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1.  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

2.  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19

3.  “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

4.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

5.  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

6.  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14




Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.


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 "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 1:1–2Job 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 31:2–5Numbers 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 14:61915:14).

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 2:12Acts 2:433:1–79:39–41). 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.






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.


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Exodus 9:1–10:29
* Psalm 17:8-15
* Proverbs 5:21-23
* Matthew 20:1-16

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.

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Our Unity in Christ

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).

All Christians have a common Lord, common beliefs, and a common public testimony. 

Yesterday we looked at what Christians have in common through the Spirit. Today’s verse teaches us what we share through Christ.

Christians have only “one Lord,” the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul says in Romans 10:12, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all.”

Our “one faith” is simply the content of what the revealed Word of God tells us we are to believe. And the primary focus of the Scriptures is Christ. Though we have many denominations and congregations, there’s only one true Christian faith. This faith is what Jude refers to in verse 3 of his epistle: “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Why then do churches differ so much in what they teach? Some of it comes from inadequate study or lack of diligence. Some is from unexamined tradition. 

The fundamental problem, though, is our humanness—we are fallen, fallible people, and that can color our understanding of Scripture. That’s why it’s so important we not hold too tightly to “our brand” of Christianity, but instead always think matters through biblically and discuss them courteously.

Christians also have “one baptism.” This does not refer to Spirit baptism because that was implied in Ephesians 4:4 with the words “one body.” (As 1 Corinthians 12:13explains, we all were placed into the Body of Christ by the baptism of the Spirit.) “One baptism” in verse 5 refers to water baptism. When someone comes to believe in the only true Lord, he should be baptized as a public expression of his faith. Public baptism was an essential part of the early church’s testimony to the world. It is no less essential today.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for our Lord Jesus Christ, for our common Christian faith, and for our baptism, by which we identify ourselves with Christ and His people.
For Further Study
* The church at Corinth did not understand our oneness as believers. Read Paul’s description of them in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. What were the symptoms of their divisions?
* What did Paul command them to do?
* If there are divisions in your church, find ways that you can be a peacemaker.


Exalting Christ

"[God] seated [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph.1:20). 

Christ occupies the highest place of power, prominence, authority, and honor.

To exalt someone is to elevate that person in status, dignity, power, and honor. As God, Jesus possesses all power and authority and is deserving of all honor and glory. But when He was on earth, most people refused to give Him the glory He deserved. Instead they mocked and eventually murdered Him.

Just prior to His death, Jesus prayed to the Father, "Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:5). The Father answered that prayer by giving Him an exalted name and an exalted position.

Paul wrote, "God highly exalted [Christ], and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 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, to the glory of God the Farther" (Phil. 2:9-11).

Hebrews 1:3 adds that when Christ had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 

Old Testament priests didn't sit down while on duty because their work was never finished. Repeated sacrifices were necessary because of the priest's own sins and the sins of the people. Christ, on the other hand, made one all-sufficient sacrifice, then sat down. His atoning work was completed.

The "right hand" of God is a metaphor for the highest place of power, prominence, authority, and honor. From that exalted position Christ reigns as the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

There's one aspect of Christ's exaltation that we as believers can participate in right now. David said, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together" (Ps. 34:3). Psalm 99:5 adds, "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool." Be generous in praising Him today, for He is worthy!

Suggestions for Prayer
Read Psalm 34 and exalt the Lord for all the benefits He demonstrates on behalf of His people.
For Further Study
Read Colossians 3:1-4.
* Describe your position in Christ (vv. 1, 3).
* What should be the focus of your life (v. 2)?
* When ultimately will God vindicate your faith in Christ (v. 4)?
* What must you do to be exalted by God (see James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6)?


Jesus’ Authoritative Preaching

“From that time Jesus began to preach” (Matthew 4:17).

Our Lord heralded the gospel message with certainty. His mission was not to dispute or argue with His opponents but to preach the truth of salvation. He did not merely proclaim certainties, but He did so with the utmost authority (cf. Matt. 7:29).

The scribes could not teach with authority because they had mingled so many man-made opinions and interpretations in with biblical truths that any sense of authority for them had long since disappeared. It was thus quite astounding when the people again heard one like Jesus preach with real authority, as the prophets had (cf. Matt. 7:28–29).

Jesus also preached precisely and only what His Father commissioned Him to proclaim, which no doubt gave added weight to His authority. He testified to this fact quite directly, “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. 3:34; 8:38).

Based on this divine authority, Christ sends us out into the world as His ambassadors by saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:18b–19a). 

All believers who are faithful witnesses for the gospel will proclaim God’s certain truth by His authority—and with His power.

Ask Yourself
The authority of Jesus that registered with the people of His day also had something to do with His authenticity. If people don’t show much respect for God and His Word today, how much of it is due to a lack of authenticity in His people? Pray that we would exude His grace-filled reality.


Reading for Today:
* Exodus 7:1–8:32
* Psalm 17:1-7
* Proverbs 5:15-20
* Matthew 19:1-30

Exodus 7:11 magicians. Magic and sorcery played a major role in the pantheistic religion of Egypt. Its ancient documents record the activities of the magicians, one of the most prominent being the charming of serpents. These men were also styled “wise men” and “sorcerers,” i.e., the learned men of the day and the religious, as well (the word for sorcery being derived from a word meaning “to offer prayers”). 

Two of these men were named Jannes and Jambres (see 2 Tim. 3:8). Any supernatural power came from Satan (see 2 Cor. 11:13–15). enchantments. 

By means of their “secret arts” or “witchcraft,” the wise men, sorcerers, and magicians demonstrated their abilities to perform a similar feat. Whether by optical illusion, sleight of hand, or learned physical manipulation of a snake, all sufficiently skillful enough to totally fool Pharaoh and his servants, or by evil supernaturalism, the evaluation given in the inspired record is simply “they also did in like manner.” 

However, the turning of rods into snakes and later turning water into blood (7:22) and calling forth frogs (8:7) were not the same as trying to create lice from inanimate dust (8:18–19). At that point, the magicians had no option but to confess their failure.

Proverbs 5:15–19 Using the imagery of water, the joy of a faithful marriage is contrasted with the disaster of infidelity (vv. 9–14). “Cistern” and “well” refer to the wife from whom the husband is to draw all his satisfying refreshment, sexually and affectionately (v. 19; see 9:17, 18; Song 4:9–11).

Matthew 19:7 Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce…? The Pharisees misrepresented Deuteronomy 24:1–4. It was not a “command” for divorce, but a limitation on remarriage in the event of a divorce. While recognizing the legitimacy of divorce when a man “has found some uncleanness” (Deut. 24:1) in his wife (sexual sin, by Jesus’ interpretation in v. 9), Moses did not “command” divorce.

Matthew 19:21 go, sell what you have and give to the poor. Again, Jesus was not setting forth terms for salvation, but rather exposing the young man’s true heart. His refusal to obey here revealed two things: 1) he was not blameless as far as the law was concerned, because he was guilty of loving himself and his possessions more than his neighbors (see v. 19); and 2) he lacked true faith, which involves a willingness to surrender all at Christ’s bidding (16:24). Jesus was not teaching salvation by philanthropy; but He was demanding that this young man give Him first place. The young man failed the test (v. 22). come, follow Me. 

This was the answer to the young man’s question in v. 16. It was a call to faith. It is likely that the young man never even heard or contemplated it, though, because his own love of his possessions was such a stumbling block that he had already rejected Jesus’ claim to lordship over his life. Thus he walked away in unbelief.

DAY 29: Describe the ten plagues on Egypt.
The Plague
Egyptian Deity
The Effect
1. Blood (7:20)
Pharaoh hardened (7:22)
2. Frogs (8:6)
Pharaoh begs relief, promises freedom (8:8),
but is hardened (8:15)
3. Lice (8:17)
Hathor, Nut
Pharaoh hardened (8:19)
4. Flies (8:24)
Shu, Isis
Pharaoh bargains (8:28), but is hardened (8:32)
5. Livestock diseased (9:6)
Pharaoh hardened (9:7)
6. Boils (9:10)
Pharaoh hardened (9:12)
7. Hail (9:23)
Pharaoh begs relief (9:27), promises freedom
(9:28), but is hardened (9:35)
8. Locusts (10:13)
Pharaoh bargains (10:11), begs relief (10:17),
but is hardened (10:20)
9. Darkness (10:22)
Pharaoh bargains (10:24), but is hardened (10:27)
10. Death of firstborn (12:29)

Pharaoh and Egyptians beg Israel to leave
Egypt (12:31–33)

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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 6:19says, “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.


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.


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.


Reading for Today:
* Exodus 5:1–6:30
* Psalm 16:7-11
* Proverbs 5:7-14
* Matthew 18:21-35

Exodus 5:2 Who is the LORD…? In all likelihood Pharaoh knew of Israel’s God, but his interrogative retort insolently and arrogantly rejected Him as having any power to make demands of Egypt’s superior ruler.

Exodus 5:22, 23 Moses returned to the LORD. Whether Moses and his brother remonstrated with the foremen about their strong and wrong evaluation remains a moot point. Rather, the focus is upon Moses, who remonstrated with the Lord in prayer. Evidently, Moses did not anticipate what effect Pharaoh’s refusal and reaction would have upon his own people. Confrontation with Pharaoh so far had provoked both angry resentment of Israel by the Egyptians and of Moses by Israel—this was not the expected scenario!

Matthew 18:24 ten thousand talents. This represents an incomprehensible amount of money. The talent was the largest denomination of currency, and “ten thousand” in common parlance signified an infinite number.

Matthew 18:28 a hundred denarii. About 3 months’ wages. This was not a negligible amount by normal standards, but it was a pittance in comparison to what the servant had been forgiven.

DAY 28: Are there other messianic prophecies in the Psalms other than Psalm 16:10?
1. God will announce Christ to be His Son
Matthew 3:17; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5
2. All things will be put under Christ’s feet
1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:8
3. Christ will be resurrected from the grave
Mark 16:6,7; Acts 13:35
4. God will forsake Christ in His moment of agony
Matthew 27:46;Mark 15:34
5. Christ will be scorned and ridiculed
Matthew 27:39–43; Luke 23:35
6. Christ’s hands and feet will be pierced
John 20:25,27; Acts 2:23
7. Others will gamble for Christ’s clothes
Matthew 27:35,36
8. Not one of Christ’s bones will be broken
John 19:32,33,36
9. Christ will be hated unjustly
John 15:25
10. Christ will come to do God’s will
Hebrews 10:7
11. Christ will be betrayed by a friend
John 13:18
12. Christ’s throne will be eternal
Hebrews 1:8
13. Christ will ascend to heaven
Ephesians 4:8
14. Zeal for God’s temple will consume Christ
John 2:17
15. Christ will be given vinegar and gall
Matthew 27:34; John 19:28–30
16. Christ’s betrayer will be replaced
Acts 1:20
17. Christ’s enemies will bow down to Him
Acts 2:34,35
18. Christ will be a priest like Melchizedek
Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:17
19. Christ will be the chief cornerstone
Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11
20. Christ will come in the name of the Lord

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Seeking Righteous Attitudes

“I . . . entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

God is most concerned about who we are, because who we are determines what we do.

Now that we’ve looked in depth at Ephesians 4:1-3, let’s take a step back. These verses reveal a basic truth: the Christian life is not primarily about what we do but who we are. When Paul teaches about the worthy walk, about how we live each day, he never discusses actions, only attitudes.

It is possible to have what I call “action fruit”—such as praise (Heb. 13:15), giving (Phil. 4:17), evangelism (Rom. 1:13), and other good works (Col. 1:10)—without “attitude fruit,” which is the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Plenty of people can do good deeds without inner righteousness. But that’s legalism; that’s the hypocrisy that the Bible speaks so much about. The right path to true spirituality is to have proper attitudes first. The Holy Spirit works through our attitudes to produce right actions.

Unfortunately, many Christians miss this point. To them, being a Christian is primarily a list of do’s—going to church, putting money in the offering, carrying a Bible—and don’ts—not cursing, not drinking, not murdering. They see external behavior as the fact of Christianity instead of the manifestation of it. They don’t cultivate the inner graces.
Of course, God wants us to live righteous lives. But to those with merely external actions, Jesus said, “Woe to you . . . hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. . . . First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Matt. 23:25-26). 

Don’t let yourself become a slave to external religion. Make sure you do your good works out of love for God and others, as part of the overflow of the spiritual fruit in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer
If you see hypocrisy in yourself, ask God to purge it. Pray for and diligently seek attitude fruit.

For Further Study
Jesus warned about internal sinfulness in Matthew 5:2122, 27-30 and external righteousness in 6:1-18 and 7:1-5. How is Proverbs 4:23 an antidote to those?


Trusting in God's Power

"I pray that ... you may know ... the surpassing greatness of [God's] power toward us who believe" (Eph. 1:18-19).

The same divine power that created, sustains, and controls the universe secures your salvation.

God’s power is awesome! David wrote, “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. Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name” (1 Chron.29:11-13).

In Ephesians 1:19 Paul focuses on one key feature of God’s power: His ability to secure the salvation of His people. And he prays for you to understand the surpassing greatness of that truth.

The Greek word translated “power” is dunamis, from which we get dynamite and dynamo. This power is active, dynamic, and compelling—and it is mightily at work on your behalf. You might not always sense it, but it’s there nonetheless.
Peter expresses the same thought in 1 Peter 1:5, where he says you are “protected by the power of God through faith” in Christ. In that verse “protected” means “to keep or guard” and reflects Peter’s confidence that salvation is inviolable.

The same limitless power that created, sustains, and controls the universe saved you and keeps you saved. That’s why Jesus said no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). Not even Satan has the power to do that. Paul confidently added that nothing therefore can separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39). That’s the confidence you should have as you live each day.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for greater spiritual enlightenment and a clearer understanding of your security in Christ. Nothing will rob you of your assurance quicker than unconfessed sin. If that has happened to you, confess it immediately and turn from it. Then ask God to restore to you the joy of your salvation.

For Further Study
Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-13.
* What prerogatives did David attribute to God (vv. 11-12)?
* What was David's response to God's power (v. 13)?


The Lord's Ministry All According to Plan

“He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea” (Matthew 4:12-13).

Nothing was accidental or happenstance about Jesus’ earthly ministry. He did not go from Judea to Galilee because Herod or the Jewish leaders forced Him to or because He had nowhere else to go. He left Judea because His work there was finished for the time being. 

And He came to Galilee because that was the next place, according to the Father’s plan, for Him to minister.

Humanly speaking, Jesus left the lower Jordan region for Galilee because of the Jewish leaders (cf. John 4:1, 3). His close association with John the Baptist as well as His growing number of followers had caused the scribes and Pharisees to hate Jesus as much or more than they hated John. Jesus was not afraid of their hatred but removed Himself from the leaders’ immediate influence because it was not yet time for them to fully turn their wrath on Him.

The Lord by no means avoided the Jewish leaders permanently, for at the appropriate, foreordained time, He faced them without flinching and denounced them far more harshly than John the Baptist ever did (cf. Matt. 23:1–36). Jesus was simply forever safe from wicked human schemes and devices. He knew He would die, but it would be according to the will of His Father, not that of His earthly enemies (cf. John 10:17–18). He also knew He would rise from the dead, all according to the divine plan.

Ask Yourself
Can Christians live with the same kind of bold assurance that Jesus did, fearlessly walking through life at the Spirit’s direction? If the worst that could happen would only put us that much closer to Jesus, what reason do we have for fear? Why not resolve to follow Jesus’ example?


Reading for Today:
* Exodus 3:1–4:31
* Psalm 16:1-6
* Proverbs 5:1-6
* Matthew 18:1-20

Exodus 4:21 I will harden his heart. The Lord’s personal and direct involvement in the affairs of men so that His purposes might be done is revealed as God informed Moses what would take place. Pharaoh was also warned that his own refusal would bring judgment on him (v. 23). Previously Moses had been told that God was certain of Pharaoh’s refusal (3:19). This interplay between God’s hardening and Pharaoh’s hardening his heart must be kept in balance. 

Ten times (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17) the historical record notes specifically that God hardened the king’s heart, and ten times (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15) the record indicates the king hardened his own heart. The apostle Paul used this hardening as an example of God’s inscrutable will and absolute power to intervene as He chooses, yet obviously never without loss of personal responsibility for actions taken. 

The theological conundrum posed by such interplay of God’s acting and Pharaoh’s acting can only be resolved by accepting the record as it stands and by taking refuge in the omniscience and omnipotence of the God who planned and brought about His deliverance of Israel from Egypt and, in so doing, also judged Pharaoh’s sinfulness.

Matthew 18:3 become as little children. This is how Jesus characterized conversion. Like the Beatitudes, it pictures faith as the simple, helpless, trusting dependence of those who have no resources of their own. Like children, they have no achievements and no accomplishments to offer or commend themselves with.

Matthew 18:20 two or three. Jewish tradition requires at least 10 men (a minyan) to constitute a synagogue or even hold public prayer. Here, Christ promised to be present in the midst of an even smaller flock—”two or three” witnesses gathered in His name for the purpose of discipline.

DAY 27: Is it okay to question God?
Upon hearing that God was sending Moses to be the leader/deliverer of Israel (Ex. 3:10), his response of “Who am I…?” is an expression of inadequacy for such a serious mission. It sounded reasonable, for after 40 years of absence from Egypt, what could he, a mere shepherd of Midian, do upon return?

But was Moses crossing the line from reasonable inquiry to unreasonable doubt in 3:13? God’s patient replies instructing Moses on what He would do and what the results would be, including Israel’s being viewed with favor by the Egyptians (3:21), ought to caution the reader from hastily classifying Moses’ attitude as altogether wrong from the very beginning of the interaction between him and the Lord. Yes, Israel might ask for God’s name in validation of Moses’ declaration that he had been sent by the God of their fathers. Asking “What is His name?” meant they sought for the relevancy of the name to their circumstances—the character, quality, or essence of a person. God’s answer was: “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). 

This name for God points to His self-existence and eternality; it denotes “I am the One who is/will be.” The significance in relation to “God of your fathers” is immediately discernible: He’s the same God throughout the ages!

A response of divine anger comes only in 4:14 at the very end of Moses’ questions and objections, where he moved beyond inquiry into objection.

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The Bond of Peace

“Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The key to peace in the church is selfless love.

People often delude themselves that there is peace when there is no real peace (Jer. 8:11). However, we can show the world that Jesus is the true peacemaker if we have a community of peaceful, loving, united believers. Others will realize then that Christ must be sent from God, because only God can make true, lasting peace.

“The bond of peace” is what holds our unity together. The Greek word translated “bond” refers to a belt. It pictures the Body of Christ being wrapped with the belt of peace, a peace that is born of love.

Our bond of peace is vital to our testimony. As Christians, we have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), the privilege of telling others how they may have peace with God. If we don’t have peace among ourselves, why would unbelievers look to us to find peace with God?

The Corinthian church teaches us how not to have peace. Members would have a “love feast,” followed by Communion. Apparently, though, those who brought food gorged themselves and became drunk, leaving the poorer believers to go hungry (1 Cor. 11:17-22). 

Those gluttons not only dishonored the Lord but also hurt their fellow believers, causing resentment and conflict.

During their worship services, everyone wanted attention. Paul laments, “Each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation” (1 Cor. 14:26)—and they all wanted to speak at once. They weren’t interested in building up each other, only in being heard. The result was a loud, confusing mess.

The Corinthians’ disharmony was evident in different ways, but the root cause was the same: selfishness.

So where does peace come from? Selflessness, the primary characteristic of Christian love. Philippians 2:3says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” We must humble ourselves and focus on the needs of others. When that happens, there will be harmony and unity.

Suggestions for Prayer
Confess any selfishness, and ask God to help you grow in selfless love.

For Further Study
What does Romans 8:6 equate peace with? Memorize this verse during the next few days.


Maintaining a Clear Perspective

"I pray that . . . you may know . . . what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18).

How you perceive your spiritual resources dictates how you live.

Throughout Ephesians 1 Paul is clearly struck with the magnificence of our inheritance in Christ. Here he prays that we will know the riches of its glory.

