithfulness of God, but you’re not secure without exercising perseverance.  The means, then, of eternal security is wrought through the power of the Spirit energizing the true believer to endure in faith through all trials.  


Louis Berkhof, an excellent theologian, calls perseverance ”that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to completion.”  So our part is to endure.


Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)   4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice! 5  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 


Philippians 4:8-9   (NLT)  8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.


Romans 5:1-4  (NLT) ¶  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2  Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 3  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.




01/30/19

Our Unity in the Father

“One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

There is only one God, and we will have a strong testimony by worshiping Him and holding on to what unites us.

The last point of Christian unity Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:4-6 is that Christians have “one God and Father.” In Paul’s day, people believed in many gods; so he emphasizes our God’s uniqueness. No person or object can compare with God because He is “above all,” which means He is the sovereign creator and controller of the universe; He is “through all,” as the providential upholder of the universe; and He is “in all,” which refers to His personal, indwelling presence.

Throughout the Old Testament, God emphasizes His uniqueness: “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (Deut. 4:39). “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5). The Israelites were surrounded by nations that worshiped many gods, and God had to continually warn them about idolatry and judge them when they practiced it.

Israel’s worship of the only true God was to be their central point of unity. It was to set them apart from the nations around them. By worshiping Him alone, they not only would remain strong as a nation, but would be a witness to the Gentiles of God’s greatness.

As Christians, we have the same Father, and like Israel, our unity is founded on Him, as well as the other “ones” listed in Ephesians 4:4-6: one Body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. When we hold to these, we will be a powerful witness to the world.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His uniqueness, that He alone is above all, through all, and in all.

For Further Study

The Psalms not only are rich with instruction about God but are also excellent means of praising Him. Read one psalm a day for the next several months, and write down what you learn about God. Whenever the psalmist praises God, let that be your prayer as well. When you have finished reading all the Psalms, you will know, honor, and love God more than ever.


PART II

Serving the Supreme One

God exalted Christ "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet" (Eph. 1:21-22).

Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One!

Yesterday we saw that Christ has both an exalted name and an exalted, authoritative position. In verses 21-22 Paul elaborates on the extent of Christ's authority, which is "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion."

"Rule," "authority," "power," and "dominion" are designations for angelic beings, whether good or evil (cf. Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). In His incarnation Christ was made lower in rank than the angels that He might suffer death on our behalf (Heb. 2:9). Now He has "become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:4), and the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son (v. 6).

But Christ's rule extends far beyond angelic beings. In Ephesians 1:21 the phrase "every name that is named" is a general reference to any form of authority—whether angelic or human, eternal or temporal. Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One! Ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

The implications of that truth are staggering. For example Christ precedes the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, the heart of Christian evangelism and discipleship, with this significant statement: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

Ultimately your evangelism and discipleship efforts will bear fruit because they are backed by the authority of Christ Himself. Does that encourage you to seize every opportunity to share Christ and His Word with others? It should!

Be faithful today, realizing that you represent the One in whom lies all authority. Nothing can thwart His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to a lost soul or anyone else you can encourage from the Word. Be sensitive to His leading.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 1:15-23.

  • What was Christ's role in creation (vv. 15-17)?
  • What is His role in the church (v. 18)? In salvation (v. 23)?
  • What place have you given Him in your life?


PART III

January 30 - The Gospel’s First Demand—Repentance

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17).

The message that Jesus brought to the people—the “great light” He revealed to those “sitting in the land of shadow and death”—was always very clear: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our Lord thus began with the same basic exhortation that His herald, John the Baptist, had begun with (cf. Matt. 3:2).

Repentance is a crucial but often neglected or omitted element of the gospel. “Repent” means to turn from sin, to change your orientation, and in so turning to seek a new way of life. The person who repents has a radical change of will and heart, and as a result, a change of behavior (cf. Matt. 3:8). The repentant sinner will radically change the way he or she views sin and righteousness.

Repentance was, is, and always will be the foremost demand of the gospel. It is quite simply the first part of the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s soul. In his Pentecost sermon, Peter also issued a call for repentance: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul reassured Timothy that repentance leads “to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). If repentance was crucial for the people of Jesus’ day, it is even more imperative for everyone today, because the kingdom is nearer than ever.

Ask Yourself

Like all of us, you’ve confessed many things, many times before. But today is another good opportunity to take repentance seriously. What sins need its corrective touch in your life? Bring them before the Father. Receive His mercy. Walk away refreshed and in freedom.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Exodus 9:14 My plagues. God’s use of the possessive pronoun specified what should have become abundantly clear to Pharaoh by then, namely, that these were God’s own workings. to your very heart. “To send to the very heart” was apparently a colloquial expression denoting someone’s being made to feel the full force of an act, to feel it strike home!

Exodus 10:13 an east wind. God used natural means, most probably the spring hot wind, or “sirocco,” to bring the locusts into the country from the Arabian peninsula.

Proverbs 5:21, 22 ponders…caught. The Lord sees all that man does and in mercy withholds immediate judgment, allowing the sinner time to repent or to be caught in his own sin (see Num. 32:23; Pss. 7:15, 16; 57:6; Prov. 1:17; Gal. 6:7, 8). Note the example of Haman (Esth. 5:9–14; 7:1–10).

Matthew 20:16 the last will be first, and the first last. In other words, everyone finishes in a dead heat. No matter how long each of the workers worked, they each received a full day’s wage. Similarly, the thief on the cross will enjoy the full blessings of heaven alongside those who have labored their whole lives for Christ. Such is the grace of God.


DAY 30: Why don’t the Egyptian historical records acknowledge the events of the Exodus?

The absence of any Egyptian record of the devastation of Egypt by the 10 plagues and the major defeat of Pharaoh’s elite army at the Red Sea should not give rise to speculation on whether the account is historically authentic. Egyptian historiography did not permit records of their pharaohs’ embarrassments and ignominious defeats to be published. Interestingly, one of the subtle proofs of the truth of Scripture is the way in which it records both the triumphs and the tragedies of God’s people. The Bible offers as many examples of failure as it does of faith.

Despite the absence of any extra-biblical, ancient Near Eastern records of the Hebrew bondage, the plagues, the Exodus, and the Conquest, archeological evidence corroborates Israel’s dramatic exit from Egypt as occurring during the Eighteenth Dynasty (about 1445 B.C.), a setting of great political strength and economic strength in Egyptian history. Egypt was a world military, economic, and political superpower.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/28/19

January 28 - Christ’s Galilean Ministry Fulfills Prophecy

“This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet” (Matthew 4:14).

Centuries before the Incarnation, the prophet Isaiah foretold this great truth: “‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned’” (from Isa. 9:1–2).

And eight hundred years later—just as prophesied—the despised, unbelieving Galileans glimpsed the Messiah and, ahead of many of the Jews in Jerusalem, saw the dawning of God’s new covenant.

The Jews in Galilee were less sophisticated and traditional than those in Judea. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the Galileans “were fond of innovations and by nature disposed to change, and they delighted in seditions.” They even had a regional accent distinct from the Judeans (cf. Matt. 26:73). Jesus likely chose His apostles from Galilee because they too would have been less bound to Jewish tradition and more open to the gospel.

Jesus’ going to Galilee to really begin His ministry shows that salvation was for sinners everywhere, with no distinctions or restrictions. It fulfilled Old Testament truth, which God revealed through the Jews (cf. Rom. 3:1–2). However, it was not an accommodation to the proud, exclusive Judaism prevalent in Jesus’ day. It was no accident that “the Light of the world” (John 8:12) first proclaimed Himself and His message in Galilee.

Ask Yourself

As we’ll continue to see, Jesus often went to the least expected, the least admired, the least in the pecking order to administer His grace and reveal His identity. What is your level of concern and compassion for those in the greatest need of the gospel? Pray for a heart that beats like Jesus’ heart did—and does.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 



01/27/19

Striving According to God's Power

"These are in accordance with the working of the strength of [God's] might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" (Eph. 1:19-20).

In Christ you have all the power you will ever need.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great hope of believers. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19). Peter said we have been "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away" (1 Pet. 1:3-4). We and what we have are protected by God's power (v. 5).

In Ephesians 1:19-20 Paul draws two comparisons. The first is between the power God demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the power He demonstrates on behalf of every believer. That power is described as God's "working," "strength," and "might." Together those synonyms emphasize the greatness of God's power, which not only secures our salvation, but also enables us to live godly lives.

The second comparison is between our Lord's resurrection and ascension, and ours. The grave couldn't hold Him, nor can it hold us (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Satan himself couldn't prevent Christ's exaltation, nor can he prevent us from gaining our eternal inheritance.

In Christ you have all the power you will ever need. For evangelism you have the gospel itself, which "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). For difficult times you have the assurance that the surpassing greatness of God's power is at work in you (2 Cor. 4:7). For holy living you have God Himself at work in you "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

No matter how weak or ill-equipped you may at times feel, realize God "is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that [you] ask or think, according to the power that works within [you]" (Eph. 3:20). So keep striving according to that power (Col. 1:29), but do so with the confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He can and will accomplish His purposes in your life (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24).
  • Pray for wisdom in how you might best serve Him today.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 145, noting every mention of God's power David makes. Allow those examples to fill your heart with confidence and praise.




01/26/19

Our Unity in the Spirit

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

All Christians are part of the same Body, with the same Spirit, who is our pledge of eternal life.

Everything God ever designed for the church is based on the unity of believers. Paul emphasizes that by listing seven “ones” in these verses. One is the key; it is the cause of the worthy walk.

How many bodies of Christ are there? There isn’t a Presbyterian body, a Baptist body, and a Methodist body; nor is there a California body, a Utah body, and a Kansas body. There is just one Body, the church. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Whatever your race, creed, nationality, or language, when you become a Christian, you become one with every other believer.

Paul’s next point is that there is only one Spirit, who dwells in every believer. First Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” We “are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). Individually we are the temple of the Spirit; collectively we are the dwelling of the Spirit.

We are also “called in one hope of [our] calling.” We have only one eternal calling, only one eternal destiny, and the Holy Spirit guarantees our heavenly hope. “You were sealed in [Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13-14). He is our down payment, the first installment of our eternal inheritance.

Ephesians 4:4 focuses on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us: we are placed into one Body by the Spirit, one Spirit dwells in us, and our one hope is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the church and in your life.

For Further Study

First Corinthians 12 has much to say about church unity. Read it carefully, noting in particular what the Spirit does in the Body and what our responsibility is as individual believers.




01/25/19

PERSEVERANCE 

What does it mean when we hear “the perseverance of the saints”?  


We believe that the saints will never abandon their faith; they will always persevere, believing God through every trial.  That’s the perseverance of the saints.  In other words, they won’t believe for a little while and bail out.  They’ll persevere.  


There will be no trial that will come on them to make them give up their faith.  Why?  Because No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13


There is always the possibility of the perseverance of the true saints.  And the true saints will always persevere. 


The idea of eternal security means that God holds you; you’re secure in His unchanging promise.  You’re secure in His inviolable power.  And Scripture does emphasize that.  We are secure.  We are secure because of the power of God.  There’s no question about it.  


John 10:28, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”  Why?  “My Father who gave them to Me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.”


And the emphasis on that is on the holding power of God. 


So we’re eternally secure because of the promise and power of God.  


And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Philippians 1:6


We are secure because of the promise and power of God, and the prayers of Christ, but also because of the presence of the Spirit. 


The Holy Spirit is in us, the guarantee of future glory,


and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. - 2 Corinthians 1:22


We are sealed by the Spirit to the day of redemption.”  Now, all of that emphasizes eternal security from the standpoint of the power of God, the presence of God through His Spirit, and the prayers of Jesus Christ.  


The whole trinity secures us forever, so that no Christian who believes in the Lord will ever be lost.  That’s eternal security.  And our salvation and our security is based on the covenantal faithfulness of God.  


23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24 He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24


God preserves His people from apostasy.  He preserves His people from defection.  And He brings all of them to heaven.  That’s clearly the teaching of Scripture.  


Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!  - Psalm 31:24


The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;  - Psalm 37:23


Psalm 41:2 

“The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed on the earth.”  


Psalm 97:10, “You that love the Lord, hate evil.  He preserves the souls of His saints.  He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”  


The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. - 2 Timothy 4:18


You’re saved because you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, and yet you’re not saved without exercising faith. 


You’re secure because of the covenant faithfulness of God, but you’re not secure without exercising perseverance.  The means, then, of eternal security is wrought through the power of the Spirit energizing the true believer to endure in faith through all trials.  


Louis Berkhof, an excellent theologian, calls perseverance ”that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to completion.”  So our part is to endure.


NEVER DOUBT YOUR SALVATION!


Maximiliano 



01/24/19

BEING HONEST

“If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth” (James 3:14).


Humility is the hallmark of a wise person.


James says that if a person has a self-centered motive for life, he should stop arrogantly boasting. He should stop claiming to possess true wisdom. Why? Because he is lying “against the truth.” In verse 13 James indicates that if a person claims to have God’s wisdom, he must show it. If I see you are motivated by self-centeredness and pride, you ought to stop your arrogant boasting about having the wisdom of God. The fact is, you’re lying against what is obviously true. Stop claiming to have what you don’t have.


“The truth” refers to the saving gospel. Both James 1:18 (“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth”) and James 5:19 (“If any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back . . .”) link the truth with the gospel. Anyone who claims to have the wisdom of God but lives a life motivated by “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” is obviously lying in the face of the gospel. No pretentious claims to a possession of divine wisdom are convincing when they come out of a heart totally motivated by human wisdom.


James is calling you to take an inventory of your heart. Take a look at yourself. What motivates you? Are you motivated by the things that honor God? Are you motivated by a love for others? Are you motivated by humility and unselfishness? There is no single characteristic of unredeemed man more obvious than his pride. And there is nothing more characteristically evident of a redeemed person than his humility.


Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you have a humble attitude and make you more aware of how you can serve Him and others every day.


For Further Study

The wise person seeks to be humble. To help you manifest humility in your life, meditate on the following verses: Proverbs 16:19; 22:4; Isaiah 57:15; Micah 6:8; Matthew 18:4; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5.

Memorize at least one Old Testament verse and one New Testament verse from this list.


Believing in God


"Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is" (Hebrews 11:6).


Nothing you do can please God apart from faith.


Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth.

Many trust in their own good works, not realizing that even their best efforts are offensive to God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8). And the more we try to justify ourselves, the more we offend God, because "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20).


Some trust in their family heritage or nationality. The Jewish people thought they were pleasing to God simply because they were descendants of Abraham. But John the Baptist warned them, saying, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Matt. 3:7-9).


Apart from faith, man cannot please God. And the first step of faith is simply believing God exists. That isn't enough to save a person—even the demons have that level of faith (James 2:19)—but it's a start, and by God's grace can blossom into full saving faith.


God has given ample evidence of His existence. Romans 1:20says, "Since the creation of the world [God's] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made." David said, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Ps. 19:1).

Creation itself proclaims the existence, power, and glory of God, yet most people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18) by rejecting the Creator and denying their accountability to Him. Rather than bowing to the true God, they pay homage to "Mother Nature" or evolution. How foolish!


Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for the beauty of His creation.

Worship Him as the giver of every good gift (James 1:17).


For Further Study

Read Romans 1:18-32. Is there a connection between denying God, practicing idolatry, and committing gross immoralities? Explain.


Criticism of John and Jesus


“‘But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon!” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds’” (Matthew 11:16–19).


Contemporary people love to criticize whatever the church does, which is really just a convenient excuse to reject the gospel. Such was also true in Jesus’ day, and here He uses two illustrations of criticism to make that point.


First, He applies the children’s game “Funeral” to the criticism of John the Baptist. John lived in the funeral mode, and people became so resentful of his constant stress on repentance and judgment that they claimed he had a demon. He would not let his audience be neutral—he called for commitment to truth and righteousness. But instead of accepting that call, they generally rebuked John’s righteousness.

Second, Jesus applies the game of “Wedding” to Himself. 


In contrast to John’s austere living, Jesus participated in society’s usual activities. His ministry brought Him into contact with hundreds of ordinary people. This difference from John had not escaped his disciples (Matt. 9:14–15), but the critics exaggerated Jesus’ activities and said His appetites were out of control. It was true that Jesus befriended tax collectors and sinners, but only to offer deliverance from their sins, not to be involved with them in sin (cf. 9:12–13).


Their opponents criticized John and Jesus differently, but the lesson is the same. Like today, the enemies of truth found it easy to criticize but difficult to explain how so many lives were transformed from despair to hope, from anger to love, from enmity to Christ to fellowship with Him.


Ask Yourself

What are some of the most common criticisms against Christianity? Which ones hold water, and which are just rebellious bluster?


GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED ROYAL FAMILY

BLESSED BE 

LORD CHRIST JESUS

OUR KING AND SAVIOR. 


MAXIMILIANO


01/23/19

Our Response to God's Power

"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. . . . They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31).

Relying on God’s power gives us confidence to live as Christians.

What should be our response to God’s power? First, we should worship Him. Our response should follow what God told Israel: “The Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice” (2 Kings 17:36).

Understanding God’s power should also give us confidence: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Because of His strength, we can live the Christian life each day with confidence. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Our eternal hope rests on the power of God. His power saved us and will “raise [us] up on the last day” (John 6:40). That day should be the great hope of the Christian, because whatever troubles we have on earth, our heavenly destiny is still secure.

When I’m tempted to worry, I’m comforted to remember that God’s power is greater than any problem I have. The psalmist says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). The God who made everything can certainly handle our troubles!

God’s power also gives us spiritual victory. Paul instructs us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). When the adversary comes and you’re on guard, you don’t fight him; you go tell the commander, and he leads the battle. God will bring about the victory because “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Satan may be powerful, but he’s no match for God.

Finally, understanding God’s power gives us humility. Peter exhorts us, “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). Apart from God’s gracious power we are nothing and can do nothing (John 15:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for each of these ways He uses His power for our benefit.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 121. In what ways does God demonstrate His power to us?


PART II

The Joy of Glorification

God will perfect His work in you "until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).

Someday God will glorify and reward every believer.

For Christians there's an element of truth to the bumper sticker that reads, "Please be patient, God isn't finished with me yet." We aren't what we used to be, but there's much to be done to make us all He wants us to be. Yet God's work within us is so sure and so powerful, Scripture guarantees its completion.

Pondering that guarantee led Bible expositor F.B. Meyer to write, "We go into the artist's studio and find there unfinished pictures covering large canvas, and suggesting great designs, but which have been left, either because the genius was not competent to complete the work, or because paralysis laid the hand low in death; but as we go into God's great workshop we find nothing that bears the mark of haste or insufficiency of power to finish, and we are sure that the work which His grace has begun, the arm of His strength will complete" (The Epistle to the Philippians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952], p. 28).

The completion of God's work in you will come at a future point in time that Paul calls "the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Scripture also speaks of "the day of the Lord," which is the time of God's judgment on unbelievers, but "the day of Christ Jesus" refers to when believers will be fully glorified then rewarded for their faithful service (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15). All your earthly cares will be gone and God's promise to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy will be fully realized (Jude 24).

Concentrating on what is wrong in your life might depress you, but focusing on the glorious day of Christ should excite you. Don't be unduly concerned about what you are right now. Look ahead to what you will become by God's grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

* Reflect on the joy that is yours because you belong to an all-powerful God who is working mightily in you. Express your joy and praise to Him.

* Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 7:9-17 and 22:1-5. What glimpses do those passages give you of the activities of glorified believers in heaven?


PART III

Recognizing Our Humility, Part 1

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

The Puritan Thomas Watson, in his book The Beatitudes, discusses many principles to help the believer recognize his or her humility—those spiritual fruits that enable us to determine whether or not humility is actually growing within us. Here are three.

First, if we are truly humble, we will be weaned from ourselves and have no more constant self-preoccupation. Paul expresses it beautifully this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Second, if we are really humble we will be lost in the wonder of Jesus Christ. We will contemplate “as in a mirror the glory of the Lord … being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). We’ll look forward to the day when we’ll be just like our Lord.

And third, no matter how bad life’s situations get, we will not complain. We’ll understand that we deserve far worse than anything we experience in this life. When tragedy comes, our first response won’t be, “Why me, Lord?” Instead, we’ll fully appreciate that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Ask Yourself

Could you honestly say you’re detecting growth in these three areas? It’s not “proud” to recognize it, to give God glory for what He’s producing in you by His Spirit. If you’re not seeing this kind of spiritual development, ask yourself what needs to change.

HAVE A BLESSED DAY 

NEVER DOUBT YOUR SALVATION

GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DEARLY AND RICHLY.  

MAXIMILIANO


GUARDING AGAINST SIN

(Lengthy but reach with encouragement and blessings)

01/22/19

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

Knowing and obeying God’s Word helps us walk worthy by protecting us from sin.

Importance of knowing the doctrine before feeding in the word of God daily.  The Bible helps us to walk worthy: it protects us from sin. 

From time to time you might hear people who have a fatalistic attitude toward sin saying, “I couldn’t help myself” or “The Devil made me do it.” 

Such excuses are foolish for Christians to make since God has given us the means to resist temptation.

The psalmist said, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). Without knowledge, we are defenseless and vulnerable. 

Feeding in the word of God, allows God The Holy Spirit to encourage you, by bringing into your remembrance into your understanding bible versus you studied and or memorize. 

Knowing God’s truth—by study and by application—enables us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. 

Anyone who puts his faith in Jesus Christ but who does not keep God’s Word constantly at the forefront of his mind will find himself entrapped in sin again and again.

Although we must know God’s Word to defend ourselves against sin and to obey God’s will, there is a danger. Once we know His truth, we are held accountable for what we know.

Second Peter 2:21 speaks of apostates, those who knew about Jesus Christ but returned to their former life without ever committing themselves to Him: “It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.” James 4:17says, “To one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

So not knowing is better than knowing and not obeying. What’s best, of course, is knowing the Word and obeying it, because it is our spiritual nourishment: “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). For a Christian, neglecting the Word is spiritual starvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask forgiveness for times you have known the right thing to do but have not done it.

For Further Study

* Read about a young man who gave in to temptation in Proverbs 7. Contrast him with Joseph in Genesis 39. What was the difference between them?

* Think about how Psalm 119:9 relates to them, and to you.


PART II

Understand Your Spiritual Resources

“God...has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3)

As a Christian, you possess every spiritual resource you need to fulfill God’s will for your life.

The story is told of a wealthy London businessman who searched many years for his runaway son. One afternoon he was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar but there was something strangely familiar about him.

When the beggar approached and asked if he could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long-lost son. With tears in his eyes and joy in his voice he embraced his son, crying, “A few shillings? You are my son—everything I have is yours!”

That pictures many Christians who are ignorant or negligent of their spiritual resources. They are children of the King, yet live like spiritual paupers.

Paul repeatedly emphasized our sufficiency as believers. In Colossians 2:10 he declares that in Christ “you have been made complete.” In Philippians 4:13and 19 he says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” and “my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Peter added that God's “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

The word translated “spiritual” in Ephesians 1:3 speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit. Every blessing you receive, whether material or immaterial, has God as its source.

As a Christian, you possess every spiritual resource you need to fulfill God's will for your life. You needn't pray for more love, for example, because His love is already poured out in your heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). The same is true of joy (John 15:11), peace (John 14:27), strength (Phil. 4:13)—and every other resource you need. The key to spiritual progress and victory is learning to apply what you already have, not seeking more.

Suggestions for Prayer

* Praise God for His abundant spiritual resources.

* Ask Him to help you apply them with wisdom and consistency.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-8.

* What specific promises does God make in those passages?

* What does He require of you?

HAVE A BLESSED DAY 

NEVER DOUBT YOUR SALVATION

GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DEARLY AND RICHLY.  

MAXIMILIANO 


01/21/19

Guarding Against Sin

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

Knowing and obeying God’s Word helps us walk worthy by protecting us from sin.

While we are discussing the importance of knowing right doctrine before right duty, let’s see one way knowing the Bible helps us to walk worthy: it protects us from sin. 

From time to time you might hear people who have a fatalistic attitude toward sin saying, “I couldn’t help myself” or “The Devil made me do it.” 

Such excuses are foolish for Christians to make since God has given us the means to resist temptation.

The psalmist said, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). Without knowledge, we are defenseless and vulnerable. 

Knowing God’s truth—by study and by application—enables us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. 

Anyone who puts his faith in Jesus Christ but who does not keep God’s Word constantly at the forefront of his mind will find himself entrapped in sin again and again.

Although we must know God’s Word to defend ourselves against sin and to obey God’s will, there is a danger. Once we know His truth, we are held accountable for what we know.

Second Peter 2:21 speaks of apostates, those who knew about Jesus Christ but returned to their former life without ever committing themselves to Him: “It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.” James 4:17says, “To one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

So not knowing is better than knowing and not obeying. What’s best, of course, is knowing the Word and obeying it, because it is our spiritual nourishment: “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). For a Christian, neglecting the Word is spiritual starvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask forgiveness for times you have known the right thing to do but have not done it.

For Further Study

* Read about a young man who gave in to temptation in Proverbs 7. Contrast him with Joseph in Genesis 39. What was the difference between them?

* Think about how Psalm 119:9 relates to them, and to you.


PART II

Understand Your Spiritual Resources

“God...has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3)

As a Christian, you possess every spiritual resource you need to fulfill God’s will for your life.

The story is told of a wealthy London businessman who searched many years for his runaway son. One afternoon he was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar but there was something strangely familiar about him.

When the beggar approached and asked if he could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long-lost son. With tears in his eyes and joy in his voice he embraced his son, crying, “A few shillings? You are my son—everything I have is yours!”

That pictures many Christians who are ignorant or negligent of their spiritual resources. They are children of the King, yet live like spiritual paupers.

Paul repeatedly emphasized our sufficiency as believers. In Colossians 2:10 he declares that in Christ “you have been made complete.” In Philippians 4:13and 19 he says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” and “my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Peter added that God's “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

The word translated “spiritual” in Ephesians 1:3 speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit. Every blessing you receive, whether material or immaterial, has God as its source.

As a Christian, you possess every spiritual resource you need to fulfill God's will for your life. You needn't pray for more love, for example, because His love is already poured out in your heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). The same is true of joy (John 15:11), peace (John 14:27), strength (Phil. 4:13)—and every other resource you need. The key to spiritual progress and victory is learning to apply what you already have, not seeking more.

Suggestions for Prayer

* Praise God for His abundant spiritual resources.

* Ask Him to help you apply them with wisdom and consistency.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-8.

* What specific promises does God make in those passages?

* What does He require of you?

HAVE A BLESSED DAY 

NEVER DOUBT YOUR SALVATION

GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DEARLY AND RICHLY.  

MAXIMILIANO 


01/20/19

The Joy of Faithful Service

"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1).

A faithful slave fulfills the will of his master.

The metaphor of Christians as slaves to Christ is common in Paul's writings. It is one his readers would have readily understood because of the prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire.

Peter, James, John, and Jude used the same metaphor of their own ministries, as did Jesus in Mark 10:45: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." In Philippians 2:7 Paul refers to Christ as a bond-servant who set aside the glory He was due and humbled Himself to the point of death.

The Greek word translated "bond-servant" in Philippians 1:1 was commonly used of those who, out of devotion to their masters, chose to remain as slaves when having the opportunity to be released. They were also known as love slaves because they served out of love, not compulsion.

That is a beautiful picture of the believer. We are God's bond-servants (Rev. 1:1), having been freed from sin and enslaved to Him (Rom. 6:22).

While slavery brings to mind deprivation and inhumane treatment of one's fellow man, slaves in the Roman Empire usually were treated with dignity and respect. Although most had no personal possessions, their masters supplied everything they needed for life and health. Additionally, many were entrusted with significant responsibilities in their master's home.

A disobedient or self-willed slave was of no use to his master, but faithful slaves, who set aside their personal interests to accomplish their master's will, were a precious possession.

Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34). As God's bond-servant that should be your goal as well. Be faithful so God can use you mightily.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of serving Him.
  • Seek wisdom to appropriate your spiritual resources as you perform the tasks God has entrusted to you.

For Further Study

Philemon is a letter Paul wrote to accompany Onesimus, a runaway slave, whom Paul had led to the Lord and was now returning to his master, Philemon.

  • Read Philemon.
  • What was Paul's desire for Onesimus?
  • What does this letter reveal about Philemon's character?


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


MAXIMILIANO 


01/19/19

How important is spiritual growth in Christian life?


Spiritual growth is the process of becoming more mature in one's relationship with Jesus Christ. Someone who is growing spiritually will become more and more like Christ. The spiritually mature will be able to "distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14). Spiritual growth begins the moment a person comes to faith in Christ and should continue until a person enters Christ's presence after this life. 


Spiritual growth is expected of the believer. The author of Hebrews reprimands his readers for "no longer try[ing] to understand" (Hebrews 5:11) and "being still an infant" (verse 13). The criticism leads to exhortation: "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity" (Hebrews 6:1).The apostle Peter says, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).


Scripture offers valuable insights into how a Christian can grow spiritually. It is Christ's power in the believer that gives us the ability to grow spiritually (2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 3:20). As we rely on His power and follow His teachings, we can develop greater maturity.


Peter provides a peek at the process: "make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8).


Involvement in a local church and the exercise of our spiritual gifts are invaluable to the development of maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16). Rather than be swayed by every errant doctrine that comes along, we can speak "the truth in love," with the result that "we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (verse 15).


To evaluate spiritual growth, we can measure our improvement in the "fruit of the Spirit." The Spirit desires to produce these qualities in us: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Are we increasing in love? in joy? in patience? If so, we are growing spiritually.


We should be aware that growth often comes through trials. Just as physical strength is built through exertion and straining against resistance, spiritual strength is developed in the hard times of life. "No pain, no gain," as they say. James gives encouragement: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).


Because growth comes through trials, Scripture also teaches we are not to grow weary in the process. Much spiritual development is the result of persistence. "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good" (2 Thessalonians 3:13). "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).


It is God's will that we grow to be more like Jesus. We also have the promise that the Lord Himself will oversee our growth and bring us to maturity. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6 NIV).


"Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). 


What are some signs of authentic, saving faith? 


How can a person know he or she has genuine, saving faith? The New Testament book of 1 John was written in large part to help address this important issue. First John brings up several important questions we can ask ourselves to see if our faith is genuine.


Do you "walk in the light" and live according to God's ways? First John 1:6-7shares, "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."


Do you admit you are a sinner? First John 1:8 notes, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."


Do you obey God's Word? First John 2:3-4 reveals, "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."


Do you love other people? First John 2:9 teaches, "Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness." A Christian cannot hate people because he or she is filled with the love of Christ.


Do you love the world? First John 2:15 teaches that those who love the world, meaning the ways of the world and its temporary, sinful pleasures, do not have genuine faith: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."


Are you known for doing what is right? First John 2:29 notes, "If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him."


Are you seeking to decrease sin in your life? First John 3:6 teaches, "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." This refers to ongoing, continual sin. True believers will not continue in sin without seeking to stop, relying on God's power to help. Every believer will struggle with sin (Romans 7:24-25), but will seek to live God's way rather than to continue in sin.


Do you love other Christians? A person cannot love God and hate His followers. First John 3:14 shares, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death."


Do you seek to help those in need? First John 3:17 teaches, "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"


Do you have a clear conscience before God? First John 3:21 reveals, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God."


Do you believe in the name of the Son of God? First John 5:4-5 explains, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"


If these attributes are increasingly evident in your life, they help serve as signs of genuine faith. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9), yet these additional traits help you and others see that Jesus is in you and that you are a genuine believer.


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/18/19

“Are we supposed to let go and let God?"


“Let go and let God” is a phrase that cropped up some years ago and still enjoys some popularity today. Actually, the Bible never tells us to “let go and let God.” In fact, there are so many commandments about what we are to do that it completely contradicts the way most people interpret “let go and let God.” The popular idea of “letting go” is to adopt a sort of spiritual inertia wherein we do nothing, say nothing, feel nothing, and simply live, allowing circumstances to roll over us however they may.


The Christian life, however, is a spiritual battle which the Bible exhorts us to prepare for and wage diligently. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12); “Endure hardship . . . like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3); “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). Letting go, in the sense of sitting back and watching events unfold however they may, is not biblical. 


Having said that, though, we have to understand that the things we are to do, we do by the power of God and not on our own steam. The truth is that working at “letting go” is just as much as an effort-filled work as anything else we try to do for God and not nearly as easy to do as some things. So let’s look at the Christian life and see exactly what we are to do. 


To begin with, Jesus was clear that, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). The truth being imparted here is that we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We can do lots of “stuff” and assume we’re doing it for God, but if we are doing it on our own power, we get the credit, and there is little or no eternal value to it. The picture of the vine and the branches in John 15 is very appropriate. Christ is the vine; we are the branches. Everything branches need to bring forth fruit comes from the vine—water, nutrients, the genetic material of life itself—while nothing is provided by the branches. The branches are simply something to hang the fruit on. The same is true of the Christian life. We are a conduit through which Christ displays His (not our) fruit. 


So what has all this to do with “letting go”? Many people believe that, if we are truly in a state of “letting go,” we will be able to cease from striving and struggling. But Jesus said that we are to “strive” to enter the narrow gate to eternal life (Luke 13:24), not to sit by and wait to die so we can gain heaven. By striving, He means that we should be diligent, active, and earnest and that we should make every effort to overcome our sinful tendencies, in order to prove that we are truly His children. We are also to strive to do the work of the kingdom, whatever form that takes in our lives. This is the reason He gives us spiritual gifts, so that we can edify one another and bring glory to Him. 


Furthermore, when we struggle, we assume the problem is that we are not letting go and letting God. The reality is that we struggle for a variety of reasons. One is that we have a weak faith. We just don’t have enough confidence in God to rest in the reality of His nature and have the peace that comes with a strong faith in Him. For instance, when trials come or we experience illness, financial ruin, or the death of a loved one, do we really believe that “God works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)? If we don’t know God intimately, it’s very hard to trust that He is working all things together for good. But if we do know Him, if we have spent time digging into His Word and meditating on His works and His nature, we have faith in His plan and purposes, His love for us, His sovereign control over all circumstances in life, and we rest in the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). But if we don’t know Him, we will always struggle against life’s hard circumstances. 


On the other hand, there is a positive reason for struggling—it is good for us and is God’s plan to grow and mature us into the people He wants us to be. Struggles are just one of the ways He strengthens us for the hard things life throws at us. Each one enables us to be stronger and better able to handle the next one. Trials are designed to show us and others that our faith is real. “Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns” (1 Peter 1:7). In Christ, we can face the trials of life with grace and good humor and complete faith that whatever God has for us is ok. This comes from years of walking with Him, trial upon trial, struggle upon struggle.



“What does it mean that today is the day of salvation?"


God has told the sinful world, in no uncertain terms, to repent (Mark 6:12; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 17:30). To repent means to change your mind from embrace of sin and rejection of Christ to rejection of sin and embrace of Christ. Those who refuse to repent and turn to Christ in faith will suffer eternal consequences. Given the fact of hell, mankind in his sin is in a dire situation. Why would anyone delay repentance? Yet many do, even while admitting their sin and claiming to see their need for salvation.


There are several reasons not to delay repentance. First, the Bible’s command to repent is accompanied by an urgent appeal to do it now: Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8, which speaks of “the day of salvation.” Then he says not to delay: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Repentance should take place as soon as God the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins (see John 16:8). In other words, today is the day of repentance. “Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7–8).


Another problem with delaying repentance is that no one knows the day he will die. And after death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The rich fool in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:16–20) thought he had plenty of time to enjoy life, but God had news for him: “This very night your life will be demanded from you” (verse 20). We have today—we have the present moment—and we should use it wisely.


Another reason to not delay repentance is that, every time we refuse to repent, we continue to sin and our hearts get harder (see Hebrews 3:7–8). Every time a person says “no” to what’s right, it becomes a little easier to say “no” the next time, too. There’s a gradual hardening of the heart, a searing of the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), that can numb an unsaved person to the point of being past feeling. This is a dangerous spiritual condition to be in.


Also, the harder a person’s heart becomes, the more “force” God will have to apply to bring him to repentance. This is illustrated in the increasingly severe plagues in Egypt. As Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, the plagues continued and worsened until culminating in a loss of life in every Egyptian household (Exodus 7–11). “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).


Tragically, there is a point of no return. God may eventually stop trying to bring the chronically rebellious to repentance and give them over to their own ways (Romans 1:28). We never know when this point of no return is, so the better part of wisdom is timely repentance.


By delaying repentance, we are delaying certain blessings from God. At least three verses bring this to light: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). “Your wrongdoings have kept these [showers of blessing] away; your sins have deprived you of good” (Jeremiah 5:25). So, in delaying repentance, we miss out on God’s refreshment, we may not prosper (in God’s eyes), and we may be deprived of God’s goodness.


It is true that God is gracious to us and that a person may be able to repent up until the day he dies. But we should not live presumptuously. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Commentator Charles John Ellicott put it rightly: “For each church and nation, for each individual soul, there is a golden present which may never again recur” (Commentary for English Readers, entry for 2 Corinthians 6:2).


James 4:17 says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Once we know what is right, we are responsible to do it. And once we know something is sin, we are responsible to repent of it and forsake it. We dare not delay repentance. There was a time when the Lord shut the door of the ark, and the flood swept everyone outside the ark away (Genesis 7:16). There came a time when the wedding party began, and those who were not ready for the coming of the bridegroom were locked out (Matthew 25:1–13).




“How were people saved before Jesus died for our sins?"


Since the fall of man, the basis of salvation has always been the death of Christ. No one, either prior to the cross or since the cross, would ever be saved without that one pivotal event in the history of the world. Christ's death paid the penalty for past sins of Old Testament saints and future sins of New Testament saints.


The requirement for salvation has always been faith. The object of one's faith for salvation has always been God. The psalmist wrote, "Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 2:12). Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham believed God and that was enough for God to credit it to him for righteousness (see also Romans 4:3-8). The Old Testament sacrificial system did not take away sin, as Hebrews 10:1-10 clearly teaches. It did, however, point to the day when the Son of God would shed His blood for the sinful human race.


What has changed through the ages is the content of a believer's faith. God's requirement of what must be believed is based on the amount of revelation He has given mankind up to that time. This is called progressive revelation. Adam believed the promise God gave in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the woman would conquer Satan. Adam believed Him, demonstrated by the name he gave Eve (v. 20) and the Lord indicated His acceptance immediately by covering them with coats of skin (v. 21). At that point that is all Adam knew, but he believed it.


Abraham believed God according to the promises and new revelation God gave him in Genesis 12 and 15. Prior to Moses, no Scripture was written, but mankind was responsible for what God had revealed. Throughout the Old Testament, believers came to salvation because they believed that God would someday take care of their sin problem. Today, we look back, believing that He has already taken care of our sins on the cross (John 3:16; Hebrews 9:28).


What about believers in Christ's day, prior to the cross and resurrection? What did they believe? Did they understand the full picture of Christ dying on a cross for their sins? Late in His ministry, "Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (Matthew 16:21-22). What was the reaction of His disciples to this message? "Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"" Peter and the other disciples did not know the full truth, yet they were saved because they believed that God would take care of their sin problem. They didn't exactly know how He would accomplish that, any more than Adam, Abraham, Moses, or David knew how, but they believed God.


Today, we have more revelation than the people living before the resurrection of Christ; we know the full picture. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2). Our salvation is still based on the death of Christ, our faith is still the requirement for salvation, and the object of our faith is still God. Today, for us, the content of our faith is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).



“What does the Bible say about faith?"


Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). According to the Bible, faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.


Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. Faith is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.


Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).


Examples of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his only son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.


According to the Bible, faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4).


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/17/19

Our Sympathetic High Priest

Be Blessed!

"Assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:16-18).

Jesus came to sympathize with us, so He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest.

In his letters to Timothy, Paul counseled and encouraged his young associate about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual warfare. His counsel is well summed up in these words: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David" (2 Tim. 2:8).

Like Timothy, we need to be reminded of Christ's humanity, especially when life becomes particularly tough. Then we can pray, "Lord, You know what You endured while You were here. I'm going through it now." We can be sure He knows and will encourage us.

Jesus came not only to save us but also to sympathize with us. He experienced what we experience so He could be a "merciful and faithful high priest." After all, "we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. Most of us will never know the full degree of any given temptation because we usually succumb long before we reach it. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation.

Ours is not a cosmic God, powerful and holy, but indifferent. He knows when we hurt, where we are weak, and how we are tempted. Jesus is not just our Savior, but our loving Lord who sympathizes with us. Rejoice in the greatness of His love for us.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to remind you of your need of Him at all times, not just when times are tough.

For Future Study

Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13 for quick recall whenever you are faced with any trial.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  

Psalm 139:13-18 

13  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body  and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it. 15  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,  as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out  before a single day had passed.  17 ¶  How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered! 18  I can’t even count them;  they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up,  you are still with me!        

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”



Identifying with Christ

“God...has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3,

Christianity isn’t simply a belief system—it’s a whole new identity.

Many people mistakenly believe that one's religious preference is irrelevant because all religions eventually lead to the same spiritual destination.

Such thinking is sheer folly, however, because Scripture declares that no one comes to God apart from Jesus (John 14:6). He is the only source of salvation (Acts 4:12) and the only One powerful enough to redeem us and hold us secure forever (John 10:28).

Every Christian shares a common supernatural union with Christ. Paul said, “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him)” (1 Cor. 6:17). 

We are in Him and He is in us. His life flows through us by His Spirit, who indwells us (Rom. 8:9).

As a non-Christian, you were in bondage to evil (Rom. 3:10-12), enslaved to the will of Satan (1 John 5:19), under divine wrath (Rom. 1:18), spiritually dead (Eph. 4:17-18), and without hope (Eph. 2:12). 

But at the moment of your salvation a dramatic change took place. You became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), alive in Him (Eph. 2:5), enslaved to God (Rom. 6:22), and a recipient of divine grace (Eph. 2:8). You were delivered out of the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13). 

You now possess His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and share in His eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:16-17).

All those blessings—and many more—are yours because you are in Christ. What a staggering reality! In a sense what He is, you are. What He has, you have. Where He is, you are.

When the Father sees you, He sees you in Christ and blesses you accordingly. When others see you, do they see Christ in you? “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

*  Thank God for His marvelous grace in taking you from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ.

*  Ask Him for wisdom and discernment to live this day for His good pleasure.

For Further Study

Read the book of Ephesians, noting every occurrence of the phrase “in Christ.”

*  What has God accomplished in Christ?

*  What blessings are yours in Christ?

James 1:2-12

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,

10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.

11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. -



TEST OF LIVING FAITH

(had to share this awesome encouragement)

Tests of living faith, is the test of trials, for trials will reveal whether your faith is living faith or dead faith, whether it’s genuine faith or imitation faith, whether it is saving faith or non-saving faith.

We are fallen creatures, we are sinful creatures, we live in the midst of a fallen and sinful society, and as a result of that we experience constant trouble. 

Job 5:7 “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  

Christians, even for those of us who are the children of God, there’s a constant kind of facing of trouble, a constant facing of trial in a very troubled world. 

Jesus Himself was not able to avoid trouble.  In fact, He said of His disciples, You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, - Luke 22:28

Trials is not a solicitation to evil; it is just an objective difficulty that enters into life that can be a test of the genuineness of our faith.

James 1:2

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Every trouble that comes into your life, and every trial, be it a small one or a large one, becomes a test, then, of your faith.  You either pass or fail.  To pass the test – mark it – keeps it a trial.  To fail the test turns it into a temptation.  If it ends up as sin, it has proven to be a successful temptation.  If it ends up in victory, it has proven to be a successful trial.  

A temptation leads you to sin and makes you fall.  A trial leads you to strength and makes you stand.  So trials then are tests that reveal the genuineness and the strength of your faith.  They can, on the one hand, reveal the genuineness of your faith, and they can, on the second hand, reveal also the strength of your faith.  What you do through a trial will reveal whether you really believe God and are genuinely saved, and it will also reveal how strong that saving faith really is.



Any trial is external and internal.  

James 1:2-3

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Any trial is external and internal.  The Christian life can make no such distinction; these are just trials in general, and our life is made up of them.  They come in the form of disappointments, frustrations, misunderstandings, unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, great loss, great loneliness, fear, criticism, persecution, conflict.  And they all maybe start on the outside, but sooner or later end up on the inside, and that’s what makes them a trial.  

It’s when it gets in and festers in the mind that it is a trial.  

And all of them come – look at verse 3 – for the purpose of testing your faith; to help you to see whether your faith is real, and how strong that faith is.  

They are tests of genuineness for those who claim true faith, and tests of the strength of faith. 

When you go through a trial, you really ought to look carefully at that trial, and examine it in the light of how you react, and what that says about your faith.  That’s what you are to learn from it.  

And if you persevere through trials as a pattern of life, if you persevere through suffering as a pattern of life, and you never abandon your trust in God, then you prove to have genuine faith.  

Robert Johnstone, writing in a commentary on James many years ago, said this, “James shows that where there is but an empty profession or a mere dreamy sentiment, unbased on firm and intelligent convictions of truth, the fire of trouble will burn them up.”  

Further, he said, “But where there is true faith, affliction naturally leads to deeper thought than under other circumstances on sin and its desserts, and thus frees the heart from the control of self-righteousness.  

The source of weakness leads to earnest wrestling with God in prayer, and experience of the sustaining grace thus obtained strengthens and exhilarates hope with regard to the time to come”.  

That is a very rich and loaded statement.  But what he’s basically saying is, you put a false Christian through a test, and inevitably it will blow him away, it will burn him up.  

You put a true believer in a test, and it will drive him to despair about his own weakness, and it will drive him in prayer to lean on the strength of God, rather than his own weakness.

Psalm 130:1-6   From the depths of despair, O LORD, I call for your help.  2  Hear my cry, O Lord.  Pay attention to my prayer.  3  LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?  4  But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.  5 ¶  I am counting on the LORD;    yes, I am counting on him.  I have put my hope in his word.  6  I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

Tests of living faith, is the test of trials, for trials will reveal whether your faith is living faith or dead faith, whether it’s genuine faith or imitation faith, whether it is saving faith or non-saving faith.

We are fallen creatures, we are sinful creatures, we live in the midst of a fallen and sinful society, and as a result of that we experience constant trouble. 

Job 5:7 “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  

Christians, even for those of us who are the children of God, there’s a constant kind of facing of trouble, a constant facing of trial in a very troubled world. 

Jesus Himself was not able to avoid trouble.  In fact, He said of His disciples, You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, - Luke 22:28

Trials is not a solicitation to evil; it is just an objective difficulty that enters into life that can be a test of the genuineness of our faith.

James 1:2

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Every trouble that comes into your life, and every trial, be it a small one or a large one, becomes a test, then, of your faith.  You either pass or fail.  To pass the test – mark it – keeps it a trial.  To fail the test turns it into a temptation.  If it ends up as sin, it has proven to be a successful temptation.  If it ends up in victory, it has proven to be a successful trial.  

A temptation leads you to sin and makes you fall.  A trial leads you to strength and makes you stand.  So trials then are tests that reveal the genuineness and the strength of your faith.  They can, on the one hand, reveal the genuineness of your faith, and they can, on the second hand, reveal also the strength of your faith.  What you do through a trial will reveal whether you really believe God and are genuinely saved, and it will also reveal how strong that saving faith really is.



DECLARATION OF BLESSEDNESS 

James 1:12

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. - 

This is a beatitude. 

Here is a declaration of the blessedness of one who passes the test; blessed means happy, it means satisfied, it means fulfilled with inner joy, a state of the soul in ecstasy. 

We consider people truly happy who endure, who make it through the trials.  Now, this is not happiness due to freedom from trial, this is happiness due to victory over trials – big difference.  It’s not the banal happiness of someone who never knew conflict, it’s the exhilaration of one who fought and won.  

Fulfilled, with an inner state of joy, is the man who endures testing.  

(James 1:2-3.  2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.)

And there are three key words in verse 12, the word “endure,” the word “trial,” and the word “tested,” and the same three words appear in verses 2 and 3.  “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing this, that the testing of your faith works patience.”  

Notice in verse 12 it says, “Blessed is the man that endures.”  Just as in verse 3, “the testing of your faith works endurance,” the same idea, same word.  Now, to endure in verse 12 means to patiently, triumphantly endure.  It doesn’t mean, “Oh, I endured it – I grit my teeth, I hold my breath, I suck it up, and I endure it.”  It isn’t that.  It isn’t a passive endurance.  It isn’t a passive survival.  It is to be the winner.  It’s hupomen, present active indicative, to patiently, triumphantly be the winner.  

Now, the point is simple.  The person who claims to be a Christian, and who goes through trials and comes out a winner, which means he never gives up his faith, he never abandons God, he is shown to be the genuine Christian.  And he will receive the crown of life which the Lord will give to those that love Him.



Hear my cry, O Lord

Psalm 130:1-6  From the depths of despair, O LORD, I call for your help.  2  Hear my cry, O Lord.  Pay attention to my prayer.  3  LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?  4  But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.  5 ¶  I am counting on the LORD;    yes, I am counting on him.  I have put my hope in his word.  6  I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

Psalm 143:8   8 Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

Psalm 145:17-21  17  The LORD is righteous in everything He does;  He is filled with kindness. 18  The LORD is close to all who call on him,  yes, to all who call on him in truth. 19  He grants the desires of those who fear him;  He hears their cries for help and rescues them. 20  The LORD protects all those who love him,  but he destroys the wicked. 21  I will praise the LORD,  and may everyone on earth bless his holy name  forever and ever.

Luke 22:39-46  39 ¶  Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. 40  There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” 41  He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42  “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43  Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44  He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. 45  At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46  “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”

RETRAINING and RENEWING your mind to replace negative thinking with  godly, good and positive thoughts.



PERSEVERANCE 

Perseverance through trial is the proof of living faith.  James calls those who persevere, “them that love Him.”  

“We love Him because He first loved us.”  This is all about a love relationship.  

This is not just some transaction, where God saves us no matter what our attitude is, and once we’re saved we can have any attitude we want.  No, those of us who are truly saved have an ongoing, profound love for Him.  

1 John 2:19

“They went out from us because they were not of us.  If they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out from us, that it might be made manifest they never were of us.”  

And what John is saying there, when the test came to whether you loved God or whether you loved the world, they loved the world, and they split, and it was okay because they never belonged anyway.  

All your trials are a test for the validity of your faith.  And “the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”  In other words, he says your faith is being tested to prove its genuineness, so that you will, having genuine faith, stand before the Lord when He comes.  

GOD BLESS YOU!

HAVE FAITH IN GOD’S PROMISES. HE KEEPS ALL HIS PROMISES. NEVER DOUBT YOUR SALVATION. 


01/16/19

Contentment: How to Enjoy it

“Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Your relationship with God allows you to enjoy genuine contentment.

In view of yesterday’s lesson, you may be asking, “But how can I enjoy contentment and be satisfied with what I have?” You can begin by realizing God’s goodness and believing that He will take care of you since you are one of His children. You can claim again the promise in Romans 8: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28).

Second, you should truly realize that God is omniscient—He knows all things and all your personal needs. He recognizes your individual needs long before you do and even before you pray about them. Jesus affirms, “Your Father knows that you need these things” (Luke 12:30).

You can also enjoy contentment by remembering that what you want or need is one thing; what you deserve is another. The patriarch Jacob confessed, “I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to Thy servant” (Gen. 32:10). Contentment will more likely be yours if you consider that God’s smallest favor or blessing to you is more than you deserve.

Ultimately, however, real contentment will be yours if you have vital communion with God through Jesus Christ. Then, like the apostle Paul, temporal things will not matter so much: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Suggestions for Prayer

God may or may not grant you some new blessing today or this week. In any case, pray that you would be content.

For Further Study


PART II 

Anticipating Your Inheritance

"In [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance" (Eph. 1:10-11).

As a member of God’s family, you have obtained a future inheritance that has many present benefits.

An inheritance is something received by an heir as a result of a will or legal process. It's a legacy one receives from family connections.

As a member of God's family, you are an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As such you have obtained an inheritance that Peter called "imperishable and undefiled . . . reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4). It cannot perish, fade away, or be defiled because heaven is timeless and sinless. It is a secure inheritance.

In Ephesians 1:11 Paul refers to it in the past tense ("have obtained"). That's significant because the fullness of your inheritance won't be revealed until you are glorified in God's presence (1 John 3:2). But your inheritance is so sure, Paul refers to it as if it was already in hand.

Although its fullness is yet future, your inheritance has present benefits as well. In addition to inheriting Christ and the Holy Spirit, you also inherit peace, love, grace, wisdom, joy, victory, strength, guidance, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, discernment, and every other spiritual benefit. Paul sums it all up in 1 Corinthians 3:22-23: "All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God."

Nowadays many Christians are so preoccupied with acquiring material goods that they miss many of the present benefits of their spiritual inheritance and the joy of anticipating its future fulfillment. Don't fall into that trap!

Looking forward to your eternal inheritance will help you maintain a proper perspective on temporal things and motivate you to praise and adore God.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise the Lord for the incredible inheritance that awaits you in heaven.
  • Thank Him for the present benefits of your inheritance, which are yours to enjoy daily.

For Further Study

One precious aspect of your eternal inheritance is God's mercy. Psalm 136 reflects on the mercy God demonstrated toward Israel. Read that psalm, noting the manifestations of mercy that relate to your life.


PART III 

January 16 - Trust in God Transcends the Temporal

“He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”’” (Matthew 4:4).

James, the Lord’s earthly half-brother, reminds us that this life is very temporary and uncertain—it is not even guaranteed that we will have an earthly future. James’s practical letter teaches us: “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that’” (James 4:14–15).

Like Jesus, what we are all about and the ultimate goals of our lives should focus on the eternal, not the temporary. The guiding principle and central motive of our lives must be to please God and trust Him for absolutely everything (cf. Matt. 6:33).

Jesus posed some searching questions in the Sermon on the Mount:

Why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (Matt. 6:28–30)

We always suffer and miss out to some extent on spiritual blessings when we shortsightedly worry about the temporal instead of focusing on the eternal. Jesus’ response to the devil’s temptations is again our model.

Ask Yourself

How much time do you spend listening to the nagging complaints of worry? How much is fretting a part of your thought process? When are you most susceptible to letting anxiety rise up within you, stealing your joy and perspective? Pray for freedom from anxiety—and the faith to replace it.


PART IV 

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 31:19 household idols. Literally, teraphim (see 2 Kin. 23:24; Ezek. 21:21). These images or figurines of varying sizes, usually of nude goddesses with accentuated sexual features, either signaled special protection for, inheritance rights for, or guaranteed fertility for the bearer. Or, perhaps possession by Rachel would call for Jacob to be recognized as head of the household at Laban’s death.

Matthew 11:12 the kingdom of heaven suffers violence. From the time he began his preaching ministry, John the Baptist evoked a strong reaction. Having been imprisoned already, John ultimately fell victim to Herod’s savagery. But the kingdom can never be subdued or opposed by human violence. Notice that where Matthew says, “the violent take it by force,” Luke has, “everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16). So the sense of this verse may be rendered this way: “The kingdom presses ahead relentlessly, and only the relentless press their way into it.” Thus again Christ is magnifying the difficulty of entering the kingdom.

Matthew 11:28–30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden. There is an echo of the first beatitude (5:3) in this passage. Note that this is an open invitation to all who hear—but phrased in such a way that the only ones who will respond to the invitation are those who are burdened by their own spiritual bankruptcy and the weight of trying to save themselves by keeping the law. The stubbornness of humanity’s sinful rebellion is such that without a sovereignly bestowed spiritual awakening, all sinners refuse to acknowledge the depth of their spiritual poverty. That is why, as Jesus says in v. 27, our salvation is the sovereign work of God. But the truth of divine election in v. 27 is not incompatible with the free offer to all in vv. 28–30.

DAY 16: List the false gods in the Old Testament.

  1. Rachel’s household gods (Gen. 31:19)
  2. The golden calf at Sinai (Ex. 32)
  3. Nanna, the moon god of Ur, worshiped by Abraham before his salvation (Josh. 24:2)
  4. Asherah, or Ashtaroth, the chief goddess of Tyre, referred to as the lady of the sea (Judg. 6:24–32)
  5. Dagon, the chief Philistine agriculture and sea god and father of Baal (Judg. 16:23–30)
  6. Ashtoreth, a Canaanite goddess, another consort of Baal (1 Sam. 7:3, 4)
  7. Molech, the god of the Ammonites and the most horrible idol in the Scriptures (1 Kin. 11:7)
  8. The two golden images made by King Jeroboam, set up at the shrines of Dan and Bethel (1 Kin. 12:28–31)
  9. Baal, the chief deity of Canaan (1 Kin. 18:17–40; 2 Kin. 10:28; 11:18)
  10. Rimmon, the Syrian god of Naaman the leper (2 Kin. 5:15–19)
  11. Nishroch, the Assyrian god of Sennacherib (2 Kin. 19:37)
  12. Nebo, the Babylonian god of wisdom and literature (Is. 46:1)
  13. Merodach, also called Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon (Jer. 50:2)
  14. Tammuz, the husband and brother of Ishtar (Asherah), goddess of fertility (Ezek. 8:14)
  15. The golden image in the plain of Dura (Dan. 2)

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/15/19

The Opposite of Covetousness

“Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).

If you are content with what God has given you, you will not be a person who is covetous or a lover of money.

I once had a man come into my church office and confess the sin of gluttony. When I told him he did not look overweight, he answered, “I know. It is not that I eat too much but that I want to. I continually crave food. It’s an obsession.”

Covetousness is very similar to that man’s gluttonous attitude. You do not have to acquire a lot of things, or even anything at all, to be covetous. If you long to acquire things and are focusing all your attention on how you might get them, you are guilty of covetousness.

It is not wrong to earn or possess wealth. In the Old Testament, Abraham and Job had tremendous wealth. A number of faithful New Testament believers were also fairly wealthy. The problem comes when we have a greedy attitude that craves money above everything else. Paul warns us, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Tim. 6:10). Loving money is perhaps the most common form of covetousness; it is akin to lusting after material riches in various forms.

No matter how it appears, this kind of covetousness breeds the same spiritual result—it displeases God and separates us from Him. More income, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a fancier car can tempt all of us.

But the Lord wants you to be free from the materialism that so easily controls your non-Christian neighbors. Your earthly possessions are only temporary anyway. You will lose them all one day soon enough. So God tells you and me to be “content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5), realizing that we have “a better possession and an abiding one” (10:34) in our salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there any covetousness or materialism in your life today? Confess it to the Lord, and pray that He would give you a renewed desire to trust Him rather than uncertain wealth.

For Further Study

Read Luke 12:13-34.

  • Make a list of the things that illustrate how God cares for our material needs.
  • How does the rich fool’s attitude contrast with what Jesus teaches in verse 31?


PART II 

Resting in God's Sovereignty

"[God] made known the mystery of His will according to His kind intention which He purposed in [Christ] with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Eph. 1:9-10).

God is intimately involved in the flow of human history and is directing its course toward a specific, predetermined climax.

For centuries men of various philosophical schools have debated the cause, course, and climax of human history. Some deny God and therefore deny any divine involvement in history. Others believe that God set everything in motion, then withdrew to let it progress on its own. Still others believe that God is intimately involved in the flow of human history and is directing its course toward a specific, predetermined climax.

In Ephesians 1:9-10 Paul settles that debate by reminding us that Jesus Himself is the goal of human history. In Him all things will be summed up—all human history will be resolved and united to the Father through the work of the Son.

As Paul said elsewhere, "It was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness [of deity] to dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:19-20). The culmination of Christ's reconciling work will come during His millennial kingdom (Rev. 20). Following that, He will usher in the eternal state with a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21).

Despite the political uncertainty and military unrest in the world today, be assured that God is in control. He governs the world (Isa. 40:22-24), the nations (Isa. 40:15- 17), and individuals as well (Prov. 16:9). God's timetable is right on schedule. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing thwarts His purposes. Ultimately He will vanquish evil and make everything right in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the wisdom and insight He gives you to see beyond your temporal circumstances to His eternal purposes.
  • Live today with that perspective in mind.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 20.

  • What happens to Satan prior to the millennial kingdom?
  • How does Satan meet his final doom?
  • What happens at the great white throne judgment?


PART III 

January 15 - Trusting Self Is Never Justified

“He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”’” (Matthew 4:4).

Christians are never justified in trusting solely in themselves to meet their basic needs. No matter how worried we might become, if we turn to God in faith and obedience, He will meet all our essential needs in His own way, according to His sovereign schedule. Implicit in this understanding is that God will meet every need, both physical and spiritual, as Paul promises us, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19; cf. Matt. 6:8, 33).

It is always best to follow Jesus’ example, obeying God and trusting wholeheartedly in His gracious provision, than to impulsively and selfishly attempt to meet our own needs in ways that could disobey or compromise God’s Word.

To trust first of all in ourselves to meet our needs—circumventing or modifying God’s will in the process—not only demonstrates a lack of faith but rests on the false assumption that our earthly well-being is our most crucial need. Jesus contradicts such thinking, which is so natural to fallen humanity, both to unbelievers as well as believers who slip into carnal mind-sets. Therefore our Lord quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” The all-sufficient and sustaining power of God is the only true source that meets our every need.

Ask Yourself

Where does your dependence lie? Are you trusting in your paycheck? Your insurance policies? Your physical strength and smarts? Or have you finally realized that everything hinges on God, His Word, and His sovereign plan for your life? Find your sense of security in Him alone.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 29:17 eyes were delicate. Probably means that they were a pale color rather than the dark and sparkling eyes most common. Such paleness was viewed as a blemish.

Genesis 30:2 Am I in the place of God…? Although spoken in a moment of frustration with Rachel’s pleading for children and the envy with which it was expressed, Jacob’s words do indicate an understanding that ultimately God opened and closed the womb.

Psalm 8:3 Your heavens, the work of Your fingers. The heavens are created by God (Pss. 33:6,9; 102:25; 136:5). The anthropomorphism “Your fingers” miniaturizes the magnitude of the universe in the presence of the Creator.

Psalm 8:4 What is man…? If the whole universe is diminutive in the sight of the Divine Creator, how much less is the significance of mankind! Even the word for “man” used in v. 4 alludes to his weakness (see Pss. 9:19,20; 90:3a; 103:15, etc.). and the son of man. This phrase also looks upon man as insignificant and transitory (e.g., Ps. 90:3b). Yet, the Aramaic counterpart of this phrase is found in Daniel 7:13, which has profound messianic overtones (see also Jesus’ favorite self-designation in the New Testament, Son of Man).


DAY 15: Should I expect to be persecuted for my faith?

In Matthew 10:32, Jesus makes the amazing promise that the person who acknowledges Him as Lord in life or in death, if necessary, is the one whom He will acknowledge personally before God as His own (Matt. 13:20; 2 Tim. 2:10–13). Conversely, He describes the soul-damning denial of Christ of those who through fear, shame, neglect, or love of the world reject all evidence and revelation and decline to confess Christ as Savior and King.

Though the ultimate end of the gospel is peace with God (John 14:27; Rom. 8:6), the immediate result of the gospel is frequently conflict (v. 34). Conversion to Christ can result in strained family relationships (vv. 35, 36), persecution, and even martyrdom. Following Christ presupposes a willingness to endure such hardships (vv. 32, 33, 37–39). Though He is called “Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6), Christ will have no one deluded into thinking that He calls believers to a life devoid of all conflict.

When Jesus adds that a disciple must “take his cross” (v. 38), it is His first mention of the word “cross” to His disciples. To them it would have evoked a picture of a violent, degrading death. He was demanding total commitment from them—even unto physical death—and making this call to full surrender a part of the message they were to proclaim to others. For those who come to Christ with self-renouncing faith, there will be true and eternal life (v. 39).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO


01/14/19

Identifying with Those in Need

“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:2).

Because we too are human beings, God makes it possible for us to empathize with others who might be enduring hardship.

The Apostolic Confession, an ancient church confession, says, “If any Christian is condemned for Christ’s sake to the mines by the ungodly, do not overlook him, but from the proceeds of your toil and sweat, send him something to support himself, and to reward the soldier of Christ.” You can see from this quote that the early church took seriously its responsibility to help people who were suffering persecution. To obtain money to free a fellow believer, some early Christians even sold themselves into slavery.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever have to face such extreme measures. But we can definitely learn from the heart attitude that prompted such an action. The point is, we should do whatever we can to understand what others are going through. We don’t necessarily have to experience the same starvation, imprisonment, or harsh treatment that they are enduring in order to sympathize. Being human—“in the body,” as today’s verse says—and suffering our own hurts and hungers should be enough incentive for us to help others.

You can have loving empathy for someone in at least three ways. First, you can simply “be there” as a friend to encourage the other person when he is in trouble.

A second way to show empathy is by giving direct help. The Philippians shared with the apostle Paul in his affliction by financially supporting his ministry in other places (Phil. 4:14-16). In this way they also encouraged him spiritually.

Third, you can give empathy through prayer. Paul’s closing words to the Colossians, “Remember my imprisonment” (Col. 4:18), were an appeal for prayer. It was the only means remaining by which the church could effectively support him.

If we have Christ’s example, who is not “a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15), how can we possibly ignore the hurts of others, especially those of fellow believers? Instead, sincere empathy should be a regular part of our service for the Lord.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for a greater alertness and sensitivity to those you know who might be hurting.

For Further Study

Based on the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10:29-37, what are the essential attitudes and actions of a good neighbor?


PART II 

Pursuing God's Will

"In all wisdom and insight [God] made known to us the mystery of His will" (Eph. 1:8-9).

Even if you haven’t obtained academic degrees, you have wisdom that far surpasses the most educated unbeliever.

When God redeemed you, He not only forgave your trespasses and removed the guilt and penalty of sin, but He also gave you spiritual wisdom and insight—two essential elements for godly living. Together they speak of the ability to understand God's will and apply it to your life in practical ways.

As a believer you understand the most sublime truths of all. For example, you know that God created the world and controls the course of history. You know that mankind's reason for existence is to know and glorify Him. You have goals and priorities that transcend earthly circumstances and limitations.

Such wisdom and insight escapes unbelievers because they tend to view the things of God with disdain (1 Cor. 2:14). But you "have the mind of Christ" (v. 16). His Word reveals His will and His spirit gives you the desire and ability to understand and obey it.

Today is another opportunity to cultivate that desire through diligent prayer and Bible study. Let the psalmist's commitment be yours: "O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies. . . . I have more insight than all my teachers. . . . I understand more than the aged . . . I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word" (Ps. 119:97-101).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the wisdom and insight He gives you through His Word.
  • If you have neglected the Word, ask His forgiveness and begin once again to refresh your spirit with its truths.
  • Ask for wisdom to respond biblically to every situation you face today.

For Further Study

Many Christians think God's will is vague or hidden from them. But Scripture mentions several specific aspects of His will. Once you align yourself with those specifics, the Spirit will direct you in the other areas of your life.


PART III 

January 14 - Jesus’ Real Food—Obeying the Father

“He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”’” (Matthew 4:4).

Above all, Satan’s temptations of Jesus Christ solicited His rebellion against the Father. But Jesus had come to earth to do the Father’s will and nothing else. In fact, His will and the Father’s were precisely the same (John 5:30; cf. 10:30; Heb. 10:9).