Some commentators see "His inheritance" as a reference to believers, who are God's inheritance or special possession (v. 14). That view stresses the value God places on us as believers, as demonstrated in Christ's death, the forgiveness of our sins, and the abundant grace that He lavishes on us (vv. 7-8).

Others see it as referring to the believer's inheritance, which Paul calls "His inheritance" because God is its source. Just as "His calling" (v. 18) issued from Him and was received by believers, so His inheritance issues from Him.

Both views are theologically sound but the second seems more consistent with Paul's emphasis in verses 11 and 14. In either case Paul's point is clear: redemption and its accompanying blessings are so profound that we must have supernatural help to understand them. That's why he prayed for our enlightenment (v. 18).
Such enlightenment is crucial because how you perceive your spiritual resources dictates how you live. If, for example, you realize you have every resource for godly living (Eph. 1:3), you are less likely to succumb to temptation. Knowing God has given you His very best in Christ (Rom. 8:31) assures you that He won't withhold lesser things, so you'll not tend to worry about earthly needs. 

Understanding that you have already received "grace upon grace" (John 1:16), abundant life (John 10:10), and "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3) gives you confidence that God's future grace and resources will be more than sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

Let that motivate you to praise your rich and glorious God for His rich and glorious inheritance!

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the privilege of being His child.
* Memorize Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3 and recite them often as anthems of praise for the Lord's abundant grace.

For Further Study
Read 2 Corinthians 11-12.
* What kinds of trials did Paul face?
* How did God respond to Paul's prayer to remove his "thorn in the flesh"?
* How might Paul's response influence you when you face difficulties?


Christ Our Example in Overcoming Temptation

“But He answered and said, ‘It is written . . . it is written . . . it is written . . .’” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

The Lord Jesus Christ is indeed our supreme example for how to resist temptation. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “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” (cf. 2:18). Our responsibility is to consider the many ways He was tempted, look to Him, and follow His example in turning away from sin.

Jesus met the worst temptations Satan could hurl at Him, and He emerged victorious. Now He is ready to share the joy of victory with all His saints: “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, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

The key to our triumph over temptation is to resist it the way Jesus did, by completely obeying God and His Word. Just as in every aspect of the Christian life, we will have success in resisting temptation by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). Like the hurdler who learns to keep his eyes on the finish line as he runs, thereby not tripping over any individual hurdle, so we must keep our eyes on the ultimate goal—being with our glorious Lord and Savior forever in heaven.

Ask Yourself
God’s Word is such that the more time we spend in it, the more it sinks into us—into our hearts, into our thoughts, into our impulses, reactions, and conversations. Are you mining daily from this treasure? Make sure Satan has to climb over a lot of Scripture to get to you.


Reading for Today:
* Exodus 1:1–2:25
* Psalm 15:1-5
* Proverbs 4:25-27
* Matthew 17:1-27

Exodus 1:7 The growth of the nation (see 12:37) was phenomenal! It grew from 70 men to 603,000 males, 20 years of age and older, thus allowing for a total population of about 2 million (Num. 1:46) departing from Egypt. The seed of Abraham was no longer an extended family, but a nation. 

The promise that his descendants would be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 35:11, 12) had indeed been fulfilled in Egypt.

Exodus 2:10 became her son. The position of “son” undoubtedly granted Moses special privileges belonging to nobility, but none of these persuaded Moses to relinquish his native origin. Rather, as the New Testament advises, his spiritual maturity was such that when he came of age, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24). The formal education in the court of that time meant that Moses would have learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and perhaps one or more of the languages of Canaan. He would also have participated in various outdoor sports, e.g., archery and horseback riding, two favorites of the Eighteenth Dynasty court.

Psalm 15:5 usury. Interest rates ran as high as 50 percent, but God’s law put strict regulations on borrowing and lending. He…shall never be moved. This is an important promise in the light of its usage in Psalms and Proverbs (see Pss. 10:6; 13:4; 16:8; 46:5; 62:2,6; Prov. 10:30).

Matthew 17:3 Moses and Elijah. Representing the Law and the Prophets respectively, both of which had foretold Christ’s death, and that is what Luke says the 3 of them were discussing (Luke 9:31).

DAY 26: How is genuine faith different from positive-thinking psychology?
Jesus’ disappointment with His disciples’ inability to cast the demon out of the epileptic boy is readily felt in the words, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” (Matt. 17:17).
Later, in privacy the disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out?” (v. 19). When Christ sent the disciples out (Matt. 10:6–8), He explicitly commissioned them to do these kinds of miracles. Less than a year later, they failed where they had once succeeded. Christ’s explanation for their failure was that their faith was deficient (v. 20). The deficiency did not consist in a lack of confidence; they were surprised that they could not cast out this demon. The problem probably lay in a failure to make God—rather than their own gifts—the object of their confidence.

True faith, even “faith as a mustard seed” (v. 20), by Christ’s definition, always involves surrender to the will of God. What He was teaching here is nothing like positive-thinking psychology. He was saying that both the source and the object of all genuine faith—even the weak, mustard seed variety—is God. And “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Here, Christ assumes the qualifying thought that is explicitly added by 1 John 5:14: what we ask for must be “according to His will.”

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Diligently Preserving Unity

“Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The unity of the Spirit must be earnestly maintained by humble, gentle, patient, loving Christians.

Today’s Scripture spells out the goal of the worthy walk: the unity of the Spirit. Jesus prayed for Christians “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:21). Our witness to the world depends on our unity as believers.

The world is full of discord, animosity, bitterness, and resentment. If in the midst of the world there is an oasis of unity and harmony, people will wonder what we have. Then we have the opportunity to say, “This is what Christ can do.” The world needs to see that the church is not just another social club, but an institution of God, supernaturally born, supernaturally sustained, with a supernatural destiny.

Our unity depends on the virtues we have been studying this month: gentleness, patience, and forbearing love. Without them, unity is impossible. In addition, our unity requires diligence. The word translated “diligent” in Ephesians 4:3 carries the ideas of both zeal and urgency: “Let’s work on it, and work on it now.” We need full dedication. But don’t say first, “I’ll head the committee” or “I’ll make the posters.” 

This is a personal passage, and if you want to hurry and start working on unity, you need to start in your heart. Commit yourself first to walking worthy by matching your life with your theology.

I am grieved by all the disunity and discord in the church today. One of the main causes is the focus on denominational distinctives—what divides us. We should instead focus on biblical distinctives—what unites us. We need to humble ourselves and learn to love each other. That won’t happen by starting a global ecumenical movement, but it will happen when we become what God wants us to be. Working at unity is a full-time task that demands maximum dedication and obedience from every Christian.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would unify His church around the world, and that He would begin with you.
For Further Study

Read about the unity of the early church in Acts 2:42-47and 4:32-37.
* What characterized those believers?
* Which of their characteristics do you need to work on?


Understanding Your Calling

"I pray that . . . you may know what is the hope of [God's] calling" (Eph. 1:18).

The hope of your calling is grounded in God’s promises and in Christ’s accomplishments.

In Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul proclaims the blessings of our salvation. In verse 18 he prays that we will comprehend those great truths, which he summarizes in the phrase "the hope of His calling."

"Calling" here refers to God's effectual calling—the calling that redeems the soul. 

Scripture speaks of two kinds of calling: the gospel or general call and the effectual or specific call. The gospel call is given by men and is a universal call to repent and trust Christ for salvation (e.g., Matt. 28:19; Acts 17:30-31). It goes out to all sinners but not all who hear it respond in faith.

The effectual call is given by God only to the elect. By it He speaks to the soul, grants saving faith, and ushers elect sinners into salvation (John 6:37-44, 65; Acts 2:39). All who receive it respond in faith.
The hope that your effectual calling instills is grounded in God's promises and Christ's accomplishments (1 Pet. 1:3), and is characterized by confidently expecting yet patiently waiting for those promises to be fulfilled. 

It is your hope of final glorification and of sharing God's glory when Christ returns (Col. 3:4). It is a source of strength and stability amid the trials of life (1 Pet. 3:14-15). 

Consequently it should fill you with joy (Rom. 5:2) and motivate you to godly living (1 John 3:3).

As you face this new day, do so with the confidence that you are one of God's elect. He called you to Himself and will hold you there no matter what circumstances you face. Nothing can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:38-39)!

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the security of your salvation.
* Ask Him to impress on your heart the blessings and responsibilities of your calling.
* Live today in anticipation of Christ's imminent return.

For Further Study
Joshua's call to lead Israel was not a call to salvation, but it illustrates some important principles for spiritual leadership. You might not see yourself as a spiritual leader, but you are important to those who look to you as an example of Christian character.
Read Joshua 1:1-9 then answer these questions:
* What were the circumstances of Joshua's call (vv. 1-2)?
* What promises did God make to him (vv. 3-6)?
* What did God require of him (vv. 7-9)?


Believers’ Temptations Similar to Jesus’

“The tempter came and said to Him . . . Then the devil . . . Again, the devil . . .” (Matthew 4:3, 5, 8).

Our temptations are similar in kind to what Jesus faced. First, Satan tries to get us to distrust God’s providential care and solve our own difficulties by our own strength and cleverness. 

Second, the devil will tempt us to presume on the Lord’s protection by having us willingly place ourselves in danger’s pathway, where we can meet all kinds of physical and spiritual harm. Third, he appeals to our selfish ambitions in hopes we might grasp after God’s promises in our own strength. The apostle John mentions these same temptations: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).

Those three major sources of temptation are all around us, so how do we resist? Consider the man who trained his dog by placing a piece of meat in the center of the floor. Whenever the dog tried to take the meat, its owner swatted it and said, “No.” Before long the dog learned to associate the swat with “No” and simply left the meat alone when it heard the word. Finally, whenever the meat was placed on the floor, the dog would not even look at the meat, but instead at its master, waiting for his word of approval or denial. In a way, this illustrates how we must deal with temptation—keep our eyes on the Master rather than the temptation, and wait for His command.

Ask Yourself
One of the grandest things about heaven will be the freedom of living without the burden of temptation or the inclination to obey it. Till then, what can you do to keep your “eyes on the Master,” resisting Satan’s attempts at deception and destruction? Pray for sharper, surer spiritual eyesight.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 49:1–50:26
* Psalm 14:1-7
* Proverbs 4:20-24
* Matthew 16:1-28

Genesis 49:1–28 With Judah and Joseph receiving the most attention (vv. 8–12, 22–26), the father’s blessing portrayed the future history of each son, seemingly based upon their characters up to that time. The cryptic nature of the poetry demands rigorous analysis for correlating tribal history with Jacob’s last word and testament. See Moses’ blessing on the tribes in Deuteronomy 33, ca. 1405 B.C.

Genesis 50:20 but God meant it for good. Joseph’s wise, theological answer has gone down in history as the classic statement of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men.

Proverbs 4:21–23 heart. The “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason (3:3; 6:21; 7:3), but also includes the emotions (15:15, 30), the will (11:20; 14:14), and thus, the whole inner being (3:5). The heart is the depository of all wisdom and the source of whatever affects speech (v. 24), sight (v. 25), and conduct (vv. 26, 27).

Matthew 16:23 Get behind Me, Satan! The harshness of this rebuke contrasts sharply with Christ’s words of commendation in vv.17–19. Jesus suggested that Peter was being a mouthpiece for Satan. Jesus’ death was part of God’s sovereign plan (Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28). “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him” (Is. 53:10). Christ had come with the express purpose of dying as an atonement for sin (John 12:27). And those who would thwart His mission were doing Satan’s work.

DAY 25: Why was Peter’s confession of Christ so significant in Matthew 16:16?
To call Jesus the Son of “the living God” was an Old Testament name for God. Never before had He explicitly taught Peter and the apostles the fullness of His identity. God the Father had opened Peter’s eyes to the full significance of those claims (v.17), and revealed to him who Jesus really was. 

Peter was not merely expressing an academic opinion about the identity of Christ; this was a confession of Peter’s personal faith, made possible by a divinely regenerated heart.
Jesus said that “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church” (v. 18). 

The word for “Peter,” Petros, means a small stone (John 1:42). Jesus used a play on words here with petra, which means a foundation boulder (see 7:24, 25). Since the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christ is both the foundation (Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Cor. 3:11) and the head (Eph. 5:23) of the church, it is a mistake to think that here He is giving either of those roles to Peter. 

There is a sense in which the apostles played a foundational role in the building of the church (Eph. 2:20), but the role of primacy is reserved for Christ alone, not assigned to Peter. So Jesus’ words here are best interpreted as a simple play on words in that a boulder-like truth came from the mouth of one who was called a small stone. Peter himself explains the imagery in his first epistle: the church is built of “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) who, like Peter, confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Christ Himself is the “chief cornerstone” (1 Pet. 2:6, 7).

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Forbearing Love

“. . . Showing forbearance to one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

In order to walk worthy, we must forgive our enemies and love them.

The term forbearance is not often used today and is therefore unfamiliar to many of us. The Greek word translated “showing forbearance” means “suppressing with silence.” It carries the idea of throwing a blanket over sin. First Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” and Proverbs 10:12 declares, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” A forbearing person doesn’t trumpet other people’s sins but rather forgives them. Forbearance has room for the failures of others. A forbearing person also loves people in spite of the wrongs they might have done to him.
Agape, the word used for “love” in this verse, is the love that gives but never takes. It’s the kind of love that seeks the highest good for another, no matter what the cost. God showed His agape by giving us His only Son (John 3:16). Jesus said, “Greater love [agape] has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). Agape is unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodness; it is completely selfless.

Perhaps the greatest description of forbearing love is the summary Jesus gives in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We were God’s enemies before He saved us, but He was willing to send His Son anyway (Rom. 5:10). Since we are God’s children, we must also seek our enemies’ highest good, whatever it costs us. Such cost ought to include more than simply enduring slander and persecution from our enemies. Genuine forbearing love will assume the more difficult task of loving those who hate us.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God that He showed forbearing love in sending Christ to die for undeserving sinners.
* Pray for your enemies and for strength to love them as you should.

For Further Study
* Besides Christ, the clearest example of forbearing love is Stephen’s attitude toward those who stoned him. Read his story in Acts 6—7, and note his love toward his executioners.
* Think about people you have a hard time loving, and pray that God would show you specific ways you can show love to them. Then follow through!


Receiving Spiritual Enlightenment

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Eph. 1:18). 

Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t come through self-effort or introspective meditation but through God’s Holy Spirit.

Our society has been enamored with the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, especially since the influx of Eastern thought into the West during the 1960s. Now we are drowning in a sea of false religions and New Age philosophies.

True enlightenment continues to elude many because they have denied its source and have turned to gurus and teachers who have no light to give. They propagate self-effort and introspective meditation, but spiritual enlightenment doesn’t come through such means. It comes only through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14-16). 

That’s why Paul prayed that God Himself would enlighten the hearts of the Ephesian believers (Eph. 1:18).

We might expect Paul to pray for enlightened minds rather than hearts, but that’s because we associate the word heart with emotions rather than with thought. But in Hebrew and Greek thinking, the heart was considered the seat of knowledge, thinking, and understanding. For example, Jesus said that evil thoughts come out of the heart (Matt. 15:19). Emotions are important, butthey must be guided and controlled by an enlightened mind.

How does the Spirit enlighten you? As you pray and study God’s Word, He transforms and renews your mind (Rom. 12:2) by filling you with “the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). He teaches you to recognize and uphold what is excellent so that you will be “sincere and blameless” before God (Phil. 1:10). He implants biblical truth into your thinking so that your responses become more and more like Christ’s.

How wonderful to know that each moment of the day God is working within you in such a way. Be diligent to pray and spend time in the Word so that your spiritual progress will be evident to all (1 Tim. 4:15).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the Spirit’s transforming work within you.
* Reaffirm your love for Him, and express your willingness to bechanged by His Spirit in any way He sees fit.
* Be alert for attitudes or actionsthat need to be changed. Rely on His grace and strength in doing so.

For Further Study
Read Genesis 27–33, noting how God used the events of Jacob’s life to transform his weak spiritual commitment to one that was strong and unconditional (see especially Gen. 28:20-22; 32:9-12).


Angels Minister to Jesus

“Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him” (Matthew 4:11).

After Jesus’ greatest foe left, “angels came and began to minister to Him.” It is quite fitting that holy angels should come to care for and comfort Him after the prince of the fallen angels had harassed Him with three major temptations. To provide the benefits of angelic ministry was just another way for the Father to register His approval of the Son and signify the Son’s worthiness.

At the first sign of confrontation with Satan, Christ could easily have summoned help from “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt. 26:53). But He obediently waited for the Father to send assistance according to the divine schedule. We are not told what kind of ministry the angels performed, but they undoubtedly brought Jesus food to relieve His hunger. And spiritually they would have worshiped the Son and delivered to Him many words of assurance and comfort from His Father.

The devil’s temptations of Jesus failed, whereas God’s testings of His Son succeeded. Time after time, Jesus had answered with the ideal response to each test. The Lord also provides His saints with the power to resist the adversary’s schemes (James 4:7), knowing that Satan will certainly persist in challenging believers, just as he challenged Jesus. But for every new or repeated temptation, God always gives us a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).

Ask Yourself
Perhaps you’re the giving, ministry type. You freely give and share and do and give comfort. But how well do you receive God’s comfort and His ministry to you? How welcome are you to the caring compassions of others? To meet needs is noble, but to admit our own is still necessary.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 47:1–48:22
* Psalm 13:1-6
* Proverbs 4:18-19
* Matthew 15:21-39
Genesis 47:25, 26 The extra measures imposed by Joseph to control the impact of the famine, i.e., moving parts of the population into cities (v. 21) and demanding a one-fifth tax on crop yields (v. 24), did not affect his approval ratings (v. 25). Whatever the gain to Pharaoh, the people obviously understood that Joseph had not enriched himself at their expense.
Proverbs 4:18 path of the…shining sun. The path of the believer is one of increasing light, just as a sunrise begins with the faint glow of dawn and proceeds to the splendor of noonday.
Matthew 15:33 Where could we get enough bread…? No wonder our Lord called them men of little faith (8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20), when they asked a question like that in the light of the recent feeding of the 5,000 (14:13–21).

DAY 24: How was Joseph a type of Christ?
A shepherd of his father’s family
John 10:11,27–29
His father loved him dearly
Matthew 3:17
Hated by his brothers
John 7:4,5
37:13, 14
Sent by father to brothers
Hebrews 2:11
Others plotted to harm them
John 11:53
Robes taken from them
John 19:23,24
Taken to Egypt
Matthew 2:14,15
Sold for the price of a slave
Matthew 26:15
Matthew 4:1
Falsely accused
Matthew 26:59,60
Bound in chains
Matthew 27:2
Placed with two other prisoners, one who was saved and the other lost
Luke 23:32
Exalted after suffering
Philippians 2:9–11
Both 30 years old at the beginning of public recognition
Luke 3:23
42:24; 45:2, 14, 15; 46:29
Both wept
John 11:35
Forgave those who wronged them
Luke 23:34
Saved their nation
Matthew 1:21
What men did to hurt them, God turned to good
1 Corinthians 2:7,8

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The Effect of Patience

“Walk . . . with patience” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Patience is crucial to our testimony.

The virtues of Ephesians 4:2-3 enable the church of Jesus Christ to have a powerful witness. Many think the key to evangelism is following a specific course or method, but according to Jesus, the greatest way to get people to believe the gospel is through our love and unity (John 17:21). Though evangelistic methods are important, often they aren’t as effective as they could be because of the church’s poor reputation among unbelievers. If the church were full of people who had genuine humility, gentleness, and patience, others would be more inclined to listen to what we say.

Sir Henry Stanley traveled to Africa in 1872 to find Dr. David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer, who had lost contact with the European community. After finding him, Stanley spent several months with Livingstone, who by that time was an old man. Apparently Livingstone didn’t say much to Stanley about spiritual things—he just continued about his business with the Africans. Stanley observed that throughout the months he watched him, Livingstone’s habits, especially his patience, were beyond his comprehension. Stanley could not understand Livingstone’s sympathy for the pagan Africans, who had wronged Livingstone many times. For the sake of Christ and His gospel David Livingstone was patient, untiring, and eager. He spent himself for his Master.