Case in point: In the ultimate test of obedience, just prior to His arrest and betrayal, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”. . . “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42). This supreme example of absolute trust and submission by Jesus to His Father is what Satan tried to smash. In his proudest and wickedest manner, the enemy attempted to fracture the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead.

But Christ, in His immeasurable humility and righteousness, replied to Satan’s first words, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” All three of our Lord’s responses to Satan would begin with the simple but straightforward appeal to the Word of God—“It is written” (cf. Ps. 119:11). In quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus affirmed that believers are far better off depending on God and waiting on His provision than they are in grabbing for their own satisfaction—something we all are tempted to do.

Ask Yourself

You may feel unsure of what God’s will is for you, but much of it is spelled out clearly in Scripture. How well are you obeying the aspects of His will that have already been revealed to you? In seeking to know His plan, a good place to start is always obedience to His Word.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 27:33 Isaac trembled exceedingly. Visibly shocked when the scandal was uncovered by the entrance of Esau, the father, remembering the Lord’s words to Rebekah (25:23), refused to withdraw the blessing and emphatically affirmed its validity—”Indeed he shall be blessed” and a little later “Indeed I have made him your master” and also “you shall serve your brother” (vv. 37, 40). Sudden realization at having opposed God’s will all those years likely made the shock more severe.

Proverbs 3:11, 12 not despise…chastening. Since even the wisest of God’s children are subject to sin, there is necessity of God’s fatherly discipline to increase wisdom and blessing. Such correction should not be resisted.

Matthew 10:1 He gave them power. Jesus delegated His power to the apostles to show clearly that He and His kingdom were sovereign over the physical and spiritual realms, the effects of sin, and the efforts of Satan. This was an unheard of display of power, never before seen in all redemptive history, to announce Messiah’s arrival and authenticate Him plus His apostles who preached His gospel. This power was a preview of the power Christ will exhibit in His earthly kingdom, when Satan will be bound (Rev. 20) and the curse on physical life curtailed (Is. 65:20–25).

Matthew 10:8 Freely you have received, freely give. Jesus was giving them great power, to heal the sick and raise the dead. If they sold these gifts for money, they could have made quite a fortune. But that would have obscured the message of grace Christ sent them to preach. So He forbade them to charge money for their ministry. Yet they were permitted to accept support to meet their basic needs, for a workman is worthy of such support (v. 10).


DAY 14: What does Jacob’s deception teach us about lying?

When Jacob said, “I shall seem to be a deceiver to him” (Gen. 27:12), his objection to his mother’s proposal that he lie to his father makes it clear he fully understood. The differences between him and Esau would surely not fool his father and might result in blessing being replaced with a curse as a fitting punishment for deception. But when Rebekah accepted full responsibility for the scheme and the curse it might incur, Jacob acquiesced and followed Rebekah’s instructions.

Even Isaac’s perfectly legitimate question in v. 20 afforded Jacob an escape route—confess and stop the deceit! Instead, Jacob, with consummate ease, knowing he needed Isaac’s irrevocable confirmation even though he had bought the birthright, ascribed success in the hunt to God’s providence. A lie had to sustain a lie, and a tangled web had begun to be woven (vv. 21–24). That principle always follows any lie we tell.

Although Jacob received Isaac’s blessing that day, the deceit caused severe consequences: 1) he never saw his mother after that; 2) Esau wanted him dead; 3) Laban, his uncle, deceived him; 4) his family life was full of conflict; and 5) he was exiled for years from his family. By the promise of God he would have received the birthright (25:23). He didn’t need to scheme this deception with his mother.


GOD BLESSED YOU DEARLY. 


MAXIMILIANO 


01/13/19

Showing Love Through Hospitality

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

Hospitality should be a trait of all Christians, because whenever we display it, we minister to the Lord.

If you are a Christian, your responsibility to love others does not stop with fellow believers. The apostle Paul is very explicit and direct about this: “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men” (1 Thess. 5:15). “All men” includes even your enemies. The “strangers” mentioned in today’s verse can refer to unbelievers as well as believers. The writer of Hebrews is saying we often won’t know the full impact hospitality will have; therefore, we should always be alert and diligent because our actions may even influence someone toward salvation.

The last part of Hebrews 13:2, “some have entertained angels without knowing it,” further underscores the point that we can never know how significant or helpful an act of hospitality might be. Abraham had no idea that two of the three men passing by his tent were angels and that the third was the Lord Himself, but he still went out of his way to demonstrate hospitality (Gen. 18:1-5). The primary motivation is still love, for the sake of those we help and for the glory of God.

The Lord Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40). As Christians, when we feed the hungry, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit someone in prison, we serve Christ. If we turn our backs on people, believers or unbelievers, who have real needs, it is the same as turning our backs on Him (v. 45). Loving hospitality is therefore more than an option—it is a command.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you a greater desire to show hospitality and that you could minister it to a specific person.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 18:1-15.

  • Write down the positive ways in which Abraham handled his opportunity to show love to strangers.
  • How well did Sarah handle this situation?
  • How does the example of her attitude relate to Hebrews 13:2?


PART II 

Enjoying God's Forgiveness

In Christ we have "the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of [God's] grace, which He lavished upon us" (Eph. 1:7-8).

In Christ we have infinite forgiveness for every sin—past, present, and future.

On Israel's Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the high priest selected two goats. One was sacrificed; the other set free. Before releasing the second goat, the high priest symbolically placed the sins of the people on it by laying his hands on its head. This "scapegoat" was then taken a great distance from camp and released—never to return again (Lev. 16:7-10).

The Greek word translated "forgiveness" in Ephesians 1:7 means "to send away." It speaks of cancelling a debt or granting a pardon. Like the scapegoat, Christ carried away our sins on the cross.

In Christ, God cancelled your debt and pardoned your transgressions, and He did so "according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon [you]" (v. 8). That means you have infinite forgiveness because God's grace is infinite. You cannot sin beyond God's grace because where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Rom. 5:20).

God delights in lavishing His grace upon you. Such grace is overflowing and cannot be contained. You are forgiven for every sin—past, present, and future. You will never be condemned by God or separated from Him (Rom. 8:1-2, 31-39). Even when you fail, God doesn't hold your sins against you. Christ bore them all so that you might know the joy and peace that freedom from sin and guilt brings.

Let the reality of God's grace fill your heart with joy and assurance. Let the responsibility of glorifying Him fill you with awe and reverence. Let this day be a sacrifice of praise and service to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His infinite grace and forgiveness.
  • Look for opportunities to extend forgiveness to others.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 18:21-35.

  • What characteristic marked the wicked slave?
  • What was the king's response to the wicked slave's actions?
  • What point was Jesus making? How does it apply to you?


PART III 

January 13 - Testing Jesus’ Divine Rights

“‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:3).

Before Satan tempted Jesus more directly, he threw out a cynical challenge to test Christ’s deity. The devil’s conditional statement, “If You are the Son of God,” assumed that Jesus was indeed God’s beloved Son (3:17). But he hoped to persuade Him into a demonstration of divine power that would violate God’s plan, which called for Jesus to set aside His divine power while on earth and use it only when the Father commanded. If Satan could make Jesus presume upon His divine rights and act independently of His Father, this would amount to disobedience.

Obviously, then, the purpose of the first temptation went far beyond getting Jesus to satisfy His physical hunger by wrongly using miraculous power. The devil wanted Him to doubt the Father’s word, love, and provision—to disobediently declare that being hungry was simply not fit for God’s only Son.

Satan’s argument was, “Hadn’t He endured enough humiliating circumstances already (the stable, the flight to Egypt, obscurity in Nazareth, this time in the wilderness) in an effort to identify with unworthy humanity?” But unlike Eve in the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:1f.), Jesus stayed true to God’s will and did not cast doubt on the Father’s word or His already secured position as God’s Son.

Ask Yourself

Yes, there is more at stake in temptation than the mere subject of the enticement. There are significant matters of trust and freedom and identity involved. How seriously are you taking these threats to your Christian calling? Pray that God would help you see the battle for what it is.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 25:8 gathered to his people. A euphemism for death, but also an expression of personal continuance beyond death, which denoted a reunion with previously departed friends (ca. 1990 B.C.).

Genesis 25:23 the older shall serve the younger. This was contrary to the custom in patriarchal times when the elder son enjoyed the privileges of precedence in the household and at the father’s death received a double share of the inheritance and became the recognized head of the family (see Ex. 22:29; Num 8:14–17; Deut. 21:17). Grave offenses could annul such primogeniture rights (see Gen. 35:22; 49:3, 4; 1 Chr. 5:1); or the birthright could be sacrificed or legally transferred to another in the family, as in this case (vv. 29–34). In this case, God declared otherwise since His sovereign elective purposes did not necessarily have to follow custom (see Rom. 9:10–14, esp. v. 12).

Proverbs 3:9, 10 Honor the LORD…possessions. A biblical view of possessions demands using them for honoring God. This is accomplished by trusting God (v. 5); by giving the first and best to God (“firstfruits”; see Ex. 22:29; 23:19; Deut. 18:4); by being fair (vv. 27, 28); by giving generously (11:25); and by expressing gratitude for all He gives (Deut. 6:9–11). The result of such faithfulness to honor Him is prosperity and satisfaction.


DAY 13: Why is compassion the key to Christian service?

In Matthew 9:35, it describes Jesus’ ministry of teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and of healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Jesus banished illness in an unprecedented healing display, giving impressive evidence of His deity and making the Jews’ rejection all the more heinous.

In v. 36 it adds that Jesus was “moved” with compassion when He saw the multitudes. Here the humanity of Christ allowed expression of His attitude toward sinners in terms of human passion. Whereas God, who is immutable, is not subject to the rise and fall and change of emotions (Num. 23:19), Christ, who was fully human with all the faculties of humanity, was on occasion moved to literal tears over the plight of sinners (Luke 19:41). God Himself expressed similar compassion through the prophets (Ex. 33:19; Ps. 86:15; Jer. 9:1; 13:17; 14:17). He saw these people as weary and scattered. Their spiritual needs were even more desperate than the need for physical healing.

Meeting those needs requires laborers (v. 37), which is where we come in. The Lord spoke of the spiritual harvest of souls for salvation; but apart from being “moved” with the same compassion, our service will be in vain.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/12/19

The Importance of Brotherly Love

“Let love of the brethren continue” (Hebrews 13:1).

Genuine love among Christians is a testimony to the world, to ourselves, and to God.

The importance of brotherly love extends well beyond the walls of your local church or fellowship hall. In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In effect, God has made love for one another the measuring stick by which the world can determine if our Christian profession is genuine. That’s why it’s so important that we have a selfless attitude and sincerely place the interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ ahead of our own.

If you are a parent, you know what a delight it is when your children love and care for one another. Such harmonious relations make for a close-knit family and fulfill the words of the psalmist: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). God is both pleased and glorified when Christian brothers and sisters love each other and minister together in harmony.

Neither the author of Hebrews nor the apostle John is equating love with a sentimental, superficial affection. As already suggested, practical commitment marks true brotherly love. If you do not have such commitment, it is fair to question your relationship to God (1 John 3:17). Refusing to help a fellow believer when you can, John reasons, reveals that you don’t really love him. And if you don’t love him, God’s love can’t be in your heart, which proves that you don’t belong to Him. This logic is sobering and persuasive. It should motivate us all the more to see the importance of practicing brotherly love: “Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him” (1 John 3:18-19).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for times when you did not show brotherly love or when you were reluctant to help another Christian in need.

For Further Study

Read Luke 6:31-35 and notice how our duty to love extends even beyond the sphere of fellow believers. What kind of reward results?


PART II

The High Cost of Free Grace

"In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood" (Eph. 1:7, emphasis added).

Redeeming grace is free to us, but its cost to God is inestimable.

Sin is not a serious issue to most people. Our culture flaunts and peddles it in countless forms. Even Christians who would never think of committing certain sins will often allow themselves to be entertained by them through television, movies, music, and other media.

We sometimes flirt with sin but God hates it. The price He paid to redeem us from it speaks of the seriousness with which He views it. After all, we "were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

In Scripture the shedding of blood refers to violent physical death—whether of a sacrificial animal or of Christ Himself. Sin is so serious that without bloodshed, there is no forgiveness of sin in God's sight (Heb. 9:22).

The sacrificial animals in the Old Testament pictured Christ's sacrifice on the cross. That's why John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The Old Testament sacrifices were necessary but incomplete. Christ's sacrifice was perfect, complete, and once for all (Heb. 10:10). No further sacrifices are needed other than the "sacrifice of praise to God" for what He has done (Heb. 13:15) and our very lives in service to Him as "a living and holy sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1).

By His sacrifice Christ demonstrated not only God's hatred for sin, but also His great love for sinners. You could never redeem yourself, but Christ willingly paid the price with His own precious blood. He "gave Himself up for [you], an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 5:2). His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father, so your redemption was paid in full. What magnanimous love and incredible grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Worship God for His wonderful plan of salvation.
  • Worship Christ for the enormous sacrifice He made on your behalf.
  • Worship the Holy Spirit for applying Christ's sacrifice to your life and drawing you to Christ in saving faith.
  • Ask God to help you guard your heart from flirting with sin.

For Further Study

Read 2 Samuel 11.

  • What circumstances led to David's sin with Bathsheba?
  • How did David attempt to cover his sin?
  • How did David finally deal with his sin (see Ps. 51)?


PART III 

January 12 - The Tempter Is Real

“And the tempter came and said to Him . . .” (Matthew 4:3).

It is not popular today to believe in a literal, personal devil, even among professing Christians. The devil is increasingly seen as being somewhere between a figment of our imagination and a useful device to coerce obedience.

Yet in addition to the name used here (“tempter”), the New Testament gives Satan many other names: “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2); “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “Abaddon” and “Apollyon,” both of which mean “destroyer” (Rev. 9:11); and “the serpent of old” (Rev. 12:9).

With these and many other references to the devil in God’s infallible Scripture—all of which assume a real, supernatural person—it’s clear that Satan does exist. And he never made himself more personally manifest than when he confronted Jesus in the wilderness. The Lord’s opponent was an actual, personal foe in every sense of that expression.

Since the Fall, Satan has directed his full attention and fury against God and His kingdom work. While Christ was on earth, that opposition was particularly intense against the Son and His redemptive mission, beginning at the very outset of His ministry. Yet all the forces of hell continue to present us with real challenges as we endeavor to advance God’s kingdom. Thus all believers must remain ever vigilant and prayerful against a genuine spiritual foe.

Ask Yourself

Have you grown lax in guarding yourself from the “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) who actively seeks to devour you? He is not to be feared, for your God is triumphant, but he is definitely in need of accounting for. Ask the Lord to make you wise and wary of the enemy’s presence.


PART IV 

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 23:1, 2 Although Sarah’s age—the only woman’s age at death recorded in Scripture—might suggest her importance in God’s plan, it more importantly reminds of the birth of her only son well beyond childbearing age (at 90 years of age, see 17:17) and of God’s intervention to bring about the fulfillment of His word to her and Abraham. Sarah’s death occurred ca. 2028 B.C.

Genesis 24:2–4 put your hand under my thigh…and…swear. A solemn pledge mentioning the Lord’s name and formalized by an accepted customary gesture indicated just how serious an undertaking this was in Abraham’s eyes. At his age (v. 1), Abraham was concerned to perpetuate his people and God’s promise through the next generation, so he covenanted with his servant to return to Mesopotamia and bring back a wife for Isaac.

Matthew 9:1 His own city. Capernaum is the city where Jesus settled. Jesus had left there to get away from the crowds for a time.

Matthew 9:13 go and learn what this means. This phrase was commonly used as a rebuke for those who did not know something they should have known. The verse Jesus cites is Hosea 6:6, which emphasizes the absolute priority of the law’s moral standards over the ceremonial requirements. The Pharisees tended to focus on the outward, ritual, and ceremonial aspects of God’s law—to the neglect of its inward, eternal, and moral precepts. In doing so, they became harsh, judgmental, and self-righteously scornful of others. Jesus repeated this same criticism in 12:7.


DAY 12: Why were the scribes upset that Christ forgave the paralytic?

In Matthew 9:1-8, the fact that the man was brought on a bed indicates that his paralysis was severe. Christ ignored the paralysis and addressed the man’s greater needs. Christ’s words of forgiveness may indicate that the paralysis was a direct consequence of the man’s own sin (John 9:1–3).

The scribes outcry, “This Man blasphemes!” would be a true judgment about anyone but God incarnate, for only the One who has been sinned against has the prerogative to forgive. Jesus’ words to the man were therefore an unequivocal claim of divine authority. That He asserted His prerogative that was God’s alone was completely understood by the scribes.

Jesus then confronts the scribes directly. It is certainly easier to claim the power to pronounce absolution from sin than to demonstrate the power to heal. Christ actually proved His power to forgive by instantly healing the man of his paralysis. His ability to heal anyone and everyone at will—totally and immediately—was incontrovertible proof of His deity. If He could do the apparently harder, He could also do what seemed easier. The actual forgiving of the sins was in reality the more difficult task, however, because it ultimately required Him to sacrifice His life.


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 


01/11/19

Having Love for One Another

“Let love of the brethren continue” (Hebrews 13:1).

Christianity’s primary moral standard is love, especially for fellow believers.

Love of other believers is a natural outflow of the Christian life and should be a normal part of fellowship within the church. You can no doubt remember how after you were first saved it became very natural and exciting to love other Christians and to want to be around them. However, such an attitude is extremely difficult to maintain. This love, which is a gift from God’s Spirit, must be nurtured or it will not grow—it may actually shrivel. That’s why the apostle Peter urges us, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).

Paul teaches us the same concept of nurturing and practicing love for one another when he writes: “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for any one to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10). Paul also gives us the basic definition of brotherly love: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10). Simply stated, brotherly love is caring for fellow Christians more than we care for ourselves. And such love presupposes that we will have an attitude of humility (Phil. 2:3-4).

So today’s verse from Hebrews merely supports what Paul and Peter said elsewhere. The writer’s admonition that we should let brotherly love continue tells us that this kind of love already exists. Our challenge today and each day is not to discover love for one another, but to allow it to continue and to increase.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you rekindle the love that used to be strong for a Christian friend, but perhaps isn’t now.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 18—20.

  • What was so special about the love and friendship between David and Jonathan?
  • What was the end result of that relationship (see especially 20:8-17)?


PART II

The Slavery That Frees

“In [Christ] we have redemption” (Eph. 1:7).

Slavery to sin is bondage; slavery to God is freedom.

Freedom is a precious thing. People throughout history have prayed, fought, and even died for it. Our Declaration of Independence upholds it as one of our inalienable rights.

But the truth is, no matter what one’s political situation might be, everyone is a slave—either to sin or to God. Jesus said that “everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). Paul added that all of creation is in slavery to corruption (Rom. 8:21). However, believers have “been freed from sin and enslaved to God” (Rom. 6:22).

The Roman Empire had as many as twenty million slaves; slave trade was a major industry. For a slave to gain his or her freedom, a redemption price had to be paid. The Greek word for such a transaction is lutroō, which Paul uses in Ephesians 1:7 to speak of our “redemption” from sin’s bondage.

Slavery to sin is bondage; slavery to God is freedom. That sounds paradoxical, but God is the Sovereign King, and true freedom means having the ability to bend your will to His and thereby become all He created you to be. Even though you will fail at times, your greatest desire and highest pursuit as a believer is to be like Christ (1 John 2:5-6). Those enslaved to sin cannot do that, nor do they want to.

Today you will have many opportunities to demonstrate your submission to Christ. Let your attitudes and actions speak clearly of your love for the Master.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that He is a faithful and just Master who always does what is best for His servants. A self-seeking slave is a contradiction in terms. Ask the Lord to guard you from thoughts and actions that are contrary to His will.

For Further Study

According to 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 what key characteristic is required of a servant of Christ? Read Matthew 24:42-51. How does Jesus describe a wise servant? Read Philippians 2:5-11. How did Jesus demonstrate the heart of a servant? What implications does His example have for your life?


PART III

January 11 - Fasting as Part of Preparation for Testing

“After He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry” (Matthew 4:2).

For a quite lengthy period prior to the three diabolical temptations directed at Jesus, He fasted. We don’t know exactly what He did during the forty-day period, but He likely spent most of the time communing with His heavenly Father.

Even in His perfect humanity, Jesus needed solitary preparation time in medi-tation and prayer, as we all do in anticipating a major testing. Consider how Moses spent forty years in Midian in preparation for his leadership of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land, or that the apostle Paul lived three years in the desert of Arabia before launching his extensive ministries.

Matthew reports, with much simplicity and directness, that at the end of the period of fasting, Jesus “became hungry.” Hunger weakens us physically and somehow leaves us more vulnerable to spiritual attack, which is precisely why Satan often assails us at such times. But temptations that we have anticipated and prayed about have little power to harm us, if we constantly rely on the Lord.

Jesus, though spending more than a month in fasting, is a tremendous example to us of remaining alert to spiritual danger, which He did as Satan approached. During the temptations, He did not yield on the slightest point.

Ask Yourself

What other feelings and conditions—like hunger—serve as ready-made points of entry for spiritual temptation? Knowing this, how can you better “keep watching and praying” that you not fall into sin (Mark 14:38)? Pray for the courage to live with such keen awareness.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 21:1 the LORD visited Sarah. To the aged couple (vv. 2, 5, 7), exactly as promised, a son was born and the 25-year suspense was finally over with the laughter of derision turning to rejoicing (v. 6). The barrenness of Sarah (11:26) had ended.

Genesis 21:10 Cast out…not be heir. Legal codes of Abraham’s day—e.g., of Nuzi and of Hammurabi—forbade the putting out of a handmaiden’s son if a rightful, natural heir was born. Sarah’s request, thus, offended social law, Abraham’s sensibilities, and his love for Ishmael (v. 11). Abraham, however, was given divine approval and assurances to overcome his scruples before sending Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness (vv. 12–15).

Matthew 8:21 let me first go and bury my father. This does not mean that the man’s father was already dead. The phrase “I must bury my father” was a common figure of speech, meaning “Let me wait until I receive my inheritance.”

Matthew 8:24 suddenly a great tempest arose. The Sea of Galilee is more than 690 feet below sea level. To the north, Mt. Hermon rises 9,200 feet, and from May to October strong winds often sweep through the narrow surrounding gorges into this valley, causing extremely sudden and violent storms. He was asleep. Just before the disciples saw one of the most awesome displays of His deity, they were given a touching picture of His humanity. He was so weary that not even the violent tossing of the boat awakened Him—even though the disciples feared they would drown (v. 25).


DAY 11: What does it mean to be demon-possessed?

Matthew 8:16 and 8:28 refer to individuals who were demon-possessed. This means “demonized,” or under the internal control of a demon. All of the cases of demonization dealt with by Christ involved the actual indwelling of demons who utterly controlled the bodies of their victims, even to the point of speaking through them (Mark 5:5–9), causing derangement (John 10:20), violence (Luke 8:29), or rendering them mute (Mark 9:17–22).

From Matthew 8:29, it is evident that even the demons not only recognized the deity of Jesus, but also knew there was a divinely appointed time for their judgment and He would be their judge. Their eschatology was factually correct, but it is one thing to know the truth and quite another thing to love it (see James 2:19). Luke 8:31 relates they pleaded not to be sent into the abyss, meaning the pit, the underworld, the prison of bound demons who disobeyed (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). They knew Jesus had the power and authority to send them there if He desired.

Deliverance from demons and healing were a fulfillment of the words spoken by Isaiah the prophet concerning the atonement (Is. 53:4, 5). Christ bore both the guilt and the curse of sin (see Gal. 3:13). Both physical healing and ultimate victory over death are guaranteed by Christ’s atoning work, but these will not be fully realized until the very end (1 Cor. 15:26).


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 



01/10/19

Worthy Examples to the World

“Let love of the brethren continue” (Hebrews 13:1).

To be a testimony to the world, Christians need to live what they profess.

The nineteenth-century preacher Alexander Maclaren once said, “The world takes its notion of God most of all from those who say they belong to God’s family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ.” Sound biblical doctrine, as important a foundation as it is, is inadequate by itself to influence the world toward Christ’s gospel.

Christians today could learn much from the early Christians, whose lives were such a rebuke to the immoral, pagan societies around them. Unbelievers in those cultures found it extremely difficult to find fault with Christians, because the more they observed them, the more they saw believers living out the high moral standards the church professed.

Christians in those days were obedient to Peter’s instruction: “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). They also heeded Paul’s advice to Titus: “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).

Jesus commanded His original disciples and us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Of course, Jesus had in mind good works that were genuine and that came from a foundation of good teaching. These verses ought to remind us, therefore, that doctrine and practice must go hand in hand. The author of Hebrews shifts naturally from doctrine and general exhortation to the specific admonitions of chapter 13. Love among believers is his starting point, and it should be ours as we seek to have a credible and worthy walk before the watching world.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you maintain a scriptural balance between doctrine and practice. Pray that He would correct specific areas in which you have been living out of balance.

For Further Study

Memorize James 1:25. Use a Bible with good cross references, and look up other verses that deal with “the law of liberty.”



Living to the Glory of God

God chose us “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in [His beloved Son]” (Eph. 1:6).

You were created to glorify God.

Englishman Henry Martyn served as a missionary in India and Persia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Upon his arrival in Calcutta, he cried out “Let me burn out for God.” As he watched the people prostrating themselves before their pagan idols and heard blasphemy uttered against Christ, he wrote, “This excited more horror in me than I can well express. . . . I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me, if He were to be always thus dishonored” (John Stott, Our Guilty Silence [InterVarsity, 1967], pp. 21-22).

Martyn had a passion for God's glory—and he was in good company. Angels glorify God (Luke 2:14), as do the heavens (Ps. 19:1) and even animals (Isa. 43:20). But as a believer, you glorify God in a unique way because you are a testimony to His redeeming grace.

You were created for the purpose of glorifying God—even in the most mundane activities of life, such as eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). You are to flee immorality so you can glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19- 20). You are to walk worthy of your calling “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified” (2 Thess. 1:12).

Glorifying God is an enormous privilege and an awesome responsibility. When others see His character on display in your life, it reminds them of His power, goodness, and grace. But when they don't, it dishonors God and calls His character into question.

Aim your life at God's glory and make it the standard by which you evaluate everything you do.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for the privilege of glorifying Him.
  • Ask Him to show you any areas of your life that do not honor Him.
  • Find a trusted Christian friend who will pray with you and hold you accountable for the areas you know need to change.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 33:12-34:8.

  • What did Moses request?
  • What was God's response and what does it teach us about His glory?



January 10 - God’s Plan for Temptation

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness did not catch His Father by surprise. The Son was specifically “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The word translated “tempted” is from a morally neutral term that means “to test.” But sometimes, as here, the context clearly indicates that the testing was aimed at enticing one to do evil. That the devil was going to present certain temptations to Jesus thus justifies rendering the word “tempted”—it gives us the negative connotation of Satan’s sinister intentions.

God sometimes uses Satan’s temptations toward evil as part of His larger plan to test believers for good (cf. Job). Whereas the devil wanted to lead Christ into sin and disobedience in the wilderness, God used the circumstances to reconfirm Christ’s holiness and worthiness. This is God’s plan for all His saints (cf. James 1:2–4, 12–13)—that Christ’s righteousness be revealed in us.

Joseph’s severe mistreatment at the hands of his brothers in the Old Testament and his subsequent “misfortunes” in Egypt could have driven him to despair and sinful bitterness, but by faith he recognized God’s sovereign hand in it all (Gen. 50:20). Whether God tests us directly or uses Satan to challenge us, He will always use the situation to eventually produce good fruit in us.

Ask Yourself

What positive benefits does temptation serve in your own life? As unwanted and unwelcome as it is, what does its mere presence keep before you, thereby thwarting the aspirations of the enemy? Pray that God would gain His desired objectives in you, even through times of testing.



Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 19:5 know them carnally. They sought homosexual relations with the visitors. God’s attitude toward this vile behavior became clear when He destroyed the city (vv. 23–29). (See Lev. 18:22, 29; 20:13; Rom. 1:26; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10 where all homosexual behavior is prohibited and condemned by God.)

Genesis 19:24 brimstone…from the LORD out of the heavens. When morning came (v. 23) judgment fell. Any natural explanation about how the Lord used combustible sulfur deposits to destroy that locale falters on this emphatic indication of miraculous judgment. “Brimstone” could refer to any inflammable substance; perhaps a volcanic eruption and an earthquake with a violent electrical storm “overthrew” (v. 25) the area. That area is now believed to be under the south end of the Dead Sea. Burning gases, sulfur, and magma blown into the air all fell to bury the region.

Proverbs 3:3 neck…heart. The virtues of mercy (the Hebrew word for lovingkindness and loyal love) and truth that come from God are to become part of us—outwardly in our behavior for all to see as an adornment of spiritual beauty and inwardly as the subject of our meditation (Deut. 6:4–9). Such inward and outward mercy and truth is evidence of New Covenant salvation (Jer. 31:33, 34).


DAY 10: How can we study and apply some of the Proverbs if we don’t understand them?

More often than not, those Proverbs that at first seem unclear or contradictory turn out, instead, to be elusive and deep. Proverbs sometimes do state obvious truths. Their meaning is crystal clear: “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him” (17:25). But many proverbs require thoughtful meditation: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (16:33) or “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (16:25). The fact that we may have to search the rest of the Scripture or work at thinking ought to make Proverbs dearer to us. If God has chosen this unusual approach to help us grow, why would we hesitate to give our full attention to Proverbs?

Given the context that surrounds Proverbs—the rest of God’s Word—a student’s failure to grasp a proverb ought not to lead to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with this book. A better conclusion would be that the student doesn’t know enough yet or hasn’t paid enough attention. A wise person puts an elusive proverb on hold for further understanding rather than rejecting it as useless. God’s further lessons in that person’s life may well cast a new light on parts of the Bible that have been difficult to interpret.


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 



01/09/19

The Importance of Humility

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:2).

Humility is fundamental to spiritual growth and blessing.

It’s no secret that family problems are on the rise. Husbands and wives can’t get along. Children rebel against their parents. Unfortunately, most of the proposed solutions deal only with the peripheral issues instead of the central issue, which is pride. There will never be unity or happiness in a family without humility.

Humility is not only essential in families; it is also a basic ingredient for all spiritual blessing. The book of Proverbs is rich with such teaching. “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom” (11:2). “Before honor comes humility” (15:33). “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life” (22:4). James tells us, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (4:6). Too often we forget how important humility is.

Did you know that pride was the first sin ever committed? An angel named Lucifer tried to exalt himself above God: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14). He said “I will” five times, and God said, “No, you won’t” and cast him out of Heaven. Lucifer, “son of the morning,” became Satan, “the accuser.”

Every sin—whatever it is—has pride at its root, because all sin is defiance of God. What could be more prideful than saying, “I won’t follow God’s standard”? So in trying to overcome sin, we must also deal with our pride. It is impossible to be saved without humility. God isn’t impressed with credentials; you must come to God and say, “I am a sinner, and I realize I am worthy of nothing.” There’s no other way into God’s family and no other way to walk once you’re there.

Though you may have read your Bible, prayed, gone to church all your life, or even founded churches, if you aren’t walking in humility, you aren’t walking a worthy walk. The worthy walk begins with “all humility.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Consider how pride manifests itself in some areas of your life, confess those to God, and ask His forgiveness.

For Further Study

Read Luke 18:9-14. Compare the attitudes of the tax collector and the Pharisee. Which one pleased God and why?



Living Out Your Royal Heritage

“In love [God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5).

Because God loves you, He adopted you as His child and grants you all the rights and privileges of family membership.

Moses told Israel that God didn't choose them because of their great numbers or any inherent goodness on their part, but as an expression of God's sovereign will and sacrificial love (Deut. 7:7-8). That's true of you as well if you're a Christian.

The Greek word translated “love” in Ephesians 1:4 speaks not of emotional or sentimental love but of love that seeks God's best for others at any cost. It is marked by sacrifice rather than selfishness—giving rather than receiving. It seeks to forgive rather than condemn—to dismiss offenses rather than count them.

Such love is epitomized in God Himself, who loved you so much that He sacrificed His Son on your behalf, who willingly laid down His own life for you (John 3:16; 15:13).

While false gods are worshiped out of fear and ignorance, the true God—your Heavenly Father—has eliminated all fear so that you can confidently enter into His presence (Heb. 10:19; 1 John 4:18). You have received a spirit of adoption and can address Him as “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15), the Aramaic equivalent of Daddy or Papa.

Your Heavenly Father delights in your praise and glories in your obedience. Be a faithful child. Make this day count for Him. Live out your royal heritage. Seek His wisdom in all you do. Go to His Word and follow its counsel. Demonstrate His love to others in practical ways.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for granting you the privilege of being a member of His family.
  • Thank Him for the many manifestations of His love that you enjoy each day.
  • Ask Him to lead you to someone to whom you can demonstrate His love in a practical and sacrificial way.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 13.

  • List the characteristics of godly love.
  • How does the quality of your love for others compare to God's standard? What steps can you take today to bring your love into greater conformity to His?



January 9 - Preparation for Testing

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

One of life’s important truisms is that strong temptation tends to follow every major personal triumph. The apostle Paul warns, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). In the aftermath of significant successes, we are often tempted to think the accomplishment came solely by our own strength and ingenuity. But just when we think success is here to stay, we become vulnerable to pride—and failure. Even Christ in His incarnation was not exempt from testing, such as what came on the heels of His God-affirming baptism.

In a parallel passage, Mark says, “Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). Mark’s use of “impelled” denotes the necessity of the Lord’s temptation, or testing. Although the testings would come from Satan, it was God’s will that Jesus undergo them in advance of His earthly ministry and redemptive work.

So after His ministry and Person had been validated by the Father and the Spirit at the scene of His baptism, Jesus confronted the first great challenge to His mission. Our Savior was not intimidated by the prospect of temptation but fully conscious of His divine mission and strengthened in His humanity by the abiding presence and power of God. That is what Satan sought to forever undermine and destroy.

Ask Yourself

What specific temptations often awaken in your own heart following times of encouragement or accomplishment? How do you deal with them and defeat them? May God be seen as your continual supply, even at times when you’re tempted to think you can manage on your own.




Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 17:5 your name shall be Abraham. The name meaning “father of many nations” reflected Abraham’s new relationship to God as well as his new identity based on God’s promise of seed.

Genesis 17:15 Sarai…Sarah. Fittingly, since Sarai (“my princess”) would be the ancestress of the promised nations and kings, God changed her name to Sarah, taking away the limiting personal pronoun “my,” and calling her “princess” (v. 16).

Genesis 17:19 call his name Isaac. The name of the promised son meant “he laughs,” an appropriate reminder to Abraham of his initial, faithless reaction to God’s promise.

Matthew 7:1 Judge not. As the context reveals, this does not prohibit all types of judging (v. 16). There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment (John 7:24). Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, or other kinds of unfair judgments are forbidden; but in order to fulfill the commandments that follow, it is necessary to discern dogs and swine (v. 6) from one’s own brethren (vv. 3–5).


DAY 9:What did Jesus specify about the way to salvation?

In the closing section of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:13–29), Jesus gave a clear gospel application. Here are two gates, two ways, two destinations, and two groups of people (vv. 13, 14); two kinds of trees and two kinds of fruit (vv. 17–20); two groups at the judgment (vv. 21–23); and two kinds of builders, building on two kinds of foundations (vv. 24–28). Christ is drawing the line as clearly as possible between the way that leads to destruction and the way which leads to life.

Both the narrow gate and the wide gate (vv. 13, 14) are assumed to provide the entrance to God’s kingdom. Two ways are offered to people. The narrow gate is by faith, only through Christ, constricted and precise. It represents true salvation in God’s way that leads to life eternal. The wide gate includes all religions of works and self-righteousness, with no single way (see Acts 4:12), but leads to hell, not heaven.

Christ continually emphasized the difficulty of following Him (10:38; 16:24, 25; John 15:18, 19; 16:1–3; see Acts 14:22). Salvation is by grace alone, but is not easy. It calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word.



01/07/19

Divine Resources for Walking Worthy

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

A worthy lifestyle is possible only by depending on God’s resources.

Walking is often used in Scripture as a symbol of the Christian life. It is simply a reference to your daily conduct or lifestyle—a day-by-day, step-by-step commitment to follow Christ. As Christians we “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). John wrote, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6). Paul said to walk in good works (Eph. 2:10) and to please God in our walk before Him (1 Thess. 4:1).

In Ephesians 4:1 Paul is saying, “Let your lifestyle be worthy of the calling to which you are called.”

You may ask, “Is it possible to walk this way?” Yes, but only on this basis: you must devote yourself to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:16), Christ’s Word must dwell in your heart, His love must penetrate your life (vv. 17-19), and you must be “filled up to all the fulness of God” (v. 19), who “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (v. 20). We must live by the resources God has given us to walk the worthy walk. We’ll never do it by just knowing the theology and then trying really hard.

Are you trying to live as a Christian without prayer, without studying the Bible, or even without giving much thought to Christ except on Sunday? Are you trying to be righteous without relying on the Holy Spirit? If you are, you will be frustrated in your efforts. You must commit every day and every moment to the Lord, trusting in His strength. Besides, why would you want to live on your own power when you can live by the power of God?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for giving you the Holy Spirit, who gives you the power to walk worthy before Him and others.
  • Pray each day that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you to live in a way that pleases God.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 5:16-25.

  • From your understanding of today’s study, what does it mean to “walk by the Spirit”?
  • What does walking by the Spirit protect you from?


PART II 

Avoiding a Spiritual Identity Crisis

God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

A true sense of identity comes from knowing that God Himself personally selected you to be His child.

Many people in our society are on a seemingly endless and often frantic quest for personal identity and self-worth. Identity crises are common at almost every age level. Superficial love and fractured relationships are but symptoms of our failure to resolve the fundamental issues of who we are, why we exist, and where we're going. Sadly, most people will live and die without ever understanding God's purpose for their lives.

That is tragic, yet understandable. God created man to bear His image and enjoy His fellowship forever. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they violated that purpose and plunged the human race into sin. That created within man a spiritual void and an identity crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Throughout the ages ungodly people have tried to fill that void with a myriad of substitutes but ultimately all is lost to death and despair.

Despite that bleak picture, a true sense of identity is available to every Christian. It comes from knowing that God Himself personally selected you to be His child. Before the world began, God set his love upon you and according to His plan Christ died for you (1 Pet. 1:20). That's why you responded in faith to the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13). Also, that's why you can never lose your salvation. The same God who drew you to Himself will hold you there securely (John 10:29).

Don't allow sin, Satan, or circumstances to rob your sense of identity in Christ. Make it the focus of everything you do. Remember who you are: God's child; why you are here: to serve and glorify Him; and where you are going: to spend eternity in His presence.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for choosing you to be His child and for drawing you to Himself in saving faith.
  • Praise Him for His promise never to let you go.

For Further Study

Read John 6:35-44; 10:27-30; Romans 8:31-39.

  • According to Jesus, how many believers will lose their salvation? What was his reasoning?
  • What did Paul base his certainty on?


PART III 

January 7 - Beloved Jesus—Superior to All Sacrifices

“A voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).

No Old Testament sacrifice, no matter how carefully selected, was genuinely and completely pleasing to God. The people could not possibly find an animal without some imperfection. Furthermore, the blood of the sacrificial animals was at best only symbolic, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4; cf. 9:12). But the Cross would effect a sacrifice that would be “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19).

It was this reality that rang out in the Father’s declaration of blessing at the Jordan that day—the day of Jesus’ baptism. His use of the word “beloved” connotes a rich, profound, ultimately satisfying relationship between the Father and the Son. Forms of this word occur elsewhere in the New Testament to denote God’s love for believers (Rom. 1:7) and to describe the ideal love they should have for one another (1 Cor. 4:14). But in God’s eyes the Lord Jesus ever remains the most beloved among any living being—past, present, or future.

This means that Christians, too, are a delight to their heavenly Father, because they are now “in Christ” and adopted into God’s eternal, spiritual family. If God can find no imperfection in His Son, He likewise by His grace finds no defect in His saints (cf. Rom. 3:26; Eph. 1:3–6).

Ask Yourself

Is the Son “beloved” in your eyes as well? How does your love for Him express itself in your conversation, your interactions, your behavior, your worship? If you couldn’t say that He is your “first love” (Rev. 2:4), ask God to help you return Him to His rightful place of adoration.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 13:8 we are brethren. Abram’s whole reaction in resolving the strife between the two households and their personnel portrayed a different Abram than seen in Egypt—one whose attitude was not self-centered. Waving his rights to seniority, he gave the choice to his nephew, Lot.

Genesis 14:18 Melchizedek king of Salem. The lack of biographical and genealogical particulars for this ruler, whose name meant “righteous king” and who was a king-priest over ancient Jerusalem, allowed for later revelation to use him as a type of Christ (see Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:17, 21). His superior status in Abram’s day is witnessed 1) by the king of Sodom, the first to meet Abram returning in victory, deferring to Melchizedek before continuing with his request (vv. 17, 21) and 2) by Abram, without demur, both accepting a blessing from him and also giving a tithe to him (vv. 19, 20). priest of God Most High. The use of El Elyon (Sovereign Lord) for God’s name indicated that Melchizedek, who used this title two times (vv. 18, 19), worshiped, served, and represented no Canaanite deity, but the same one whom Abram also called Yahweh El Elyon (v. 22).That this was so is confirmed by the added description,“ Possessor of heaven and earth,” being used by both Abram and Melchizedek (vv. 19, 22).

Proverbs 2:1 my words. Solomon made God’s law his own by faith, obedience, and teaching. The wisdom of God’s words is available to those who understand its value. Appropriating wisdom begins when one values it above all else.


DAY 7: What does the Lord’s Prayer teach us about forgiveness?

The request, “Forgive us our debts” (6:12), is the heart of the prayer; it is what Jesus stressed in the words that followed the prayer (vv. 14, 15; see Mark 11:25).The parallel passage in Luke 11:4 uses the word that means “sins,” so that in context, spiritual debts are intended. Sinners are debtors to God in their violations of His laws.

When Jesus added that “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (v. 15), this is not to suggest that God will withdraw justification from those who have already received the free pardon He extends to all believers. Forgiveness in that sense—a permanent and complete acquittal from the guilt and ultimate penalty of sin—belongs to all who are in Christ (see John 5:24; Rom.8:1; Eph. 1:7).Yet, Scripture also teaches that God chastens His children who disobey (Heb. 12:5–7). Believers are to confess their sins in order to obtain a day-to-day cleansing (1 John 1:9).This sort of forgiveness is a simple washing from the worldly defilements of sin; not a repeat of the wholesale cleansing from sin’s corruption that comes with justification. It is like a washing of the feet rather than a bath (John 13:10). Forgiveness in this latter sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others.


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/06/19

The Passion Fueling the Worthy Walk

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

A passion for Christ is what compels us to live an exemplary life.

What do you think of when you hear the word beggar? You probably picture a haggard person in tattered clothes with an outstretched hand asking for money or food.

Would it surprise you to know that the apostle Paul was a beggar? He didn’t beg for money, though, but for people to follow Christ. The word translated “entreat” in this verse means “to call out to someone with intensity” or “to plead with someone.”

Paul pleaded with many people. He begged Herod Agrippa to hear the gospel (Acts 26:3). He told the church at Rome, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). To the Corinthians he said, “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). When Paul was committed to some principle of divine truth, he implored people to respond. He didn’t approach the ministry with detachment or indifference.

Paul again feels compelled to beg in Ephesians 4:1: “I . . . entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” He doesn’t just coldly say, “It is essential that you walk worthy.” He begs them. Why? Because when you don’t walk worthy, God is not glorified in your life, you are not fully blessed, the church cannot fully function, and therefore the world cannot see Jesus Christ for who He is. So much depends on our worthy walk. Paul pleads with us, to show how vital it is.

Paul’s passion demonstrates an important truth: while knowledge is necessary in the Christian life, it is our desire to be like Christ that compels us toward righteousness. And when we have that desire, it will be natural for us to beg those around us to follow Christ as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you the heart of the apostle Paul who said, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

For Further Study

Read Philippians 3:7-14.

  • What characterized Paul’s zeal?
  • Which of these characteristics do you lack? Look for ways to bolster them as you daily work through this book.


PART II 

Identifying with Christ

“God...has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3, emphasis added).

Christianity isn’t simply a belief system—it’s a whole new identity.

Many people mistakenly believe that one's religious preference is irrelevant because all religions eventually lead to the same spiritual destination.

Such thinking is sheer folly, however, because Scripture declares that no one comes to God apart from Jesus (John 14:6). He is the only source of salvation (Acts 4:12) and the only One powerful enough to redeem us and hold us secure forever (John 10:28).

Every Christian shares a common supernatural union with Christ. Paul said, “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him)” (1 Cor. 6:17). We are in Him and He is in us. His life flows through us by His Spirit, who indwells us (Rom. 8:9).

As a non-Christian, you were in bondage to evil (Rom. 3:10-12), enslaved to the will of Satan (1 John 5:19), under divine wrath (Rom. 1:18), spiritually dead (Eph. 4:17-18), and without hope (Eph. 2:12). But at the moment of your salvation a dramatic change took place. You became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), alive in Him (Eph. 2:5), enslaved to God (Rom. 6:22), and a recipient of divine grace (Eph. 2:8). You were delivered out of the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13). You now possess His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and share in His eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:16-17).

All those blessings—and many more—are yours because you are in Christ. What a staggering reality! In a sense what He is, you are. What He has, you have. Where He is, you are.

When the Father sees you, He sees you in Christ and blesses you accordingly. When others see you, do they see Christ in you? “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His marvelous grace in taking you from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ.
  • Ask Him for wisdom and discernment to live this day for His good pleasure.

For Further Study

Read the book of Ephesians, noting every occurrence of the phrase “in Christ.”

  • What has God accomplished in Christ?
  • What blessings are yours in Christ?


PART III 

January 6 - The Holy Spirit Validates Jesus

“The heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him” (Matthew 3:16).

About the supernatural sign that occurred at the conclusion of Jesus’ baptism, one commentator has suggested, “Just as the veil of the Temple was rent in twain to symbolize the perfect access of all men to God, so here the heavens are rent asunder to show how near God is to Jesus, and Jesus to God.”

But did Jesus really need an anointing from the Holy Spirit? When He came to earth, Jesus retained His full deity. In His complete humanity, however, He needed divine strengthening for ministry. Like any human being, Jesus experienced fatigue, hunger, sleepiness, and the like. Only the Holy Spirit could strengthen such humanness (cf. Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:14).

That the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism was a fulfillment of the prophet’s words, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (Isa. 61:1). It was also the sign God had given to John the Baptist so that he would know Jesus when he saw Him (John 1:33).

This anointing by the Holy Spirit was unique in several ways, including being the only New Testament instance in which the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove. Most important, however, this act not only empowered Jesus as the Son of Man for redemptive service, but it was a confirming sign to everyone present—and to us as well—that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

Ask Yourself

If Jesus was dependent on the Spirit’s empowering for effective service, how much more do we need His help and strengthening? In what ways are you making yourself fully open to the Holy Spirit’s power and direction? Pray that He will make you ever aware of your need for Him.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 11:3,4 build ourselves a city. After God commanded the people to scatter to fill the earth, the people, under the leadership of the powerful Nimrod, disobeyed God’s command to disperse. They stopped to build a city and tower in their own honor. The tower itself was not the singular act of rebellion. Rather, human pride caused them to rebel against God.

Genesis 12:1–3 the LORD…to Abram. This passage contains the promise whose fulfillment extends all through Scripture. It is an everlasting covenant which includes four components: 1) seed (see Gal. 3:8,16, referring to Christ); 2) land (15:18–21; 17:8); 3) a nation (12:2; 17:4); and 4) divine blessing and protection (12:3). The covenant is unconditional in the sense of its ultimate fulfillment of a kingdom and salvation. It has great national importance to Israel, as magnified by repeated references in the Old Testament, and great spiritual importance to all believers.

Psalm 4:1 O God of my righteousness. The ultimate basis for divine intervention is God’s righteousness, not the psalmist’s (see Jer. 23:6). distress. This word describes the psalmist in painful situations. When he says “You have relieved me,” he conveys the picture that God has provided space for him.

Matthew 5:31 it has been said. The rabbis wrongly understood Deuteronomy 24:1–4 to mean that divorce only required regulated paperwork and could be granted for anything that displeased a man. Moses provided this as a concession to protect the woman who was divorced, not to justify or legalize divorce under all circumstances.

DAY 6: Why did God cause the multiplication of languages and the dispersion of peoples?

After the Flood, human civilization again began to spread across the earth. Those who traveled east under Nimrod (10:8–10) settled for a while in a place called Shinar. Later, they decided to establish a city as a tribute to themselves and as a way to keep from spreading across the earth (11:4). This was a double prideful rebellion against God. First, their city, with its proposed tower, was to be a monument to their self-reliance. Second, the permanence of their settlement represented an effort to disobey God’s direct command to inhabit the whole earth.

Because it was God’s purpose to fill the earth with custodians, He responded to the people’s prideful rebellion. They had chosen to settle; He forced them to scatter. Their cooperation and self-reliance had been based on their shared language. Instead of using all their resources to obey God, they misused them for disobedience. God chose to complicate communication by multiplying the languages. The location where this confusion took place became known as Babel (related to a Hebrew word meaning “to confuse”). Later it became Babylon, the constant enemy of God’s people, and throughout Scripture the capital of human rebellion against God (Rev. 16:19; 17:5).

GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 



01/05/19

Christ's Equality with God

“[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6).

Christ is equal with God but willingly yielded His divine privileges for our sake.

At the time Christ lived, even His worst enemies, the apostate religious leaders, knew what Jesus claimed about Himself. John 5:18 says, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” 

In Philippians 2:6 Paul affirms Christ’s claim of equality with God. The Greek word translated “equality” (isos) describes things that are exactly equal in size, quantity, quality, character, and number. Isomorph (equal form), isometric (equal measures), and isosceles triangle (a triangle with two sides of equal measure) are all English terms that describe equality. Christ is equal to God, and He exists in the form of God. A literal English rendering of the Greek text is: “He did not regard the being equal with God”— a tremendous affirmation of the deity of Christ.

The first step in the humiliation of Christ was that He did not hold on to equality with God. Though He had all the rights, privileges, and honors of Godhood, Christ didn’t grasp them. The word translated “grasp” originally meant “robbery” or “a thing seized by robbery.” It eventually came to mean anything clutched, embraced, held tightly, clung to, or prized. Paul meant that though He was always and forever God, Christ refused to cling to His favored position with all its rights and honors. He was willing to give them up for a season.

The Incarnation expresses the humility and unselfish nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ looked down on wretched sinners who hated Him and willingly yielded His privileges to give Himself for their sake. Let us follow His example by being humble and living unselfishly for others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His example of humility and unselfishness.

For Further Study

Read John 10:38; 14:9.

  • What did Christ say about His relationship with the Father?
  • In John 20:28 how did Thomas address Christ?



Progressive Revelation

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2). 

The Old Testament is but a sample of what is revealed in the New Testament.

When Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ's coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn't understand everything they wrote because it didn't always apply to their day. That's why Peter said, "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Progressive revelation doesn't at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn't in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation, but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God's revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Though incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That's affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul added that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn't all of God's truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God's character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.



The Kingdom of Heaven

“‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 13:11).

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10) we see two aspects of the kingdom of heaven. “On earth” refers to the present kingdom, mediated through God’s servants, and “in heaven” refers to God’s universal, direct reign.

Through the centuries the present kingdom has attracted both true and false citizens. 

Only God can infallibly distinguish true citizens (the redeemed) from false ones. Jesus shows that many branches that seem to belong to the vine actually do not. The spurious ones will be pruned away and thrown into the fire (John 15:2, 6). Such people only superficially identify with Christ but are never really citizens of the kingdom of heaven or part of the body of Christ. They appear to be true citizens only from an imperfect human perspective.

Paradoxically, Scripture uses terms such as Israel, God’s people, and disciples that can include both nominal and genuine believers. Paul does make it clear, however, that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart” (Rom. 2:29; cf. 9:6–7). Only at the very end of the age, when the eternal kingdom begins, will those who are true citizens of God’s kingdom be clear to everyone. (Even during the Millennium, when Christ directly rules on earth, there will be disloyal citizens; cf. Rev. 20:7–8.)

The only way now to ensure your kingdom citizenship is to repent, trust in Jesus Christ, and pursue the sanctification that new life in Him brings (cf. Mark 1:15).

Ask Yourself

What should churches do to discern and encourage those who are Christians in name only to put their faith in Christ wholeheartedly? Why do we tend to avoid dealing in touchy matters like these? And what is the result of our reticence?


Reading for Today:


Notes:

Daniel 11:2–45 As in 8:3–26, this prophecy sweeps all the way from the history of spiritual conflict in Israel (11:2–35) to the Tribulation (vv. 36–42) when Michael aids in fully delivering Israel (12:1). The detail of this history is so minute and accurate, so confirmed by history, that unbelieving critics have, without evidence, insisted that it was actually written 400 years later than Daniel, after it had happened, which would make the prophet a deceiver. 

The prophecy actually looks ahead from Daniel to the final Antichrist.

Daniel 11:31 defile the sanctuary. Antiochus’s soldiers, no doubt working with apostate Jews, guarded the temple, halting all worship, while others attacked the city on the Sabbath, slaughtering men, women, and children. Soldiers desecrated Israel’s temple, banned circumcision and daily sacrifices (1 Macc. 1:44–54), and sacrificed a pig on the altar. 

The Syrians on Chislev (Dec. 15, 167 B.C.) even imposed an idol statue in honor of the Olympian god Zeus into the temple. Jews called it “the abomination that causes desolation,” i.e., emptying or ruining for Jewish worship. abomination of desolation. Antiochus’s soldiers profaned God’s temple by spreading sow’s broth on the altar and banning daily sacrifices (8:14) as described in 1 Maccabees 1:44–54. Both Daniel and Jesus said this atrocity was only a preview of the abomination that would happen later under the final Antichrist (9:27; Matt. 24:15).

1 John 2:16 all that is in the world. While the world’s philosophies and ideologies and much that it offers may appear attractive and appealing, that is deception. Its true and pervasive nature is evil, harmful, ruinous, and satanic. Its deadly theories are raised up against the knowledge of God and hold the souls of men captive (2 Cor. 10:3–5). lust. John uses the term negatively here for a strong desire for evil things. flesh. The term refers to the sin nature of man; the rebellious self dominated by sin and in opposition to God (Rom. 7:15–25; 8:2–8; Gal. 5:19–21). Satan uses the evil world system to incite the flesh. eyes. Satan uses the eyes as a strategic avenue to incite wrong desires (Josh. 7:20, 21; 2 Sam. 11:2; Matt. 5:27–29). Satan’s temptation of Eve involved being attracted to something beautiful in appearance, but the result was spiritual death (Gen. 3:6, “pleasant to the eyes”). the pride of life. 

The phrase has the idea of arrogance over one’s circumstances, which produced haughtiness or exaggeration, parading what one possessed to impress other people (James 4:16).

1 John 2:19 They went out from us,…none of them were of us. The first characteristic mentioned of antichrists, i.e., false teachers and deceivers (vv. 22–26), is that they depart from the faithful. They arise from within the church and depart from true fellowship and lead people out with them. The verse also places emphasis on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Those genuinely born again endure in faith and fellowship and the truth (1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Tim. 2:12). The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance (Mark 13:13; Heb. 3:14). 

The departure of people from the truth and the church is their unmasking.

How does 1 John help us understand some of the destructive teaching that attacked Christianity in the first century?

Paul, Peter, and John all faced early forms of a system of false teaching that later became known as Gnosticism. That term (derived from the Greek word “knowledge”) refers to the habit that gnostics had of claiming an elevated knowledge, a higher truth known only to those in on the deep things. Those initiated into this mystical knowledge of truth had a higher internal authority than Scripture. 

This resulted in a chaotic situation in which the gnostics tried to judge divine revelation by human ideas rather than judging human ideas by divine revelation (1 John 2:15–17).

Philosophically, the heresy relied on a distortion of Platonism. It advocated a dualism in which matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. One of the direct errors of this heresy involved attributing some form of deity to Christ but denying His true humanity, supposedly to preserve Him from evil (which they concluded He would be if He actually came in the flesh). 

Such a view destroys not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement work of Christ. Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (physically real) man who actually suffered and died upon the cross in order to be the acceptable substitutionary sacrifice for sin (Heb. 2:14–17). The biblical view of Jesus affirms His complete humanity, as well as His full deity.

The gnostic heresy, even in John’s day, featured two basic forms: 1) Docetism; and 2) the error of Cerinthus. Docetism (from a Greek word that means, “to appear”) asserted that Jesus’ physical body was not real but only “seemed” to be physical. John forcefully and repeatedly affirmed the physical reality of Jesus. 

He reminded his readers that he was an eyewitness to Him (“heard,” “seen,” “handled,” “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”; 1 John 1:1–4; 4:2,3). The other form of early Gnosticism was traced back to Cerinthus by the early church apologist Irenaeus. Cerinthus taught that Christ’s “spirit” descended on the human Jesus at His baptism but left Him shortly before His crucifixion. John asserted that the Jesus who was baptized at the beginning of His ministry was the same Person who was crucified on the cross (1 John 5:6).

John does not directly specify the early gnostic beliefs, but his arguments offer clear clues about his targets. Further, John’s wisdom was to avoid direct attacks on rapidly shifting heresies, but to provide a timely, positive restatement of the fundamentals of the faith that would provide timeless truth and answers for later generations of Christians.

GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED ROYAL FAMILY

BLESSED BE 

LORD CHRIST JESUS

OUR KING AND SAVIOR. 

MAXIMILIANO


01/04/19

Christ's Equality with God

“[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6).

Christ is equal with God but willingly yielded His divine privileges for our sake.

At the time Christ lived, even His worst enemies, the apostate religious leaders, knew what Jesus claimed about Himself. John 5:18 says, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” 

In Philippians 2:6 Paul affirms Christ’s claim of equality with God. The Greek word translated “equality” (isos) describes things that are exactly equal in size, quantity, quality, character, and number. Isomorph (equal form), isometric (equal measures), and isoscelestriangle (a triangle with two sides of equal measure) are all English terms that describe equality. Christ is equal to God, and He exists in the form of God. 

A literal English rendering of the Greek text is: “He did not regard the being equal with God”— a tremendous affirmation of the deity of Christ.

The first step in the humiliation of Christ was that He did not hold on to equality with God. Though He had all the rights, privileges, and honors of Godhood, Christ didn’t grasp them. 

The word translated “grasp” originally meant “robbery” or “a thing seized by robbery.” It eventually came to mean anything clutched, embraced, held tightly, clung to, or prized. Paul meant that though He was always and forever God, Christ refused to cling to His favored position with all its rights and honors. He was willing to give them up for a season.

The Incarnation expresses the humility and unselfish nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ looked down on wretched sinners who hated Him and willingly yielded His privileges to give Himself for their sake. Let us follow His example by being humble and living unselfishly for others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His example of humility and unselfishness.

For Further Study

Read John 10:38; 14:9.

  • What did Christ say about His relationship with the Father?
  • In John 20:28 how did Thomas address Christ?


Progressive Revelación

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2). 

The Old Testament is but a sample of what is revealed in the New Testament.

When Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ's coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn't understand everything they wrote because it didn't always apply to their day. 

That's why Peter said, "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Progressive revelation doesn't at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn't in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation, but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God's revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Though incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That's affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul added that "allScripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn't all of God's truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God's character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

December 4 - The Kingdom of Heaven

“‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 13:11).

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10) we see two aspects of the kingdom of heaven. “On earth” refers to the present kingdom, mediated through God’s servants, and “in heaven” refers to God’s universal, direct reign.

Through the centuries the present kingdom has attracted both true and false citizens. Only God can infallibly distinguish true citizens (the redeemed) from false ones. Jesus shows that many branches that seem to belong to the vine actually do not. The spurious ones will be pruned away and thrown into the fire (John 15:2, 6). 

Such people only superficially identify with Christ but are never really citizens of the kingdom of heaven or part of the body of Christ. They appear to be true citizens only from an imperfect human perspective.

Paradoxically, Scripture uses terms such as Israel, God’s people, and disciples that can include both nominal and genuine believers. Paul does make it clear, however, that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart” (Rom. 2:29; cf. 9:6–7). 

Only at the very end of the age, when the eternal kingdom begins, will those who are true citizens of God’s kingdom be clear to everyone. (Even during the Millennium, when Christ directly rules on earth, there will be disloyal citizens; cf. Rev. 20:7–8.)

The only way now to ensure your kingdom citizenship is to repent, trust in Jesus Christ, and pursue the sanctification that new life in Him brings (cf. Mark 1:15).

Ask Yourself

What should churches do to discern and encourage those who are Christians in name only to put their faith in Christ wholeheartedly? Why do we tend to avoid dealing in touchy matters like these? And what is the result of our reticence?

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Daniel 11:2–45 As in 8:3–26, this prophecy sweeps all the way from the history of spiritual conflict in Israel (11:2–35) to the Tribulation (vv. 36–42) when Michael aids in fully delivering Israel (12:1). The detail of this history is so minute and accurate, so confirmed by history, that unbelieving critics have, without evidence, insisted that it was actually written 400 years later than Daniel, after it had happened, which would make the prophet a deceiver. The prophecy actually looks ahead from Daniel to the final Antichrist.

Daniel 11:31 defile the sanctuary. Antiochus’s soldiers, no doubt working with apostate Jews, guarded the temple, halting all worship, while others attacked the city on the Sabbath, slaughtering men, women, and children. Soldiers desecrated Israel’s temple, banned circumcision and daily sacrifices (1 Macc. 1:44–54), and sacrificed a pig on the altar. The Syrians on Chislev (Dec. 15, 167 B.C.) even imposed an idol statue in honor of the Olympian god Zeus into the temple. Jews called it “the abomination that causes desolation,” i.e., emptying or ruining for Jewish worship. abomination of desolation. Antiochus’s soldiers profaned God’s temple by spreading sow’s broth on the altar and banning daily sacrifices (8:14) as described in 1 Maccabees 1:44–54. Both Daniel and Jesus said this atrocity was only a preview of the abomination that would happen later under the final Antichrist (9:27; Matt. 24:15).

1 John 2:16 all that is in the world. While the world’s philosophies and ideologies and much that it offers may appear attractive and appealing, that is deception. Its true and pervasive nature is evil, harmful, ruinous, and satanic. Its deadly theories are raised up against the knowledge of God and hold the souls of men captive (2 Cor. 10:3–5). lust. John uses the term negatively here for a strong desire for evil things. flesh. The term refers to the sin nature of man; the rebellious self dominated by sin and in opposition to God (Rom. 7:15–25; 8:2–8; Gal. 5:19–21). 

Satan uses the evil world system to incite the flesh. eyes. Satan uses the eyes as a strategic avenue to incite wrong desires (Josh. 7:20, 21; 2 Sam. 11:2; Matt. 5:27–29). Satan’s temptation of Eve involved being attracted to something beautiful in appearance, but the result was spiritual death (Gen. 3:6, “pleasant to the eyes”). the pride of life. The phrase has the idea of arrogance over one’s circumstances, which produced haughtiness or exaggeration, parading what one possessed to impress other people (James 4:16).

1 John 2:19 They went out from us,…none of them were of us. The first characteristic mentioned of antichrists, i.e., false teachers and deceivers (vv. 22–26), is that they depart from the faithful. They arise from within the church and depart from true fellowship and lead people out with them. The verse also places emphasis on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Those genuinely born again endure in faith and fellowship and the truth (1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Tim. 2:12). 

The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance (Mark 13:13; Heb. 3:14). The departure of people from the truth and the church is their unmasking.

How does 1 John help us understand some of the destructive teaching that attacked Christianity in the first century?

Paul, Peter, and John all faced early forms of a system of false teaching that later became known as Gnosticism. That term (derived from the Greek word “knowledge”) refers to the habit that gnostics had of claiming an elevated knowledge, a higher truth known only to those in on the deep things.

Those initiated into this mystical knowledge of truth had a higher internal authority than Scripture. This resulted in a chaotic situation in which the gnostics tried to judge divine revelation by human ideas rather than judging human ideas by divine revelation (1 John 2:15–17).

Philosophically, the heresy relied on a distortion of Platonism. It advocated a dualism in which matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. One of the direct errors of this heresy involved attributing some form of deity to Christ but denying His true humanity, supposedly to preserve Him from evil (which they concluded He would be if He actually came in the flesh). 

Such a view destroys not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement work of Christ. Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (physically real) man who actually suffered and died upon the cross in order to be the acceptable substitutionary sacrifice for sin (Heb. 2:14–17). 

The biblical view of Jesus affirms His complete humanity, as well as His full deity.

The gnostic heresy, even in John’s day, featured two basic forms: 1) Docetism; and 2) the error of Cerinthus. Docetism (from a Greek word that means, “to appear”) asserted that Jesus’ physical body was not real but only “seemed” to be physical. John forcefully and repeatedly affirmed the physical reality of Jesus. He reminded his readers that he was an eyewitness to Him (“heard,” “seen,” “handled,” “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”; 1 John 1:1–4; 4:2,3). 

The other form of early Gnosticism was traced back to Cerinthus by the early church apologist Irenaeus. Cerinthus taught that Christ’s “spirit” descended on the human Jesus at His baptism but left Him shortly before His crucifixion. John asserted that the Jesus who was baptized at the beginning of His ministry was the same Person who was crucified on the cross (1 John 5:6).

John does not directly specify the early gnostic beliefs, but his arguments offer clear clues about his targets. Further, John’s wisdom was to avoid direct attacks on rapidly shifting heresies, but to provide a timely, positive restatement of the fundamentals of the faith that would provide timeless truth and answers for later generations of Christians.

GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED ROYAL FAMILY

BLESSED BE 

LORD CHRIST JESUS

OUR KING AND SAVIOR. 

MAXIMILIANO



01/03/19

“Is baptism necessary for salvation?"

The belief that baptism is necessary for salvation is also known as "baptismal regeneration." It is our contention that baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, but we adamantly reject baptism as being required for salvation. We strongly believe that each and every Christian should be water baptized by immersion. Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:3-4 declares, “Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The action of being immersed in the water illustrates dying and being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection.


Requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus' death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation. To say that baptism is necessary for salvation is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ's death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus' death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus' payment for our sins is appropriated to our “account” by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, baptism is an important step of obedience after salvation but cannot be a requirement for salvation.


Yes, there are some verses that seem to indicate baptism as a requirement for salvation. However, since the Bible so clearly tells us that salvation is received by faith alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), there must be a different interpretation of those verses. Scripture does not contradict Scripture. In Bible times, a person who converted from one religion to another was often baptized to identify conversion. Baptism was the means of making a decision public. Those who refused to be baptized were saying they did not truly believe. So, in the minds of the apostles and early disciples, the idea of an un-baptized believer was unheard of. When a person claimed to believe in Christ, yet was ashamed to proclaim his faith in public, it indicated that he did not have true faith.