In his account How I Found Livingstone, Stanley wrote, “His religion is not of the theoretical kind, but is a constant, earnest, sincere practice. It is neitherdemonstrative nor loud, but manifests itself in a quiet practical way, and is always at work. . . . In him religion exhibits its loveliest features; it governs his conduct not only towards his servants but towards the natives . . . and all who come in contact with him.”
I’m not suggesting that you never talk about the gospel. But realize that what you say will have far greater effect when you live in harmony with what the gospel teaches. If the world could see a clear picture of Jesus Christ through the unity of the church and its humble, gentle, and patient people, our evangelism would be sped along on wings!

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that you would live in a way that glorifies God and attracts others to the Savior.

For Further Study
Read Matthew 5:13-16.
* What did Christ mean by being salt and light in the world?
* Think of specific ways you can obey the command in verse 16.


Comprehending What You Have

"[I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph. 1:17).

Your inheritance in Christ is so vast and profound that you cannot comprehend it apart from God’s enabling.

The late newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst invested a fortune in collecting great works of art. One day he read of an extremely valuable work that he determined to add to his collection. His agent searched the galleries of the world but to no avail. Finally, after many months of effort and at great expense, the agent found the prized art work: it had been stored in one of Hearst's own warehouses all along!

That story parallels Christians who are constantly searching for something more because they don't understand what they already have in Christ. Since Paul knew that was a potential problem, he prayed for God to enable us to comprehend our spiritual riches.

"Spirit" in verse 17 refers to a disposition or attitude of humility, such as, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). "Revelation" is knowledge that God imparts through His Word. "Wisdom" is the application of that knowledge to daily living. The combined effect is a humble attitude toward God's Word that compels you to learn it and integrate it into every aspect of your life.

On the human level the fullness of your inheritance in Christ is incomprehensible. God's Word reveals many of its benefits and the Holy Spirit empowers you as you learn to live according to its principles, but much of it will remain a mystery in this life (1 John 3:2). Paul's prayer is that you will understand as much as possible so that godly wisdom and revelation will govern all your attitudes and actions. Let that be your goal today.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the incomprehensible riches that are yours in Christ.
* Pray that you might always approach His Word with a submissive and teachable heart.

For Further Study
* Reviewing God's promises motivates praise and reminds us of His gracious provisions. Read the following passages, noting the promises they contain: Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 26:3; 41:10; Matthew 6:25-33; John 14:2- 3, 13-14; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 John 1:9; 5:11-12; Revelation 21:3-4.

* Study your life. Does it demonstrate confidence in God's promises?


Christ Sovereignly Masters Satan

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only”’” (Matthew 4:10).

The devil’s final proposal was so outlandish and beyond the boundaries of God’s will that Jesus dismissed him with the terse, firm command, “Go, Satan!” Satan can wield his present power only by God’s permission; therefore he had no choice but to leave Christ’s presence. This last interaction is a prime example of our Lord’s sovereign mastery over the enemy.

If the Savior would not compromise on a mundane matter such as turning stones to bread, He certainly would not compromise on the major issue of worshiping and serving anyone besides the Father and the Father alone.

Christ will finally inherit God’s kingdom in God’s perfect time, and we will inherit it with Him (Matt. 5:5; 25:34; Rom. 8:17). This glorious truth doesn’t mean God will not give us many good things in this life, because no one desires our happiness more than our heavenly Father. Jesus Himself later taught, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). Knowing this, why should any of us want to settle for any of the cheap, fleeting substitutes of instant gratification that Satan offers?

Ask Yourself
What inspires you the most about Jesus’ reactions to Satan’s three temptations? What are the most convicting or compelling aspects of His testimony that would look good on you as well? Thank Him for His sturdy, steady faithfulness—and ask Him to grow the same in you.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 45:1–46:34
* Psalm 12:1-8
* Proverbs 4:14-17
* Matthew 15:1-20

Genesis 45:1–8 Stunned by the revelation of who it really was with whom they dealt, the brothers then heard expressed a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God, i.e., His providential rule over the affairs of life, both good and bad.

Genesis 46:31–34 Joseph’s instructions about his preparatory interview with Pharaoh were designed to secure his relatives a place somewhat separate from the mainstream of Egyptian society. The social stigma regarding the Hebrews (43:32), who were shepherds, also (v. 34), played a crucial role in protecting Israel from intermingling and losing their identity in Egypt.

DAY 23: What were the “traditions of the elders”?
The “tradition of the elders” (Matt. 15:2) was a body of extra-biblical law that had existed only in oral form and only since the time of the Babylonian captivity. Later it was committed to writing in the Mishna near the end of the second century. The Law of Moses contained no commandment about washing one’s hands before eating—except for priests who were required to wash before eating holy offerings (Lev. 22:6, 7).

Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees is that they used these traditions to dishonor their parents in a cleverly devised way (vv. 4–6). The commandments of God were clear (Ex. 20:12; 21:17; Deut. 5:16); but to circumvent them, some people claimed they could not financially assist their parents because they had dedicated a certain sum of money to God, who was greater than their parents. The rabbis had approved this exception to the commandments of Moses and thus in effect nullified God’s law (v. 6).
Hypocritically, they made the commandment of God of no effect by their traditions (v. 6). “Making…of no effect” means, “to deprive of authority” or “to cancel.” Jesus condemned this practice by showing that the Pharisees and scribes were guilty of canceling out God’s Word through their tradition.

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Christ's Patient Example

“Walk . . . with patience” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Jesus is our greatest example of patience in all that He endured to purchase our redemption.

Paul tells us here that the worthy walk is one of patience, and once again we see that Jesus modeled it for us. 

Throughout the Gospels, He repeatedly demonstrated the three aspects of patience we explored in the last lesson.
First, He endured negative circumstances. Before He came into the world, He was with the Father in the glory of Heaven, where the angels praised and worshiped Him continually. He left a place of total perfection and love and went to a place where He was mocked, hated, rejected, blasphemed, and crucified. He “endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2) even though He had the power to escape it.
Jesus also coped with difficult people. The night before His crucifixion, after three years of teaching about love and servanthood, His disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Jesus didn’t give up on them, however. More than that, He prayed for those who spit on Him and mocked Him at the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (23:34). He wanted His murderers to be forgiven so they could be with Him in Heaven forever.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before He was nailed to the cross, Jesus showed His willingness to accept the Father’s plan. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). He was able to endure unimaginable suffering because He knew it was God’s will.

We should be very thankful for Christ’s “perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16), because our sin has offended Him time and time again. He could have sent us to Hell the first moment we sinned, but His Spirit patiently drew us to repentance. 

Because of His patience, we must commit ourselves to follow His perfect example.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would daily give you strength to be patient in all things, just as Christ was.

For Further Study
Hebrews 12:3 tells us to “consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” Christ’s example of patience encourages us to endure when we suffer. Find other demonstrations of His patience in the Gospels, and consider how His example can affect your attitude during trials.


Praying for Believers

"For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers" (Eph. 1:15-16).

Your love for other Christians is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God.

The Ephesian Christians demonstrated two important characteristics of genuine Christian faith: faith in the Lord Jesus and love for fellow believers.

"Faith in the Lord Jesus" implies both an affirmation of Christ's deity and submission to His sovereignty. Because He is God, He is the Sovereign Lord, so we must obey what He commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Your "love for all the saints" is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God. John said, "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now" (1 John 2:9). In that passage "light" is a metaphor for righteousness and truth, and "darkness" is a metaphor for sin and error. It is sinful and erroneous to claim you love God if you have no love for other believers. Those who love God will love fellow believers as well.

If you love others, you will pray for them and praise God for their spiritual progress—as Paul did for the Ephesians—and they will do the same for you. That's a wonderful dynamic within the Body of Christ, and one that you must diligently pursue.

Suggestions for Prayer
* If you haven't done so already, start a prayer list of individuals for whom you will pray each day. List their names and some specific requests. Record answers to your prayers as you see God moving in their lives.
* Remember to thank God for their spiritual progress as well as praying for their needs. Let them know you are praying for them. That could be a source of great encouragement for them.
* If you are at odds with another believer, seek to reconcile immediately (Matt. 5:23-24) so your witness will be strong and the Lord's name won't suffer reproach.

For Further Study
Read Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14.
* What requests and concerns did Paul express in his prayers?
* Do your prayers reflect Paul's priorities? If not, what adjustments must you make to have a more biblical pattern of prayer?


Satan Revealed as a Liar

“[The devil] said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:9).

Satan’s promises for better things, obtained more quickly and in a “preferred” manner to God’s plan, are actually counterfeit offers. He always wraps them in claims that seem easier, less expensive, and far less burdensome. After all, that’s the savvy way to success, he reasons. Our adversary’s argument is essentially just a form of the old “end justifies the means” concept.

But Satan has been a liar from the beginning of redemptive history. With his third temptation of Jesus he was actually just seeking to buy Christ’s soul and His permanent allegiance. The cost for the Lord, had He accepted the offer of the world’s kingdoms, would have been devastating beyond measure.

Similarly for us, Satan’s price is always far more than we are led to believe—and the goods always unfathomably fall short of what we had expected. 

Thankfully, Jesus in His omniscience and infinite wisdom recognized these truths and did not succumb to the final temptation in the wilderness. Had He accepted Satan’s sinister offer, Christ would have disqualified Himself as both Savior and King. 

Instead of redeeming the world, He would have joined it; instead of inheriting it, He would have lost both it and us.

Ask Yourself
If coming in the front door doesn’t work, our enemy has no qualms about executing the sneak attack, catching us off guard and by surprise. How seriously are you taking the call to be on the alert at all times, resisting Satan’s temptations and boldly obeying God’s will? Trust Christ for both radar and resistance.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 43:1–44:34
* Psalm 11:1-7
* Proverbs 4:10-13
* Matthew 14:22-36

Genesis 43:33 the firstborn…the youngest. To be seated at the table in birth order in the house of an Egyptian official was startling—how did he know this of Jacob’s sons? Enough clues had been given in Joseph’s previous questions about the family and his use of God’s name for them to wonder about him and his personal knowledge of them. Obviously, they simply did not believe Joseph was alive (44:20) and certainly not as a personage of such immense influence and authority. They had probably laughed through the years at the memory of Joseph’s dreams of superiority.

Genesis 44:13 tore their clothes. A well-known ancient Near Eastern custom of visibly portraying the pain of heart being experienced. Benjamin’s brothers were very upset that he might become a slave in Egypt (v. 10). Benjamin appears to have been speechless. They had passed a second test of devotion to Benjamin (the first in v. 34).

Genesis 44:18–34 An eloquent and contrite plea for mercy, replete with reference to the aged father’s delight in and doting upon the youngest son (vv. 20, 30) and the fatal shock should he be lost (vv. 22, 29, 31, 34). Judah’s evident compassion for Jacob and readiness to substitute himself for Benjamin in slavery finally overwhelmed Joseph—these were not the same brothers of yesteryear (45:1).

DAY 22: When the world seems to be falling apart, who can I trust?
In Psalm 11, the panic that launched its writing was not David’s but that of his apparently well-meaning counselors. Their mood in the face of wicked persecution is panic, the desire to flee, but David’s is peace. Their words are the expressions of committed but confused saints. 

Their philosophical problem is, “In view of the crumbling of the theocratic society, what can one righteous person, out of a shrinking remnant, do?”

David’s immediate response to panic is to say, “In the LORD I put my trust.” Literally, he said, “I take refuge in the LORD.” 

God is the exclusive refuge for His persecuted children (see Pss. 16:1; 36:7). After all, David adds, the Lord is “in His holy temple…in heaven.” This emphasizes the transcendent throne room of God, yet God has sovereign sway over all the affairs of earth (see Hab. 2:20). “His eyes behold...His eyelids test”—His transcendence previously depicted does not negate His eminence here presented from the perspective of the divine scrutiny of all men, including the righteous (see Jer. 6:27–30; 17:10).

David had made up his mind to trust only in the Lord, and for good reason. In view of David’s attitude, this psalm can be listed with the psalms of confidence (Pss. 4, 16, 23, 27, 62, 125, 131).

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Biblical Patience

“Walk . . . with patience” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Patient Christians endure negative circumstances, cope with difficult people, and accept God’s plan for everything.

In our instant, microwave, drive-through, “I want it now” culture, patience is hard to come by. We get upset if we have to wait too long in the supermarket line or get stuck behind the guy driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit.

But today’s Scripture tells us that our lives need to be marked by patience. The Greek word translated “patience” literally means “long-tempered.” A patient person doesn’t have a short fuse or lose his temper.

There are three aspects to biblical patience. First, patience never gives in to negative circumstances, no matter how difficult. God told Abraham He would make him into a great nation and give Canaan to his descendants (Gen. 12:2, 7). When God made this promise, Abraham and Sarah had no children. They had to wait far past their childbearing years before God gave them a son. But Hebrews 6:15 says, “Having patiently waited, [Abraham] obtained the promise.” “He did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20). He trusted God and patiently waited for Him to fulfill His promise.

A second aspect of patience is coping with difficult people. Paul tells us to “be patient with all men” (1 Thess. 5:14). This is applied gentleness—a spirit that refuses to retaliate. Our normal reaction is to be defensive when provoked. But a patient person bears insult, persecution, unfair treatment, slander, and hatred. You can’t start a fight with a patient person. He defends God, not himself, knowing that He will repay all wrongs at the right time.

Third, patience accepts God’s plan for everything. It doesn’t question God. A patient person says, “Lord, if this is what You have planned for me, that’s all right.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Since God is in control, we can be patient, waiting for Him to work out His will.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you recognize when you’re apt to be impatient. When those times come, pray for strength to endure them.
For Further Study
* James 5:10 says the prophets were examples of suffering and patience. Read what two prophets had to endure in Isaiah 6:9-12 and Jeremiah 1:5-19.
* How might they be examples to you as you seek to be faithful in the face of life’s tests?


Reflecting God's Ownership

You were sealed with the Holy Spirit "with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:14).

Someday God will take full possession of all that is rightfully His.

Yesterday we saw that God seals us with the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our eternal inheritance. Here Paul says He does so "with a view to the redemption of [His] own possession." That refers to when God takes full possession of all that is rightfully His.
Everything is God's by creation, but Satan has usurped God's rulership to become the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4) in whose power the whole world currently lies (1 John 5:19). Consequently, all creation is in bondage to decay and "groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Rom. 8:22, NIV). It eagerly awaits the time when the curse of Genesis 3 is reversed, all Christians are fully glorified, and sin is eternally vanquished. What a glorious time that will be!

You are God's special possession because you are His by redemption as well as creation. In Revelation 5:9 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing to the Lord, "Worthy art Thou . . . for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." In Acts 20:28Paul charges the Ephesian elders to guard carefully "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

That makes you a priceless commodity to God—part of "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God" (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
As God's special possession, you should reflect His ownership and sovereign rule in everything you do. Remember, "you are not your own . . . for you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God that you are His treasured possession.
* Seek His Spirit's leading in proclaiming His excellencies to others through your words and deeds.
* Ask Him to teach you to esteem other believers as highly as He does.

For Further Study
Read Ephesians 2:1-13, noting the spiritual privileges and responsibilities that are yours in Christ.


Satan’s Promises—Corrupt Strings Attached

“The devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8).

Satan offered the world’s kingdoms to Jesus on his own corrupt terms. God allowed this test to prove that Christ was and is a worthy Son, fit to one day inherit the world and rule from His throne. The devil, on the other hand, wanted to prove the Son’s unworthiness by getting Him to prematurely grab the kingdoms God had already promised Him.

The enemy approaches Christians also with corrupt bargaining chips. Whatever they might want in the realm of business, politics, fame, or anything else, he claims it can be theirs for a “reasonable” price or trade-off. He says we can be or have whatever we want, just so long as we pursue it according to the world’s way—which is also Satan’s way. In effect, it’s like saying to ourselves, “Why wait for a heavenly reward when you can cut corners, shade the truth, run ahead of God’s schedule, and have what you want now?”

But when we grab hold of Satan’s corrupt strings, we put self first and God last. Instead of seeking God’s kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), we act more like Abraham, who sought God’s promise of an heir through his own impatient, selfish act with Hagar (Gen. 16:1–6). The result of that sin was tragic and heart-breaking, and has been to this day.

Ask Yourself
“The world” doesn’t really know what “glory” is. And if we had a keener, more realistic sense of God’s awesome splendor, we’d see the world’s flimsy reflections for what they really are. What seems glorious and glamorous about the world to you? Ask God to help you see it truthfully.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 41:1–42:38
* Psalm 10:12-18
* Proverbs 4:7-9
* Matthew 14:1-21
Genesis 41:42 signet ring…garments…gold chain. Emblems of office and a reward of clothing and jewelry suitable to the new rank accompanied Pharaoh’s appointment of Joseph as vizier, or prime minister, the second-in-command (v. 40; 45:8, 26). Joseph wore the royal seal on his finger, authorizing him to transact the affairs of state on behalf of Pharaoh himself.
Genesis 42:6 bowed down. Without his brothers’ appreciating it at the time, Joseph’s dream became reality (37:5–8). Recognition of Joseph was unlikely because: 1) over 15 years had elapsed and the teenager sold into slavery had become a mature adult; 2) he had become Egyptian in appearance and dress; 3) he treated them without a hint of familiarity (vv. 7, 8); and 4) they thought he was dead (v. 13).
Psalm 10:14 You are the helper of the fatherless. God is pictured as Helper or Advocate again, but this time in association with orphans. He is the Defender par excellence of the defenseless (on the imagery, see Ex. 22:21ff.; Deut. 10:18ff.; 1 Sam. 1:17; Jer. 7:6).

Matthew 14:3 Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, another son of Herod the Great; so when she married Philip, she was marrying her own father’s brother. What precipitated the arrest of John the Baptist was that Herod Antipas (another of Herodias’s uncles) talked Herodias into leaving her husband (his brother) in order to marry him (Mark 6:17)—thus compounding the incest, as well as violating Leviticus 18:16. John was outraged that a ruler in Israel would commit such a sin openly, so he rebuked Herod severely (v. 4). For this, he was imprisoned and later killed (Mark 6:14–29).

DAY 21: How did Joseph’s faithfulness lead to personal advancement?
Pharaoh’s disturbing dreams in Genesis 41 were such that there was “no one who could interpret them” (v. 8). The combined expertise of a full council of Pharaoh’s advisers and dream experts failed to provide an interpretation. Without knowing it, they had just set the stage for Joseph’s entrance on the scene of Egyptian history. The chief butler spoke up and apprised Pharaoh of the Hebrew prisoner and his accurate interpretation of dreams two years earlier (vv. 10–13).
In the presence of Pharaoh, Joseph made his faith known: “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (v. 16). Deprecating any innate ability, Joseph advised at the very outset that the answer Pharaoh desired could only come from God. And after hearing the dream described, Joseph’s interpretation of what “God has shown Pharaoh” (v. 25) kept the focus fixed upon what God had determined for Egypt (vv. 28, 32).

After interpreting the dream, Joseph told Pharaoh how to survive the next 14 years. Incongruously, Joseph, a slave and a prisoner, appended to the interpretation a long-term strategy for establishing reserves to meet the future need and included advice on the quality of the man to head up the project. Famines had ravaged Egypt before, but this time divine warning permitted serious and sustained advance planning. To Pharaoh and his royal retinue, no other candidate but Joseph qualified for the task of working out this good plan, because they recognized that he spoke God-given revelation and insight (v. 39).

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Are You Gentle?

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
To become more gentle, begin by looking closely at your attitudes.
We’ve determined that gentleness is essential for those who want to walk worthy. How can you tell if you’re gentle? I’ll give you some practical questions so you can evaluate yourself honestly.

First of all, are you self-controlled? Do you rule your own spirit (Prov. 16:32), or does your temper often flare up? When someone accuses you of something, do you immediately defend yourself, or are you more inclined to consider whether there’s any truth in what’s being said?

Second, are you infuriated only when God is dishonored? Do you get angry about sin or when God’s Word is perverted by false teachers?