If baptism is necessary for salvation, why would Paul have said, “I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius” (1 Corinthians 1:14)? Why would he have said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17)? Granted, in this passage Paul is arguing against the divisions that plagued the Corinthian church. However, how could Paul possibly say, “I am thankful that I did not baptize…” or “For Christ did not send me to baptize…” if baptism were necessary for salvation? If baptism is necessary for salvation, Paul would literally be saying, “I am thankful that you were not saved…” and “For Christ did not send me to save…” That would be an unbelievably ridiculous statement for Paul to make. Further, when Paul gives a detailed outline of what he considers the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), why does he neglect to mention baptism? If baptism is a requirement for salvation, how could any presentation of the gospel lack a mention of baptism?


Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Baptism does not save from sin but from a bad conscience. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter clearly taught that baptism was not a ceremonial act of physical purification, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). Baptism is an important step of obedience that every Christian should take. Baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation. To make it such is an attack on the sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


PART II

“Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?"

Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage on "Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"


Why, then, do some come to the conclusion that we must be baptized in order to be saved? Often, the discussion of whether or not this passage teaches baptism is required for salvation centers around the Greek word eis that is translated “for” in this passage. Those who hold to the belief that baptism is required for salvation are quick to point to this verse and the fact that it says “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” assuming that the word translated “for” in this verse means “in order to get.” However, in both Greek and English, there are many possible usages of the word “for.”


As an example, when one says “Take two aspirin for your headache,” it is obvious to everybody that it does not mean “take two aspirin in order to get your headache,” but instead to “take two aspirin because you already have a headache.” There are three possible meanings of the word “for” that might fit the context of Acts 2:38: 1--“in order to be, become, get, have, keep, etc.,” 2—“because of, as the result of,” or 3—“with regard to.” Since any one of the three meanings could fit the context of this passage, additional study is required in order to determine which one is correct.


We need to start by looking back to the original language and the meaning of the Greek word eis. This is a common Greek word (it is used 1774 times in the New Testament) that is translated many different ways. Like the English word “for” it can have several different meanings. So, again, we see at least two or three possible meanings of the passage, one that would seem to support that baptism is required for salvation and others that would not. While both the meanings of the Greek word eis are seen in different passages of Scripture, such noted Greek scholars as A.T. Robertson and J.R. Mantey have maintained that the Greek preposition eis in Acts 2:38 should be translated “because of” or “in view of,” and not “in order to,” or “for the purpose of.”


One example of how this preposition is used in other Scriptures is seen in Matthew 12:41 where the word eis communicates the “result” of an action. In this case it is said that the people of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah” (the word translated “at” is the same Greek word eis). Clearly, the meaning of this passage is that they repented “because of’” or “as the result of” Jonah’s preaching. In the same way, it would be possible that Acts 2:38 is indeed communicating the fact that they were to be baptized “as the result of” or “because” they already had believed and in doing so had already received forgiveness of their sins (John 1:12; John 3:14-18; John 5:24; John 11:25-26; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:39; Acts 16:31; Acts 26:18; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:12-14). This interpretation of the passage is also consistent with the message recorded in Peter’s next two sermons to unbelievers where he associates the forgiveness of sins with the act of repentance and faith in Christ without even mentioning baptism (Acts 3:17-26; Acts 4:8-12).


In addition to Acts 2:38, there are three other verses where the Greek word eis is used in conjunction with the word “baptize” or “baptism.” The first of these is Matthew 3:11, “baptize you with water for repentance.” Clearly the Greek word eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage. They were not baptized “in order to get repentance,” but were “baptized because they had repented.” The second passage is Romans 6:3 where we have the phrase “baptized into (eis) His death.” This again fits with the meaning “because of” or in "regard to." The third and final passage is 1 Corinthians 10:2 and the phrase “baptized into (eis) Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Again, eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage because the Israelites were not baptized in order to get Moses to be their leader, but because he was their leader and had led them out of Egypt. If one is consistent with the way the preposition eis is used in conjunction with baptism, we must conclude that Acts 2:38 is indeed referring to their being baptized “because” they had received forgiveness of their sins. Some other verses where the Greek preposition eis does not mean “in order to obtain” are Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 19:3; 1 Corinthians 1:15; and 12:13.


The grammatical evidence surrounding this verse and the preposition eis are clear that while both views on this verse are well within the context and the range of possible meanings of the passage, the majority of the evidence is in favor that the best possible definition of the word “for” in this context is either “because of” or “in regard to” and not “in order to get.” Therefore, Acts 2:38, when interpreted correctly, does not teach that baptism is required for salvation.


Besides the precise meaning of the preposition translated “for” in this passage, there is another grammatical aspect of this verse to carefully consider—the change between the second person and third person between the verbs and pronouns in the passage. For example, in Peter’s commands to repent and be baptized the Greek verb translated “repent” is in the second person plural while the verb “be baptized,” is in the third person singular. When we couple this with the fact that the pronoun “your” in the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” is also second person plural, we see an important distinction being made that helps us understand this passage. The result of this change from second person plural to third person singular and back would seem to connect the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” directly with the command to “repent.” Therefore, when you take into account the change in person and plurality, essentially what you have is “You (plural) repent for the forgiveness of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized (singular).” Or, to put it in a more distinct way: “You all repent for the forgiveness of all of your sins, and let each one of you be baptized.”


Another error that is made by those who believe Acts 2:38 teaches baptism is required for salvation is what is sometimes called the Negative Inference Fallacy. Simply put, this is the idea that just because a statement is true, we cannot assume all negations (or opposites) of that statement are true. In other words, just because Acts 2:38 says “repent and be baptized….for the forgiveness of sins…and the gift of the Holy Spirit,” it does not mean that if one repents and is not baptized, he will not receive forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit.


There is an important difference between a condition of salvation and a requirement for salvation. The Bible is clear that belief is both a condition and a requirement, but the same cannot be said for baptism. The Bible does not say that if a man is not baptized then he will not be saved. One can add any number of conditions to faith (which is required for salvation), and the person can still be saved. For example if a person believes, is baptized, goes to church, and gives to the poor he will be saved. Where the error in thinking occurs is if one assumes all these other conditions, “baptism, going to church, giving to the poor,” are required for one to be saved. While they might be the evidence of salvation, they are not a requirement for salvation. (For a more thorough explanation of this logical fallacy, please see the Question: Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is required for salvation?).


The fact that baptism is not required to receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit should also be evident by simply reading a little farther in the book of Acts. In Acts 10:43, Peter tells Cornelius that “through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (please note that nothing at this point has been mentioned about being baptized, yet Peter connects believing in Christ with the act of receiving forgiveness for sins). The next thing that happens is, having believed Peter’s message about Christ, the “Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44). It is only after they had believed, and therefore received forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, that Cornelius and his household were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). The context and the passage are very clear; Cornelius and his household received both forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit before they were ever baptized. In fact, the reason Peter allowed them to be baptized was that they showed evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit “just as Peter and the Jewish believers” had.


In conclusion, Acts 2:38 does not teach that baptism is required for salvation. While baptism is important as the sign that one has been justified by faith and as the public declaration of one’s faith in Christ and membership in a local body of believers, it is not the means of remission or forgiveness of sins. The Bible is very clear that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:21-30; Romans 4:5; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16).


PART III

“Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?"

As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage on "Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"


As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches through careful consideration of the language and context of the verse. We also filter it through what we know the Bible teaches elsewhere on the subject. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage "Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"


Regarding Mark 16:16, it is important to remember that there are some textual problems with Mark chapter 16, verses 9-20. There is some question as to whether these verses were originally part of the Gospel of Mark or whether they were added later by a scribe. As a result, it is best not to base a key doctrine on anything from Mark 16:9-20, such as snake handling, unless it is also supported by other passages of Scripture.


Assuming that verse 16 is original to Mark, does it teach that baptism is required for salvation? The short answer is, no, it does not. In order to make it teach that baptism is required for salvation, one must go beyond what the verse actually says. What this verse does teach is that belief is necessary for salvation, which is consistent with the countless verses where only belief is mentioned (e.g., John 3:18; John 5:24; John 12:44; John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).


“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). This verse is composed of two basic statements. 1—He who believes and is baptized will be saved. 2—He who does not believe will be condemned.


While this verse tells us something about believers who have been baptized (they are saved), it does not say anything about believers who have not been baptized. In order for this verse to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation, a third statement would be necessary, viz., “He who believes and is not baptized will be condemned” or “He who is not baptized will be condemned.” But, of course, neither of these statements is found in the verse.


Those who try to use Mark 16:16 to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation commit a common but serious mistake that is sometimes called the Negative Inference Fallacy. This is the rule to follow: “If a statement is true, we cannot assume that all negations (or opposites) of that statement are also true." For example, the statement “a dog with brown spots is an animal” is true; however, the negative, “if a dog does not have brown spots, it is not an animal” is false. In the same way, “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” is true; however, the statement “he who believes but is not baptized will not be saved” is an unwarranted assumption. Yet this is exactly the assumption made by those who support baptismal regeneration.


Consider this example: "Whoever believes and lives in Kansas will be saved, but those that do not believe are condemned." This statement is strictly true; Kansans who believe in Jesus will be saved. However, to say that only those believers who live in Kansas are saved is an illogical and false assumption. The statement does not say a believer must live in Kansas in order to go to heaven. Similarly, Mark 16:16 does not say a believer must be baptized. The verse states a fact about baptized believers (they will be saved), but it says exactly nothing about believers who have not been baptized. There may be believers who do not dwell in Kansas, yet they are still saved; and there may be believers who have not been baptized, yet they, too, are still saved.


The one specific condition required for salvation is stated in the second part of Mark 16:16: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” In essence, Jesus has given both the positive condition of belief (whoever believes will be saved) and the negative condition of unbelief (whoever does not believe will be condemned). Therefore, we can say with absolute certainty that belief is the requirement for salvation. More importantly, we see this condition restated positively and negatively throughout Scripture (John 3:16; John 3:18; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:53-54; John 8:24; Acts 16:31).


Jesus mentions a condition related to salvation (baptism) in Mark 16:16. But a related condition should not be confused with a requirement. For example, having a fever is related to being ill, but a fever is not required for illness to be present. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a statement such as “whoever is not baptized will be condemned.” Therefore, we cannot say that baptism is necessary for salvation based on Mark 16:16 or any other verse.


Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation? No, it does not. It clearly establishes that belief is required for salvation, but it does not prove or disprove the idea of baptism being a requirement. How can we know, then, if one must be baptized in order to be saved? We must look to the full counsel of God’s Word. Here is a summary of the evidence:


1—The Bible is clear that we are saved by faith alone. Abraham was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith (Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:6-22).


2—Throughout the Bible, in every dispensation, people have been saved without being baptized. Every believer in the Old Testament (e.g., Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon) was saved but not baptized. The thief on the cross was saved but not baptized. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized (Acts 10:44-46).


3—Baptism is a testimony of our faith and a public declaration that we believe in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us that we have eternal life the moment we believe (John 5:24), and belief always comes before being baptized. Baptism does not save us any more than walking an aisle or saying a prayer saves us. We are saved when we believe.


4—The Bible never says that if one is not baptized then he is not saved.


5—If baptism were required for salvation, then no one could be saved without another party being present. Someone must be there to baptize a person before he can be saved. This effectively limits who can be saved and when he can be saved. The consequences of this doctrine, when carried to a logical conclusion, are devastating. For example, a soldier who believes on the battlefield but is killed before he can be baptized would go to hell.


6—Throughout the Bible we see that at the point of faith a believer possesses all the promises and blessings of salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31). When one believes, he has eternal life, does not come under judgment, and has passed from death into life (John 5:24)—all before he or she is baptized.


If you believe in baptismal regeneration, you would do well to prayerfully consider whom or what you are really putting your trust in. Is your faith in a physical act (being baptized) or in the finished work of Christ on the cross? Whom or what are you trusting for salvation? Is it the shadow (baptism) or the substance (Jesus Christ)? Our faith must rest in Christ alone. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


01/02/19

From Doctrine to Duty

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

There can be no right living without right principles.

Imagine someone saying, “I have some extra money lying around. I think I’ll send a large check to the government.” Absurd, isn’t it? But every year, honest wage-earners fill out forms and give part of their income to the government. Why? It’s not because they are generous but because there is a law— a doctrine—that says they have to.

Unless people know the reason for what they should do, it’s unlikely they’ll make a commitment to do it. Paul understood that, so he always taught doctrine before duty. “Therefore” in Ephesians 4:1 links the doctrine of chapters 1—3 to the duty of chapters 4—6. Doctrine and duty are inseparably linked; duty always flows out of doctrine. Right living is based on right principles. Paul told the Colossian church, “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9). For what purpose? “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (v. 10). Spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and understanding make up the pathway of a worthy walk.

When pastors teach duty without teaching doctrine, they weaken the Word of God because they’ve eliminated the motive. They may be able to stir up emotions, but that brings no long-term commitment. The pastor’s responsibility is to teach the truth of God, and the hearer’s responsibility is to obey it.

Of course, the source of God’s truth is His Word: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Knowing the Bible well is our means of equipping ourselves for a righteous life.

As we think about our worthy walk, let’s avoid emotionalism and legalism, and instead focus on living what we learn from a thorough and personal study of God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have neglected studying the Bible, confess that to God, and ask Him to give you a greater desire to learn His Word.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 1—3 and list all we are or have in Christ. Knowing what God has given you, can you do any less than commit yourself to Him completely?

PART II

Blessing the God of Blessings

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us” (Eph. 1:3).

When we bless God, it is with words of praise; when He blesses us, it is with deeds of kindness.

Paul's brief doxology identifies God the Father as the ultimate recipient and source of blessing—the One to whom blessing is ascribed and the One who bestows blessings on those who love Him.

“Blessed” translates the Greek word eulogeō, from which we get eulogy. To bless or eulogize God is to praise Him for His mighty works and holy character.

That should be the response of your heart just as it has been the response of believers throughout the ages. The psalmist said “Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer” (Ps. 66:20); and “blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders” (Ps. 72:18). Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

When the situation is reversed and God blesses us, it isn't with praise, for apart from Him there is nothing praiseworthy about us. Instead, He gives us undeserved benefits through His many deeds of kindness. Scripture identifies Him as the source of every good thing (James 1:17), who works all things together for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28).

That is but a sampling of the many blessings He lavishes on us in His Son, Christ Jesus. It's a marvelous cycle: God blesses us with deeds of kindness; we bless Him with words of praise.

Beware of the sin of thanklessness. Recognize God's blessings in your life and let them fill your heart and lips

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Identify ten specific blessings that God has granted to you in recent days and praise Him for each one.
  • Ask Him to make you more aware of and thankful for His goodness in your life.
  • Always be ready to seek forgiveness when you take His blessings for granted.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 103.

  • What blessings does David mention?
  • How do they apply to your life?
PART III

January 3 - Testimony to Jesus' Sinlessness

“John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’” (Matthew 3:14).

John the Baptist’s initial reluctance to baptize Jesus is a testimony to Jesus’ sinlessness—and John’s awareness of his own sinfulness.

In effect, John said to Jesus, “I’m a sinner, just like everyone else I baptize, so why should You, the sinless Son of God, want me to baptize You?” In an indirect yet definite fashion, John agreed with the later description of Christ by the writer of Hebrews, “One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (4:15).

Jesus Himself testified to His perfect righteousness and His reason for wanting to be baptized, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Jesus’ words did not deny His superiority to John the Baptist or His sinlessness. “Permit it at this time” is an idiomatic expression meaning that Christ’s baptism, though seemingly not appropriate or necessary, was actually appropriate for this special time.

The Lord understood John’s strong hesitation, and knew it came from deep spiritual commitment and sincerity. Thus He gave John divine permission to do what he was otherwise reluctant to do, so he could perfectly fulfill the Father’s plan.

Ask Yourself

How do you think you would have reacted to Jesus’ request for baptism? How do you react today when you’re in His presence, in awe of His holiness and purity? Pray for the spiritual understanding to know that by His grace, He has washed this same righteousness over you.

PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Genesis 6:15,16 The ark was not designed for beauty or speed, but these dimensions provided extraordinary stability in the tumultuous floodwaters. A cubit was about 18 inches long, which made the ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. A gigantic box of that size would be very stable in the water and impossible to capsize. The volume of space in the ark was 1.4 million cubic feet, equal to the capacity of 522 standard railroad box cars. It had 3 stories, each 15 feet high; each deck was equipped with rooms (literally, “nests”). “Pitch” was a resin substance to seal the seams and cracks in the wood. The “window” may have actually been a low wall around the flat roof to catch water for all on the ark.

Psalm 2:7 You are My Son. Second Samuel 7:8–16 is the only Old Testament reference to the Father/Son relationship in the Trinity, a relationship seen throughout the New Testament. Today I have begotten You. This expresses the privileges of relationship, with its prophetic application to the Son, the Messiah. This verse is quoted in the New Testament in reference to the birth of Jesus (Heb. 1:56) and to His resurrection (Acts 13:33,34) as the ultimate fulfillments of the verse.

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son. This symbolic act indicates allegiance and submission (see 1 Sam. 10:1). This word for “Son” is not the Hebrew word for “son” that is used in v. 7. Rather, it is the Aramaic counterpart for the word (see Dan. 7:13), which addresses the command to “nations” (v. 1). perish in the way. These words pick up the major burden of Psalm 1.


DAY 3: What is the difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees?

The Pharisees were a small (about 6,000), legalistic sect of the Jews. Their name means “separated ones,” not in the sense of isolationists but in the puritanical sense, i.e., they were highly zealous for ritual and religious purity according to the Mosaic Law as well as their own traditions that they added to the Old Testament legislation. They represented the orthodox core of Judaism and very strongly influenced the common people of Israel. Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees was usually adversarial. He rebuked them for using human tradition to nullify Scripture (Matt. 15:3–9), and especially for rank hypocrisy (Matt. 15:7822:1823:13232529Luke 12:1).

The Sadducees were known for their denial of things supernatural. They denied the resurrection of the dead (Matt. 22:23) and the existence of angels (Acts 23:8). Unlike the Pharisees, they rejected human tradition and scorned legalism. They accepted only the Pentateuch as authoritative. They tended to be wealthy, aristocratic, members of the priestly tribe, and in the days of Herod their sect controlled the temple, though they were fewer in number than the Pharisees.

Pharisees and Sadducees had little in common. Pharisees were ritualists; Sadducees were rationalists. Pharisees were legalists; Sadducees were liberals. Pharisees were separatists; Sadducees were compromisers and political opportunists. Yet they united together in their opposition of Christ (Matt 22:1516233435). John publicly addressed them as deadly snakes.

GOD BLESS YOUR HEART!

MAXIMILIANO 


Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 
www.bimbitoday.com

01/01/2019


The Preeminence of Christ


“[Christ] is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him” (Colossians 1:18-19).


Christ has preeminence in everything.


The apostle Paul presents four great truths in Colossians 1:18 about Christ’s relation to the church. The first is that Christ is the head of the church. This concept looks at the church as a living organism, inseparably tied together by the living Christ. He controls every part of it and gives it life and direction (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-20).


Christ is also the source of the church. The Greek word translated “beginning” (arche) is used here in the twofold sense of source and primacy. The church has its origins in Jesus. God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). As head of the Body, Jesus holds the chief position or highest rank in the church. As the beginning, He is its originator.


Another truth is that Christ is the first-born from the dead. Of all those who have been raised from the dead or ever will be, Christ is the highest in rank. Furthermore, it is Christ who will cause the resurrection of others (John 5:28-296:40).


Finally, Christ is the preeminent One. As a result of His death and resurrection, Jesus has come to have first place in everything. Paul states that truth to drive home as forcefully as he can that Jesus is not merely another emanation from God.


Paul then summarizes his argument by saying that all the fullness of deity dwells in Christ alone (Col. 1:19). It is not spread out in small doses to a group of spirits, as the false teachers were saying. Rather, in Christ, and Him alone, believers are “complete” (2:10).


What should be your response to the glorious truths about Christ in Colossians 1:15-19? Be encouraged to meditate on the glory of Christ as revealed in this passage. Doing so will help you be transformed into Christ’s image and will prepare you to behold His glory in Heaven.


Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for each of the four truths discussed above.


For Further Study

According to John 1:16, what have you received?


PART II


Our Sympathetic High Priest


"Assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:16-18).


Jesus came to sympathize with us, so He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest.


In his letters to Timothy, Paul counseled and encouraged his young associate about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual warfare. His counsel is well summed up in these words: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David" (2 Tim. 2:8).


Like Timothy, we need to be reminded of Christ's humanity, especially when life becomes particularly tough. Then we can pray, "Lord, You know what You endured while You were here. I'm going through it now." We can be sure He knows and will encourage us.


Jesus came not only to save us but also to sympathize with us. He experienced what we experience so He could be a "merciful and faithful high priest." After all, "we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).


Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. Most of us will never know the full degree of any given temptation because we usually succumb long before we reach it. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation.


Ours is not a cosmic God, powerful and holy, but indifferent. He knows when we hurt, where we are weak, and how we are tempted. Jesus is not just our Savior, but our loving Lord who sympathizes with us. Rejoice in the greatness of His love for us.


Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to remind you of your need of Him at all times, not just when times are tough.


For Future Study

Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13 for quick recall whenever you are faced with any trial.


PART III


The Parable of the Householder


“‘Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old’” (Matthew 13:51–52).


Jesus’ twelve disciples would eventually become His twelve apostles (Matthias replacing Judas, Acts 1:23). Through these men, and later Paul, our Lord entrusted the continued revelation of His Word and the extension of His church. Like “head[s] of a household,” which was analogous to being disciples in Christ’s kingdom, they drew from the old treasures of previous revelation and received additional, new truths. And these faithful men would proclaim both.


“Brings out” conveys the concept of scattering or distributing widely. Here it also connotes generosity—giving out God’s truth of the gospel wisely and liberally. Second only to their Lord, the apostles would be supreme scholars of Scripture, preachers, and teachers—scribes and disciples without equal (cf. Matt. 11:11) and superb evangelists.


With a slightly lesser degree of authority, the Lord’s charge to His apostles applies to every Christian (Matt. 28:16–20), and especially to those pastors, teachers, and missionaries He has called to spread His Word. It is a tremendous responsibility to warn the lost about hell and to offer them salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul stated it this way, “Knowing the fear [terror] of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). The believer’s heart is cold indeed that is not profoundly concerned about those all around who are without Christ and headed for hell. Pray that you would genuinely warm to the task of reaching the lost in your community and beyond with saving gospel treasure.


Ask Yourself

The end of a year and the dawn of a new is always a time of reflection and renewed hope. What have you gleaned from walking with Jesus through these past months and seasons? What are your priorities for the coming year? May the Lord bless you as you follow Him there.


PART IV


Reading for Today:


Notes:

Malachi 3:1 My messenger. It was a custom of the Near Eastern kings to send messengers before them to remove obstacles to their visit. Employing a wordplay on the name of Malachi, “the LORD’s messenger”, the Lord Himself announced He was sending one who would “prepare the way before Me.” This is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Is. 40:3) and the Elijah of 4:5 who comes before the Lord. The New Testament clearly identifies him as John the Baptist (Matt. 3:311:101417:12ff.; Mark 1:2Luke 1:177:2627John 1:23).


Malachi 4:2 Sun of Righteousness. While the wicked will be devoured by the heat of the Lord’s wrath, those who fear Him will feel His warmth with healing in His “rays” or “beams” (Is. 30:2660:13). The reference is to the Messiah; He is “the Lord our Righteousness” (Ps. 84:11Jer. 23:561 Cor. 1:30). healing. 


The reference should not be limited to the physical recovery from the harm done by the wicked (3:5).This sickness is inextricably linked with sin, with healing coming only through the suffering of the Servant (Ps. 103:3Is. 53:557:18191 Pet. 2:24).


Proverbs 31:10–31 This poem offers a beautiful description of the excellent wife as defined by a wife and mother (v. 1). Spiritual and practical wisdom plus moral virtues mark the character of this woman in contrast to the immoral women of v. 3. While the scene here is of a wealthy home and the customs of the ancient Near East, the principles apply to every family. They are set forth as the prayer of every mother for the future wife of her son, and literarily arranged with each of the 22 verses beginning with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in consecutive order.


Revelation 21:2 New Jerusalem. This is the capital city of heaven, a place of perfect holiness. It is seen “coming down out of heaven,” indicating it already existed; but it descends into the new heavens and new earth from its place on high. This is the city where the saints will live (John 14:1–3). bride. An important New Testament metaphor for the church (Matt. 25:1–13Eph. 5:25–27). John’s imagery here extends from the third part of the Jewish wedding, the ceremony. Believers (the bride) in the New Jerusalem come to meet Christ (the bridegroom) in the final ceremony of redemptive history (19:7). The whole city, occupied by all the saints, is called the bride, so that all saints must be finally included in the bride imagery and bridal blessing. God has brought home a bride for His beloved Son. All the saints live with Christ in the Father’s house (a promise made before the church began; John 14:2).


DAY 31: What is the Book of Malachi about?

Only 50,000 exiles had returned to Judah from Babylon (538–536 B.C.). The temple had been rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel (516 B.C.) and the sacrificial system renewed. Ezra had returned in 458 B.C., followed by Nehemiah in 445 B.C. After being back in the land of Palestine for only a century, the ritual of the Jews’ religious routine led to hard-heartedness toward God’s great love for them and to widespread departure from His law by both people and priest. Malachi rebuked and condemned these abuses, forcefully indicting the people and calling them to repentance. When Nehemiah returned from Persia the second time (ca. 424 B.C.), he vigorously rebuked them for these abuses in the temple and priesthood, for the violation of the Sabbath rest, and for the unlawful divorce of their Jewish wives so they could marry Gentile women (Neh. 13).


As over two millennia of Old Testament history since Abraham concluded, none of the glorious promises of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants had been fulfilled in their ultimate sense. Although there had been a few high points in Israel’s history, e.g., Joshua, David, and Josiah, the Jews had seemingly lost all opportunity to receive God’s favor. Less than 100 years after returning from captivity, they had already sunk to a depth of sin that exceeded the former iniquities which brought on the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations. Beyond this, the long-anticipated Messiah had not arrived and did not seem to be in sight.


So, Malachi wrote the capstone prophecy of the Old Testament in which he delivered God’s message of judgment on Israel for their continuing sin and God’s promise that one day in the future, when the Jews would repent, the Messiah would be revealed and God’s covenant promises would be fulfilled. There were over 400 years of divine silence, with only Malachi’s words ringing condemnation in their ears, before another prophet arrived with a message from God. That was John the Baptist preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). Messiah had come.


LORD BLESS HIS ELECT

My Royal Family


LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY


MAXIMILIANO




12/31/18


Sustaining the Universe


“[Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).


The eternal Christ sustains His creation.


When the universe began, Christ already existed. The apostle John spoke of Christ’s eternal existence this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3). 


Christ Himself testified of the same truth when He told the Jews, “Before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58). He was saying that He is Yahweh, the eternally existing God. The prophet Micah said of Him, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2). Revelation 22:13 describes Him as “the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Christ has preeminence over all creation because He “is before all things” (Col. 1:17). 


He already existed when the universe began because He is the eternal God.

Having created the universe, Christ sustains all He has created (v. 17). He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life’s existence. He is the power behind every consistency in the universe and the One who keeps all the entities in space in their motion. He is the energy behind the universe.


Christ, however, will not always sustain our present universe. One day in the future He will dissolve the heavens and earth. The apostle Peter describes that day, when “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Until that time, we can be thankful that Christ continues to sustain it.

How encouraging to know that the eternal God who sustains the entire universe is also watching over you. No detail of your life is too small for His concern; no circumstance is too big for His sovereign control.


Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for caring for the details of your life while He controls the universe.


For Further Study

According to Hebrews 1:3, what does God uphold? How?


PART II


Satan's Conqueror


"Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Heb. 2:14-15).


Christ came to break the power of Satan which He did by conquering death.


To be free to live with God and share in all His blessings, someone had to shatter Satan's death grip on us. Sin is what gives Satan his powerful hold on us, but the power itself is death.


Satan knew that God required death for us because of sin. He knew that all died in Adam—that death became a certain fact of life. And he knew that men, if they remained as they were, would die and go out of God's presence into hell forever. So he wants to hang onto men until they die because once they are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever.


To wrest the power of death from Satan's hand, God sent Christ into the world. If you have a greater weapon than your enemy, then his weapon is useless. You can't fight a machine gun with a bow and arrow. Satan's weapon is death, but eternal life is God's weapon, and with it Jesus destroyed death.


How was He able to do it? He rose again, proving He had conquered death. That's why He said, "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19). His resurrection provides the believer with eternal life.

Nothing terrifies people more than the fear of death. But when we receive Christ, death in reality holds no more fear for us since it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord. We can say with Paul, "To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). Rejoice that you have placed your hand into the hand of the conqueror of death, who will lead you through death and out the other side.


Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to give you a greater realization that He has conquered death to help you live life more fully to His glory.


For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. How are we to live our lives based on what we know about death?


PART III


Perils of the Dragnet, Part 2


“‘. . . and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 13:50).


Continuing from yesterday, we can learn several more biblical truths about hell, the dragnet’s ultimate peril. For example, the lost will suffer hell’s torments in varying degrees. Those who willfully reject Jesus Christ and blatantly scorn His sacrifice will receive far greater punishment than people who had only the light of the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews writes, “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28–29; cf. Matt. 11:22–23).


Concerning the slaves who waited for their master’s return, Christ’s parable states that “that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few” (Luke 12:47–48).


Finally, nothing will be as horrible about hell’s torment as its endlessness. The Lord uses “eternal” to describe both heaven’s and hell’s duration: “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Sadly, people who experience hell will realize a complete absence of hope for all eternity. But rejoice if you are a believer—you have a hope of heaven that will be validated for all eternity.


Ask Yourself

The sensitive person asks, “How can a loving God doom a person to hell?” What is your answer to this common question and complaint? How is justice involved? Why would some be spared? Know how to respond to this type of opinion ahead of time.


PART IV


Reading for Today:

Notes:

Zechariah 13:7 My Shepherd,…the Man who is My Companion. God spoke of the True Shepherd, that mighty Man who is His intimate associate; thus He identified Christ as His coequal, affirming the deity of Christ (John 1:110:3014:9). 


Strike the Shepherd. In 11:17, it was the worthless shepherd who was to be struck; now it is the Good Shepherd (12:10) whose death was designed by God from before the foundation of the world (Is. 53:10Acts 2:231 Pet. 1:18–20). 


sheep…scattered. Jesus applies this prophecy to the disciples who defected from Him after His arrest (Matt. 26:56Mark 14:50), including Peter’s denial (Matt. 26:33–3569–75). the little ones. The same as the “poor of the flock” (11:7). The reference is to the remnant of believers, among the Jews, who were faithful to the Messiah after His crucifixion. Turning God’s hand “against” them could mean they would suffer persecution, which they did (John 15:182016:2James 1:1), or it could be translated “upon” and refer to God’s protection of the faithful.

Zechariah 14:3, 4 His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. To prevent the eradication of His remnant, the Lord will personally intervene to fight against the gathered nations. Just as He fought for His people in the past, so He will do in the future as the ultimate Warrior-King. Jesus will literally return to the Mount of Olives, located east of the Kidron Valley, just as the angels announced at His Ascension (Acts 1:11).When He does, there will be a tremendous topographical upheaval (perhaps an earthquake), a phenomenon not uncommon when God announces His coming in judgment (Mic.1:2–4Nah.1:5Rev.16:18–21).


The reaction of people is given in Revelation 6:15–17.

Revelation 20:5 first resurrection. Scripture teaches 2 kinds of resurrections: the “resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29Dan.12:2Acts 24:15).The first kind of resurrection is described as “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14), the resurrection of “those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23), and the “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35). 


It includes only the redeemed of the church age (1 Thess. 4:13–18), the Old Testament (Dan. 12:2), and the Tribulation (v. 4).They will enter the kingdom in resurrection bodies, along with believers who survived the Tribulation. The second kind of resurrection, then, will be the resurrection of the unconverted who will receive their final bodies suited for torment in hell.


Revelation 20:12 standing before God. In a judicial sense, as guilty, condemned prisoners before the bar of divine justice. There are no living sinners left in the destroyed universe since all sinners were killed and all believers glorified. books. These books record every thought, word, and deed of sinful men—all recorded by divine omniscience. They will provide the evidence for eternal condemnation. Book of Life. It contains the names of all the redeemed (Dan. 12:1). judged according to their works. Their thoughts (Luke 8:17Rom. 2:16), words (Matt. 12:37), and actions (Matt. 16:27) will be compared to God’s perfect, holy standard (Matt. 5:481 Pet. 1:1516) and will be found wanting (Rom. 3:23). This also implies that there are degrees of punishment in hell (Matt. 10:141511:22Mark 12:38–40Luke 12:4748Heb. 10:29).


DAY 30: What is the Millennium?

In Revelation 20:2, Satan is bound for “a thousand years.” This is the first of 6 references to the length of the millennial kingdom (vv. 3,4,5,6,7). There are 3 main views of the duration and nature of this period:

1) Premillennialism sees this as a literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus Christ, in fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies (e.g., 2 Sam.7:12–16; Ps.2; Is. 11:6–1224:23Hos. 3:45Joel 3:9–21Amos 9:8–15Mic. 4:1–8Zeph. 3:14–20Zech. 14:1–11Matt. 24:29–3136–44), reigns on the earth. Using the same general principles of interpretation for both prophetic and nonprophetic passages leads most naturally to Premillennialism. Another strong argument supporting this view is that so many biblical prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, suggesting that future prophecies will likewise be fulfilled literally.

2) Postmillennialism understands the reference to a 1,000-year period as only symbolic of a golden age of righteousness and spiritual prosperity. It will be ushered in by the spread of the gospel during the present church age and brought to completion when Christ returns. According to this view, references to Christ’s reign on earth primarily describe His spiritual reign in the hearts of believers in the church.

3) Amillennialism understands the 1,000 years to be merely symbolic of a long period of time. This view interprets Old Testament prophecies of a Millennium as being fulfilled spiritually now in the church (either on earth or in heaven) or as references to the eternal state. Using the same literal, historical, grammatical principles of interpretation so as to determine the normal sense of language, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that Christ will return and reign in a real kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. There is nothing in the text to render the conclusion that “a thousand years” is symbolic.


LORD BLESS HIS ELECT

My Royal Family


LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY


MAXIMILIANO



12/30/18


Christ Is the Creator


“In [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).


Christ created everyone and everything.


The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, could hold 1.3 million planets the size of Earth inside it. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions, of galaxies.

Who created this awesome universe? According to the false teachers at Colosse, it was not Christ. They viewed Him as the first and most important of the emanations from God; they were convinced it had to be a lesser being who eventually created the material universe. Believing matter to be evil, they argued that neither the good God nor a good emanation would have created the universe.


But the apostle Paul rejected that blasphemy, insisting that Christ made all things, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible. When he mentions thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities (v. 16), he is referring to the various ranks of angels. Far from being an angel, as the false teachers taught, Christ created the angels (cf. Eph. 1:21). Jesus’ relation to the unseen world, like His relation to the visible world, proves He is God, the Creator of the universe.


Man is certainly interested in knowing about the universe that Christ created. That is evident, for example, by his exploration of space. Manned space capsules photographing the earth rising over the lunar horizon and satellites beaming pictures to us of planets at the outer edges of our solar system leave us in awe and wonder. Even more amazing is, not that man has gone into space, but that God came to Earth. In Christ, the invisible God who created everything and everyone became visible to man. How sad that while man looks into space, He refuses to look at the One who came to Earth.


Suggestions for Prayer

Worship Christ for His awesome work of creation.


For Further Study

Read Psalm 19:1-6. What testimony does this passage give of the Creator?


PART II


He Who Sanctifies


"Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, 'I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.' And again, 'I will put My trust in Him.' And again, 'Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me'" (Heb. 2:11-13).


Our holy Christ has made us holy; thus He can now call us His brothers.


From our own perspective and experience, it is difficult to think of ourselves as holy. Sin simply is too much a part of us in this fallen world. In thought and practice we are far from holy, but in Christ we are perfectly holy.

We may not always act holy, but because of our faith in Christ we are perfectly holy in God's sight. Just as a child may not always act like his father, he is nonetheless still his son. We are holy in the sense that before God, the righteousness of Christ has been applied and imputed on our behalf through faith. We were made holy through His sacrifice and have become "those who are sanctified."

"By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). We are as pure as God is pure, righteous as Christ is righteous, and therefore entitled to be called His brothers because we now share in His righteousness.

The Sanctifier and sanctified now have "one Father," and the Sanctifier "is not ashamed" to call the sanctified His brothers. What an overwhelming truth!

The practical experience of a Christian's life in this world includes sin, but the positional reality of his or her new nature is holiness. "In Him [we] have been made complete" (Col. 2:10). Yet practically we have a long way to go. So the overriding purpose of our lives is to become in practice what we are in position. Now that we are Christ's brothers and God's children, let that be all the motivation we need to live like it.


Suggestion for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His sanctifying work on the cross, which enables you to be holy.

For Further Study


Read Romans 1:16. Based on what God has done for you through Christ, can you wholeheartedly echo Paul's statement?


PART III


Perils of the Dragnet, Part 1


“‘. . . and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 13:50).


The doctrine of hell is undoubtedly the most difficult one for Christians to accept emotionally. Yet Scripture mentions it too often for us to deny or ignore it. Jesus gives several warnings of it in the Sermon on the Mount. “It is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29; cf. 5:22; see also Matt. 11:2323:33Mark 3:29Luke 12:9–10John 15:6).


God’s Word teaches us some basic truths about hell—what this parable calls “the furnace of fire”—that aid us in partially grasping its terror. First, it is a place of constant torment and pain. Jesus called its torment darkness (Matt. 22:13), which means no light penetrates and nothing is visible. Our Lord also called the torment a fire that never goes out (Mark 9:43), from which the damned find no relief.


Second, hell includes the torment of both body and soul. Contrary to some teachings, neither is annihilated at death and never will be. Just as believers’ souls will receive resurrected bodies to enjoy heaven forever, unbelievers’ souls will receive resurrected bodies to experience hell forever (cf. Matt. 10:28John 5:29Acts 24:15). Jesus further called hell a place “where their worm does not die” (Mark 9:44). Once the bodies of deceased believers are consumed by worms, no more harm can be done to them. But the resurrected bodies of unbelievers will never be consumed. Such sobering reminders ought to prompt us to pray for the lost with greater urgency.


Ask Yourself

We do try to avoid thinking of things so gruesome and unending. Even though we don’t treat it as a myth or analogy, we still bristle at the thought of it. But how does a proper understanding of the truth of hell benefit you in your own worship and in your interactions with others?


PART IV


Reading for Today:

Notes:

Zechariah 12:10 I will pour. God, in His own perfect time and by His own power, will sovereignly act to save Israel. This was prophesied by other prophets (Ezek. 39:29Joel 2:28–32) and by the apostle Paul (Rom. 11:25–27). Spirit of grace and supplication. The Holy Spirit is so identified because He brings saving grace and because that grace produces sorrow that will result in repentant prayer to God for forgiveness (Matt. 5:4Heb. 10:29). look on Me whom they pierced. Israel’s repentance will come because they look to Jesus, the One whom they rejected and crucified (Is. 53:5John 19:37), in faith at the Second Advent (Rom. 11:25–27). When God says they pierced “Me,” He is certainly affirming the incarnation of Deity—Jesus was God.

Revelation 19:11 heaven opened. The One who ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9–11) and had been seated at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 8:110:121 Pet. 3:22) will return to take back the earth from the usurper and establish His kingdom (5:1–10).The nature of this event shows how it differs from the Rapture. At the Rapture, Christ meets His own in the air—in this event, He comes with them to earth. At the Rapture, there is no judgment—in this event, it is all judgment. This event is preceded by blackness—the darkened sun, moon gone out, stars fallen, smoke—then lightning and blinding glory as Jesus comes. Such details are not included in Rapture passages (John 14:1–31 Thess. 4:13–18). white horse. In the Roman triumphal processions, the victorious general rode his white war horse up the Via Sacra to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. Jesus’ First Coming was in humiliation on a colt (Zech. 9:9). John’s vision portrays Him as the conqueror on His warhorse, coming to destroy the wicked, to overthrow the Antichrist, to defeat Satan, and to take control of the earth (2 Cor. 2:14). Faithful and True. True to His word, Jesus will return to earth (Matt. 24:27–31). makes war. This startling statement, appearing only here and 2:16, vividly portrays the holy wrath of God against sinners (Ps. 7:11). God’s patience will be exhausted with sinful, rebellious mankind.

Revelation 19:20 beast was captured, and…the false prophet. In an instant, the world’s armies are without their leaders. The beast is Antichrist (13:1–4); the false prophet is his religious cohort (13:11–17). cast alive. The bodies of the beast and the false prophet will be transformed, and they will be banished directly to the lake of fire (Dan. 7:11)—the first of countless millions of unregenerate men (20:15) and fallen angels (Matt. 25:41) to arrive in that dreadful place. That these two still appear there 1,000 years later (20:10) refutes the false doctrine of annihilationism. lake of fire. The final hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, angelic or human (20:10, 15).


DAY 29: What is the “marriage of the Lamb” in Revelation 19:7–9 about?

Hebrew weddings consisted of 3 phases: 1) betrothal (often when the couple were children); 2) presentation (the festivities, often lasting several days, that preceded the ceremony); and 3) the ceremony (the exchanging of vows). The church was betrothed to Christ by His sovereign choice in eternity past (Eph. 1:4Heb. 13:20) and will be presented to Him at the Rapture (John 14:1–31 Thess. 4:13–18).The final supper will signify the end of the ceremony. This symbolic meal will take place at the establishment of the millennial kingdom and last throughout that 1,000-year period (21:2). While the term “bride” often refers to the church, and does so here (2 Cor. 11:2Eph. 5:22–24), it ultimately expands to include all the redeemed of all ages.

“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen,…the righteous acts of the saints” (v. 8). Not Christ’s imputed righteousness granted to believers at salvation, but the practical results of that righteousness in believers’ lives, i.e., the outward manifestation of inward virtue.

“‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (v. 9). This is not the bride (the church) but the guests. The bride doesn’t get invited; she invites. These are those saved before Pentecost, all the faithful believers saved by grace through faith up to the birth of the church (Acts 2:1ff.).Though they are not the bride, they still are glorified and reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom. It is really differing imagery rather than differing reality. The guests also will include tribulation saints and believers alive in earthly bodies in the kingdom. The church is the bride, pure and faithful—never a harlot, like Israel was (see Hos. 2). So the church is the bride during the presentation feast in heaven, then comes to earth for the celebration of the final meal (the Millennium). After that event, the new order comes and the marriage is consummated (21:1, 2).


LORD BLESS HIS ELECT

My Royal Family


LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY


MAXIMILIANO


12/29/18

“Got Forgiveness? How do I receive forgiveness from God?"


Acts 13:38 declares, "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you."


What is forgiveness and why do I need it?


The word "forgive" means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek their forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what they have done to you.


The Bible tells us that we are all in need of forgiveness from God. We have all committed sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 proclaims, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." 1 John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." All sin is ultimately an act of rebellion against God (Psalm 51:4). As a result, we desperately need God's forgiveness. If our sins are not forgiven, we will spend eternity suffering the consequences of our sins (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).


Forgiveness - How do I get it?


Thankfully, God is loving and merciful " eager to forgive us of our sins! 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, ""He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God desires to forgive us, so He provided for our forgiveness.


The only just penalty for our sins is death. The first half of Romans 6:23 declares, "For the wages of sin is death"" Eternal death is what we have earned for our sins. God, in His perfect plan, became a human being " Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14). Jesus died on the cross, taking the penalty that we deserve " death. 2 Corinthians 5:21 teaches us, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve! As God, Jesus' death provided forgiveness for the sins of the entire world. 1 John 2:2 proclaims, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." Jesus rose from the dead, proclaiming His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:1-28). Praise God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the second half of Romans 6:23 is true, ""but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."


Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you have a nagging feeling of guilt that you can't seem to get to go away? Forgiveness of your sins is available if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Jesus paid our debt for us, so we could be forgiven. All you have to do is ask God to forgive you through Jesus, believing that Jesus died to pay for your forgiveness " and He will forgive you! John 3:16-17 contains this wonderful message, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."


Forgiveness - is it really that easy?


Yes it is that easy! You can’t earn forgiveness from God. You can’t pay for your forgiveness from God. You can only receive it, by faith, through the grace and mercy of God. If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive forgiveness from God, here is a prayer you can pray. Saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Jesus Christ that can provide forgiveness of sins. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and to thank Him for providing for your forgiveness. "God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness! Amen!"


Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have read here? If so, please click on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.


PART II 

“What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus?"


All people are accountable to God whether or not they have "heard about Him." The Bible tells us that God has clearly revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1:20) and in the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem is that the human race is sinful; we all reject this knowledge of God and rebel against Him (Romans 1:21-23). If it were not for God's grace, we would be given over to the sinful desires of our hearts, allowing us to discover how useless and miserable life is apart from Him. He does this for those who continually reject Him (Romans 1:24-32).


In reality, it is not that some people have not heard about God. Rather, the problem is that they have rejected what they have heard and what is readily seen in nature. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." This verse teaches an important principle"everyone who truly seeks after God will find Him. If a person truly desires to know God, God will make Himself known.


The problem is "there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God" (Romans 3:11). People reject the knowledge of God that is present in nature and in their own hearts, and instead decide to worship a "god" of their own creation. It is foolish to debate the fairness of God sending someone to hell who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ. People are responsible to God for what God has already revealed to them. The Bible says that people reject this knowledge, and therefore God is just in condemning them to hell.


Instead of debating the fate of those who have never heard, we, as Christians, should be doing our best to make sure they do hear. We are called to spread the gospel throughout the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We know people reject the knowledge of God revealed in nature, and that must motivate us to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Only by accepting God's grace through the Lord Jesus Christ can people be saved from their sins and rescued from an eternity apart from God.


If we assume that those who never hear the gospel are granted mercy from God, we will run into a terrible problem. If people who never hear the gospel are saved, it is logical that we should make sure no one ever hears the gospel. The worst thing we could do would be to share the gospel with a person and have him or her reject it. If that were to happen, he or she would be condemned. People who do not hear the gospel must be condemned, or else there is no motivation for evangelism. Why run the risk of people possibly rejecting the gospel and condemning themselves when they were previously saved because they had never heard the gospel?


PART III 

“How can I have assurance of my salvation?"


Many followers of Jesus Christ look for the assurance of salvation in the wrong places. We tend to seek assurance of salvation in the things God is doing in our lives, in our spiritual growth, in the good works and obedience to God’s Word that is evident in our Christian walk. While these things can be evidence of salvation, they are not what we should base the assurance of our salvation. Rather, we should find the assurance of our salvation in the objective truth of God’s Word. We should have confident trust that we are saved based on the promises God has declared, not because of our subjective experiences.


How can you have assurance of salvation? Consider 1 John 5:11–13: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Who is it that has the Son? It is those who have believed in Him (John 1:12). If you have Jesus, you have life. Not temporary life, but eternal.


God wants us to have assurance of our salvation. We should not live our Christian lives wondering and worrying each day whether or not we are truly saved. That is why the Bible makes the plan of salvation so clear. Believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Have you repented? Do you believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins and rose again from the dead (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)? Do you trust Him alone for salvation? If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you are saved! Assurance means freedom from doubt. By taking God’s Word to heart, you can have no doubt about the reality of your eternal salvation.


Jesus Himself assures those who believe in Him: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29). Eternal life is just that—eternal. There is no one, not even yourself, who can take Christ’s God-given gift of salvation away from you.


Take joy in what God’s Word is saying to you: instead of doubting, we can live with confidence! We can have the assurance from Christ’s own Word that our salvation will never be in question. Our assurance of salvation is based on the perfect and complete salvation God has provided for us through Jesus Christ.


GOD BLESSED YOU

MAXIMILIANO 


12/28/18

“Is eternal security biblical?"

When people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their eternal security. Jude 24 declares, "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy." God's power is able to keep the believer from falling. It is up to Him, not us, to present us before His glorious presence. Our eternal security is a result of God keeping us, not us maintaining our own salvation.


The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29b). Both Jesus and the Father have us firmly grasped in their hand. Who could possibly separate us from the grip of both the Father and the Son?


Ephesians 4:30 tells us that believers are "sealed for the day of redemption." If believers did not have eternal security, the sealing could not truly be unto the day of redemption, but only to the day of sinning, apostasy, or disbelief. John 3:15-16 tells us that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If a person were to be promised eternal life, but then have it taken away, it was never "eternal" to begin with. If eternal security is not true, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error.


The most powerful argument for eternal security is Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our eternal security is based on God's love for those whom He has redeemed. Our eternal security is purchased by Christ, promised by the Father, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.


PART II 

“Is eternal security a 'license' to sin?"

The most frequent objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it supposedly allows people to live any way that they want and still be saved. While this may be "technically" true, it is not true in reality. A person who has truly been redeemed by Jesus Christ will not live a life characterized by continuous, willful sin. We must draw a distinction between how a Christian should live and what a person must do in order to receive salvation.


The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6). The moment a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, he or she is saved and secure in that salvation. It is unbiblical to say that salvation is received by faith, but then has to be maintained by works. The apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 3:3 when he asks, "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" If we are saved by faith, our salvation is also maintained and secured by faith. We cannot earn our own salvation. Therefore, neither can we earn the maintenance of our salvation. It is God who maintains our salvation (Jude 24). It is God's hand that holds us firmly in His grasp (John 10:28-29). It is God's love that nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39).


Any denial of eternal security is, in its essence, a belief that we must maintain our own salvation by our own good works and efforts. This is completely antithetical to salvation by grace. We are saved because of Christ's merits, not our own (Romans 4:3-8). To claim that we must obey God's Word or live a godly life to maintain our salvation is saying that Jesus' death was not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus' death was absolutely sufficient to pay for all of our sins"past, present, and future, pre-salvation and post-salvation (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21).


Does this mean that a Christian can live any way he wants to and still be saved? This is essentially a hypothetical question, because the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will not live "any way he wants to." Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). First John 3:6-9 clearly states that a true Christian will not live in continual sin. In response to the accusation that grace promotes sin, the apostle Paul declared, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).


Eternal security is not a license to sin. Rather, it is the security of knowing that God's love is guaranteed for those who trust in Christ. Knowing and understanding God's tremendous gift of salvation accomplishes the opposite of giving a license to sin. How could anyone, knowing the price Jesus Christ paid for us, go on to live a life of sin (Romans 6:15-23)? How could anyone who understands God's unconditional and guaranteed love for those who believe, take that love and throw it back in God's face? Such a person is demonstrating not that eternal security has given him a license to sin, but rather that he or she has not truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:6).


PART III 

“Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"

This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical Christianity and most of the "Christian" cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?


The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).


Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works.


PART IV

“What does it mean that today is the day of salvation?"

God has told the sinful world, in no uncertain terms, to repent (Mark 6:12; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 17:30). To repent means to change your mind from embrace of sin and rejection of Christ to rejection of sin and embrace of Christ. Those who refuse to repent and turn to Christ in faith will suffer eternal consequences. Given the fact of hell, mankind in his sin is in a dire situation. Why would anyone delay repentance? Yet many do, even while admitting their sin and claiming to see their need for salvation.


There are several reasons not to delay repentance. First, the Bible’s command to repent is accompanied by an urgent appeal to do it now: Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8, which speaks of “the day of salvation.” Then he says not to delay: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Repentance should take place as soon as God the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins (see John 16:8). In other words, today is the day of repentance. “Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7–8).


Another problem with delaying repentance is that no one knows the day he will die. And after death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The rich fool in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:16–20) thought he had plenty of time to enjoy life, but God had news for him: “This very night your life will be demanded from you” (verse 20). We have today—we have the present moment—and we should use it wisely.


Another reason to not delay repentance is that, every time we refuse to repent, we continue to sin and our hearts get harder (see Hebrews 3:7–8). Every time a person says “no” to what’s right, it becomes a little easier to say “no” the next time, too. There’s a gradual hardening of the heart, a searing of the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), that can numb an unsaved person to the point of being past feeling. This is a dangerous spiritual condition to be in.


Also, the harder a person’s heart becomes, the more “force” God will have to apply to bring him to repentance. This is illustrated in the increasingly severe plagues in Egypt. As Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, the plagues continued and worsened until culminating in a loss of life in every Egyptian household (Exodus 7–11). “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).


Tragically, there is a point of no return. God may eventually stop trying to bring the chronically rebellious to repentance and give them over to their own ways (Romans 1:28). We never know when this point of no return is, so the better part of wisdom is timely repentance.


By delaying repentance, we are delaying certain blessings from God. At least three verses bring this to light: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). “Your wrongdoings have kept these [showers of blessing] away; your sins have deprived you of good” (Jeremiah 5:25). So, in delaying repentance, we miss out on God’s refreshment, we may not prosper (in God’s eyes), and we may be deprived of God’s goodness.


It is true that God is gracious to us and that a person may be able to repent up until the day he dies. But we should not live presumptuously. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Commentator Charles John Ellicott put it rightly: “For each church and nation, for each individual soul, there is a golden present which may never again recur” (Commentary for English Readers, entry for 2 Corinthians 6:2).


James 4:17 says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Once we know what is right, we are responsible to do it. And once we know something is sin, we are responsible to repent of it and forsake it. We dare not delay repentance. There was a time when the Lord shut the door of the ark, and the flood swept everyone outside the ark away (Genesis 7:16). There came a time when the wedding party began, and those who were not ready for the coming of the bridegroom were locked out (Matthew 25:1–13).


GOD BLESSED YOU!

MAXIMILIANO 


12/27/18

“What is the gospel?"

The word gospel literally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the Bible, exclusively in the New Testament. In Greek, it is the word euaggelion, from which we get our English words evangelist, evangel, and evangelical. The gospel is, broadly speaking, the whole of Scripture; more narrowly, the gospel is the good news concerning Christ and the way of salvation.


The key to understanding the gospel is to know why it’s good news. To do that, we must start with the bad news. The Old Testament Law was given to Israel during the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1). The Law can be thought of as a measuring stick, and sin is anything that falls short of “perfect” according to that standard. The righteous requirement of the Law is so stringent that no human being could possibly follow it perfectly, in letter or in spirit. Despite our “goodness” or “badness” relative to each other, we are all in the same spiritual boat—we have sinned, and the punishment for sin is death, i.e. separation from God, the source of life (Romans 3:23). In order for us to go to heaven, God’s dwelling place and the realm of life and light, sin must be somehow removed or paid for. The Law established the fact that cleansing from sin can only happen through the bloody sacrifice of an innocent life (Hebrews 9:22).


The gospel involves Jesus’ death on the cross as the sin offering to fulfill the Law’s righteous requirement (Romans 8:3–4; Hebrews 10:5–10). Under the Law, animal sacrifices were offered year after year as a reminder of sin and a symbol of the coming sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:3–4). When Christ offered Himself at Calvary, that symbol became a reality for all who would believe (Hebrews 10:11–18). The work of atonement is finished now, and that’s good news.


The gospel also involves Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The fact that Jesus conquered sin and death (sin’s penalty) is good news, indeed. The fact that He offers to share that victory with us is the greatest news of all (John 14:19).


The elements of the gospel are clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3–6, a key passage concerning the good news of God: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Notice, first, that Paul “received” the gospel and then “passed it on”; this is a divine message, not a man-made invention. Second, the gospel is “of first importance.” Everywhere the apostles went, they preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Third, the message of the gospel is accompanied by proofs: Christ died for our sins (proved by His burial), and He rose again the third day (proved by the eyewitnesses). Fourth, all this was done “according to the Scriptures”; the theme of the whole Bible is the salvation of mankind through Christ. The Bible is the gospel.


“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is a bold message, and we are not ashamed of proclaiming it. It is a powerful message, because it is God’s good news. It is a saving message, the only thing that can truly reform the human heart. It is a universal message, for Jews and Gentiles both. And the gospel is received by faith; salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9).


The gospel is the good news that God loves the world enough to give His only Son to die for our sin (John 3:16). The gospel is good news because our salvation and eternal life and home in heaven are guaranteed through Christ (John 14:1–4). “He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4).


The gospel is good news when we understand that we do not (and cannot) earn our salvation; the work of redemption and justification is complete, having been finished on the cross (John 19:30). Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). The gospel is the good news that we, who were once enemies of God, have been reconciled by the blood of Christ and adopted into the family of God (Romans 5:10; John 1:12). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). The gospel is the good news that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).


To reject the gospel is to embrace the bad news. Condemnation before God is the result of a lack of faith in the Son of God, God’s only provision for salvation. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17–18). God has given a doomed world good news: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!


PART II 

“Can a Christian lose salvation?"

First, the term Christian must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer or walked down an aisle or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who has fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and therefore possesses the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9).


So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a crucially important question. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation and to study what losing salvation would entail:


A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not simply an “improved” version of a person; a Christian is an entirely new creature. He is “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be destroyed.


A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). The word redeemed refers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. We were purchased at the cost of Christ’s death. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase of the individual for whom He paid with the precious blood of Christ.


A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To justify is to declare righteous. All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and “un-declare” what He had previously declared. Those absolved of guilt would have to be tried again and found guilty. God would have to reverse the sentence handed down from the divine bench.


A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is the promise of spending forever in heaven with God. God promises, “Believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be redefined. The Christian is promised to live forever. Does eternal not mean “eternal”?


A Christian is marked by God and sealed by the Spirit. “You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14). At the moment of faith, the new Christian is marked and sealed with the Spirit, who was promised to act as a deposit to guarantee the heavenly inheritance. The end result is that God’s glory is praised. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to erase the mark, withdraw the Spirit, cancel the deposit, break His promise, revoke the guarantee, keep the inheritance, forego the praise, and lessen His glory.


A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). According to Romans 5:1, justification is ours at the moment of faith. According to Romans 8:30, glorification comes with justification. All those whom God justifies are promised to be glorified. This promise will be fulfilled when Christians receive their perfect resurrection bodies in heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, then Romans 8:30 is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.


A Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Christ would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation is the gift of God, and God’s gifts are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). A Christian cannot be un-newly created. The redeemed cannot be unpurchased. Eternal life cannot be temporary. God cannot renege on His Word. Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).


Two common objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation concern these experiential issues: 1) What about Christians who live in a sinful, unrepentant lifestyle? 2) What about Christians who reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these objections is the assumption that everyone who calls himself a “Christian” has actually been born again. The Bible declares that a true Christian will not live a state of continual, unrepentant sin (1 John 3:6). The Bible also says that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he was never truly a Christian (1 John 2:19). He may have been religious, he may have put on a good show, but he was never born again by the power of God. “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). The redeemed of God belong “to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).


Nothing can separate a child of God from the Father’s love (Romans 8:38–39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28–29). God guarantees eternal life and maintains the salvation He has given us. The Good Shepherd searches for the lost sheep, and, “when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:5–6). The lamb is found, and the Shepherd gladly bears the burden; our Lord takes full responsibility for bringing the lost one safely home.


Jude 24–25 further emphasizes the goodness and faithfulness of our Savior: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”


PART III 

“Is once saved, always saved biblical?"

Once a person is saved are they always saved? Yes, when people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their salvation as eternally secure. To be clear, salvation is more than saying a prayer or “making a decision” for Christ; salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner is washed, renewed, and born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). When salvation occurs, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). The Spirit will cause the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27; James 2:26). Numerous passages of Scripture declare the fact that, as an act of God, salvation is secure:


(a) Romans 8:30 declares, "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified." This verse tells us that from the moment God chooses us, it is as if we are glorified in His presence in heaven. There is nothing that can prevent a believer from one day being glorified because God has already purposed it in heaven. Once a person is justified, his salvation is guaranteed—he is as secure as if he is already glorified in heaven.


(b) Paul asks two crucial questions in Romans 8:33-34 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Who will bring a charge against God's elect? No one will, because Christ is our advocate. Who will condemn us? No one will, because Christ, the One who died for us, is the one who condemns. We have both the advocate and judge as our Savior.


(c) Believers are born again (regenerated) when they believe (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). For a Christian to lose his salvation, he would have to be un-regenerated. The Bible gives no evidence that the new birth can be taken away.


(d) The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 14:17; Romans 8:9) and baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). For a believer to become unsaved, he would have to be "un-indwelt" and detached from the Body of Christ.


(e) John 3:15 states that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will "have eternal life." If you believe in Christ today and have eternal life, but lose it tomorrow, then it was never "eternal" at all. Hence, if you lose your salvation, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error.


(f) In a conclusive argument, Scripture says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38–39). Remember the same God who saved you is the same God who will keep you. Once we are saved, we are always saved. Our salvation is most definitely eternally secure!


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 


12/26/18

“What is the plan of salvation?"

Salvation is deliverance. All the world religions teach that we need to be delivered, but each has a different understanding of what we need to be delivered from, why we need to be delivered, and how that deliverance can be received or achieved. The Bible makes it abundantly clear, however, that there is only one plan of salvation.


The most important thing to understand about the plan of salvation is that it is God’s plan, not humanity’s plan. Humanity’s plan of salvation would be observing religious rituals or obeying certain commands or achieving certain levels of spiritual enlightenment. But none of these things are part of God’s plan of salvation.


God’s plan of salvation – The Why

In God’s plan of salvation, first we must understand why we need to be saved. Simply put, we need to be saved because we have sinned. The Bible declares that everyone has sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Sin is rebellion against God. We all choose to actively do things that are wrong. Sin harms others, damages us, and, most importantly, dishonors God. The Bible also teaches that, because God is holy and just, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23) and eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:11–15). Without God’s plan of salvation, eternal death is the destiny of every human being.


God’s plan of salvation – The What

In God’s plan of salvation, God Himself is the only one who can provide for our salvation. We are utterly unable to save ourselves because of our sin and its consequences. God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14). Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5) and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15:3; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 10:10). Since Jesus is God, His death was of infinite and eternal value. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross fully paid for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). His resurrection from the dead demonstrated that His sacrifice was indeed sufficient and that salvation is now available.


God’s plan of salvation – The How

In Acts 16:31, a man asked the apostle Paul how to be saved. Paul’s response was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The way to follow God’s plan of salvation is to believe. That is the only requirement (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). God has provided for our salvation through Jesus Christ. All we must do is receive it, by faith, fully trusting in Jesus alone as Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). That is God’s plan of salvation.


God’s plan of salvation – Will you receive it?

If you are ready to follow God’s plan of salvation, place your faith in Jesus as your Savior. Change your mind from embracing sin and rejecting God to rejecting sin and embracing God through Jesus Christ. Fully trust in the sacrifice of Jesus as the perfect and complete payment for your sins. If you do this, God’s Word promises that you will be saved, your sins will be forgiven, and you will spend eternity in heaven. There is no more important decision. Place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior today!


PART II 

“What are the steps to salvation?"

Many people are looking for “steps to salvation.” People like the idea of an instruction manual with five steps that, if followed, will result in salvation. An example of this is Islam with its Five Pillars. According to Islam, if the Five Pillars are obeyed, salvation will be granted. Because the idea of a step-by-step process to salvation is appealing, many in the Christian community make the mistake of presenting salvation as a result of a step-by-step process. Roman Catholicism has seven sacraments. Various Christian denominations add baptism, public confession, turning from sin, speaking in tongues, etc., as steps to salvation. But the Bible only presents one step to salvation. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).


Faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior is the only “step” to salvation. The message of the Bible is abundantly clear. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23). Because of His love for us (John 3:16), God took on human form and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven to all who receive, by grace through faith, Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31).


Salvation is not about certain steps we must follow to earn salvation. Yes, Christians should be baptized. Yes, Christians should publicly confess Christ as Savior. Yes, Christians should turn from sin. Yes, Christians should commit their lives to obeying God. However, these are not steps to salvation. They are results of salvation. Because of our sin, we cannot in any sense earn salvation. We could follow 1000 steps, and it would not be enough. That is why Jesus had to die in our place. We are absolutely incapable of paying our sin debt to God or cleansing ourselves from sin. Only God could accomplish our salvation, and so He did. God Himself completed the “steps” and thereby offers salvation to anyone who will receive it from Him.


Salvation and forgiveness of sins is not about following steps. It is about receiving Christ as Savior and recognizing that He has done all of the work for us. God requires one step of us—receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin and fully trusting in Him alone as the way of salvation. That is what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other world religions, each of which has a list of steps that must be followed in order for salvation to be received. The Christian faith recognizes that God has already completed the steps and simply calls on the repentant to receive Him in faith.


Have you received Christ as your Savior because of what you have read here today? If so, please let us know by clicking on the "I have accepted Christ today" button below.


PART III 

“What is the true gospel?"

The true gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. Man is by nature sinful and separated from God with no hope of remedying that situation. But God, by His power, provided the means of man’s redemption in the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. 


The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” But to truly comprehend how good this news is, we must first understand the bad news. As a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6), every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. Because of man’s sinful nature, he does not and cannot seek God. He has no desire to come to God and, in fact, his mind is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7). God has declared that man’s sin dooms him to an eternity in hell, separated from God. It is in hell that man pays the penalty of sin against a holy and righteous God. This would be bad news indeed if there were no remedy. 


But in the gospel, God, in His mercy, has provided that remedy, a substitute for us—Jesus Christ—who came to pay the penalty for our sin by His sacrifice on the cross. This is the essence of the gospel which Paul preached to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:2-4, he explains the three elements of the gospel—the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. Our old nature died with Christ on the cross and was buried with Him. Then we were resurrected with Him to a new life (Romans 6:4-8). Paul tells us to “hold firmly” to this true gospel, the only one which saves. Believing in any other gospel is to believe in vain. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul also declares that the true gospel is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” by which he means that salvation is not achieved by man’s efforts, but by the grace of God through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).


Because of the gospel, through the power of God, those who believe in Christ (Romans 10:9) are not just saved from hell. We are, in fact, given a completely new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a changed heart and a new desire, will, and attitude that are manifested in good works. This is the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in us by His power. Works are never the means of salvation, but they are the proof of it (Ephesians 2:10). Those who are saved by the power of God will always show the evidence of salvation by a changed life.


GOD LOVES YOU DEARLY!




MAXIMILIANO 

12/25/18

“What does the Bible say about faith?"

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). According to the Bible, faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.


Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. Faith is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.


Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).


Examples of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his only son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.


According to the Bible, faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4).


PART II 

“What is a leap of faith?"

The book of Hebrews is an excellent place to find answers to our questions about faith. Chapter 11 begins with this short definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).


What, then, is a leap of faith? The term leap of faith is not found in the Bible. It is a common idiom, though. Usually, to take a leap of faith means “to believe in something with no evidence for it” or “to attempt an endeavor that has little chance of success.” Leap of faith actually originated in a religious context. Søren Kierkegaard coined the expression as a metaphor for belief in God. He argued that truth cannot be found by observation alone but must be understood in the mind and heart apart from empirical evidence. Since we cannot observe God with our eyes, we must have faith that He is there. We jump from material concepts to the immaterial with a “leap of faith.”


Continuing in Hebrews chapter 11, we find an impressive list of men and women in the Bible who took a “leap of faith,” as it were. These are just a few of the people mentioned who took God at His Word and trusted Him to do what He had promised:


By faith, Noah obeyed God and built an ark to save his family from the flood (Genesis 6:9 – 7:24). By faith, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, believing God would provide a lamb (Genesis 22:1–19). By faith, Moses chose to side with the Hebrews rather than stay in the Egyptian palace (Exodus 2 – 4). By faith, Rahab risked her life and sheltered enemy spies in her home (Joshua 2:1–24).