Next, do you always seek to make peace? Gentle people are peacemakers. Ephesians 4:3 says they are “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If someone falls into sin, do you condemn or gossip about that person? Galatians 6:1 instructs us to restore sinning brothers “in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Gossip and condemnation divide believers; forgiveness and restoration unite them. Gentle people don’t start fights; they end them.

Fourth, do you accept criticism without retaliation? Whether the criticism is right or wrong, you shouldn’t strike back. In fact, you can thank your critics, because criticism can show you your weaknesses and help you grow.

Finally, do you have the right attitude toward the unsaved? Peter says, “Always [be] ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). If we’re persecuted, it’s easy for us to think, They can’t treat me like that—I’m a child of God. But God wants us to approach the unsaved with gentleness, realizing that God reached out to us with gentleness before we were saved (Titus 3:3-7).

Consider carefully your answers to these questions, and commit yourself to being characterized by gentleness. Remember that “a gentle and quiet spirit . . . is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).

Suggestions for Prayer
If any of these questions have pointed out deficiencies in your gentleness, ask God to strengthen those areas.
For Further Study
* Paul was often criticized by those who wanted to usurp his authority over the church. Study Paul’s response to such people in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
* Think about this passage’s application to events in your life.


Rejoicing in Assurance

"You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is God’s first installment on your eternal inheritance.

The Holy Spirit's ministry in your life is multifaceted and profound. Among other things He brings salvation, conviction, guidance, and strength. He indwells and equips you for spiritual service and gives assurance of your salvation. He is your Helper and Advocate. He is the Spirit of promise, who seals you until the day when your redemption is fully realized (Eph. 4:30).

Sealing speaks of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority. Ancient kings, princes, and nobles placed their official seal on documents or other items to guarantee their inviolability. To break the seal was to incur the wrath of the sovereign whom it represented (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62-66).

A seal on a letter authenticated it as from the hand of the one whose seal it bore. Legal documents such as property deeds and wills were often finalized with an official seal. Those who possessed the sealed decree of a king had the king's delegated authority to act on that decree.

Each of those aspects of sealing is a picture of the Spirit's ministry. He is God's guarantee that your salvation is inviolable and that you are an authentic member of His kingdom and family. You are His possession—having been purchased with His Son's precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20). You are His ambassador with delegated authority to proclaim His message to a lost world (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Spirit is the pledge of your eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:14). The Greek word translated "pledge" in that verse (arrabōn) was used of down payment or earnest money given to secure a purchase. Rejoice in the assurance that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), has given you His Spirit as a guarantee that He will keep His promises.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for the security of your eternal inheritance.
* Praise the Spirit for His many ministries in your life. Be sensitive to His leading today so that your ministry to others will be powerful and consistent with His will.
For Further Study
Read Esther chapters 3, 8. What role did the king's signet ring play in the decree of Haman (chapter 3)? The decree of Ahasuerus and Mordecai (chapter 8)?


Satan Tests Jesus’ Ultimate Allegiance

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain” (Matthew 4:8).

Satan’s final temptation was a last-ditch effort to corrupt and derail Christ and His saving mission. The greatest of all adversaries sought to complete a sinister bargain in which extremely attractive and enticing possessions were offered to Jesus in exchange for His subservience to Satan.

The location (“a very high mountain”) where Satan took Jesus no doubt allowed them to have a comprehensive view of the earth for hundreds of miles in every direction. But their vantage point was clearly spiritual and supernatural as well. They would have seen the power and dominance of Rome, the glories of Egypt, and the splendor of various Greek city-states. All the wonders of the ancient world, including the magnificence of Jerusalem, would have been included.

As the King of kings, Jesus already had the rights to own and govern all the world’s kingdoms, but Satan tried to twist that reality for his own purposes. He wanted Jesus to leap ahead of God’s promised plan and reign as a king before it was fully time to do so—and at the unthinkable cost of worshiping him. If our enemy can tempt Jesus to be impatient and impulsive and grasp things prematurely, that is all the more reason for us to be on guard against such attacks.

Ask Yourself
Timing is everything. And Jesus displayed an infallible sense of what to do—and when—in every situation. Is there anything in your own life that you’re trying to speed ahead with, whether God wants you slowing down or not? Find peace in His timing. It’s always perfect—more perfect than we think.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 39:1–40:23
* Psalm 10:1-11
* Proverbs 4:1-6
* Matthew 13:31-58

Genesis 39:2 The LORD was with Joseph. Any and all ideas that Joseph, twice a victim of injustice, had been abandoned by the Lord are summarily banished by the employment of phrases highlighting God’s oversight of his circumstances, e.g. “with him”(vv. 3,21),“made all he did to prosper” (vv. 3, 23), “found/gave him favor” (vv. 4, 21), “blessed/ blessing” (v. 5), and “showed him mercy” (v. 21). Neither being unjustly sold into slavery and forcibly removed from the Land (37:28), nor being unjustly accused of sexual harassment and imprisoned (vv. 13–18) were events signaling even a temporary loss of divine superintendence of Joseph’s life and God’s purpose for His people, Israel.

Proverbs 4:2 good doctrine…my law. There is no wisdom but that which is linked to good doctrine, which should be the focal point of all instruction (see 1 Tim. 1:10; 4:13, 16; 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:10, 16; 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 10).

Matthew 13:37 He who sows. The true sower of salvation seed is the Lord Himself. He alone can give the power in the heart to transform. He is the One who saves sinners, even through the preaching and witnessing of believers (Rom. 10:14).

Matthew 13:57 A prophet…in his own country. This is an ancient proverb paralleling the modern saying “Familiarity breeds contempt.” They knew Jesus too well as a boy and a young man from their own town—and they concluded that He was nothing special. Verse 58 gives the sad result (see Mark 6:4).

DAY 20: What did Joseph understand about the interpretation of dreams?
Oneiromancy, the science or practice of interpreting dreams, flourished in ancient Egypt because dreams were thought to determine the future. Both Egypt and Babylon developed a professional class of dream interpreters. Deuteronomy 13:1–5 shows that such dream interpreters were part of ancient false religion and to be avoided by God’s people. By some 500 years later, a detailed manual of dream interpretation had been compiled. Unlike Joseph, neither butler nor baker understood the significance of their dreams (see Gen. 37:5–11), and the sadness they project in Genesis 40:5expresses their belief that the dreams required an interpretation.

Joseph believed that when it came to dreams that the “interpretations belong to God” (v. 8). He was careful to give credit to his Lord (see 41:16). Daniel, the only other Hebrew whom God allowed to accurately interpret revelatory dreams, was just as careful to do so (Dan. 2:28). Significantly, God chose both men to play an important role for Israel while serving pagan monarchs and stepping forward at the critical moment to interpret their dreams and reveal their futures.

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Christ's Gentle Example

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Jesus is the greatest example of gentleness: He became angry when God the Father was dishonored, but not when He, the Son, was.

Jesus Christ is our supreme example of gentleness. Paul refers specifically to this in 2 Corinthians 10:1. Jesus Himself said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29).
Jesus showed righteous indignation when it was proper. When He found the Temple filled with people selling exorbitantly priced sacrificial animals, He drove them out, pouring out their money and overturning tables (Matt. 21:12). He told them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den” (v. 13). Jesus later said to the scribes and Pharisees, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” (23:33). He did not stand idly by while the Temple was defiled. He spoke out in judgment against hypocrites who dishonored God.

Even though Jesus became angry when God was maligned, He neither retaliated against nor condemned those who attacked Him. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23). When God’s Temple was defiled, Jesus cleaned it out. But when the temple of His body was defiled, enduring the agony of the cross, with mockers all around, all He said was, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). That’s supreme gentleness—total selflessness.

It’s so easy to strike back when someone criticizes or attacks us, but that’s not the way of the gentle Christian trying to walk worthy. The only time we should let the lion in us roar is when God’s honor is at stake. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. How can we do any less to those who hurt us?

Suggestions for Prayer
We all fall short of Christ’s example of gentleness.  Pray that God would help you each day to reflect more and more the gentleness of Christ.
For Further Study

Read the account of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion in Matthew 26:47—27:50.
* Did He have the power to strike back (26:53)?
* Find all the instances you can in which Christ demonstrated His gentleness.


Embracing the Truth

"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed" (Eph. 1:13).

The gospel is true because Jesus is true, not simply because Christians believe in Him.
After stating salvation from God's perspective in verse 12, Paul here states it from man's perspective. Faith in Christ is your response to God's elective purpose in your life. Those two truths—God's initiative and man's response—co-exist throughout Scripture.

Paul rightly called the gospel "the message of truth" because truth is its predominant characteristic. Salvation was conceived by the God of truth (Ps. 31:5); purchased by the Son, who is the truth (John 14:6); and is applied by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). To know it is to know the truth that sets men free (John 8:32). Believers are people of the truth (John 18:37), who worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and who obey the Word of truth (John 17:17).

Yet as profound and powerful as God's truth is, people have rejected, neglected, redefined, and opposed it for centuries. Some, like Pilate, cynically deny that truth even exists or that it can be known by men (John 18:38). Others foolishly think that denying truth will somehow make it go away.

Perhaps you've heard someone say, "Jesus may be true for you but that doesn't mean He has to be true for me." That view assumes that belief somehow determines truth. But just the opposite is the case. Truth determines the validity of one's belief. Believing a lie doesn't make it true. Conversely, failing to believe the truth doesn't make it a lie.
The gospel is true because Jesus is true, not simply because Christians believe in Him. His resurrection proved the truth of His claims and constitutes the objective basis of our faith (Rom. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:3).

You enter this day armed with the message of truth and empowered by the Spirit of truth. Truth is your protection and strength (Eph. 6:14). Lost souls desperately need to hear that truth. Represent it well and proclaim it with boldness.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank the Lord that by His Spirit He has enabled you to understand His truth (1 Cor. 2:14-16).
* Ask for wisdom and boldness to speak His truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
For Further Study
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and Acts 17:30-31.
* What key elements of the gospel does Paul list?
* What is the relationship between Christ's resurrection and God's judgment on sinners?


Why Jesus Rejected Sensationalism

“‘On the other hand, it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”’” (Matthew 4:7).

The Lord Jesus had two good reasons for not participating in a worldly spectacle such as jumping from the temple roof. First, such sensationalism is captive to the laws of diminishing returns. To generate and hold people’s allegiance to Him merely by stunning signs, Jesus would have needed to produce greater and greater signs. 

People would never have been satisfied and would always have demanded just one more miracle, one additional showy event. Real faith would not have been certain; they would have been lovers of sensation more than God, which similarly could happen to any of us who don’t trust God’s already revealed will.

Second, and more important, for Jesus to participate in sensational signs would have demonstrated a profound mistrust in His heavenly Father and a presumptuous, faithless testing of God. But that’s what the devil wanted so that Jesus’ sin would shatter His claim to divinity and ruin humanity’s hope of salvation. Such an action would have questioned the Father’s providence and love—and the wisdom of His redemptive plan.

If our sinless Savior and Lord shunned sensationalism, we as imperfect men and women ought never to live recklessly or carelessly, expecting God to rescue us when we get into earthly trouble or spiritual peril.

Ask Yourself
Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a risk-taker. But looking honestly at your own life, do you spot some behaviors that are spiritually risky, actions that presume on the grace of God? In humble repentance today, surrender these things to the Lord. Receive, but don’t force, His great mercy.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 37:1–38:30
* Psalm 9:11-20
* Proverbs 3:31-35
* Matthew 13:1-30

Genesis 37:3, 4 Overt favoritism of Joseph and tacit appointment of him as the primary son by the father conspired to estrange him from his brothers. They hated and envied him (vv. 4, 5, 11) and could not interact with him without conflict and hostility. Joseph must have noticed the situation.

Genesis 37:36 Potiphar. He was a prominent court official and high-ranking officer in Egypt, perhaps captain of the royal bodyguard (see 40:3, 4). His name, a most unusual grammatical form for that period, either meant “the one whom the god Ra has given” or “the one who is placed on earth by Ra,” making it a descriptive epithet more than a personal name.

Matthew 13:3 parables. Parables were a common form of teaching in Judaism. The Greek term for “parable” appears 45 times in the LXX. A parable is a long analogy, often cast in the form of a story. Before this point in His ministry, Jesus had employed many graphic analogies (see 5:13–16), but their meaning was fairly clear in the context of His teaching. Parables required more explanation (see v. 36) and Jesus employed them to obscure the truth from unbelievers while making it clearer to His disciples (vv. 11, 12). For the remainder of His Galilean ministry, He did not speak to the multitudes except in parables (v. 34). Jesus’ veiling the truth from unbelievers this way was both an act of judgment and an act of mercy. It was “judgment” because it kept them in the darkness that they loved (see John 3:19), but it was “mercy” because they had already rejected the light, so any exposure to more truth would only increase their condemnation.

DAY 19: Why are some events in Matthew in a different order from the order in Mark or Luke?

In general, Matthew presents a topical or thematic approach to the life of Christ. He groups Jesus’ teaching into five major discourses:
1. The Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5–7)
2. The commissioning of the apostles (chap. 10)
3. The parables of the kingdom (chap. 13)
4. The childlikeness of the believer (chap. 18)
5. The discourse on His second coming (chaps. 24; 25)

Matthew makes no attempt to follow a strict chronology. A comparison of the synoptic Gospels reveals that he freely placed things out of order. He was dealing with themes and broad concepts, not laying out a timeline. Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels follow a chronological order more closely.

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Righteous Anger

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Our anger must be under control and should occur only for the right reason.

After the previous lesson, you might think that Christians must always be quiet and passive, never getting upset or angry about anything. Actually, believers do have the right to get angry, but only under certain conditions. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” So there is a certain kind of anger that isn’t sinful. It must be under control, and it must be resolved expeditiously.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” Someone who is out of control is vulnerable. He falls into every temptation, failure, and weakness. On the other hand, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (16:32). 

One who rules his spirit has power and energy, but it’s under control. That same power and energy out of control creates nothing but chaos and sinfulness. Those who are easily angered are not gentle.

Gentle people, on the other hand, control their energies and strengths, but they do have a tough side. They don’t back away from sin or cease to condemn evil. Since the gentle person submits himself to God, he becomes angry over things that offend God, not himself. If someone offends him personally, he doesn’t seek revenge. But when God is maligned, the lion in him roars. Such anger is called righteous indignation. Under God’s control, anger reacts when it ought to react, for the right reason, and for the right amount of time.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask forgiveness if you are apt to get angry for the wrong reasons. Commit yourself to being gentle when you ordinarily would flare up in anger. GIf you don’t get angry when you see evil, ask God to make you sensitive to what He hates.

For Further Study
* At the very time Moses was receiving God’s Law on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were involved in idolatry and debauchery. Read Exodus 32. What was Moses’ reaction to their sin?
* Did he hold a grudge against them (vv. 31-32)?
* How can Moses’ example be a pattern for your life?


Proclaiming God's Preeminence

We were predestined "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:12).

In salvation, as in everything else, God is preeminent. He deserves all the credit.

Preeminence implies supreme standing, picturing one who excels over all others in a particular quality or achievement. There is no one more preeminent than God.
Ephesians 1:12 underscores that truth. 

You were redeemed and granted an eternal inheritance that God might be glorified. Certainly you benefit greatly from salvation, but God's glory is the primary issue.

Our man-centered culture doesn't share that perspective. Sadly, its self-seeking and self-glorifying mentality has crept into the church, and even the gospel itself has been subjected to its influence. For example sin is often defined by how it affects man, not how it dishonors God. Salvation is often presented as a means of receiving what Christ offers, not a mandate to obey what He commands. Many modern-day evangelists have reduced the gospel to little more than a formula by which people can live a happy and more fulfilling life. The focus has shifted from God's glory to man's benefit.
Such a convoluted gospel fuels the fire of self-love and self-exaltation.

As believers we know better than that. We know that the purpose of life is to glorify God. That means living to His glory is to govern everything we do.
What higher or more noble purpose could life afford? "Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead," Paul said he pressed "on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). 

Keep that goal clearly in mind in all you do today. By doing so your day will be to the praise of God's glory!

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for His preeminence in all things.
* Pray for opportunities to speak of His preeminence to others, remembering that they will see Him in your actions as well as your words.

For Further Study
Read Job 38:42:6.
* How did God convince Job of His surpassing knowledge and power?
* What was Job's response?


Don’t Count on Sensationalism

“‘If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command His angels concerning You”’” (Matthew 4:6).

Throughout history, sensationalism has often appealed to average people who are looking for dramatic events that titillate the senses and pander to fleshly curiosity. Toward the end of His ministry Jesus warned, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).

Even when signs are from God, they usually do not bring unbelievers to faith, but only confirm the faith of those who already believe. God’s many miracles on behalf of the wandering Israelites just made many of them more presumptuous and unbelieving, as did Jesus’ signs to the Jews who opposed Him. The apostle John writes, “But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him” (John 12:37). Jesus Himself, as the Messiah and Son of God, was the greatest sign God ever gave to humanity, yet “He was despised and forsaken of men” (Isa. 53:3).

Demanding sensational signs, as Satan did from Jesus, does not manifest faith but rather skepticism and unbelief (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:4). Because a fascination with the sensational is far removed from true faith, Jesus would take no part in it. For those who, apart from special signs, believe in God the Father and trust in His Son—our Savior—it is well evident that Christ has already proved Himself.

Ask Yourself
The best Christian witness in the world remains the power of a changed life. People will respond to your testimony of God’s love and mercy much more often than to a high-energy worship service. How are you making Christ known through your own life? Look for the simplest of ways.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 35:1–36:43
* Psalm 9:6-10
* Proverbs 3:27-30
* Matthew 12:22-50
Genesis 35:2–4 Put away the foreign gods. Moving to Bethel necessitated spiritual preparation beyond the level of an exercise in logistics. Possession of idolatrous symbols such as figurines, amulets, or cultic charms (v.4, “earrings”), including Rachel’s troubling teraphim (31:19), was no longer tolerable. Idols buried out of sight, plus bathing and changing to clean clothes, all served to portray both cleansing from defilement by idolatry and consecration of the heart to the Lord. It had been 8 or 10 years since Jacob’s return to Canaan and, appropriately, time enough to clean up all traces of idolatry.

Genesis 35:5 the terror of God. A supernaturally induced fear of Israel rendered the surrounding city-states unwilling and powerless to intervene and made Jacob’s fear of their retaliation rather inconsequential (34:30).

Matthew 12:46 brothers. These are actual siblings (half brothers) of Jesus. Matthew explicitly connects them with Mary, indicating that they were not cousins or Joseph’s sons from a previous marriage, as some of the church fathers imagined. They are mentioned in all the Gospels (Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19–21; John 7:3–5). 

Matthew and Mark give the names of 4 of Jesus’ brothers and mention that He had sisters, as well (13:55; Mark 6:3).

DAY 18: What is the unforgivable sin that Jesus spoke of?
According to Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:31, the unforgivable sin is “the blasphemy against the Spirit.” The sin He was confronting was the Pharisees’ deliberate rejection of that which they knew to be of God (see John 11:48; Acts 4:16). They could not deny the reality of what the Holy Spirit had done through Him, so they attributed to Satan a work that they knew was of God (v. 24; Mark 3:22).

Someone never exposed to Christ’s divine power and presence might reject Him in ignorance and “it will be forgiven him” (v. 32)—assuming the unbelief gives way to genuine repentance. Even a Pharisee such as Saul of Tarsus could be forgiven for speaking “against the Son of Man” or persecuting His followers—because his unbelief stemmed from ignorance (1 Tim. 1:13). But those who know His claims are true and reject Him anyway sin “against the Holy Spirit”—because it is the Holy Spirit who testifies of Christ and makes His truth known to us (John 15:26; 16:14, 15). No forgiveness was possible for these Pharisees who witnessed His miracles firsthand, knew the truth of His claims, and still blasphemed the Holy Spirit—because they had already rejected the fullest possible revelation (Heb. 6:4–6; 10:29).

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Gentleness: Power Under Control

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

The antidote to our vengeful, violent society is biblical gentleness.
A popular bumper sticker says, “Don’t Get Mad—Get Even.” People demand what they perceive to be their rights, no matter how the demand harms others. Some go to court to squeeze every last cent out of those who hurt them. More and more violent crimes are committed each year. We need a strong dose of biblical truth to cure these attitudes. The biblical solution is gentleness.