Throughout the rest of Scripture, the stories of the faithful continue. By faith, David confronted a giant with only a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17). By faith, Peter stepped out of the boat when Jesus invited him to come (Matthew 14:22–33). The accounts go on and on, each story helping us to understand the biblical meaning of a leap of faith.


Exercising faith in God often requires taking a risk. Second Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” But a biblical step of faith is not a “blind” leap. Our faith is backed by assurance and certainty. Faith is soundly supported by God’s promises in His Word. A leap of faith is not an irrational impulse that causes us to jump out into the great unknown without any foresight. According to the Word of God, believers are to seek counsel from godly leaders (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). Also, Christians are to acquire wisdom and direction from God’s Word (Psalm 119:105, 130).


The stories in the Bible exist for a reason. Our trust and faith grow stronger as we read these accounts of God’s powerful deliverance and rescue in times of need. God miraculously delivered Joseph from slavery and placed him in charge over all of Egypt. God transformed Gideon from a coward to a courageous warrior. These Bible characters took leaps of faith because they trusted in the God who was powerful enough to rescue them, hold them up, and not let them fall (see Jude 1:24).


Putting our faith into action may feel like a scary leap, but that is part of the testing and proving of our faith: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6–9; See Hebrews 11:17 also).


Stepping out in faith requires trusting God to do what He has already promised in His Word, even though we may not see the fulfillment of His promise yet. Genuine faith, belief, and trust will move us to action.


A leap of faith might mean leaving the safety of your comfort zone. Peter abandoned his safety and comfort when he jumped out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. He could take that leap of faith because he knew his Lord and trusted that He was good: “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). When Jesus said, “Come,” Peter exercised childlike faith, the type of faith we are all called to possess: “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Luke 18:16).


When we demonstrate authentic trust in God, we know that our “leap of faith” is actually a leap into His all-powerful and loving arms. He delights in our trust and rewards those who earnestly pursue Him: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).


PART III

“Why is faith without works dead?"

James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. There are many verses that say that true saving faith will result in a transformed life, that faith is demonstrated by the works we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we profess to have is a living faith.


James 2:14–26 is sometimes taken out of context in an attempt to create a works-based system of righteousness, but that is contrary to many other passages of Scripture. James is not saying that our works make us righteous before God but that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. Works are not the cause of salvation; works are the evidence of salvation. Faith in Christ always results in good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ has a false or dead faith and is not saved. Paul basically says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. James contrasts two different types of faith—true faith that saves and false faith that is dead.


Many profess to be Christians, but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:16–23).


Notice that the message of Jesus is the same as the message of James. Obedience to God is the mark of true saving faith. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to illustrate the obedience that accompanies salvation. Simply saying we believe in Jesus does not save us, nor does religious service. What saves us is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts, and that regeneration will invariably be seen in a life of faith featuring ongoing obedience to God.


Misunderstanding the relationship of faith and works comes from not understanding what the Bible teaches about salvation. There are really two errors in regards to works and faith. The first error is “easy believism,” the teaching that, as long as a person prayed a prayer or said, “I believe in Jesus,” at some point in his life, then he is saved, no matter what. So a person who, as a child, raised his hand in a church service is considered saved, even though he has never shown any desire to walk with God since and is, in fact, living in blatant sin. This teaching, sometimes called “decisional regeneration,” is dangerous and deceptive. The idea that a profession of faith saves a person, even if he lives like the devil afterwards, assumes a new category of believer called the “carnal Christian.” This allows various ungodly lifestyles to be excused: a man may be an unrepentant adulterer, liar, or bank robber, but he’s saved; he’s just “carnal.” Yet, as we can see in James 2, an empty profession of faith—one that does not result in a life of obedience to Christ—is in reality a dead faith that cannot save.


The other error in regards to works and faith is to attempt to make works part of what justifies us before God. The mixture of works and faith to earn salvation is totally contrary to what Scripture teaches. Romans 4:5 says, “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” There is no conflict between these two passages. We are justified by grace through faith, and the natural result of faith in the heart is works that all can see. The works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart as naturally as water flows from a spring.


Salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner has the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” poured out on him (Titus 3:5), thereby causing him to be born again (John 3:3). When this happens, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). God removes his sin-hardened heart of stone and fills him with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then causes the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27).


Faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. When we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our lives will demonstrate that new life. Our works will be characterized by obedience to God. Unseen faith will become seen by the production of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Christians belong to Christ, the Good Shepherd. As His sheep we hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:26–30).


Faith without works is dead because faith results in a new creation, not a repetition of the same old patterns of sinful behavior. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”


Faith without works is dead because it comes from a heart that has not been regenerated by God. Empty professions of faith have no power to change lives. Those who pay lip service to faith but who do not possess the Spirit will hear Christ Himself say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).


PART IV

“What is faith in God?"

Faith in God is trust in Him, based on a true understanding of who He is, as revealed in the Bible. Faith in God involves an intellectual assent to the facts concerning God and a life-changing reliance on those facts.


Faith in God has several components. The first is believing that He actually exists. However, simply believing that God exists is not enough. As James 2:19 explains, the demons believe in God’s existence as well.


After acknowledging that God exists, the second element of faith in God is commitment. Faith that does not result action is a dead faith, not true faith (James 1:26).


However, even a faith in God that motivates us to action is not enough. For faith in God to be genuine, we must accept Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. We are not allowed to accept the attributes of God that we prefer and jettison the ones we don’t. If we do not accept God as He is, then we are putting our faith in a false god of our own making. Much “religion” does exactly this, but any religion not based on the Bible is a designer religion with a designer god. For faith in God to be genuine, it must be based on the genuine God. For example, the God of the Bible is triune, so true faith in God must accept the deity and personality of the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as the Father.


There is much confusion today over the nature of faith. It is reported that, when asked to define faith, a little boy in Sunday school responded, “Believing what you know isn’t true.” Many of the “new atheists” place faith over against science and evidence. They say that Christians have faith that God exists but that atheists have empirical evidence for science. Christians have faith, but scientists have knowledge. This comparison misunderstands the nature of faith in God.


Faith in God is not a blind leap without any evidence or, even worse, contrary to the evidence. Faith is simply trust. The Christian trusts in God. The scientific atheist has faith in science. If an atheist uses the scientific method to discover a medicine and then takes that medicine, he is exercising faith. He trusts his data, and he trusts that the medicine will cure him, not poison him. Some people may take the medicine with no thought whatsoever as to how it was developed or as to who prepared it. Others may only take the medicine after thoroughly investigating every aspect of the research. One person may take it with great confidence while another person takes it tentatively. In the final analysis, anyone who takes the medicine is exercising faith in the medicine. Ultimately, it is not the strength of the faith that determines if the medicine will work, but the efficacy of the medicine. Great faith in bad medicine will not cure a person. It is the object of faith, not the strength of faith that makes the difference. Uncertainty about a good medicine will not hinder its efficacy, as long as it is taken as prescribed. Faith is not the opposite of doubt; in fact, doubt can exist even in the heart of faith (see Mark 9:24). A person can exercise faith (trust and commitment) while at the same time being unsure about the thing or person he has committed himself to. Someone once defined doubt as “faith seeking understanding.”


Some people may simply trust God because it seems intuitive. They may have been raised in a Christian home and taught the Bible from their earliest remembrance. They have seen God work in the lives of other people, and they simply trust Him. Others may only have come to faith after a thorough examination of the evidence for God. Whether the decision to trust the God of the Bible is intuitive or deliberative, it is the mark of genuine faith.


The atheist likewise may come to his atheism by intuition or after careful deliberation. In the end, he has faith that God does not exist because he trusts either his instincts or his investigation and commits himself to live in a way that is consistent with his beliefs. Contrary to the claims of the new atheists, everyone has some kind of faith—everyone trusts something. It is impossible to live without trusting in something, even if it is only in the reliability of our five senses. The object of our faith is what makes all the difference.


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 


12/24/18

A Call to Worship

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11).

All rational beings will acknowledge Christ as Lord.

Philippians 2:10-11 affirms that the whole intelligent universe is called to worship Christ. They are specified as those “in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (v. 10). “Those who are in heaven” consist of two groups: God’s holy angels and the spirits of the redeemed believers (who await the resurrection of their bodies). Those who are in Heaven already acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. Throughout their time in Heaven they’ve been worshiping the Lord of glory.

Those . . . on earth” (v. 10) also consist of two groups: the obedient and the disobedient. The obedient refers to us. By God’s grace, we have submitted to Christ as Lord and Savior (cf. Rom. 10:9). The disobedient will also bow before Jesus Christ—by compulsion (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-9). When Jesus returns to subdue the earth, He will remove the wicked from the earth, cast them into Hell, and establish His kingdom.

Under the earth” (Phil. 2:10) refers to Hell, the place of eternal punishment, which is occupied by all the damned—both demons and unsaved people. They will also acknowledge the lordship of Christ—not by enjoying His reign, but by bearing the unending expression of His wrath.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe. Therefore, “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (v. 11). To confess means “to acknowledge,” “affirm,” or “agree.” By “every tongue” Paul didn’t mean every physical tongue in every mouth but every language. Another way to express the idea is to say that all rational beings will acknowledge His lordship.

History is moving toward the day when Jesus will be acknowledged by all as the supreme ruler of the universe. He already sits in that seat of power but has not yet brought the universe fully under His authority. We live in days of grace, during which He brings men and women to acknowledge Him as Lord willingly rather than by force. Rejoice that He still provides that opportunity.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for lost relatives and friends to submit to Christ willingly.

For Further Study

In Psalm 2:12, what warning does the Lord give?


PART II

The Restriction of Man's Destiny

"But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him" (Heb. 2:8).

God’s original destiny for man was restricted by man’s sin.

God gave man dominion over all the earth, and the earth supplied his every need. All he had to do was accept and enjoy the earth as provided for him. But Adam sinned and Satan usurped the crown. A new chain of command was born: the earth now rules man.

To know how true that is, all you need do is look at the amount of effort expended on restoring the ecological balance of the earth. Environmentalism is a popular watchword of our day. Yet with all our modern technology, we are still unable to gain control over the earth.

Look what happened once Adam sinned: no longer could man easily harvest what the earth provided—now he had to toil by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:18). Women would experience pain in childbirth (3:16). Murder soon followed in Adam's family. God had to destroy virtually all mankind in the Flood because they had become so debauched.

Much of the animal kingdom now lives in fear of man and cannot be tamed. Where once the earth produced good things naturally and abundantly, now it produces thorns, weeds, and other harmful things. Extremes of heat and cold, poisonous plants and reptiles, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, hurricanes, and disease were all products of the Fall. Man was no longer a king but a slave—a dying creature fighting a losing battle with a dying earth.

Amazingly, the earth is aware of its condition: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it" (Rom. 8:20). Now it eagerly awaits for the day when the sons of God, believers, are manifest in the kingdom, for then it will be liberated from the bondage of corruption (vv. 19, 21-22).

There is coming a day, in the wonderful plan of God, when man will receive once again the dominion that he lost. May our Lord hasten its coming!

Suggestion for Prayer

Thank God that He will one day redeem the earth from its subjection to the curse.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 60:21, 65:25, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:27. What will characterize the new earth?


PART III

God’s Kingdom Is the Source of True Joy

“‘. . . and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field’” (Matthew 13:44).

Every man or woman desires basic joy in his or her life—a desire that all others directly or indirectly serve. We like to eat because tasty food brings joy and usually a feeling of good health to our bodies. We enjoy money because of the prospect of good and necessary things it can buy. Many of us also seek prestige, power, knowledge, and other advantages for the supposed joy they will bring.

But all such joys are fleeting and disappointing. The only genuine and lasting joy is that found in the kingdom of God, because God Himself created mankind and wants to provide them with complete satisfaction. After Christ exhorted the apostles to abide in Him and let His words abide in them, to verify their discipleship by bearing much fruit, and to obey His commandments and thus abide in His love (John 15:1–10), the Lord told them, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (v. 11; cf. 16:24; 1 John 1:4).

The apostle Paul tells us that “the kingdom of God is . . . peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Then he prays for the Romans, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). Authentic joy comes only when we find and accept Jesus Christ and His kingdom by faith in Him.

Ask Yourself

Have you noticed that the feeling you sense after watching a sporting event, attending a movie, coming home with a major purchase—or even enjoying Christmas—is never quite as robust as the anticipation was? How is it different from the experience of engaging in Christian worship and service?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Zephaniah 1:8 the princes…king’s children. Judgment began with the royal house. Lacking commitment to God’s covenant, they had adopted the customs and idolatrous practices of the heathen. Since Josiah was only 8 years old when he assumed rulership (ca. 640 B.C.), the reference would not be to his children but to the princes of the royal house or to the children of the king who would be ruling when the prophecy was fulfilled (2 Kin. 25:7; Jer. 39:6).

Zephaniah 3:8 The prophet transitions from the historical invasion of Judah by Babylon to the future day of the Lord. He speaks of the Great Tribulation, when the Lord will gather all the nations for judgment (Joel 3:1, 2, 12–17; Zech. 12:2, 3; 14:2; Matt. 24:21).The faithful remnant, presumably the meek of 2:1–3, are exhorted to wait in trust for Him to carry out His judgment.

Revelation 14:8 Babylon is fallen. Lack of response to the first angel’s message causes a second angel to pronounce this judgment. Babylon refers to the entire worldwide political, economic, and religious kingdom of Antichrist. The original city of Babylon was the birthplace of idolatry where the residents built the Tower of Babel, a monument to rebelliousness and false religion. Such idolatry was subsequently spread when God confounded man’s language and scattered them around the world (Gen. 11:1–9). wine of the wrath of her fornication. This pictures Babylon causing the world to become intoxicated with her pleasures and enter an orgy of rebellion, hatred, and idolatry toward God. Fornication is spiritual prostitution to Antichrist’s false system, which will fall for such iniquity.

Revelation 14:19 winepress. This vivid imagery signifies a horrendous slaughter or bloodbath (Is. 63:2, 3; Lam.1:15; Joel 3:13). Here it refers to the slaughter of all the enemies of God who are still alive, facing the destruction at Armageddon, the final battle against God’s enemies, staged on the Plain of Esdraelon. The bloody imagery comes from the fresh juice of stomped grapes splattering and running down a trough from the upper vat to the lower vat of a stone winepress.


DAY 24: What is known about Zephaniah, and what was his message for Judah?

Little is known about the author, Zephaniah. Three other Old Testament individuals share his name. He traces his genealogy back 4 generations to King Hezekiah (ca. 715–686 B.C.), standing alone among the prophets descended from royal blood (1:1).Royal genealogy would have given him the ear of Judah’s king, Josiah, during whose reign he preached.

The prophet himself dates his message during the reign of Josiah (640–609 B.C.). The moral and spiritual conditions detailed in the book (1:4–6; 3:1–7) seem to place the prophecy prior to Josiah’s reforms, when Judah was still languishing in idolatry and wickedness. It was in 628 B.C. that Josiah tore down all the altars to Baal, burned the bones of false prophets, and broke the carved idols (2 Chr. 34:3–7); and in 622 B.C., the Book of the Law was found (2 Chr. 34:8–35:19). Consequently, Zephaniah most likely prophesied from 635 to 625 B.C. and was a contemporary of Jeremiah.

Zephaniah’s message on the Day of the Lord warned Judah that the final days were near, through divine judgment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, ca. 605–586 B.C. (1:4–13). Yet, it also looks beyond to the far fulfillment in the judgments of Daniel’s 70th week (1:18; 3:8). The expression “Day of the Lord” is employed by the author more often than by any other Old Testament writer and is described as a day that is near (1:7), and as a day of wrath, trouble, distress, devastation, desolation, darkness, gloominess, clouds, thick darkness, trumpet, and alarm (1:15, 16, 18). Yet even within these oracles of divine wrath, the prophet exhorted the people to seek the Lord, offering a shelter in the midst of judgment (2:3) and proclaiming the promise of eventual salvation for His believing remnant (2:7; 3:9–20).


MAXIMILIANO 


12/23/18

Responding to Christ's Exaltation

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11).

The proper response to Christ’s exaltation is to worship Him.

Philippians 2:10-11 gives the only proper response to Christ’s exaltation: everyone is to bow before Him and acknowledge Him as Lord. Verse 10 begins with the Greek word hina (“that”), which indicates purpose or result. God’s express purpose is that Christ’s exaltation will result in our worshiping Him. We might translate the sentence, “He was given the name that is above every name in order that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” The reason Christ was given the name Lord was to put Him in authority and cause everyone to bow to Him. The subjunctive mood (“every knee should bow”) implies that every knee will bow.

Christ is to be acknowledged as Lord because He is God. By God’s grace some are enabled to acknowledge Christ’s lordship by choice. Others will bow to Him because they are forced to do so. The phrases “every knee should bow” (v. 10) and “every tongue should confess” (v. 11) are taken from Isaiah 45:23. Isaiah 45—46 clearly establishes that God is Lord and sovereign. He is in charge. In Philippians, Paul affirms the same truth about Jesus Christ—every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord of all.

We know Christ as the Lord, and we know Him as Jesus—the names of His exaltation and humiliation. But He must be known as both in order to be known at all. One receives the gift of salvation by receiving both the humiliated Savior and by bowing the knee to a majestic, sovereign God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Psalm 89 focuses on the rule and reign of Christ. Bow before Him as the exalted King by using verses 8-18 as the basis of your own prayer of worship.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 5:11-14.

  • What is Christ worthy to receive?
  • In verse 13 who is speaking?
  • What was the response of the four living creatures and elders (v. 14)?


PART II 

The Revelation of Man's Destiny

"He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, 'What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.' For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him" (Heb. 2:5-8).

Man’s original intended destiny was to be king of the earth.

When we look at the vast, seemingly endless universe and then think about the little dot we call earth in the middle of it all, we cannot help but wonder, "What is man? What right do we have to be so much on God's mind?"

David had an answer: "Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels . . . crowned him with glory and honor . . . appointed him over the works of Thy hands . . . put all things in subjection under his feet" (Heb. 2:6-8). The writer of Hebrews was quoting one of the Psalms (Ps. 8:4-6) to show that God made man to be king.

David undoubtedly penned his psalm based on what God said in the beginning: "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Gen. 1:26). God's original design for man in his innocence was to be king over an undefiled earth.

When God made Adam, who was pure and innocent, He gave Him honor and glory. God crowned man king of the earth: "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet" (Heb. 2:8). One day we again will be given the right to rule the earth, and all God's creation will be put under our feet.

Suggestion for Prayer

Read Psalm 8 and offer it as your own praise to God.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 7:18, 27 and note the extent of the saints' ultimate rule.


PART III 

December 23 - God's Kingdom Is Not Superficially Visible

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field’” (Matthew 13:44).

The treasure of salvation is not evident to unregenerate people, which is why they don’t naturally seek it. They don’t understand why believers prize God’s saving kingdom so much and why they willingly give up so much—their self-sufficiency, sinful pleasures, and expensive worldly goods and social status—to gain what appears to be so insignificant and barely visible. Kingdom living is too narrow and unattractive to the unsaved, and that’s why so few find this life or desire to walk it (Matt. 7:14)—in reality, most of the lost cannot even see God’s truth and spiritual riches (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4).

When Christ answered the Pharisees’ question about the kingdom, He said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’” (Luke 17:20–21). The kingdom of God will not be fully seen until our Lord returns and establishes His millennial rule over the world. At that time He “is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels,” and people will “see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:27, 28b). However, right now that kingdom “is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

People can have passing respect for Christ and the gospel but can be completely oblivious to the invaluable blessing that could be theirs by belonging to His kingdom (cf. John 1:9–11). The pearl or treasure may be in sight, but worldly eyes will not see its worth.

Ask Yourself

Be in specific prayer today for that number of unbelievers who populate your extended family, your work environment, or your usual circle of contact. Will you recommit to remaining sensitive to opportunities in which God can use you to represent His treasure?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Habakkuk 2:4 the just shall live by his faith. In contrast to the proud, the just will be truly preserved through his faithfulness to God. This is the core of God’s message to/through Habakkuk. Both the aspect of justification by faith, as noted by Paul’s usage in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11, as well as the aspect of sanctification by faith, as employed by the writer of Hebrews (10:38), reflect the essence of Habakkuk; no conflict exists. The emphasis in both Habakkuk and the New Testament references goes beyond the act of faith to include the continuity of faith. Faith is not a one-time act, but a way of life. The true believer, declared righteous by God, will persevere in faith as the pattern of his life (Col. 1:22, 23;Heb. 3:12–14).

Proverbs 30:17 eye that mocks. This proverb vividly speaks to the tragic results of disregarding parental respect and authority and the destruction it brings. ravens…young eagles. These birds scavenge the unburied corpse of a child who dies prematurely because of rebellion (1 Sam. 17:44; 1 Kin. 14:11; Jer. 16:4; Ezek. 29:5; 39:4).

Revelation 13:3 his deadly wound was healed. This statement could refer to one of the kingdoms that was destroyed and revived (i.e., the Roman Empire). But more likely it refers to a fake death and resurrection enacted by the Antichrist, as part of his lying deception (vv. 12, 14; 17:8, 11; 2 Thess. 2:9). world marveled. People in the world will be astounded and fascinated when Antichrist appears to rise from the dead. His charisma, brilliance, and attractive but deluding powers will cause the world to follow him unquestioningly (v. 14; 2 Thess. 2:8–12).

Revelation 13:18 His number is 666. This is the essential number of a man. The number 6 falls one short of God’s perfect number, 7, and thus represents human imperfection. Antichrist, the most powerful human the world will ever know, will still be a man, i.e., a 6.The ultimate in human and demonic power is a 6, not perfect, as God is. The 3-fold repetition of the number is intended to reiterate and underscore man’s identity. When Antichrist is finally revealed, there will be some way to identify him with this basic number of a man, or his name may have the numerical equivalent of 666. (In many languages, including Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, letters have numerical equivalents.) Because this text reveals very little about the meaning of 666, it is unwise to speculate beyond what is said.


DAY 23: Who was Habakkuk, and where did his questions for God take him?

As with many of the Minor Prophets, nothing is known about the prophet except that which can be inferred from the book. In the case of Habakkuk, internal information is virtually nonexistent, making conclusions about his identity and life conjectural. His simple introduction as “the prophet Habakkuk” may imply that he needed no introduction since he was a well-known prophet of his day. It is certain that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah.

The opening verses reveal a historical situation similar to the days of Amos and Micah. Justice had essentially disappeared from the land. Violence and wickedness were pervasive, existing unchecked. In the midst of these dark days, the prophet cried out for divine intervention (1:2–4). God’s response, that He was sending the Chaldeans to judge Judah (1:5–11), creates an even greater theological dilemma for Habakkuk: Why didn’t God purge His people and restore their righteousness? How could God use the Chaldeans to judge a people more righteous than they (1:12–2:1)? God’s answer that He would judge the Chaldeans, also (2:2–20), did not fully satisfy the prophet’s theological quandary; in fact, it only intensified it. In Habakkuk’s mind, the issue crying for resolution is no longer God’s righteous response toward evil (or lack thereof), but the vindication of God’s character and covenant with His people (1:13). Like Job, the prophet argued with God; and through that experience, he achieved a deeper understanding of God’s sovereign character and a firmer faith in Him (Job 42:5, 6; Is. 55:8, 9). Ultimately, Habakkuk realized that God was not to be worshiped merely because of the temporal blessings He bestowed, but for His own sake (3:17–19).


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 



12/22/18


Submitting to Christ as Lord


“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name . . . that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9, 11).


To receive Christ as Savior is to submit to His authority as Lord.


Is Jesus Lord? According to the declaration of the Father, He is. We cannot know Him any other way than as Lord. 


That’s why the first creed in the history of the church, given in Philippians 2:11, says, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Every Christian must acknowledge that. It is the foundation of the Christian faith, the very substance of what we believe. 


We don’t make Him Lord after salvation. Every time I hear someone say, “You need to make Jesus Lord,” it is as repellent to me as hearing fingernails scraped down a blackboard. We never make Jesus Lord—God has already done that.

Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and those who would receive Him must take Him for who He really is. 


Puritan John Flavel put it this way: “The gospel offer of Christ includes all his offices, and gospel faith just so receives him; to submit to him, as well as to be redeemed by him; to imitate him in the holiness of his life, as well as to reap the purchases and fruits of his death. It must be an entire receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a similar vein, A.W. Tozer said, “To urge men and women to believe in a divided Christ is bad teaching, for no one can receive half of Christ, or a third of Christ, or a quarter of the Person of Christ! We are not saved by believing in an office nor in a work.” Jesus is Lord, and if you refuse Him as Lord, you cannot call Him Savior. 


If you have truly received Him, your life will be characterized by submission to His authority.


Suggestions for Prayer

Take time to acknowledge the lordship of Christ in your own life.


For Further Study

Read Romans 10:9-13.

  • What is a sinner to confess if he is to be saved?
  • According to 2 Corinthians 4:5, what message did Paul preach?


PART II

The Confirmation from God


"How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will" (Heb. 2:3-4).


God confirmed the truth of the gospel preached through Christ with many miracles.


When Jesus preached the gospel, He performed miracles that made what He said believable. He said, "Though you do not believe Me, believe the works" (John 10:38). Jesus claimed to be from God, then made it obvious He really was from God.


Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him" (John 3:2). Jesus confirmed His ministry by His own miracles. Peter reiterated that fact on the day of Pentecost: "Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs" (Acts 2:22).


God also gave these same confirming signs to His second generation of preachers—the apostles—so no one could dispute the validity of their message. What the apostles said was not their own opinion; it was divine truth substantiated by signs, wonders, and miracles.


Signs, wonders, and miracles are synonyms referring to all the supernatural things the apostles did. But the apostles also confirmed the Word with "gifts of the Holy Spirit." That's a reference to the temporary sign gifts described in Scripture, such as tongues and healings, not to the permanent edifying gifts given to the church for all time.


Today God attests to the gospel with the miracle of His written Word. Let it not be said that you neglected Jesus Christ. History confirms that hours of neglect cost Napoleon Waterloo. Neglecting Christ's salvation will cost you eternal blessing and joy and bring you damnation. Don't allow yourself to drift past God's grace.


Suggestion for Prayer

Thank God for His Word, and that through it you have all the truth you need to communicate the gospel.


For Further Study

Read Acts 5-19 and list all the miracles performed by the apostles to confirm the gospel.


PART III

God’s Kingdom Is Priceless


“‘. . . finding one pearl of great value’” (Matthew 13:46).


Job’s ancient description of humanity’s relentless quest for wealth sounds amazingly up-to-date:

Man puts an end to darkness, and to the farthest limit he searches out the rock in gloom and deep shadow. He sinks a shaft far from habitation, forgotten by the foot; they hang and swing to and fro far from men . . . Its rocks are the source of sapphires, and its dust contains gold. . . . He hews out channels through the rocks, and his eye sees anything precious. (Job 28:3–4, 6, 10)


For all the efforts to mine and process precious metals and gems, none of those riches offers anything of lasting value (cf. Job 28:12–15, 21, 23, 28).

The blessing of being a kingdom citizen—a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ—is truly priceless and more valuable than all the world’s greatest riches combined. 


That citizenship is so incomparable because it is “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:4). This heavenly inheritance includes the unsurpassed, divine spiritual blessings of forgiveness, love, peace, purity, righteousness, eternal life, and more.


Even with its priceless nature and ultimate value, God offers His kingdom to any person who surrenders all, repents, and trusts in Christ as Lord and Savior. Whatever values a man or woman has clung to in the past, God will happily exchange for the priceless kingdom treasure.


Ask Yourself

Are you in one of those phases of life in which Christianity feels like all cost and little return? Reflect today on the treasures of faith. Ask God to bring them to mind whenever you get discouraged or weary of the battle. They are worth much, much more than the price of admission.


PART IV

Reading for Today:


Notes:

Nahum 1:11 wicked counselor. The phrase, literally, “counselor of Belial,” suggests satanic influence on the leadership, identified as the king of Assyria (3:18). Specific reference could be to Ashurbanipal (669–633 B.C.) or more likely to Sennacherib (705–681 B.C.), who invaded Judah in 701 B.C. and of whom Isaiah speaks in similar language (Is. 10:7).


Nahum 3:1 bloody city. The first accusation was a charge well documented in history. Assyria proved to be an unusually cruel, bloodthirsty nation. lies. Assyria employed falsehood and treachery to subdue her enemies (2 Kin. 18:28–32). robbery. Preying upon her victims, she filled her cities with the goods of other nations.


Revelation 12:3 great, fiery red dragon. The woman’s mortal enemy is Satan, who appears as a dragon 13 times in this book (v.9; 20:2).Red speaks of bloodshed (John 8:44). seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems. Figurative language depicting Satan’s domination of 7 past worldly kingdoms and 10 future kingdoms (Dan. 7:7, 20, 24). Satan has and will rule the world until the seventh trumpet blows (11:15). He has inflicted relentless pain on Israel (Dan.8:24), desiring to kill the woman before she could bring forth the child that would destroy him.


Revelation 12:9 dragon was cast…to the earth. Satan and his demons were cast out of heaven at the time of their original rebellion, but still have access to it (Job 1:6; 2:1). That access will then be denied, and they will be forever barred from heaven. Devil and Satan. “Devil” comes from a Greek verb meaning “to slander” or “to falsely accuse.” He is a malignant liar (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). 


His accusations against believers (v. 10) are unsuccessful because of Christ our Advocate (1 John 2:1). Satan, meaning “adversary” or “enemy,” appears especially in Job and the Gospels. deceives the whole world. As he has throughout human history, Satan will deceive people during the Tribulation (13:14; 20:3; John 8:44). After his temporary release from the bottomless pit at the end of the Millennium, he will briefly resume his deceitful ways (20:8, 10).


Who was the prophet Nahum, and how was his message related to the prophet Jonah?


The significance of the writing prophets was not their personal lives; it was their message. Thus, background information about the prophet from within the prophecy is rare. Occasionally one of the historical books will shed additional light. In the case of Nahum, nothing is provided except that he was an Elkoshite (1:1), referring either to his birthplace or his place of ministry. 


Attempts to identify the location of Elkosh have been unsuccessful. Suggestions include Al Qosh, situated in northern Iraq (thus Nahum would have been a descendant of the exiles taken to Assyria in 722 B.C.), Capernaum (“town of Nahum”), or a location in southern Judah (1:15). His birthplace or locale is not significant to the interpretation of the book.


Nahum forms a sequel to the Book of Jonah, who prophesied over a century earlier. Jonah recounts the remission of God’s promised judgment toward Nineveh, while Nahum depicts the later execution of God’s judgment. Nineveh was proud of her invulnerable city, with her walls reaching 100 feet high and with a moat 150 feet wide and 60 feet deep. 


But Nahum established the fact that the sovereign God (1:2–5) would bring vengeance upon those who violated His law (1:8, 14; 3:5–7). The same God had a retributive judgment against evil which is also redemptive, bestowing His loving kindnesses upon the faithful (1:7, 12, 13, 15; 2:2).The prophecy brought comfort to Judah and all who feared the cruel Assyrians. 


Nahum said Nineveh would end “with an overflowing flood” (1:8); and it happened when the Tigris River overflowed to destroy enough of the walls to let the Babylonians through. Nahum also predicted that the city would be hidden (3:11). After its destruction in 612 B.C., the site was not rediscovered until 1842 A.D.


GOD BLESS YOU, MY BELOVED ROYAL FAMILY.

BLESSED BE 

LORD CHRIST JESUS

OUR KING AND SAVIOR. 

 

MAXIMILIANO





12/21/18

Jesus Is Savior and Lord

“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name . . . that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9, 11).

The Jesus who is Savior cannot be separated from the Jesus who is Lord.

Scripture never speaks of any human being’s making Jesus Lord. It is God who made Him Lord (Acts 2:36). Yet we often read statements such as this: “It is imperative to trust Christ as personal Savior and be born again. But that is only the first decision. Trusting Christ as Savior and then making Him Lord are two separate and distinct decisions. The two decisions may be close or distant in time. Salvation must always precede lordship. But it is possible to be saved without ever making Christ Lord of your life.” In effect that is saying Christ isn’t Lord unless we give Him permission—a completely unbiblical assertion. To be saved you must confess Jesus as Lord.

Jesus is called Lord throughout the New Testament. To omit the lordship of Christ from invitations to salvation would result in the elimination of numerous passages of Scripture. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2—“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21)—would need to be modified. Paul and Silas’ method of presenting the gospel—“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31)—would need to be corrected.

The centrality of the lordship of Christ is clear in the New Testament gospel. The Jesus who is Savior cannot be separated from the Jesus who is Lord. God cannot be separated from His authority, dominion, rulership, and right to command. When we acknowledge that Jesus is God, we mean He is all that God is.

Suggestions for Prayer

Worship the Lord Jesus Christ, using Psalm 8, a Messianic psalm, as the basis of your prayer.

For Further Study

Jesus is called Lord over 700 times in the New Testament. Use a Bible concordance as a handy way to check some of these many references to Christ as Lord.


PART II

The Certainty of Judgment

"If the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:2-3).

There is certain judgment for everyone who does not receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

Today the majority believes that God is a God of love and grace, but not of justice. One brief look at Hebrews 2:2-3 ought to convince anyone otherwise. The writer's point is this: Since the Old Testament makes it clear that transgression and disobedience met with severe and just punishment, how much more so will equal or greater punishment be rendered under the New Testament, which was revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that angels were instrumental in bringing the law (Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:38). The law the angels spoke, primarily the Ten Commandments, was steadfast. That meant if someone broke the law, the law would break the lawbreaker. The law was inviolable; punishment for breaking it was certain.

"Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense" (v. 2). Transgression refers to stepping across a line—a willful, purposeful sin. Disobedience, however, refers to imperfect hearing—the sin of shutting one's ears to the commands, warnings, and invitations of God. It is a sin of neglect or omission, doing nothing when something should be done.

Hebrews 2:2 also puts to rest the notion that God is not fair. The writer says every sin received a "just recompense." God, by His very nature, is just. Every punishment He meted out to those who defied Him was a deterrent to the sin He wanted to stop.

God severely punished the nation of Israel because they knew better. That leads to the important principle that punishment is always related to how much truth one knows but rejects. The person who knows the gospel, who has intellectually understood it and believed it, yet drifts away will experience the severest punishment of all.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to give you an even greater appreciation of the punishment He has saved you from to motivate you to pursue the lost more vigorously.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 11:20-24, 12:38-42, and Luke 12:47-48 to discover Christ's attitude toward those who know the truth yet rebel against it.


PART III 

December 21 - God’s Kingdom Must Be Personally Appropriated

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again’” (Matthew 13:44).

Jesus’ concise but profound parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value show us that, above all, we must personally appropriate God’s kingdom. People automatically at birth become members of their parents’ family and country, but such natural inheritance doesn’t apply regarding the kingdom.

Everyone is under God’s dominion because they live on the earth, which is under His sovereign control. And if unbelievers associate with believers, they can potentially enjoy many kingdom benefits. But if an unbeliever attends a biblical church, enjoys sound preaching, and gets baptized, he or she is not necessarily a kingdom citizen. More often than not, such are “sons of the kingdom [who] will be cast out into the outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12)—in other words, they are not really children of God.

Paul reminds his readers, Jews in particular, “They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants” (Rom. 9:6–7). Even during the Old Testament era one could be Jewish—fully identified with God’s people racially, nationally, and religiously—and still not be a member of the true spiritual Israel.

Similarly, you can be a member of a family that has had membership in a good church for many generations and yet not be part of Christ’s true church. Being born into a godly family does not make you a believer. Under the Spirit’s guidance, you must personally decide to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Ask Yourself

Here toward the end of the year, settle this issue in your heart once and for all. You can live with the full assurance of your salvation by surrendering your life to Christ—repenting of your sins and believing in His sacrifice on your behalf. Don’t live another day unsure.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Micah 6:6,7 Micah, as though speaking on behalf of the people, asked rhetorically how, in light of God’s faithfulness toward them, they could continue their hypocrisy by being outwardly religious but inwardly sinful.

Micah 6:8 Micah’s terse response indicated the people should have known the answer to the rhetorical question. Spiritual blindness had led them to offer everything except the one thing He wanted—a spiritual commitment of the heart from which right behavior would ensue (Deut. 10:12–19; Matt. 22:37–39). This theme is often represented in the Old Testament (1 Sam.15:22; Is. 1:11–20; Jer. 7:21–23; Hos. 6:6; Amos 5:15).

Revelation 11:7 the beast. The first of 36 references to this person in Revelation, who is none other than the Antichrist (see chap. 13). That he will ascend out of the bottomless pit indicates that his power is satanic. kill them. Their ministry completed, God will withdraw the two witnesses’ supernatural protection. The beast will then be able to accomplish what many had died trying to do.

Revelation 11:13 earthquake. God punctuates the ascension of His prophets with a shattering earthquake. The destruction and loss of life may be primarily among the leaders of the Antichrist’s forces. the rest. This refers to the Jews still living, who will not yet have come to faith in Christ. gave glory to the God of heaven. A genuine experience of the salvation of Jews (Luke 17:18, 19), in contrast to those who blaspheme and refuse to glorify God (16:9). This makes a key fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (12:10; 13:1) and Paul’s (Rom. 11:25–27).


DAY 21: Who are the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11?

In v. 3, John is told that “I will give power to my two witnesses.” These individuals are granted special power and authority by God to preach a message of judgment and salvation during the second half of the Tribulation. The Old Testament required 2 or more witnesses to confirm testimony (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; Heb. 10:28), and these 2 prophets will be the culmination of God’s testimony to Israel: a message of judgment from God and of His gracious offer of the gospel to all who will repent and believe. “They will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days,” which is 42 months or 3 1/2 years, “clothed in sackcloth.” Coarse, rough cloth made from goat or camel hair. Wearing garments made from it expressed penitence, humility, and mourning. The witnesses are mourning because of the wretched wickedness of the world, God’s judgment on it, and the desecration of the temple and the holy city by the Antichrist.

The imagery in v. 4 is drawn from Zechariah 3, 4. Zechariah’s vision had both a near fulfillment (the rebuilding of the temple by Joshua and Zerubbabel) and a far future fulfillment (the 2 witnesses, whose ministry points toward Israel’s final restoration in the Millennium). “Two olive trees and the two lampstands.” Olive oil was commonly used in lamps; together the olive trees and lampstands symbolize the light of spiritual revival. The 2 witnesses’ preaching will spark a revival, just as Joshua’s and Zerubbabel’s did in Israel after the Babylonian captivity.

While it is impossible to be dogmatic about the identity of these 2 witnesses, several observations from vv. 5, 6 suggest they might be Moses and Elijah: 1) like Moses, they strike the earth with plagues, and like Elijah, they have the power to keep it from raining; 2) Jewish tradition expected both Moses (Deut. 18:15–18) and Elijah (Mal. 4:5, 6) to return in the future (John 1:21); 3) both Moses and Elijah were present at the Transfiguration, the preview of Christ’s Second Coming; 4) both Moses and Elijah used supernatural means to provoke repentance; 5) Elijah was taken up alive into heaven, and God buried Moses’ body where it would never be found; and 6) the length of the drought the 2 witnesses bring (3 1/2 years) is the same as that brought by Elijah (James 5:17).


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 



12/20/18

The Authority of Christ's Name

“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Christ’s name shows Him to be sovereign ruler.

The name “Lord” is a New Testament synonym for Old Testament descriptions of Yahweh (the Old Testament name of God), which show God as sovereign ruler. It signifies rulership based on power and authority. Though it was always evident that Christ was the living Lord, it was in His exaltation that He was formally given the name Lord—a title that is His as the God-man. On earth He was known by many names, but now He bears the name that is above every name: Lord.

Philippians 2:10 doesn’t say at the name Jesus every knee should bow, but at the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus immediately bestowed by the Father was “Lord.” It is not the name Jesus that makes people bow—that’s the name of His incarnation—but the name Lord.

That the name mentioned in verse 9 is Lord is confirmed by Paul’s allusion to Isaiah 45:21-23, which says, “Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” God said through Isaiah that He is sovereign—the Lord of all. That is what Paul was referring to when he said that every knee would bow and every tongue confess (or admit) that Jesus Christ is Lord. Only God is Lord.

Suggestions for Prayer

In his prayer in Ephesians 1:17-23 Paul mentions that Christ’s name is above all other names (vv. 20-21). Use his prayer as a model when you pray for other believers.

For Further Study

Read the following verses: Luke 2:11; John 13:13; Acts 10:36; Romans 14:9-11; 1 Corinthians 8:6. What do they say about Jesus’ lordship?


PART II 

Throwing out the Anchor

"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it" (Heb. 2:1).

God’s Word is the anchor that will prevent people from drifting past the harbor of salvation.

While English explorer William Edward Parry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean, they needed to go further north to continue their chartings. So they calculated their location by the stars and began a treacherous march.

After many hours they stopped, exhausted. After taking their bearings, they discovered they were now further south than when they started! They had been walking on an ice floe that was traveling faster south than they were walking north.

That is similar to the situation people who continue rejecting Christ find themselves in. Therefore Hebrews 2:1 says, "We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."

Why would anyone knowingly reject Christ? He came into the world as God incarnate, died on a cross to forgive our sins, paid our penalty, showed us divine love, and gives us blessing and joy beyond imagination.

The Greek words translated "pay much closer attention to" and "drift away from" both have a nautical usage. The first means "to tie up a ship" and the second can be used of a ship that has been carelessly allowed to drift past the harbor because the sailor forgot to attend to the steerage or chart the wind, tides, and current. Hebrews 2:1 could be translated: "We must diligently anchor our lives to the things we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor of salvation and be lost forever."

Most people don't deliberately turn their backs on God; they almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation and are broken on the rocks of destruction. Be sure you warn those you know who might be slipping past that harbor.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to strengthen your resolve when you know you need to confront someone regarding his or her relationship with the Lord.

For Further Study

Memorize Proverbs 4:20-22 as your own reminder of how important it is to hold on to God's Word.


PART III 

December 20 - Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

“‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it’” (Matthew 13:45–46).

Pearls were the most highly valued gems in the ancient world, often purchased as investments, much like diamonds or precious metals are today. With pearls, a person could keep and conceal a great amount of wealth in a small space. The Jewish Talmud said the pearl was beyond the value of any set price, and that some ancients actually worshiped it.

Elsewhere the New Testament uses the pearl as a representation of something of immense value and worthy of protection. When the Lord warns believers not to throw pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6), He underscores the priceless value of the gospel and its corresponding truths, which unbelievers despise as worthless. The apostle John envisions the New Jerusalem as a glorious city with twelve gates of pearl, and more precisely “each one of the gates was a single pearl” (Rev. 21:21).

In this parable the merchant obviously considered the valuable pearl so precious and worth more than all his other pearls combined, because he no doubt included them in the sale of all his possessions, which he did to buy the one pearl. Jesus again illustrates the immense value of the kingdom of heaven and clearly implies that the merchant’s transaction was one involving his salvation. Purchasing the great pearl—the kingdom—represents obtaining God’s saving knowledge through trust in His Son, the Lord Jesus, and experiencing all the blessings which that relationship brings. It is another example of the greatest transaction any of us can make.

Ask Yourself

It’s really all about one thing, isn’t it—giving our hearts to Christ without limitation or restriction. Consider today how the rest of your life is lining up under the one priority of walking boldly with Jesus.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Micah 4:1 In a reversal of 3:12, Micah shifted from impending judgment to prophecies of the future millennial kingdom (“the latter days”) in which Mt. Zion (v. 3), the center of Messiah’s coming earthly kingdom, shall be raised both spiritually and physically (Zech. 14:9, 10). This discussion continues to 5:15.

Proverbs 30:11–14 There is a generation. These proverbs condemn various forms of unwise behavior and are connected with this common phrase which points to the fact that certain sins can uniquely permeate a whole society or time period.

Revelation 10:1 another mighty angel. Many commentators understand this to be Jesus Christ. But the Greek word translated “another” means one of the same kind, i.e., a created being. This is not one of the 7 angels responsible for sounding the trumpets (8:2), but one of the highest ranking in heaven, filled with splendor, greatness, and strength (5:2; 8:3; 18:1). rainbow. Perhaps God included this to remind John that, even in judgment, He will always remember His Noahic Covenant and protect His own. feet like pillars of fire. This angel’s feet and legs indicate the firm resolve with which he will execute the Day of the Lord.



DAY 20: Is the Bethlehem of Micah 5:2–4 the birthplace of Christ?

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel” (v. 2). This town south of Jerusalem was the birthplace of David and later Jesus Christ (1 Sam. 16; Matt. 2:5; Luke 2:4–7). The name “Bethlehem” means “house of bread” because the area was a grain-producing region in Old Testament times. The name “Ephrathah” (“fruitful”) differentiates it from the Galilean town by the same name. The town, known for her many vineyards and olive orchards, was small in size but not in honor. “Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” This speaks of eternal God’s incarnation in the Person of Jesus Christ. It points to His millennial reign as King of kings (Is. 9:6).

“Therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth” (v. 3). A reference to the interval between Messiah’s rejection at His First Advent and His Second Advent, during the times of the Gentiles when Israel rejects Christ and is under the domination of enemies. Regathering of the “remnant of His brethren” did not occur at the First Advent but is slated for the Second Advent (Is. 10:20–22; 11:11–16). Nor can “return” speak of Gentiles, since it cannot be said that they “returned” to the Lord. Rather, the context of 5:3, 4 is millennial and cannot be made to fit the First Advent. Thus, “she who is in labor” must denote the nation of Israel (Rev. 12:1–6).

Verse 4 clearly depicts the millennial rule of Christ, sitting upon the throne of David (Is. 6:1–3).


GOD BLESSED YOU AND IS BLESSING MAXIMILIANO 


12/19/18

Christ's New Name

“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

God exalted Christ by giving Him a new name.

In today’s verse a question that arises is, What is the name that is above every name? To be consistent with Scripture, it has to be a name that goes beyond merely distinguishing one person from another It has to be a name that describes Christ’s nature—revealing something of His inner being. Only such a name would cause Him to be clearly ranked above all others. Paul wasn’t referring to a comparative name, but a superlative name—one that would set Christ above and beyond all comparison.

Change of name in Scripture indicates the commencement of a unique relationship. When God established His covenant with Abram, He changed his name to “Abraham” (Gen. 17:5). When God entered into a unique relationship with Jacob, He gave Him the name “Israel” (Gen. 32:22-32). In the New Testament, Jesus called a man named Simon to follow Him, then gave him a new name: Peter (Matt. 16:18). Those names were given to mark a definite stage in a person’s life. God has done that throughout redemptive history. Philippians 2:9 affirms that God gave Christ a name. He already had many names—Jesus, Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah—but He received a new name.

Some assume that the new name is Jesus because verse 10 says, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” But that wasn’t a new name; it was bestowed at birth (see Matt. 1:21). Nor is the name Jesus above every other name (there have been a lot of people named Jesus). The only name mentioned in Philippians 2:9-11 that is above every name is Lord. In verse 11 Paul says, “Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That is the only name God gave Christ that is above every name. Whoever is Lord is in control.

Let us exalt Christ our Lord by offering Him praise and living a holy life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank Christ for being Lord of the universe as well as Lord of your life.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 2.

  • What are the key aspects?
  • Is everyone happy about Christ’s position?


PART II

A Warning to the Intellectually Convinced

"How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard" (Heb. 2:3).

Many people know the facts of the gospel but won’t make a commitment to it.

I will never forget a lady who came to my office, confessing that she was a prostitute and was desperate for help. I presented the claims of Christ to her and asked if she wanted to confess Christ as Lord of her life. She said yes and prayed, seemingly inviting Christ into her life.

Then I suggested that we burn her book of contacts. She looked at me incredulously and said, "What do you mean?" "If you want to live for Jesus Christ," I explained, "and you've truly accepted His forgiveness and embraced Him as Lord, then you need to prove it." "But that book is worth a lot of money," she said. "I don't want to burn it." After putting it back in her purse, she looked me right in the eye and said, "I guess I don't really want Jesus, do I?"

When it came to counting the cost, she wasn't ready. I don't know whatever became of her, but my heart aches for her and others like her.

I'm sure you know people like her—they know and believe that Christ is the Savior, they know they need Him, but they are unwilling to make a commitment to Him. Perhaps they even go to church and hear the Word of God. They are like the proverbial man who says he believes a boat will keep him afloat, but never sets foot in one.

Those people are the most tragic of all. They need to be warned—to be given a powerful shove toward Christ. May the Lord use you as His instrument for that purpose in the lives of many who are on the edge of a decision for Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to soften the hearts of people you know who understand the facts of the gospel, but haven't yet made a commitment to it.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 19:16-22. What kinds of questions should you ask of someone who appears eager to become a Christian?


PART III 

December 19 - Parable of the Hidden Treasure

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field’” (Matthew 13:44).

Palestine was a battleground for centuries; therefore families would commonly bury clothing, food, household valuables, money, and jewelry to protect them from plundering enemy soldiers. Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote, “The gold and the silver and the rest of that most precious furniture which the Jews had and which the owners treasured underground was done to withstand the fortunes of war.” When the owners of such treasures died or departed the country, the valuables would be forever lost unless someone accidentally discovered them.

Given that history, this parable’s hidden treasure was probably long forgotten until the man found it as he passed through the field. The man was so joyful at his find that he was willing to sacrifice everything in order to possess it, the metaphor for God’s kingdom. That is the point of Jesus’ parable, not the ethics of what the man did, as some Christians wrongly suppose. Such observers think the man was unethi-cal not to have told the field’s owner about the treasure, since it rightfully belonged to him.

But the man was not unethical. First, he obviously knew the owner was not aware of the treasure or he would have first offered it to him. Second, rabbinic law said finders could keep what they found. Third, had the man been dishonest, he would have gone off with the treasure without any thought of buying the field. But he realized that a field with treasure—the kingdom—was so valuable that he sold all else to obtain it. Nothing is more important for us than possessing that treasure also.

Ask Yourself

What treasures of the kingdom have you stumbled upon recently? When you see them, what are you motivated to forsake in order to more fully and consistently experience the power, joy, and freedom of living in pure fellowship with God?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Micah 2:7 Spirit of the LORD. God responded to the evil prophets that their message affirming sin in the nation was inconsistent with the Holy Spirit and His true message to Micah (3:8). God’s words do reward the righteous, but they also rebuke those engaging in evil deeds.

Micah 2:6–11 False prophets, commanding Micah to cease prophesying, would certainly not prophesy against the people’s evil doing. They would not confront them with the divine standard of holiness. Rather, their false message (v. 7) had stopped the mouths of the true prophets and had permitted the rulers to engage in social atrocities (vv. 8, 9), leading the people to destruction (v. 10). They didn’t want true prophecies; therefore, they got what they wanted (Is. 30:10). It is best to understand that Micah speaks in v. 6 and God in vv. 7–11.

Revelation 9:3 locusts. A grasshopper-like insect that descends in swarms so thick they can obscure the sun and strip bare all vegetation. In the 1950s a locust swarm devoured every growing thing for several hundred thousand square miles in the Middle East. These are not normal locusts, however, but specially prepared ones that are merely the outward form of demons, who, like locusts, will bring swarming desolation (Joel 2:1–5). “Like” appears 9 times in John’s description. He finds it difficult to describe what he sees in a way the reader can understand. scorpions. An arachnid that inhabits warm, dry regions and has an erect tail tipped with a venomous stinger. A scorpion’s victim often rolls on the ground in agony, foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth in pain. The demons in locust form are able to inflict the physical—and perhaps, spiritual—pain like the scorpion (v. 5).

Revelation 9:11 Abaddon,…Apollyon. Although locusts normally have no king (Prov. 30:27), these demonic creatures do. His name in both Hebrew and Greek means “destroyer.” There is a hierarchy of power among the demons, just as among the holy angels. Apparently, “the angel of the bottomless pit” is one of Satan’s most trusted leaders or possibly Satan himself.


DAY 19: Who was the prophet Micah, and what was his message?

The first verse establishes Micah as the author. Beyond that, little is known about him. His parentage is not given, but his name suggests a godly heritage. He traces his roots to the town of Moresheth (1:1, 14), located in the foothills of Judah, approximately 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, on the border of Judah and Philistia, near Gath. From a productive agricultural area, he was like Amos, a country resident removed from the national politics and religion, yet chosen by God (3:8) to deliver a message of judgment to the princes and people of Jerusalem.

Primarily, Micah proclaimed a message of judgment to a people persistently pursuing evil. Similar to other prophets (Hos. 4:1; Amos 3:1), Micah presented his message in lawsuit/courtroom terminology (1:2; 6:1, 2). The prophecy is arranged in 3 oracles or cycles, each beginning with the admonition to “hear” (1:2; 3:1; 6:1). Within each oracle, he moves from doom to hope—doom because they have broken God’s law given at Sinai; hope because of God’s unchanging covenant with their forefathers (7:20). One-third of the book targets the sins of his people; another third looks at the punishment of God to come; and another third promises hope for the faithful after the judgment. Thus, the theme of the inevitability of divine judgment for sin is coupled together with God’s immutable commitment to His covenant promises. The combination of God’s 1) absolute consistency in judging sin and 2) unbending commitment to His covenant through the remnant of His people provides the hearers with a clear disclosure of the character of the Sovereign of the universe. Through divine intervention, He will bring about both judgment on sinners and blessing on those who repent.


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 



12/18/18

The Privileges of Christ's Exaltation

“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

Christ is exalted as Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus’ exaltation was the reversal of His humble incarnation. He who was poor became rich; He who was rejected became accepted; He who had learned obedience returned to a position of power that calls all others to obey Him. Commentator William Hendricksen wrote, “As king, having by his death, resurrection, and ascension achieved and displayed his triumph over his enemies, he now holds in his hands the reins of the universe, and rules all things in the interest of his church (Eph. 1:22-23). As prophet he through his Spirit leads his own in all the truth. And as priest (Highpriest according to the order of Melchizedek) he, on the basis of his accomplished atonement, not only intercedes but actually lives forever to make intercession for those who “draw near to God through him.” And God was the source of Jesus’ exaltation.

In Philippians 2:9 the apostle Paul says that God “bestowed on Him the name.” The Greek word translated “bestowed” means “to give graciously” or “wholeheartedly.” Christ so fully and completely accomplished God’s plan of redemption that God wholeheartedly and graciously poured out on Christ the gifts of exaltation. Though He could not be made more than God, He now enjoys all the privileges of God as well as all the privileges of the God-man, which He now is.

Puritan minister Thomas Watson wrote in his Body of Divinity, “Christ’s exaltation is our exaltation. . . . As sure as Christ is exalted far above all heavens, so sure will he instate believers in all that glory with which his human nature is adorned. John xvii 22.” Be encouraged, for one day Christ will also exalt you!

Suggestions for Prayer

First Corinthians 15:24-26 shows that God has exalted Christ as Sovereign over everything. In keeping with that theme, use Psalm 99 as the basis of your own prayer to praise Christ as Ruler over all.

For Further Study

  • According to Romans 14:9, why did Christ humble Himself?
  • What has the Father given to the Son as part of His exaltation (John 5:22)?


PART II 

Bearing with an Exhortation

"I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22).

Invitations to salvation must provide both exhortation and warning.

Hell is undoubtedly full of people who did not actively oppose Jesus Christ, but simply drifted into damnation by neglecting to respond to the gospel. These are the kinds of people the writer challenges in Hebrews 2:1-4. They were aware of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but weren't willing to commit their lives to Him. As a result, they were drifting past the call of God into eternal disaster.

The Word of God always demands a response. Any effective teacher of it must do more than just dispense facts; he must warn, exhort, and extend an invitation. He may have impressive knowledge of the truth, but if he doesn't have a passionate concern for how people react to it, he is not a worthy representative of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had that kind of compassion. Despite the rejection of His own people, He ached for their salvation: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen ushers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matt. 23:37). You can feel His heart go out to the people.

Paul had similar compassion: "I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of My brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:2-3). A true teacher is interested in more than just academics; he is concerned that people respond rightly to what is taught.

Just as the writer of Hebrews had to warn and exhort his readers, at times it becomes necessary for us to warn those we are witnessing to. If you want to see unbelieving friends, relatives, or associates come to Christ, warn them. Let them see the passion in your heart and your love for them. Please don't allow anyone to slip into eternal destruction without being warned sufficiently.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to give you wisdom regarding when to warn the people you are witnessing to.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 3:7—4:13, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, and 12:25-29 noting the pattern the writer followed in presenting these other warnings.


PART III 

December 18 - Parable of the Leaven, Part 2

“He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened’” (Matthew 13:33).

In order for it to have the positive influence we referred to yesterday, the leaven of God’s kingdom must be hid. And that does not mean hiding to be invisible but hiding to penetrate deeply, completely permeating the world as leaven thoroughly permeates bread dough. Believers are not to be of the world, but they must be in the world to reach and change it with the gospel (cf. Mark 16:15; John 17:14–16, 18).

When we faithfully serve as the moral and spiritual leaven of the kingdom, our influence in the world will be both positive and pervasive. And for this to happen, we don’t have to be powerful national leaders, wealthy entrepreneurs, or popular sports figures—just obedient servants of Jesus Christ.

Evangelism and other aspects of kingdom ministry often seem to have little immediate effect. As the church grows bigger, the world’s population grows at a much faster rate, and the church remains a remnant by comparison. But the Lord continues to add to His kingdom by reaching millions through radio, television, publications, and the Internet—means that were largely unavailable or untapped just a century ago.

The leavening work of the kingdom may seem invisible or ineffective to you—“a day of small things”—but that does not mean the Lord is not at work. Jesus’ purpose in this parable and the previous one on the mustard seed was to assure the apostles as well as believers of every era that the kingdom would not fail but ultimately prosper and triumph (cf. Matt. 16:18).

Ask Yourself

Is God calling you or your church to infiltrate a certain segment of culture or an area of your community with the transforming agent of gospel influence? As He leads, begin dreaming about how you might do that—and what He might do as a result.


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Jonah 1:3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish. This is the only recorded instance of a prophet refusing God’s commission (Jer. 20:7–9). The location of Tarshish, known for its wealth (Ps. 72:10; Jer. 10:9; Ezek. 27:12, 25), is uncertain. The Greek historian Herodotus identified it with Tartessus, a merchant city in southern Spain. The prophet went as far west in the opposite direction as possible, showing his reluctance to bring salvation blessing to Gentiles. from the presence of the LORD. While no one can escape from the Lord’s omnipresence (Ps. 139:7–12), it is thought that the prophet was attempting to flee His manifest presence in the temple at Jerusalem (Gen. 4:16; Jon. 2:4).

Jonah 1:17 a great fish. The species of fish is uncertain; the Hebrew word for whale is not here employed. God sovereignly prepared (literally, “appointed”) a great fish to rescue Jonah. Apparently Jonah sank into the depth of the sea before the fish swallowed him (2:3, 5, 6).

Jonah 4:1,2 Jonah, because of his rejection of Gentiles and distaste for their participation in salvation, was displeased at God’s demonstration of mercy toward the Ninevites, thereby displaying the real reason for his original flight to Tarshish. From the very beginning, Jonah had clearly understood the gracious character of God (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). He had received pardon, but didn’t want Nineveh to know God’s mercy (a similar attitude in Luke 15:25ff.).


DAY 18: Why did Jonah run from his mission to Nineveh?

Jonah, though a prophet of Israel, is not remembered for his ministry in Israel, which could explain why the Pharisees erringly claimed in Jesus’ day that no prophet had come from Galilee (John 7:52). Rather, the book relates the account of his call to preach repentance to Nineveh and his refusal to go. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria and infamous for its cruelty, was a historical nemesis of Israel and Judah. The focus of this book is on that Gentile city, which was founded by Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:6–12). Perhaps the largest city in the ancient world (1:2; 3:2, 3; 4:11), it was nevertheless destroyed about 150 years after the repentance of the generation in the time of Jonah’s visit (612 B.C.), as Nahum prophesied (Nah. 1:1ff.).

Israel’s political distaste for Assyria, coupled with a sense of spiritual superiority as the recipient of God’s covenant blessing, produced a recalcitrant attitude in Jonah toward God’s request for missionary service. Jonah was sent to Nineveh in part to shame Israel by the fact that a pagan city repented at the preaching of a stranger, whereas Israel would not repent though preached to by many prophets. He was soon to learn that God’s love and mercy extends to all of His creatures (4:2, 10, 11), not just His covenant people (Gen. 9:27; 12:3; Lev. 19:33, 34; 1 Sam. 2:10; Is. 2:2; Joel 2:28–32).


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO 



12/17/18

The Meaning of Christ's Exaltation

“God highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9).

The Father exalted the Son as the God-man.

A question that often springs to mind regarding the exaltation of Christ is how Jesus could be exalted since He is already God. We find the answer in Jesus’ High-Priestly prayer in John 17, where He asked the Father to restore to Him the glory He had with the Father before the world began (v. 5). Christ’s request shows that He gave up something that God would give back to Him. Christ gave up His glory in the Incarnation. Beyond glorification, in His exaltation Christ would receive more than He had before.

How is that possible? God has it all. Christ didn’t become any more God or any more perfect; He was already the Most High God—King of kings and Lord of lords. But as the God-man, a new state of being for Him, He suffered things and was given things He would not otherwise have had if He had not become the God-man. For example, He never would have had the privilege of being the interceding High Priest for His people if He had never been touched with the feelings of their infirmities—tempted in all points like them. If He had not become the God-man, He would never have become our substitute by bearing our sins in His own body on the cross. As God He was incapable of elevation, but as the God-Man He could be lifted up from the lowest degradation to the highest degree of glory. So in a sense He received from the Father privileges He didn’t have before—privileges He gained because of His incarnation.

At His ascension Christ was seated at the Father’s right hand. He was elevated to that position as the God-man—a state of being that was His only because of His incarnation. Thus He entered upon the rights and privileges not only of God as God, but of God as the God-man. His exaltation was not with regard to His nature or eternal place within the Trinity but with regard to His new character as the God-man.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Father for exalting His Son to His rightful place in Heaven.

For Further Study

According to Acts 5:31, in what two ways did God exalt Christ to His right hand? Why?


PART II 

Christ's Superior Destiny

"To which of the angels has He ever said, 'Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet'? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1:13-14).

The destiny of Jesus Christ is that ultimately everything in the universe will be subject to Him.

"At the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth" (Phil. 2:10). That great promise confirms that Jesus Christ is destined to be the ruler of the universe.

Yet notice this about Christ's rule: "When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28). Christ is subordinate to His Father, but only in His role as the Son. While the eternal Son is equally divine, He is officially in subjection to God.

Eventually God will put all kingdoms, authorities, and powers of the world in subjection under Christ when He comes in glory at His second coming. "He will rule [the nations] with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'" (Rev. 19:15-16). Christ's eternal destiny is to reign over the new heavens and the new earth.

But what about the angels? While Christ has the greater destiny, it is their destiny to serve forever those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14)—and that's us!

Angels protect and deliver the believer from temporal danger. They rescued Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom. They went into the lions' den with Daniel and protected him. In addition to being forever in God's presence, our destiny is to be served by angels forever—service that begins the moment of our salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the many ways He takes care of you: by saving you, having Christ intercede for you, giving you the Holy Spirit to teach you, and sending His angels to serve you.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 6:8-23 and note the amazing way that angels served the prophet Elisha.


PART III 

December 17 - Parable of the Leaven, Part 1

“He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened’” (Matthew 13:33).

Small things often have a great influence, which is the first point of Jesus’ parable here. The influence is analogous to the effect a small piece of leavened dough, as it permeates and rises, can have on a larger lump of unleavened dough. Here the influence represents the power of God’s kingdom, which is much greater than its initial, small appearances. The smallest part of the kingdom will influence the world because it contains the Holy Spirit’s power working through believers.

Secondly, the parable suggests that kingdom influence is positive, just as leavening is for bread. To symbolize their break with Egypt, God commanded His people to eat only unleavened bread (Ex. 12:15, 18–19). But apart from the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they were free to eat and enjoy leavened bread. The Jews always perceived leaven favorably, as when a bride-to-be received a small piece of leavened dough just before her wedding. From that she would bake bread the rest of her married life and consider the small gift among the most cherished she ever received.

As to how leaven represents the large and positive influence of God’s kingdom against Satan’s, William Arnot wrote,

The evil spreads like leaven; you tremble . . . but be of good cheer, disciples of Jesus, greater is He that is for you than all that are against you; the word of life which has been hidden in the world, hidden in believing hearts, is a leaven too. The unction of the Holy One is more subtle and penetrating and subduing than sin and Satan. Where sin abounded, grace shall much more abound.

Ask Yourself

What small addition or adjustment could you make to your lifestyle priorities as a Christian that would result in a big change of usefulness and effectiveness?


PART IV

Reading for Today:

Notes:

Obadiah 1 The vision. The prophetic word often came from God in the form of a vision (Hab. 1:1). Thus says the Lord GOD. Although the background of the prophet is obscure, the source of his message is not. It was supernaturally given by God and was not motivated by unholy vengeance. Edom. Descendants of Esau (Gen. 25:30; 36:1ff.), the Edomites settled in the region south of the Dead Sea. Arise,…rise up against her. The prophet heard of an international plot to overthrow Edom. The selfish motives of Edom’s enemies were divinely controlled by the Lord’s “messengers” to serve His sovereign purposes (Ps. 104:4).

Revelation 7:4 One hundred and forty-four thousand. A missionary corps of redeemed Jews who are instrumental in the salvation of many Jews and Gentiles during the Tribulation (vv. 9–17). They will be the firstfruits of a new redeemed Israel (v.4; Zech. 12:10). Finally, Israel will be the witness nation she refused to be in the Old Testament (Rom. 11:25–27). all the tribes of the children of Israel. By sovereign election, God will seal 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes, promising His protection while they accomplish their mission.

Revelation 7:1–17 Chapter 7 forms a parenthesis between the sixth seal (6:12–17) and the seventh seal (8:1) and answers the question posed at the end of chapter 6. Two distinct groups will survive the divine fury: 1) 144,000 Jewish evangelists on earth (vv. 1–8) and 2) their converts in heaven (vv. 9–17).



DAY 17: Who make up the “great multitude” of Revelation 7:9?


While the tribulation period will be a time of judgment, it will also be a time of unprecedented redemption (v. 14; 6:9–11; 20:4; Is. 11:10; Matt. 24:14). This is noted in v. 9 with the “great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

John is told that “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation” (v. 14). These people didn’t go with the raptured church, since they were not yet saved. During the 7-year period, they will be saved, martyred, and enter heaven. Though it is a time of unparalleled judgment, it is also a time of unparalleled grace in salvation (Matt. 24:12–14). “And washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). Salvation’s cleansing is in relationship to the atoning sacrifice of Christ (1:5; 5:9; Rom. 3:24, 25; 5:9).

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple” (v. 15).This refers to the heavenly throne of God. During the Millennium, there will also be a temple on earth—a special holy place where God dwells in a partially restored, but still fallen universe (see Ezek. 40–48). In the final, eternal state with its new heavens and earth, there is no temple; God Himself, who will fill all, will be its temple (21:22). “And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.” The preferred reading is that He “will spread His tent over them.” God’s presence will become their canopy of shelter to protect them from all the terrors of a fallen world and the indescribable horrors they have experienced on the earth during the time of tribulation.


GOD BLESSED YOU!


MAXIMILIANO