The world might interpret gentleness or meekness as cowardice, timidity, or lack of strength. But the Bible describes it as not being vengeful, bitter, or unforgiving. It is a quiet, willing submission to God and others without the rebellious, vengeful self-assertion that characterizes human nature.

The Greek word translated “gentleness” was used to speak of a soothing medicine. It was used of a light, cool breeze and of a colt that had been broken and tamed, whose energy could be channeled for useful purposes. It also descrbes one who is tenderhearted, pleasant, and mild.

Gentleness is not wimpiness though. It is power under control. The circus lion has the same strength as a lion running free in Africa, but it has been tamed. All its energy is under the control of its master. In the same way, the lion residing in the gentle person no longer seeks its own prey or its own ends; it is submissive to its Master. That lion has not been destroyed, just tempered. Gentleness is one facet of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is also a key to wisdom. James asks, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (3:13). Verse 17 says, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
Even if gentleness is not valued in our society, it is crucial to our godliness. Seek it diligently and prayerfully.

Suggestions for Prayer
If you tend to be at all vengeful or unforgiving, ask God’s forgiveness and His help to forgive those who hurt you. Seek to be gentle with them instead.
For Further Study

Throughout most of 1 Samuel, King Saul repeatedly tries to capture David and kill him. Read 1 Samuel 24. How did David demonstrate his gentleness in the face of his hostile enemy?


Praising God for Your Election

"Having been predestined according to [God's] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11).

God took the initiative in salvation by choosing you and granting you saving faith.
In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that God "chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." In verse 11 he reiterates that marvelous truth by affirming that believers have been predestined to salvation according to God's own purpose and will.

Many reject the teaching that God chose (predestined) believers to salvation. They think believers chose God. In one sense they're right: salvation involves an act of the will in turning from sin to embrace Christ. But the issue in predestination goes deeper than that. It's a question of initiative. Did God choose you on the basis of your faith in Him or did He, by choosing you, enable you to respond in faith.

The answer is clear in Scripture. Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks for God on his own. Unregenerate people have no capacity to understand spiritual truth. It's all foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14). They are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), and ignorant (Eph. 4:18).

How can people in that condition initiate saving faith? They can't! That's why Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him. . . . All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:44, 37). Paul added, "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).

God took the initiative. He chose you and gave you saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Rejoice in that truth. Rest in His power to conform all things to His will. Draw strength and assurance from His promise never to let you go (John 10:27-29). Then live each day as God's elected one by shunning sin and following after holiness.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for placing His love upon you and granting you salvation.
* Pray for the salvation of others and seek opportunities to share Christ with them today.

For Further Study
Read Ezekiel 36:22-32.
* Why will God one day redeem Israel?
* What does that passage teach you about God's initiative in salvation?


Jesus Refuses to Test God

“Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple” (Matthew 4:5).

In confronting our Lord Jesus Christ, Satan persisted in trying to undermine or destroy the Son’s relationship to His Father. This time he goaded Jesus with this statement: “If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” To fortify his challenge and make it more plausible, the adversary— with a subtle and clever twist—quoted Scripture: “For it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone’” (from Ps. 91:11–12).

Now Satan surely had Christ backed into a corner, he likely reasoned, using his misguided and evil sense of logic. “If the Messiah lives only according to the Word of God, then I should confront Him with something from that Word.” If Jesus wouldn’t use His own power to help Himself and meet His immediate needs, maybe He would let God work on His behalf—after all, this was a “scriptural test,” according to Satan. Jesus could thus let God fulfill a promise from Psalms and prove to others that He was indeed God’s Son and Messiah.

But no matter how persuasive Satan’s argument—undergirded with a proof text—may have sounded, Jesus did not agree to it, not wanting to presumptuously test God or jump ahead of the divine timetable for the Savior’s redemptive ministry.

Ask Yourself
Yes, Scripture can be turned and twisted to suit anyone’s ends. What safeguards do you have in place against misusing the Word of God, while still maintaining a bold, believing faith in its sense of direction? Ask the Spirit to guide you into its truth. That’s His job (John 16:13).

Reading for Today:
* Genesis 33:1–34:31
* Psalm 9:1-5
* Proverbs 3:21-26
* Matthew 12:1-21

Genesis 33:3, 4 Fearfully and deferentially, Jacob approached his brother as an inferior would a highly honored patron, while gladly and eagerly, Esau ran to greet his brother without restraint of emotion. “They wept” because, after 21 years of troubling separation, old memories were wiped away and murderous threats belonged to the distant past; hearts had been changed, brothers reconciled! See v. 10.

Proverbs 3:22 life to your soul. The association of wisdom with the inner spiritual life unfolds throughout the book (see 4:10, 22; 7:2; 8:35; 9:11; 10:11, 16, 17; 11:19, 30; 12:28; 13:14; 14:27; 15:4, 24; 16:22; 19:23; 21:21; 22:4). grace to your neck. The wisdom of God will adorn one’s life for all to see its beauty (see 1:9).

Matthew 12:8 the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. Christ has the prerogative to rule over not only their man-made sabbatarian rules, but also over the Sabbath itself—which was designed for worshiping God. Again, this was an inescapable claim of Deity—and as such it prompted the Pharisees’ violent outrage (v. 14).

Matthew 12:15 healed them all. In all of Old Testament history there was never a time or a person who exhibited such extensive healing power. Physical healings were very rare in the Old Testament. Christ chose to display His deity by healing, raising the dead, and liberating people from demons. That not only showed the Messiah’s power over the physical and spiritual realms, but also demonstrated the compassion of God toward those affected by sin.

DAY 17: How are we to interpret the Bible when the ancient customs were so different from our own?
Three tools help us in the task of interpreting events that happened so long ago and so far away: 1) The best interpretive tool in understanding a Bible passage is its immediate context. Surrounding verses will often yield clues to the observant about foreign or unusual details in a particular account. 2) One part of the Bible often explains, expands, and comments on another part. An ever-growing familiarity with all of Scripture will equip a student with significant insight into the culture of those who lived the history. 3) Some insight can be gained from ancient sources outside of Scripture, but these only supplement our primary sources in the Bible itself.
Once we are at home in the exotic and unfamiliar contexts of Scripture, we meet people in the Bible pages who are very much like us. These are not aliens, but our ancestors across the ages. Their struggles are ours. Their failures are all familiar to us. The God who spoke to them still speaks to us.

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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
* What do Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12-13; and 8:15 all say about contentment?
* What does Psalm 37:7 say our everyday attitude should be?


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.


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 31:1–32:32
* Psalm 8:6-9
* Proverbs 3:19-20
* Matthew 11:1-30

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)

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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?


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 29:1–30:43
* Psalm 8:1-5
* Proverbs 3:13-18
* Matthew 10:21-42

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).

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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?


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.

* List six elements of God's will from these passages: 2 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 5:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
* Are you following God's will in those areas? If not, what steps can you take today to do so?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 27:1–28:22
* Psalm 7:9-17
* Proverbs 3:11-12
* Matthew 10:1-20

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.

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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?


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 25:1–26:35
* Psalm 7:6-8
* Proverbs 3:9-10
* Matthew 9:18-38
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.

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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?


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)?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 23:1–24:67
* Psalm 7:1-5
* Proverbs 3:7-8
* Matthew 9:1-17
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.

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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)?


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 21:1–22:24
* Psalm 6:6-10
* Proverbs 3:5-6
* Matthew 8:18-34
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).

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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?


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:
* Genesis 19:1–20:18
* Psalm 6:1-5
* Proverbs 3:1-4
* Matthew 8:1-17
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.

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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 1:4speaks 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?


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:
* Genesis 17:1–18:33
* Psalm 5:8-12
* Proverbs 2:10-22
* Matthew 7:1-29
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.

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Divinely Chosen and Called

“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).

We didn’t choose God; He chose us.

What is “the calling with which [we] have been called”? It is simply the position we have now as Christians. Paul said the Christians at Corinth were “saints by calling” (1 Cor. 1:2). Peter instructed his readers to make certain about God’s calling and choosing them (2 Peter 1:10). Our calling is a high calling (Phil. 3:14), “a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9), and “a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).
Who called us? Jesus has the answer: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). Jesus also said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (15:16). Those “whom [God] predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). God called out to us, we responded in faith, and He saved us.

Suppose after investigating all the different religions of the world, a person chose Christianity. If Christianity were nothing more than a simple, personal choice to be saved, this person would have a certain level of commitment—that is, “Since I’ve decided to do it, it’s worth doing.” But if I’m a Christian because before the world began, the sovereign God of the universe chose me to spend eternity in His presence, that creates a much greater level of commitment.

If a single woman approached a bachelor, told him he had characteristics she admired, and asked him if he would be interested in marrying her, there would be something missing in that courtship. But suppose he approaches this woman first and says, “I have gone from one end of the world to the other, and your character and beauty surpass all others. Will you marry me?” We know then that nothing is missing.

Magnify that illustration by considering God’s perspective. We didn’t ask God if we could get in on a salvation deal. Out of all the people in the world, He chose us to receive His mercy! That’s a high, holy, heavenly calling. Such a calling demands a response of commitment, doesn’t it?

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His grace in choosing and calling you.

For Further Study
Read Romans 8:29-39.
* How did Paul respond to the knowledge of God’s calling for his life?
* How should God’s calling affect your attitude?


Matching Your Practice to Your Position

God chose us “that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4).

The challenge of Christian living is to increasingly match your practice to your position.

God chose you in Christ to make you holy and blameless in His sight. To be “holy” is to be separated from sin and devoted to righteousness. To be “blameless” is to be pure without spot or blemish—like Jesus, the Lamb of God (1 Pet. 1:19).

Ephesians 1:4 is a positional statement. That is, Paul describes how God views us “in Christ.” He sees us as holy and blameless because Christ our Savior is holy and blameless. His purity is credited to our spiritual bank account. That's because God made Christ “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Despite our exalted position in God's sight, our practice often falls far short of His holy standard. Therefore the challenge of Christian living is to increasingly match our practice to our position, realizing that sinless perfection won't come until we are in heaven fully glorified (Rom. 8:23).

How do you meet that challenge? By prayer, Bible study, and yielding your life to the Spirit's control. Commit yourself to those priorities today as you seek to fulfill the great purpose to which you've been called: “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God that He does not expect you to earn your own righteousness but has provided it in His Son.
* Ask His Spirit to search your heart and reveal any sin that might hinder your growth in holiness. Confess that sin and take any steps necessary to eliminate it from your life.
For Further Study
Read Philippians 1:9-11.
* What ingredients must be added to Christian love to produce sincerity and blamelessness?
* What is the primary source of those ingredients (see Ps. 119:97-105)?
* What specific steps are you going to take to add or increase those ingredients in your life?


Jesus’ Deity—Central to the Gospel

“A voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).

The truth that Jesus Christ is God’s perfect Son is a key feature of the gospel message. The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes this clear at the outset of his writing:

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, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. 

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again, “I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me”? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” (1:1–8; cf. Col. 1:15–19; 2:9)

The New Testament presents God more as the Father of Jesus (John 14:6–11; Phil. 2:9–11) than as the Father of believers (Matt. 6:9). We cannot worship God unless we also worship Christ as one with Him (cf. John 5:23).

Ask Yourself
Are you as “well-pleased” with the Son—your Savior—as the Father is? And are you willing to declare it, as if boomed from the heavens? Pray that God would renew your love for Him today and fill you with boldness to pronounce your devotion at every opportunity.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 15:1–16:16
* Psalm 5:1-7
* Proverbs 2:6-9
* Matthew 6:19-34

Genesis 16:3 gave her to her husband. After 10 childless years (see 12:4), Sarai resorted to the custom of the day by which a barren wife could get a child through one of her own maidservants (v. 2, “I shall obtain children by her”). Abram, ignoring divine reaction and assurance in response to his earlier attempt to appoint an heir (see 15:2–5), sinfully yielded to Sarai’s insistence, and Ishmael was born.

Genesis 16:7 the Angel of the LORD. This special individual spoke as though He were distinct from Yahweh, yet also spoke in the first person as though He were indeed to be identified as Yahweh Himself, with Hagar recognizing that in seeing this Angel, she had seen God (v. 13). Others had the same experience and came to the same conclusion (see Gen. 22:11–18; 31:11–13; Ex. 3:2–5; Num. 22:22–35; Judg. 6:11–23; 13:2–5; 1 Kin. 19:5–7). The Angel of the Lord, who does not appear after the birth of Christ, is often identified as the preincarnate Christ.

Matthew 6:22,23 This is an argument from the lesser to the greater. The analogy is simple. If your eye is bad, no light can come in and you are left with darkness because of that malady. How much worse when the problem is not merely related to external perception, but an internal corruption of one’s whole nature, so that the darkness actually emanates from within and affects one’s whole being. He was indicting them for their superficial earthly religion that left their hearts dark.

What does Abraham’s faith teach us about justification?
In Genesis 15:6, we are told that when Abraham “believed” in the Lord, it was “accounted” to him for “righteousness.” The apostle Paul quoted these words as an illustration of faith over and against works (Rom. 4:3, 9, 22; Gal. 3:6). Abraham was regenerated by faith, and so are we!

This quotation is one of the clearest statements in all Scripture about justification. Abraham’s faith is not a meritorious work. It is never the ground of justification—it is simply the channel through which it is received and it, too, is a gift. His faith was “accounted” or “imputed” to him, which is a term used in both financial and legal settings. It means to take something that belongs to someone and credit to another’s account. It is a one-sided transaction—Abraham did nothing to accumulate it: God simply credited it to him. In this case, God took His own righteousness and credited it to Abraham as if it were actually his. This God did because Abraham believed in Him.

The “righteousness” imputed to Abraham is unique: 1) God is its source (Is. 45:8); 2) it fulfills both the penalty and precept of God’s law. Christ’s death as a substitute pays the penalty exacted on those who failed to keep God’s law, and His perfect obedience to every requirement of God’s law fulfills God’s demand for comprehensive righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; see Heb. 9:28); and 3) because God’s righteousness is eternal (Ps. 119:142; Is. 51:8; Dan. 9:24), the one who receives it from Him enjoys it forever.

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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?


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 13:1–14:24
* Psalm 4:4-8
* Proverbs 2:1-5
* Matthew 6:1-18

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.

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.

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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. 


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

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.

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Approaching Life from a Divine Perspective

“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).

To mature in our faith, we must learn to see things from God’s perspective.

Paul was a prisoner of Rome. Why then did he call himself “the prisoner of the Lord”? Because he had the ability to see everything in terms of how it affected Christ. No matter what happened in his life, he saw it in relation to God. His questions were, “What does this mean, God?” and “How does this affect You?”

When a problem comes in life, we are prone to say, “Oh, woe is me!” and wonder how it will affect us: Will it cause me pain? Will it cost me money? Too often we think only on the earthly level. But like Paul, we should think on a heavenly level: What is God trying to teach me? How can I glorify Him in this? In fact, a good definition of Christian maturity is: automatically seeing things in light of the divine perspective.

This perspective, this God-consciousness, is the only right way for Christians to live. David said, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely” (Ps. 16:8-9). Because David was always aware of God’s presence, he found joy and security, and no trouble could disturb him for long.
Paul was the same way: he knew there was a reason for his imprisonment and that Christ would be glorified by it (cf. Phil. 1:12-14). Paul wasn’t preoccupied with how it affected him, and thus he was able to rejoice, even in prison.
“God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Nothing happens outside of God’s control. Let’s trust that He knows what is best for us.

Suggestions for Prayer
If you tend to get discouraged or complain when troubles come, ask God to forgive you and help you see troubles from His perspective. Acknowledge before Him that He is in control of everything.

For Further Study
Paul’s attitude toward difficulties was cultivated by the experience he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. What did Christ teach him about troubles in verse 9, and how did that change Paul’s outlook?


Cultivating a Heavenly Perspective

“God...has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3, emphasis added).

Christians hold a dual citizenship. We are citizens of earth, but, more importantly, we are also citizens of Heaven.
It's been said that some Christians are so heavenly minded, they're no earthly good. But usually the opposite is true. Many Christians are so enamored with this present world that they no longer look forward to heaven. They have everything they want right here. 

The health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine has convinced them that Christians can have it all, and they pursue “the good life” with a vengeance.

Despite the prevalence of such thinking, the old Negro spiritual well says, “This world is not my home. I'm just a passin' through.”

Paul reminds us of that truth in Philippians 3:20: “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” That's why we must set our minds on heavenly, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1- 2). Our deepest affections and highest aspirations should center there. Our actions and decisions should reflect heavenly priorities, not earthly indulgences.

Even though we live in a sin-stained world and must constantly fight against its corrupting influences, God hasn't left us stranded. He extends to us all the rights and privileges of our heavenly citizenship. Let that assurance encourage you today to live to His glory and rely on His heavenly provisions. Take care not to let impure aspirations or trivial pursuits distract you from your heavenly priorities.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Tell Jesus how thankful and full of praise you are because of the place He is preparing for you in heaven (John 14:1-3).
* Pray for a greater awareness of the fleeting value of this world and the surpassing value of the world to come (1 John 2:17).

For Further Study
Read Revelation 4-5, 21.
* What primary activity are the inhabitants of heaven engaged in?
* List some of heaven's blessings.


True Baptism—Christ Immersed

“After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water” (Matthew 3:16).

Christians, especially new believers, sometimes wonder what mode of baptism Jesus underwent, and therefore wonder which is correct for them to experience. Since genuine baptism represents cleansing from sin and symbolizes the believer’s identification with Christ’s death and resurrection, the ordinance must involve immersion, not merely sprinkling or pouring.

The Greek word (baptizo) literally means to dip or submerge an object into water or another liquid. Confusion regarding the word’s meaning resulted largely because Latin and more modern-language translations of Scripture simply transliterated many occurrences of the Greek word.
Until the Middle Ages, the Christian church knew and officially practiced no form of baptism but immersion. Then the Roman Catholic Church formally introduced and sanctioned baptism by sprinkling or pouring. Prior to that, even the great Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote, “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.”

That Jesus “came up immediately from the water” indicates He had been completely in the water—in other words, almost surely immersed. John baptized people in the Jordan River (Matt. 3:6) and at other places where “there was much water” (John 3:23). That would not make sense if he had baptized only by pouring or sprinkling (cf. Acts 8:38–39). Unlike immersion, those other modes just do not fully symbolize dying to sin and being raised to new life.

Ask Yourself
Baptism is a one-time exercise in obedience, but the reality of being crucified with Christ and raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) is an ongoing experience. How do you remind yourself of this on your average day? Pray that the gift of God’s grace never loses its wonder.
Reading for Today:
* Genesis 9:1–10:32
* Psalm 3:5-8
* Proverbs 1:23-27
* Matthew 5:1-26
Genesis 9:6 For in the image of God. The reason man could kill animals, but neither animals nor man could kill man, is because man alone was created in God’s image.
Genesis 9:16 the everlasting covenant. This covenant with Noah is the first of 5 divinely originated covenants that are described as “everlasting.” The term “everlasting” can mean either 1) to the end of time and/or 2) through eternity future. It does not include eternity past. The other four such covenants include the following: 1) Abrahamic (Gen. 17:7); 2) Priestly (Num. 25:10–13); 3) Davidic (2 Sam. 23:5); and 4) New (Jer. 32:40).
Matthew 5:3 Blessed. The word literally means “happy, fortunate, blissful. ”Here it speaks of more than a surface emotion. Jesus was describing the divinely bestowed well-being that belongs only to the faithful. The Beatitudes demonstrate that the way to heavenly blessedness is antithetical to the worldly path normally followed in pursuit of happiness. The worldly idea is that happiness is found in riches, merriment, abundance, leisure, and such things. The real truth is the very opposite. The Beatitudes give Jesus’ description of the character of true faith. poor in spirit. The opposite of self-sufficiency. This speaks of deep humility of recognizing one’s utter spiritual bankruptcy apart from God. It describes those who are acutely conscious of their own lostness and hopelessness apart from divine grace (9:12; Luke 18:13). theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Notice that the truth of salvation by grace is clearly presupposed in this opening verse of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching that the kingdom is a gracious gift to those who sense their own poverty of spirit.

Day 5: Why did Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount?
Matthew records five important discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5–7); the commissioning of the apostles (chap. 10); the parables about the kingdom of heaven (chap. 13); a discourse about the childlikeness of the believer (chap. 18); and the discourse on His second coming (chaps. 24; 25). Each discourse ends with a variation of this phrase: “when Jesus had ended these sayings.” That becomes a motif signaling a new narrative portion.
The Sermon on the Mount is a masterful exposition of the law and a potent assault on Pharisaic legalism, closing with a call to true faith and salvation (7:13–29).Matthew is keen to show the error of the Pharisees for the benefit of his Jewish audience—not for personal or self-aggrandizing reasons. Christ expounded the full meaning of the law, showing that its demands were humanly impossible (see 5:48). This is the proper use of the law with respect to salvation: It closes off every possible avenue of human merit and leaves sinners dependent on nothing but divine grace for salvation (see Rom. 3:19, 20; Gal. 3:23, 24). Christ plumbed the depth of the law, showing that its true demands went far beyond the surface meaning of the words (5:28, 39, 44) and set a standard that is higher than the most diligent students of the law had heretofore realized.

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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.


Understand Your Spiritual Resources

“God...has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3, emphasis added).

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?


Symbols from Jesus' Baptism

“Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:15).

The most important symbol Jesus’ baptism gives us is a perfect example of obedience to God the Father. Our Lord always modeled obedience in all things (e.g., Phil. 2:6–8; cf. Matt. 17:25–27). In submitting to baptism, Jesus affirmed the validity of John’s standard of righteousness and demonstrated that baptism was God’s will to which every believer should be obedient.
Furthermore, Jesus’ baptism is a profound, symbolic identification with sinful humanity. Hundreds of years earlier the prophet Isaiah stated that the Messiah “was numbered with the transgressors; yet He himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). The sinless One took His place among sinners, and that in part entailed submitting Himself to a sinner’s baptism.

Finally, Jesus’ baptism is a symbol of His death and resurrection, and therefore a prefigurement of our Christian baptism. Concerning His death, Jesus later said, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). In pointing to His obedient identification with sinners (cf. Isa. 53:11; 2 Cor. 5:21) and His subsequent atoning death and bodily resurrection, the key symbols stemming from Jesus’ baptism remind believers of their need to faithfully obey and be baptized.

Ask Yourself
He became one of us, identifying with our sin. Marvel again at the amazement and immensity of this truth. What grace! What humility! What kind of worship should flow from this reality? Worship Him today as the One who was not ashamed to take your place, who stooped down so that you could stand.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 7:1–8:22
* Psalm 3:1-4
* Proverbs 1:20-22
* Matthew 4:1-25
Genesis 7:11 all the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The subterranean waters sprang up from deep fountains inside the earth to form the seas and rivers (1:10; 2:10–14), which were not produced by rainfall, since it never rained before the Flood. the windows of heaven. The celestial waters in the canopy encircling the globe were dumped on the earth and joined with the terrestrial and the subterranean waters (see 1:7). The Flood ended the water canopy surrounding the earth and unleashed the water in the earth. Thus began the earth’s cycle of hydrology, with rain and evaporation (see Job 26:8; Eccl. 1:7; Is. 55:10; Amos 9:6).
Proverbs 1:22 

How long. Three classes of people need wisdom: 1) the simple, who are ignorant; 2) scorners or mockers, who commit more serious, determined acts; and 3) fools or obstinate unbelievers, who will not listen to the truth. Proverbs directs its wisdom primarily at the first group.

Matthew 4:4 It is written. All 3 of Jesus’ replies to the devil were taken from Deuteronomy. This one, from Deuteronomy 8:3, states that God allowed Israel to hunger, so that He might feed them with manna and teach them to trust Him to provide for them. So the verse is directly applicable to Jesus’ circumstances and a fitting reply to Satan’s temptation. every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. A more important source of sustenance than food, it nurtures our spiritual needs in a way that benefits us eternally, rather than merely providing temporal relief from physical hunger.

DAY 4: How significant is the Flood in the overall biblical history? 
The Bible treats the Flood as a worldwide event directly brought by God as a judgment on the sin of humanity. The flood hangs like a warning cloud over all subsequent history. Fortunately, that cloud also holds a rainbow of God’s promised grace.

Conditions in Noah’s day were ripe for judgment.“ Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). This verse provides one of the strongest and clearest statements about man’s sinful nature. Many other verses make it clear that God had every reason for radical action: Jeremiah 17:9, 10; Matthew 12:34, 35; 15:18, 19; Mark 7:21; Luke 6:45. Other notable Scriptures on the worldwide flood brought by God include Job 12:15; 22:16; Psalms 29:10; 104:6–9; Isaiah 54:9; Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26, 27; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5, 6.

The Flood illustrates several important aspects of God’s character and God’s relationship with His creation: 1) God retains ultimate control of world events; 2) God can and will judge sin; 3) God can and does exercise grace even in judgment; 4) An even more universal and final judgment will be carried out on the world based on God’s timetable.

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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 4:3).

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?


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 5:1–6:22
* Psalm 2:7-12
* Proverbs 1:10-19
* Matthew 3:1-17
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. 1:5, 6) 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 (15:3–9), and especially for rank hypocrisy (15:7, 8; 22:18; 23:13, 23, 25, 29; Luke 12:1).

The Sadducees were known for their denial of things supernatural. They denied the resurrection of the dead (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 (22:15, 16, 23, 34, 35). John publicly addressed them as deadly snakes.

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Becoming What You Are

“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).

The Christian life is simply becoming what Christ has already made you.

Suppose immediately after you were saved, the Lord stamped your forehead with the words, “Watch me. I’m a child of God.” How would that affect your lifestyle?

We may not have a physical mark like that, but we do bear the name of Christ in this world. When we first put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we became part of His family (Gal. 4:1-7). He “freely bestowed” His grace on us (Eph. 1:6). He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (1:3). And we have a rich, glorious inheritance in heaven (1:18). As God’s children, we indeed have many rights, honors, and privileges, but He expects us to behave like His children. Just as a child honors his father by obeying him, we honor God by walking worthy of Him. Our actions must be actions He would approve. Our desires must be His desires. Our goals and objectives must be His goals and objectives.

One of my seminary professors once told me that the whole Christian life is simply becoming what you are. Because you are a child of God, you need to act like a child of God. In fact, the root of the Greek word translated “worthy” in Ephesians 4:1 speaks of equalization and balance. There ought to be perfect harmony between who you are and how you live. We lapse in our commitment to Christ when we fail to live that way.
Remember, though, that our obedience to God must not be a conformity to rules and regulations out of fear or legalistic pride. It is instead a conformity to righteousness out of gratitude and a deep love for Christ. Our desire to be worthy children is a result of understanding and appreciating all He has done for us. 

Philippians 1:27 says, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” In other words, match your conduct to the gospel. The exalted reality of the gospel demands an exalted lifestyle.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to help you act like His child.

For Further Study
Read 1 John 2:6. Christ is our supreme example of the worthy walk. 
* Find examples in the Gospels where He demonstrates His commitment to the Father.
* How can you follow His example today?


Experiencing God's Peace

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2).

True peace is God’s gift to those who love and obey Him.
Throughout history mankind has sought peace through military alliances, balances of power, and leagues of nations. Yet lasting peace still remains an elusive dream. Even during times of relative peace, nations struggle with internal strife and crime.

The Bible says that man on his own cannot know peace because he is alienated from its source. But we need not despair. True peace is immediately available from God our Father (the God of peace—Rom. 15:33), and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Prince of Peace—Isa. 9:6). It's a gift of God's grace to those who love and obey Jesus Christ.

The New Testament so clearly teaches the inextricable link between God's grace and peace that “Grace to you and peace” became a common greeting in the early church. Grace is God's great kindness toward those who are undeserving of His favor but who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. It is the fountain and peace is the stream. As recipients of His grace, we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1)—we are reconciled to Him through faith in His Son and we will never experience His wrath. We also have the peace of God (Phil. 4:7)—the Spirit's way of assuring us that God is in control even in the midst of difficult circumstances. That's why Paul calls it the peace that surpasses all comprehension (Phil. 4:7).

The world's peace is relative and fleeting because it is grounded in circumstances. God's peace is absolute and eternal because it is grounded in His grace. Does God's peace reign in your heart, or have you allowed sin or difficult circumstances to diminish your devotion to Christ?

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God that you have peace with Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
* Ask the Spirit to reveal any sin that might be hindering God's peace from ruling in your heart. Be prepared to respond in confession and repentance.
* Ask for opportunities to demonstrate God's peace to others today.
For Further Study
Read Philippians 4:6-7.
* What is God's antidote for anxiety?
* How does God's peace affect a believer's heart and mind?


Jesus’ Purposeful Baptism

“Then Jesus arrived . . . coming to John, to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3:13).

In the original text of this passage, the wording “to be baptized” emphasizes purpose in this momentous appearance by the Lord Jesus. But it was extremely difficult for John the Baptist to understand why the God-Man would need to be baptized.

John’s baptism was for the confession of sin and repentance (3:2, 6, 11), but Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) had no need for such a baptism. It is hard to see why One who would take away sin would need to submit Himself to a ceremony that symbolizes death to sin and rising to spiritual life.

Because John knew so well that Jesus was the sinless Messiah, come to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose, he “tried to prevent Him” (Matt. 3:14). The Greek pronouns in John’s statement “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” are all in the emphatic position, underscoring his strong bewilderment over the situation. This was not a direct refusal, as Peter might have given (cf. Matt. 16:22), but the Baptist no doubt misunderstood Jesus’ request, thinking He could not possibly intend to undergo baptism.
All sinners need the repentance that baptism symbolizes, but many, such as the Jewish teachers and leaders of Jesus’ day, do not seek true repentance. Jesus, on the other hand, purposed to receive John’s baptism to show His complete obedience to God’s will.

Ask Yourself
The same Jesus who walked with such resolve and determination throughout His own earthly life has a distinct and daily purpose for yours. What pieces of this plan are becoming clearer to you? Pray that He will continue to reveal . . . and that you will continue to follow.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 3:1–4:26
* Psalm 2:1-6
* Proverbs 1:8-9
* Matthew 2:1-23
Genesis 3:15 bruise your head…bruise His heel. This is the first messianic prophecy, foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ. Ever since the Fall, Satan’s “seed” (Satan and unbelievers, who are called the devil’s children in John 8:44) has struggled against the woman’s seed (Christ, a descendant of Eve, and His children). In the midst of this curse passage, God gives a message of hope—”He” is Christ, who will one day defeat Satan completely. Satan could only “bruise” Christ’s heel (cause Him to suffer), while Christ will bruise Satan’s head (destroy him with a fatal blow).
Genesis 4:4,5 Abel’s offering was acceptable (see Heb. 11:4), because it was in every way obediently given according to what God must have revealed, though the revelation is not recorded in Genesis. Abel’s offering was an animal, it was the very best of what he had, and it was the culmination of a zealous heart for God. Cain, however, disdained the divine instruction and just brought what he wanted to bring: some of his crop.

Matthew 2:1 in the days of Herod the king. Herod the Great was the first in a dynasty of rulers and is thought to be a descendant of Esau. A ruthless and cunning ruler, he saw the beginning of the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple under his reign. wise men from the East. The number of men is not given, though the 3 gifts can be seen to represent one man each. These men were Magi—magicians and astrologers—not kings.

DAY 2: What do Christians mean when they talk about the Fall?
The Fall refers to that moment in time when human beings first disobeyed God. Genesis 3 tells the painful episode. What Eve set in motion, Adam confirmed and completed by joining her. They sinned together. The willful decision of Adam and Eve created a state of rebellion between the creation and her Creator.
The expression “the Fall” comes from the Bible itself. The apostle Paul uses the word in summarizing the human condition in Romans 3:23,“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It carries with it the sense of defeat and destruction. Great cities fell. So did people. But another fall preceded all these—the fall of the angel Lucifer, who became known as Satan (Is. 14:12–15). In the Fall, our first ancestors declared us on Satan’s side.
The Bible makes it clear that the Fall brought sin into every subsequent person’s life: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). 
Our capacity for sin is inborn. We are sinners before we have the opportunity to sin. Not only are we sinners because we sin; we first sin because we are sinners. Why? Because we have all inherited the effects of Adam’s fall.

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Commitment to God's Standards

“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).
Just as organizations have rules their members must follow, God has standards Christians must live by.
When someone is part of a group, he or she is obligated to follow its laws or standards. American citizens are required to obey the laws of the United States. Employees must conform to the rules of their company. Athletic teams are expected to listen to their coach.
Most of us want to be part of a group because with belonging comes acceptance. This desire to conform can be quite strong, sometimes dangerously so. During Jesus’ time, “many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43). Those rulers were so committed to their religious system that they damned their souls by rigidly adhering to its code.
Some people think belonging to the church is different though. They want the blessings, rights, and privileges of being a child of God, but they’re unwilling to conform to biblical standards. But God expects Christians to live a certain way. Paul told the Corinthian believers to remove from their midst all who live immorally (1 Cor. 5:1-2). In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 he says, “Keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”
Since people can join athletic teams and businesses and follow the rules, since people can be so fearful of being cast out of their society that they forfeit their souls, since people can be so devoted to things that don’t matter, shouldn’t Christians make an even greater commitment to what matters most? In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul tells us how we can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called” (v. 1). Let’s commit ourselves to obey God as we learn what He requires of us.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to show you areas where your commitment to Him is lacking, and for help in strengthening those areas.

For Further Study
Read John 9.
* What were the parents of the man born blind most committed to?
* What effect did that commitment have on them?


The Measure of True Success

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).
God is more interested in your faithfulness than He is in your accomplishments.
Our society is success oriented. We love success stories. We even have television programs that exalt the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But God's standard for success is quite different. Unimpressed by our status or wealth, He looks instead for faithfulness to His will.
Paul understood that principle and diligently pursued his calling as an apostle—one of those unique men who were foundational to the church and recipients, teachers, and writers of the New Testament.
That was a high calling, yet judging from Paul's lifestyle most people would hardly call him successful— having suffered imprisonments, beatings, death threats, shipwrecks, robberies, hatred from his theological enemies, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, and exposure to the elements (2 Cor. 11:23-27). But none of those things deterred him from obeying God's will. His final testimony was, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). That's true success! Although we're not apostles, we're to follow Paul's example of faithfulness (1 Cor. 11:1). That's possible because, like the Ephesian believers, we are “saints [holy ones] . . . who are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1). By God's grace we've trusted in Christ as our Lord and Savior (Eph. 2:8-9) and received His righteousness (Phil. 3:9), Spirit (Eph. 3:16), and every spiritual resource necessary for faithful, victorious Christian living (Eph. 1:3).
What remains is to cultivate greater love for Christ and more consistent obedience to His Word. Those are the hallmarks of a true disciple and God's measure of success. Make it your goal that your life today warrants the Lord's commendation, “Well done, good and faithful [servant]” (Matt. 25:21).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for His wonderful grace, by which He granted you salvation and all the spiritual resources you need.
* Thank Him for His Word, where you learn the principles of godly living.
* Ask Him for opportunities today to encourage the faithfulness of others.
For Further Study
Read Ephesians 1:3-4; 2:10; Titus 2:11-12.
* What is the goal of your salvation?
* Are you living each day in light of that goal?


Jesus’ Public Baptism

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan” (Matthew 3:13).
There is something majestic about Jesus’ baptism that brought all the previous events of His earthly life into focus. Here He came fully onto the stage of the gospel story and His work and ministry truly began.
Following an eternity past in heaven and thirty years of obscurity in Nazareth, God presented the Savior publicly to the world. John the Baptist, as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” had heralded the coming of the Messiah (3:3; cf. Isa. 40:3), and now He was fully and publicly prepared to begin the fulfillment of His earthly mission.
A parallel passage in Luke tells us that this was no private or secluded ceremony: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized” (Luke 3:21). The word translated “arrived” in Matthew 3:13 often indicated an official arrival or public appearance by a dignitary. From now on Jesus would be in the public eye and call no place His permanent earthly home (8:20).
This important episode from the beginning of Christ’s ministry clearly shows us that Jesus, though knowing what a high degree of visibility would ultimately cost Him, obediently stepped from the comfort of obscurity into the high-risk position of a public figure. His work would invite strong opinion, but in order to accomplish the Father’s will, it must take place in full view of the world. It must come at the cost of being widely observed.

Ask Yourself
We are called to be salt and light, not merely to enjoy God’s seasoning and illumination in our own lives but to be His conveyors of grace to others. How does this public calling alter the way you express and live your Christianity? Pray that you will live not in fear but in faith.


Reading for Today:
* Genesis 1:1–2:25
* Psalm 1:1-6
* Proverbs 1:1-7
* Matthew 1:1-25
Genesis 1:5 first day. God completed the creation in 7 days, which constituted a complete week. One “day” can refer to: 1) the light portion of a 24-hour period (1:5,14); an extended period of time (2:4); or 2) the whole 24-hour period while the earth completes a full rotation on its axis. Each “day” in Genesis refers to a 24-hour period. The cycle of light and dark means that the earth was rotating on its axis, receiving light from a source on one side of the earth, even though the sun was not yet created (v. 16).
Genesis 1:26 Us…Our. The first clear reference to the three-person nature of God, as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This unique relationship is called the triunity of God. Even the very name of God, Elohim (1:1), is a plural form of El. man. The masterpiece of creation, a human being, was made in God’s image to rule creation. Our image. This phrase defined man’s unique relation to God and set him apart from the animals. He was like God in that he could reason and had intellect, will, and emotion. When he was first created, he was like God because he was good and sinless.
Matthew 1:18 betrothed. Jewish betrothal was as binding as a modern marriage and could only be broken through divorce. The betrothal couple was legally considered husband and wife, even though physical union had not yet taken place.
Matthew 1:22 that it might be fulfilled. Matthew often referred to places where Old Testament scriptures were fulfilled. He quoted from the Old Testament more than 60 times, more frequently than any other New Testament writer, except Paul in Romans.

DAY 1: How does the Bible challenge or agree with current scientific theories?
Scientific theories, by their very definition, are subject to change and adjustment. Scripture remains as God’s revealed unchanging declaration of truth. The Bible was not written as a challenge to any particular scientific theory, but scientific theories have often been designed to challenge and undermine biblical statements. They either agree with scripture or are mistaken.
The description in Genesis 1:1 that “God created the heavens and the earth” yields three basic conclusions: 1) creation was a recent event measured in thousands not millions of years ago; 2) creation was ex nihilo, meaning that God created out of nothing; 3) creation was special, with light and time being the first of God’s creative acts, since the day-count (Gen. 1:5) began before the creation of sun and moon (Gen. 1:16).
One key in evaluating scientific theories depends on our understanding of the biblical word “created.” Although the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1 can be used to describe the act of shaping or altering existent matter (Is. 65:18), such is not the case with the Bible’s first words. God spoke the heavens and earth into existence. Both context and the rest of Scripture bear witness to God’s creativity without use of any preexisting material (Is. 40:28; 45:8,12,18; 48:13; Jer. 10:16; Acts 17:24).

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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 5:28-29; 6:40).

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?


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.


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.


Reading for Today:
* Malachi 1:1–4:6
* Psalm 150:1-6
* Proverbs 31:10-31
* Revelation 21:1–22:21

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. 3:3; 11:10, 14; 17:12ff.; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17; 7:26, 27; John 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. 30:26; 60:1, 3). The reference is to the Messiah; He is “the Lord our Righteousness” (Ps. 84:11; Jer. 23:5, 6; 1 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. 103:3; Is. 53:5; 57:18, 19; 1 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. 25:1–13; Eph. 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.

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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?


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?


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.


Reading for Today:
* Zechariah 13:1–14:21
* Psalm 149:5-9
* Proverbs 31:1-9
* Revelation 20:1-15
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 1:1; 10:30; 14:9). 

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. 53:10; Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:18–20). 

sheep…scattered. Jesus applies this prophecy to the disciples who defected from Him after His arrest (Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50), including Peter’s denial (Matt. 26:33–35, 69–75). 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 15:18, 20; 16:2; James 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.1:2–4; Nah.1:5; Rev.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 5:29; Dan.12:2; Acts 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 8:17; Rom. 2:16), words (Matt. 12:37), and actions (Matt. 16:27) will be compared to God’s perfect, holy standard (Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16) and will be found wanting (Rom. 3:23). This also implies that there are degrees of punishment in hell (Matt. 10:14, 15; 11:22; Mark 12:38–40; Luke 12:47, 48; Heb. 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. 11:6–12; 24:23; Hos. 3:4, 5; Joel 3:9–21; Amos 9:8–15; Mic. 4:1–8; Zeph. 3:14–20; Zech. 14:1–11; Matt. 24:29–31, 36–44), 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.

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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?


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?


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. 11:23; 23:33; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:9–10; John 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. 10:28; John 5:29; Acts 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?


Reading for Today:
* Zechariah 10:1–12:14
* Psalm 149:1-4
* Proverbs 30:32-33
* Revelation 19:1-21
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. 39:29; Joel 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. 5:4; Heb. 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. 53:5; John 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. 8:1; 10:12; 1 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 14:1–3; 1 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. 1:4; Heb. 13:20) and will be presented to Him at the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 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. 11:2; Eph. 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).

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The Inheritance of Christ

“[Christ] is . . . the first-born of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).
Christ is the preeminent inheritor over all creation.
Puritan minister Thomas Manton once said, “Heresies revolve as fashions, and in the course of a few years antiquated errors revive again, and that by their means who did not so much as know them by name.” He was right: false doctrines keep repeating themselves through the ages, only to reappear under different names. From the Arians of the early church to the Jehovah’s Witnesses of our own day, cultists have sought to deny our Lord’s deity. One of the favorite verses of such cultists is Colossians 1:15, which refers to Christ as the “first-born.” They argue that it speaks of Christ as a created being and hence He could not be the eternal God. Such an interpretation completely misunderstands the sense of prototokos (“first-born”) and ignores the context.

Although prototokos can mean first-born chronologically (Luke 2:7), it refers primarily to position or rank. In both Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn was the son who had the right of inheritance. He was not necessarily the first one born. Although Esau was born first chronologically, it was Jacob who was the first-born and received the inheritance. Jesus is the One with the right to the inheritance of all creation (cf. Heb. 1:2).

The context of Colossians 1:15 also refutes the idea that “first-born” describes Jesus as a created being. If Paul were here teaching that Christ is a created being, he would be agreeing with the central point of the Colossian false teachers. That would run counter to his purpose in writing Colossians, which was to refute them. Moreover, Paul had just finished describing Christ as the perfect and complete image of God (v. 15). In the following verses he refers to Christ as the Creator of all things (v. 16) and the One who “is before all things” (v. 17). Far from being an emanation descending from God, Christ is the preeminent inheritor over all creation. He existed before the creation and is exalted in rank above it.

Suggestions for Prayer
Use Psalm 93 as the basis of your prayer to worship Christ, who is preeminent in rank over all creation.

For Further Study
Read Revelation 4:8-11. According to verse 11, what is Christ worthy to receive? Why?


The Author of Our Salvation

"It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10).

Through His death, Christ became the perfect leader for His people.
As we look at what Christ has done, we must never forget that He was fulfilling the sovereign plan of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us it was fitting in God's sight for Christ to bring many sons to glory. That means everything God did through Christ was consistent with His character.
The cross was a masterpiece of God's wisdom. It displayed His holiness in His hatred of sin. It was consistent with His power: Christ endured in a few hours what it would take an eternity to expend on sinners. The cross displayed His love for mankind. And Christ's death on the cross agreed with God's grace because it was substitutionary.

To bring "many sons to glory," God had "to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings." The Greek word translated "author" (archēgos) means "pioneer" or "leader." It was commonly used of a pioneer who blazed a trail for others to follow. The archēgos never stood at the rear giving orders; he was always out front blazing the trail. As the supreme Archēgos, Christ has gone before us—He is our trailblazer.
Life seems most anxious and dreadful when death is near. That's a trail we cannot travel by ourselves. But the Author of our salvation says, "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19). Only the perfect Pioneer could lead us out of the domain of death into the presence of the Father. All you have to do is put your hand in His nail- scarred hand and He will lead you from one side of death to the other. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:55).

Suggestion for Prayer
Praise God for all His attributes, specifically for each one displayed in Christ's death for you.

For Further Study
Read Hebrews 5:8-9 and 1 Peter 2:19-25. How do those verses expand on Hebrews 2:10?


Principles of the Dragnet, Part 2

“‘So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous’” (Matthew 13:49).
One way that God’s angels serve Him in the judgment is as instruments of separation and execution of final sentence (cf. Matt. 24:31; 25:31–32; Rev. 14:19; 15:5–16:21). This separation will be from among all the living and the dead of humanity from all time—“those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly warned about the horrors of hell (Matt. 10:28; 25:41; Luke 16:23) and pled with people to avoid such a terrible fate by fleeing to Him for salvation. Even though life will seem normal, our Lord predicts that one day the righteous and unrighteous will part ways:
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. (Matt. 24:37–41)
God does not want any sinner to perish (Ezek. 18:23; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus wept over Jerusalem because its people would not turn to Him (Luke 19:41)—He does not desire anyone to experience hell.
Ask Yourself
One way you see the distinction between the world and the church is how quickly the serene atmosphere of Christmas devolves into the bawdy recklessness of New Year’s Eve plans. Why are so many people content to treat Christianity like a part-time occupation?


Reading for Today:
* Zechariah 7:1–9:17
* Psalm 148:7-14
* Proverbs 30:29-31
* Revelation 18:1-24
Zechariah 9:1–8 This oracle features a series of judgments announced against the nations surrounding Israel (vv. 1–7), with deliverance promised for His people (v. 8). Most understand this to be a prophecy of the victories of the famous Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great, given approximately 200 years before he marched through Palestine. He provides an analogy of Christ returning to judge the nations and save Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21).
Psalm 148:14 the horn. Refers in general to the strength and prosperity of the nation, which became the cause of praise for Israel. This suggests that Israel enjoyed better times than in the past, e.g., during David’s and Solomon’s reigns or after returning from the Babylonian captivity. A people near to Him. Also “My chosen [people]” (Is. 43:20) and “His special treasure” (Ps. 135:4).
Proverbs 30:29–31 three things…majestic in pace,…four. The 3 creatures and the king all picture wise, stately, and orderly deportment. Each offers a glimpse of the Creator’s power and wisdom (Job 38:1–42:6) and illustrates the dignity and confidence of those who walk wisely.
Revelation 18:24 blood of prophets and saints. The religious and commercial/political systems embodied in Babylon will commit unspeakable atrocities against God’s people (6:10; 11:7; 13:7, 15; 17:6; 19:2). God will avenge that slaughter of His people (19:2).

DAY 28: If Zechariah 9:9 refers to the First Advent of Christ, how does v. 10 relate to that?
“Behold, your King is coming to you;…riding on a donkey” (v. 9). Unlike Alexander the Great, this King comes riding on a donkey (Jer. 17:25). This was fulfilled at Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1–5; John 12:12–16). The Jews should have been looking for someone from the line of David (2 Sam. 7; 1 Chr. 17). Four elements in this verse describe the Messiah’s character: 1) He is King; 2) He is just; 3) He brings salvation; and 4) He is humble.
Zechariah moves to the Second Advent of Christ and the establishment of His universal kingdom in v. 10. “His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea.’” Not characterized by bloodshed, the Messiah’s rule will be a kingdom of peace in which weapons of warfare will be destroyed or converted to peaceful uses (Is. 2:4; 9:5–7; 11:1–10; Mic. 5:2, 10–15), and peace spreads from the Euphrates River (the terminus of civilization) to the world.
The two advents of Christ are here compressed as though they were one as in Isaiah 61:1–3 (Luke 4:16, 21). Verse 9 refers to His First Coming and v. 10 is His Second. Old Testament prophets didn’t see the great time period between the two comings. The church age was a “mystery” hidden from them (Eph. 3:1–9; Col. 1:27).

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God Becomes Visible

“[Christ] is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

In Christ, the invisible God became visible.

Sometimes I listen to different preachers on the radio or watch them on television, and I get tremendously frustrated. That’s because so many of them present a confusing picture of who Christ really is. Since there are so many who distort the Christian faith, there should be in every believer a desire to defend it. The apostle Paul certainly had that desire. Since the heretics at Colosse viewed Jesus as a lesser spirit who emanated from God, Paul refutes that with a powerful description of who Jesus really is.

Paul describes Him as “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). The Greek word translated “image” (eikon) means “likeness.” Although man is also the eikon of God (1 Cor. 11:7), he is not a perfect image of God. Humans are made in God’s image in that they have rational personality. Like God, they possess intellect, emotion, and will, by which they are able to think, feel, and choose. We humans are not, however, in God’s image morally: He is holy, and we are sinful. We are also not created in His image essentially, since we do not possess His divine attributes.

Unlike man, Jesus Christ is the perfect, absolutely accurate image of God. He did not become the image of God at the Incarnation but has been that from all eternity. Hebrews 1:3 says Christ “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” Christ reflects God’s attributes and is the exact likeness of God. That is why Christ could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

By using the term eikon, Paul emphasizes that Jesus is both the representation and manifestation of God. He is the full, final, and complete revelation of God. He is God in human flesh. That was His claim (John 8:58), and it is the unanimous testimony of Scripture (cf. Col. 2:9Titus 2:13). To think anything less of Him is blasphemy and gives evidence of a mind blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for removing your spiritual blindness so that you could “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

For Further Study

According to Romans 8:29, what has God predestined for all believers?


The Humiliation of Christ

"We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9).

In serving as our substitute, Christ humbled Himself supremely.

Jesus' death on the cross was not easy or costless—it was a horrific death. It was not calm and peaceful; it was accompanied by outward torture and inward agony. The death He tasted was the curse of sin. In a few hours on that cross, He suffered the total agony of every soul for all eternity. He was guilty of no sin, yet He chose to suffer the weight of all sins committed for all time.

God sent His Son, and His Son willingly came to die to redeem mankind. Paul writes, "When the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law" (Gal. 4:4-5).

Only by tasting death as a man could He free mankind from death. Historically, kings have had someone taste their food and drink before they consumed it. Christ drained to the dregs the cup of poison rightfully meant for us before it could ever touch our lips. He substituted His death for ours, releasing us from the deadness of sin to life with God.

What moved Jesus to suffer for us? Grace. What we did not deserve (salvation) we received, and what we did deserve (death) we did not receive. Unbounded love prompted Christ's gracious work on our behalf: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

After He accomplished the work of His substitutionary death, He was "crowned with glory and honor" and exalted to the right hand of the Father, where He will reign forever and ever. He is our great Substitute, whom we can thank and praise throughout all eternity.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to give you opportunities to communicate the gospel to new people, even if you might suffer in the process.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 52:13—53:12 to understand what the God of the universe had to endure at the hands of men.


Principles of the Dragnet, Part 1

“‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous’” (Matthew 13:47–49).

During the present church era, God allows unbelief and unrighteousness to exist in His kingdom. Therefore believers and unbelievers coexist, as Jesus already illustrated in His parable of the wheat and tares. This parable of the dragnet, however, depicts the separation of believers and unbelievers as the kingdom’s form changes at the end of the age. The dragnet of the Father’s judgment quietly moves through the sea of humanity drawing all people to the shores of eternity for separation to their final destinies—believers to heaven and unbelievers to hell.

The invisible net of God’s judgment affects every person just as the dragnet impinges on every sea creature. Most people don’t perceive God’s sovereign plan or His eternal kingdom. They don’t realize He is working in this world. At times they can be moved by hearing of the gospel’s grace, or scared by the threat of judgment. But usually they quickly return to their worldly lifestyles and disregard matters of eternity.

However, we can be certain that when this era ends and the Lord Jesus returns to establish His glorious kingdom, final judgment will be at hand. Here Christ does not fully describe the end times, but He focuses on judgment of unbelievers. He pictures a general judgment with particular reference to the final, great white throne

judgment (Rev. 20:11–15). There “the dead, the great and the small” will be “judged, every one of them” (vv. 12, 13). But thank the Lord we do not have to fear that fate if we are trusting Him for salvation.

Ask Yourself

How does your heart react when you contemplate the vastness and grandeur of God’s plan—His knowledge and oversight throughout history and forward into eternity?


Reading for Today:


Zechariah 4:10 the day of small things. Though the rebuilding of a temple smaller than Solomon’s may have been discouraging to some (Ezra 3:12Hag. 2:3), the Lord announced that His pleasure was upon this work, and that His omniscient care (“7 eyes”) was watching over and taking pleasure in its completion. He said in effect, “Don’t despise what God is pleased with.” This was only a picture of the glorious restoration when the Messiah comes to reign. That temple will make all others pale by comparison (Ezek. 40–48).

Proverbs 30:24–28 four things which are little. These verses picture 4 creatures which survive due to natural instinct. The wisdom seen in each of these reveals the beauty of the wise Creator and His creation (Ps. 8:3–9) and becomes a model for the principle that labor, diligence, organization, planning, and resourcefulness are better than strength, thus implying the superiority of wisdom over might.

Revelation 17:5 forehead. It was customary for Roman prostitutes to wear a headband with their name on it (Jer. 3:3), parading their wretchedness for all to see. The harlot’s forehead is emblazoned with a 3-fold title descriptive of the world’s final false religious system. MYSTERY. A New Testament mystery is truth once hidden, but in the New Testament revealed. Spiritual Babylon’s true identity is yet to be revealed. Thus, the precise details of how it will be manifested in the world are not yet known. BABYLON THE GREAT. This Babylon is distinct from the historical, geographical city of Babylon (which still existed in John’s day). The details of John’s vision cannot be applied to any historical city (14:8). MOTHER OF HARLOTS. All false religion stems ultimately from Babel or Babylon (Gen. 11).

DAY 27: What is God’s word to inspire Zerubbabel to act on His promise?

Zechariah 4:6 states: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel.” The purpose of the vision was to encourage Zerubbabel to complete the temple rebuilding, to assure him of divine enablement for that venture and the endless supply for the future glory of the Messiah’s kingdom and temple. The lamp stand pictured Israel fully supplied by God to be His light then and in the future. It must be noted that the church has temporarily taken this role presently (Eph. 5:89Rev. 1:121320), until Israel’s salvation and restoration to covenant blessing and usefulness.

“‘Not by might…power, but by My Spirit.’” Neither human might, wealth, or physical stamina would be sufficient to complete the work. Only an abundant supply of the power of the Holy Spirit, pictured by the “bowl” (v. 2), would enable him to carry out the task and enable Israel in the Messiah’s kingdom to be a light again to the world by the operation of the Spirit (Ezek. 36:24).

“‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain’” (v. 7). Because the outcome is guaranteed (vv. 6, 9), any mountain-like opposition will be leveled by God to become like a flat surface. No obstacle will be able to stop the completion of the temple in Zerubbabel’s time or in the final kingdom of the Messiah (Ezek. 40–48).“‘He shall bring forth the capstone.’” The final stone of the building will be put into place, signifying its completion. “‘With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” This blessing signifying shouts of joy and thanksgiving came to pass (Ezra 3:11–13) over the completion of the temple. Contrast this attitude with that of the people seeing the unfinished temple (Hag. 2:3).


My Royal Family





Defending the Faith

“[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For in Him 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. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He 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 1:15-19).

A believer should defend the faith.

Despite the diligent labors of Epaphras, the Colossian church was in jeopardy. A serious heresy had arisen, and Epaphras was so concerned that he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. The Colossian church had not yet been infected by that heresy, and Paul warns them against its dangers.

The heretics, denying the humanity of Christ, viewed Him as one of many lesser, descending spirit beings that emanated from God. They taught a form of philosophic dualism, postulating that spirit was good and matter was evil. Hence, a good emanation like Christ could never take on a body composed of evil matter. The idea that God Himself could become man was absurd to them. Thus, the false teachers also denied His deity.

Christ was also not adequate for salvation, according to the heretics. Salvation required a superior, mystical, secret knowledge, beyond that of the gospel of Christ. It also involved worshiping the good emanations (angels) and keeping Jewish ceremonial laws.

By far the most serious aspect of the Colossian heresy was its rejection of Christ’s deity. Before getting to the other issues, Paul makes an emphatic defense of that crucial doctrine. In Colossians 1:15-19 Paul reveals our Lord’s true identity by viewing Him in relation to God, the universe, and the church.

Perhaps you’ve met people who deny Christ’s deity, but you weren’t sure what to say to them. In the next few days, let Paul be your guide in showing you how to confront cultists in a biblical manner. By following his example, you’ll be able to defend our precious faith.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to teach you from His Word how to refute false teaching.

For Further Study

In verse 3 of Jude, what exhortation does Jude give to believers?


Born to Die

"We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9).

Jesus Christ was born to die as our substitute.

At this time of year, it is difficult for us to see Jesus other than as a little baby. We of course know why He came, but we usually focus on His death on the cross at another time of year. But we must never forget that He came to die.

Those soft baby hands fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb were made to have two great nails hammered through them. Those little chubby feet were to walk up a hill and be nailed to a cross. That sacred head was made to wear a crown of thorns. His tender body wrapped in swaddling clothes would be pierced by a spear to reveal a broken heart. The death of Christ was no accident; He was born to die.

Jesus died to remove the curse so we could regain our dominion. But to do that, He had to come as a man. Even though in doing so He temporarily became lower than the angels, He accomplished something no angel could: our restoration.

The first and foremost reason for the incarnation is that Christ might taste death on behalf of every man and woman. He came to die in our place—to be our substitute. God had two options: Either let us die and pay for our own sins, or allow a substitute to take our punishment and die in our place. He mercifully chose the latter.

It is vital that we affirm the fact of Christ's substitutionary death because modern liberal theology claims Jesus died merely as an example, like a martyr dying for some cause. But He died as a substitute for you and me. As a result He freed us to live for and with God. Rejoice that the creator of angels, the Lord of hosts, would become lower than His creation for our sakes.

Suggestion for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His willingness to humble Himself to become a man to save you.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 22 and note which verses prophesy Jesus' suffering on the cross.


A Transaction Makes the Kingdom Personal

“‘And from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field’” (Matthew 13:44).

Some believers feel uncomfortable about the parables we have been considering, thinking they teach salvation can be bought. But Scripture always teaches that salvation is completely free. Salvation is “bought” only in the sense that one trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior and surrenders all to Him. The treasure and the pearl illustrate the spiritual transaction of surrender. In salvation, we exchange the old for the new.

Isaiah 55:1 describes salvation as God’s gift, yet refers to buying: “Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” As in the two parables, the sinner gives up all the worthless things he or she has while receiving all the invaluable kingdom wealth. Therefore this does not depict a buying of salvation, because with God that is totally unacceptable (cf. Isa. 64:6).

Without surrendering everything, people’s professions of faith are meaningless (cf. Matt. 19:16–22). Jesus declared, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Our Lord also said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).

When confronted with the true gospel, most people don’t inventory all their possessions to see if Jesus is worth following (cf. Luke 14:28–33). 

When they see the infinite value of His kingdom riches, they simply yield to Him, surrender all, and faithfully follow.

Ask Yourself

Are you holding anything back from God in your service to Him, hoping He won’t ask to touch or remove it? If the Spirit has made you aware of a habit, activity, or possession that restricts the free flow of your worship, seek your security blanket in Him alone. He will be more than enough—a blessed replacement.


Reading for Today:


Zechariah 3:1 Satan. This could also be translated “adversary” and thus the person’s identity would be unknown. However, because the activity of accusation is so in keeping with Satan (Job 1; 2; Rev. 12:10), his identification is preferable. The malicious adversary stands in the presence of the Lord to proclaim Israel’s sins and their unworthiness of God’s favor. The situation is crucial: If Joshua is vindicated, Israel is accepted; if Joshua is rejected, Israel is rejected. The entire plan of God for the nation was revealed in the outcome. Israel’s hopes would either be destroyed or confirmed.

Zechariah 3:9 the stone. Here is another reference to the Messiah. In Psalm 118:2223Isaiah 8:13–1528:16Daniel 2:3545Matthew 21:42Ephesians 2:19–221 Peter 2:6–8, He is a rejected stone, a stone of stumbling, a stone of refuge, a destroying stone, and a foundation stone. Here He is the precious foundation stone, with “7 eyes” symbolic of His omniscience and infinite intelligence (4:10Is. 11:2Col. 2:3Rev. 5:6). The engraving may be a reference to the cornerstone of the temple building, on which will be engraved an inscription attesting to the divine Builder and the purpose for which the building was erected. As such, it is closely tied to the removal of “the iniquity of that land in one day,” symbolized by the removal of filthy garments in v. 4.The phrase looks to the future day when there will be cleansing and forgiveness for the nation as a whole (12:10–13:1; Rom. 11:25–27), made possible through Christ’s redemptive provision at Calvary.

Revelation 16:5 who is and who was and who is to be. This phrase expresses God’s eternality (1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17). Verse 6 says that the eternal God will judge justly because they have killed the believers and preachers of the gospel (6:9–11; 7:9–17; 11:18; 17:6; 18:20). This slaughter will have no parallel in history (Matt. 24:21) and neither will the vengeance of God (Rom. 12:19–21).

Revelation 16:16 Armageddon. The Hebrew name for Mt. Megiddo, 60 miles north of Jerusalem. The battle will rage on the nearby plains, site of Barak’s victory over the Canaanites (Judg. 4) and Gideon’s victory over the Midianites (Judg. 7). Napoleon called this valley the greatest battlefield he had ever seen. But the Battle of Armageddon will not be limited to the Megiddo plains—it will encompass the length of Palestine.

DAY 26: What was Zechariah’s relationship to Haggai?

Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was also a priest (Neh. 12:12–16).According to tradition, he was a member of the Great Synagogue, a council of 120 originated by Nehemiah and presided over by Ezra. This council later developed into the ruling elders of the nation, called the Sanhedrin. He was born in Babylon and joined his grandfather, Iddo, in the group of exiles who first returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest (Neh. 12:4). Because he is occasionally mentioned as the son of his grandfather (Ezra 5:16:14Neh. 12:16), it is thought that his father, Berechiah, died at an early age before he could succeed his father into the priesthood.

Zechariah joined Haggai in rousing the people from their indifference, challenging them to resume the building of the temple. Haggai’s primary purpose was to rebuild the temple. His preaching has a tone of rebuke for the people’s indifference, sin, and lack of trust in God. He was used to start the revival, while Zechariah was used to keep it going strong with a more positive emphasis, calling the people to repentance and reassuring them regarding future blessings. Zechariah sought to encourage the people to build the temple in view of the promise that someday the Messiah would come to inhabit it. The people were not just building for the present, but with the future hope of the Messiah in mind. He encouraged the people, still downtrodden by the Gentile powers (1:8–12), with the reality that the Lord remembers His covenant promises to them and that He would restore and bless them. Thus the name of the book (which means “The LORD remembers”) contains in seed form the theme of the prophecy.





The Purpose of Christ's Exaltation

“God highly exalted Him . . . to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9, 11).

When the Son is glorified, so is the Father.

The purpose of Christ’s exaltation is to glorify God. Philippians 2:11 says Jesus will be acknowledged as Lord “to the glory of God the Father.” In Isaiah 45:5 God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God.” None can be compared to God. He does not ask anyone for advice. He knows all and does exactly what He wants to do. All His purposes come to pass.
In light of who God says He is, one might assume that it would be blasphemous for everyone to bow to Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord. To so honor Christ would seem to put Him in competition with the Father.
But the mystery of the Trinity is that when the Son is glorified, the Father is glorified. Perfect glory given to the Son is perfect glory given to the Father. John 5:23 says the Father has given all judgment to the Son “that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” That’s why the Father said of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5). When you believe in Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord, you exalt not only the Son but also the Father. There is no competition within the Trinity. The Father is exalted by what He accomplishes in the Son. They are one.
What a joy to know that our confessing of Jesus as Lord glorifies God. Let’s continue to glorify Him as Lord by bearing spiritual fruit in our lives (see John 15:8).
Suggestions for Prayer
Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Whatever you ask in Christ’s name, do so by acknowledging His sovereignty and desiring that God be glorified.
For Further Study
What do Romans 9:5, 1 Corinthians 15:28, and John 13:31-32 show about the glory of the Father and the Son?


Recovering Man's Destiny

"We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9).
Jesus Christ is the only One who could recover man’s destiny.
The ultimate curse of our lost destiny is death. God warned Adam that if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen. 2:17). In the restored kingdom we will be elevated again over a redeemed earth. But the only way that we could ever reign again as kings was to have the curse of sin removed, and the only way to remove it was to pay the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23).
There's just one problem: how can we reign if we are dead? We need to be raised from the dead, but we certainly can't do that ourselves. That's why God sent Jesus Christ.
To accomplish this great work for us, Jesus had to become a man. He Himself had to be made "for a little while lower than the angels." To regain man's dominion He had to taste death for every man. Christ came to die for us because in His dying He could conquer death.
But He was also raised from the dead: "Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him" (Rom. 6:9). How does that help us? "If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (v. 5).
The moment you put your faith in Christ, you are identified with Him. You died with Him on the cross, you were resurrected, and you began to walk in newness of life. You now are a joint heir with Christ in His eternal kingdom.
Christ tasted death for you and me so we could recover our lost destiny. Celebrate that glorious truth as you celebrate His birth today.
Suggestion for Prayer
Before you do another thing today, praise your heavenly Father for His wonderful plan of salvation.
For Further Study
Read Isaiah 2:2-4 and 11:6-9 noting the character of our future kingdom.


Entering the Kingdom from Different Circumstances

“‘He goes and sells all that he has and buys that field . . . and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it’” (Matthew 13:44, 46).
There is no preset formula for turning from sin and by faith embracing Christ’s kingdom. A person does not have to perform certain rituals to become a Christian, and he or she can come from a variety of circumstances. In each parable referred to here, a man finds something of huge value and sacrifices all to possess it. But in the first parable the man was not even looking for anything, certainly not a valuable treasure. He came upon it quite by accident. In tending to his normal business, the man was working in a field or perhaps passing through on a trip. Finding the treasure was the furthest thing from his plans.
Similarly, people often encounter the gospel while pursuing their daily activities. As they are busily occupied with their job, family, or schooling, they hear a sermon, read a book, listen to a CD, or have a believer witness to them. Through the Spirit’s gracious power they realize the gospel’s infinite value and are drawn into God’s kingdom.
In contrast, the second parable portrays a man whose career was searching for a valuable commodity, which he eventually found. He’s the seeker who looks many places for life’s meaning. When not finding that which satisfies, he nevertheless perseveres, believing the truth can be found. He is like the Ethiopian whom Philip directed to Christ (Acts 8:26–39), or the God-fearing Cornelius who found salvation (Acts 10).
Whether “by accident” or deliberately, all who are in the right place can and do find God’s priceless kingdom.
Ask Yourself
On this Christmas Day, celebrate the gift of salvation that has brought ultimate worth and value—and energy and excitement—into your life experience. Thank Him enthusiastically for seeking you with purpose and precision, even while you weren’t particularly looking for Him.


Reading for Today:
* Haggai 1:1–2:23
* Psalm 147:7-11
* Proverbs 30:20
* Revelation 15:1-8
Haggai 1:13 I am with you. Oppressed by hostilities from without and famine from within, the Lord responded to their genuine repentance and obedience, assuring them of His presence with them. This should have evoked a memory of God’s word to Joshua and the returning people centuries before (Josh. 1:5).
Haggai 2:7 Desire of All Nations. While some view the phrase as referring to Jerusalem (e.g., Ezra 6:3–9), it seems preferable to see a reference here to the Messiah, the Deliverer for whom all the nations ultimately long. I will fill this temple with glory. There is no Scripture to indicate that God’s glory ever did come to Zerubbabel’s temple, as the first temple was filled with the Shekinah glory (1 Kin. 8:10, 11; 2 Chr. 5:13, 14). However, His glory will fill the millennial temple (Ezek. 43:5). This glorification cannot refer to Christ’s physical presence in Herod’s temple, for the events of vv. 6–9 cannot be accounted for historically. The context speaks of the establishment of His earthly, Davidic, millennial kingdom and His presence in the temple during that kingdom.
Revelation 15:3 song of Moses. Sung by the people of Israel immediately after their passage through the Red Sea and their deliverance from the Egyptian armies (Ex. 15:1–21; Deut. 32:1–43), this was a song of victory and deliverance that the redeemed who overcome Antichrist and his system will readily identify with. song of the Lamb. See 5:8–14. These two songs celebrate two great redemptive events: 1) deliverance of Israel by God from Egypt through Moses and 2) deliverance of sinners by God from sin through Christ. Great and marvelous are Your works. This statement from the song of the Lamb extols God’s powerful works in creation as He providentially upholds the universe (Ps. 139:14). Almighty. God is omnipotent (Amos 4:13). King of the saints. God is sovereign over the redeemed of every nation (Jer. 10:7).

DAY 25: What is the primary message of the Book of Haggai?
In 538 B.C., as a result of the proclamation of Cyrus the Persian (Ezra 1:1–4), Israel was allowed to return from Babylon to her homeland under the civil leadership of Zerubbabel and the spiritual guidance of Joshua the high priest (Ezra 3:2). About 50,000 Jews returned. In 536 B.C., they began to rebuild the temple (Ezra 3:1–4:5); but opposition from neighbors and indifference by the Jews caused the work to be abandoned (Ezra 4:1–24). Sixteen years later Haggai and Zechariah were commissioned by the Lord to stir up the people to 1) not only rebuild the temple, but also to 2) reorder their spiritual priorities (Ezra 5:1–6:22).As a result, the temple was completed 4 years later (ca. 516 B.C.; Ezra 6:15).
The primary theme is the rebuilding of God’s temple, which had been lying in ruins since its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. By means of 5 messages from the Lord, Haggai exhorted the people to renew their efforts to build the house of the Lord. He motivated them by noting that the drought and crop failures were caused by misplaced spiritual priorities (1:9–11).
But to Haggai, the rebuilding of the temple was not an end in itself. The temple represented God’s dwelling place, His manifest presence with His chosen people. The destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar followed the departure of God’s dwelling glory (Ezek. 8–11). To the prophet, the rebuilding of the temple invited the return of God’s presence to their midst. Using the historical situation as a springboard, Haggai reveled in the supreme glory of the ultimate messianic temple yet to come (2:7), encouraging them with the promise of even greater peace (2:9), prosperity (2:19), divine rulership (2:21, 22), and national blessing (2:23) during the Millennium.

My Royal Family




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?


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?


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?


Reading for Today:
* Zephaniah 1:1–3:20
* Psalm 147:1-6
* Proverbs 30:18-19
* Revelation 14:1-20
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).

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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)?


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.


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?


Reading for Today:
* Habakkuk 1:1–3:19
* Psalm 146:1-10
* Proverbs 30:17
* Revelation 13:1-18
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).

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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?


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.


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.


Reading for Today:
* Nahum 1:1–3:19
* Psalm 145:17-21
* Proverbs 30:16
* Revelation 12:1-17
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).

DAY 22: 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.

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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.


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 12:47-48to discover Christ's attitude toward those who know the truth yet rebel against it.


 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.


Reading for Today:
* Micah 6:1–7:20
* Psalm 145:10-16
* Proverbs 30:15
* Revelation 11:1-19

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).

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The Authority of Christ's 

“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 2:11John 13:13Acts 10:36Romans 14:9-111 Corinthians 8:6. What do they say about Jesus’ lordship?


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.


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.


Reading for Today:


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. 14:910). 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. 2:5Luke 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. 10:20–2211:11–16). 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).


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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?


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?


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?


Reading for Today:
Micah 1:1–3:12
Psalm 144:9-15
Proverbs 30:10
Revelation 9:1-21
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.

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Christ's Obedience

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)?


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—4:136:4-810:26-31, and 12:25-29noting the pattern the writer followed in presenting these other warnings.


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 16:15John 17:14–1618).

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.


Reading for Today:


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. 72:10Jer. 10:9Ezek. 27:1225), 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. 4:16Jon. 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. 2:42 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. 9:2712:3Lev. 19:33341 Sam. 2:10Is. 2:2Joel 2:28–32).


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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?


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.


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?


Reading for Today:
* Obadiah 1–21
* Psalm 143:7-12
* Proverbs 30:5
* Revelation 7:1-17
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.

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Seeing the Majesty of Christ

“When [Christ] had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
God has exalted Christ above everyone and everything.
Christ in His majestic glory is “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). That’s why it is His right to have the title deed to the earth, spoken of in Revelation 5:1-7. There He opens that deed and takes possession of what is rightfully His as heir of all things.
Hebrews 1 further describes Christ as “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature. . . . When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did [God] ever say, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’? And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (vv. 3-6; compare v. 13). Because Christ is the unique Son of God, the angels are called to worship Him.
The Father said of the exalted Christ, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions” (vv. 8-9). Christ is the eternal, righteous God. He is also the Creator who lives forever and remains the same (vv. 10-12).
If you see Christ in His majesty the way the writer of Hebrews did, you’ll want to make the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn “Rejoice—The Lord Is King!” your own:
Jesus the Savior reigns, the God of truth and love; 
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice! 
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Suggestions for Prayer
Both angels and the redeemed worship the exalted Christ. Use Psalm 103 as the basis of your prayer of worship.
For Further Study
Hebrews 1:10 shows Christ to be the Creator. Based on this and Psalm 148, what honor is He owed?


Christ's Eternal Existence

"Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay a foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment. And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end" (Heb. 1:10-12).
Christ existed before the beginning of the world; thus He is without beginning.
Jesus Christ is no creature. To be able to lay the foundation of the earth and create the heavens in the beginning implies that He must have existed before the beginning. The apostle John testified to this when he said, "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). Christ is eternal.
Jesus is also immutable, which means He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever." We need to hang onto this truth as we approach a day when much of what we know will change drastically.
One day what looks so permanent will fold up. Like the people Peter warned, we are tempted to think that "all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation" (2 Pet. 3:4). But Hebrews 1:11 tells us that one day Jesus will discard the heavens and the earth, just as we would a useless garment.
Even more amazing, verse 12 specifies that Christ will roll up the heavens. Revelation 6:14 says, "The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." During the time of the tribulation, the heavens, as if stretched to all corners, will roll right up like a scroll.
But we can be confident that although creation will perish, Jesus will not, and He will create a new heaven and a new earth. Living creatures, worlds, and stars are subject to decay, but not Christ. He never changes and is never subject to change. What confidence that should give us for the daily issues of life we face each day!
Suggestion for Prayer
Thank the Lord for His unchanging plan for your life and His ability to keep it.
For Future Study
Read 2 Peter 3 and develop an approach to answering charges unbelievers make about biblical prophecies regarding the end times.


The Mustard Seed, Part 2

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches’” (Matthew 13:31–32).
A further lesson from this parable is that God’s kingdom will grow to become a blessing to the rest of the world. The tree that develops from the mustard seed symbolizes the kingdom, which in this age is Christ’s true church. The metaphor of birds nesting suggests the positive idea of providing protection and safety for others.
Daniel interpreted a vision with parallels to this parable: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in which “there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great. The tree grew large and became strong and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it” (Dan. 4:10–12). As Daniel explained to the king (vv. 20–22), his empire (the tree) brought unrivaled advancement and prosperity to many areas of world endeavor: architecture, the arts, economics, and others. The birds and animals in the vision that benefited from the tree’s provisions were other world nations (cf. Ezek. 31:3–6).
For Jesus and His followers the parallel between the vision and the parable is obvious—God’s kingdom will grow from small beginnings into a huge tree and will provide shelter, protection, and blessing for the whole world. When believers are obedient to God and when nations seek to pattern their ways after His Word, they can bless everyone around.
Ask Yourself
How are you seeing this nesting, sheltering function of the kingdom at work in your church? What kind of excitement could ensue if individual Christians saw more clearly the potential blessing their efforts could produce? What are some of the possibilities?


Reading for Today:
* Amos 8:1–9:15
* Psalm 143:1-6
* Proverbs 30:1-4
* Revelation 6:1-17
Amos 9:15 no longer shall they be pulled up from the land. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s land promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 15:7; 17:8) will occur during Christ’s millennial reign on earth (Joel 2:26, 27).
Proverbs 30:1–33 The words of Agur. This is a collection of proverbs written by an unknown sage who was likely a student of wisdom at the time of Solomon (1 Kin. 4:30, 31). Agur reflects humility (vv. 1–4), a deep hatred for arrogance (vv. 7–9), and a keen theological mind (vv. 5, 6).
Proverbs 30:4 Who…What…? These questions can be answered only by revelation from God. A man can know the “what” about creative wisdom through observation of the physical world and its inner workings, but cannot know the “who.” The “who” can be known only when God reveals Himself, which He has in Scripture. This is the testimony and conclusion of Job (Job 42:1–6), Solomon (Eccl. 12:1–14), Isaiah (Is. 40:12–17; 46:8–11; 66:18, 19), and Paul (Rom. 8:18–39). His Son’s name. Jesus Christ. John 1:1–18.
Revelation 6:1 the seals. In chapter 5, Christ was the only One found worthy to open the little scroll—the title deed to the universe. As He breaks the 7 seals that secure the scroll, each seal unleashes a new demonstration of God’s judgment on the earth in the future tribulation period. These seal judgments include all the judgments to the end. The seventh seal contains the 7 trumpets; the seventh trumpet contains the 7 bowls.

How does Amos 9:11 relate to the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15?
In Amos 9:11, the Lord promised that He “will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down.” At the Jerusalem Council, convened to discuss whether Gentiles should be allowed into the church without requiring circumcision, James quotes this passage (Acts 15:15, 16) to support Peter’s report of how God had “visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). Some have thus concluded that the passage was fulfilled in Jesus, the greater Son of David, through whom the dynasty of David was reestablished. The Acts reference, however, is best seen as an illustration of Amos’s words and not the fulfillment. The temporal allusions to a future time (“On that day,” 9:11), when Israel will “possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles” (9:12), when the Lord “will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them” (9:15), all make it clear that the prophet is speaking of Messiah’s return at the Second Advent to sit upon the throne of David (Is. 9:7), not the establishment of the church by the apostles.


Christ's Coronation and Intercession

“God highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9).
Christ is the Sovereign of the universe and a faithful High Priest.
Christ was exalted not only in His resurrection and ascension, but also in His coronation. Mark 16:19 says, “When the Lord Jesus had spoken to [the apostles], He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” In Scripture the right hand is a symbol of power and authority. What is the extent of Christ’s authority? Ephesians 1:20-22 says, “[God] seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” Christ is the Sovereign of the universe.
Besides His coronation, Christ is exalted in His intercession for believers. He stands before the Father as the High Priest of His people. His first act was to send the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). Our sympathetic High Priest “has been tempted in all things as we are” (Heb. 4:15), and “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for [us]” (7:25). Christ’s intercessory work grants us faith, repentance, and forgiveness (see Heb. 4—9).
Puritan minister Thomas Watson said, “Had you a friend at court, who, when you were questioned for delinquency or debt, should plead with the judge for you, and bring you off your troubles, would you not love that friend? How often does Satan put in his bills against us in the court! Now Christ is at the judge’s hand; he sits at his Father’s right hand, ever to plead for us, and to make our peace with God. Oh, how should our hearts be fired with love to Christ!”
How intense is your love for Jesus Christ, our faithful Advocate?
Suggestions for Prayer
“Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that [you] may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Pray for a fresh appreciation of this today.
For Further Study
What do 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 2:17 say about Christ as our High Priest?


The Lover of Righteousness

"'Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions'" (Heb. 1:8-9).
As the eternal God and King, Christ loves righteousness and hates lawlessness.
In these days it's difficult for us as Christians to be totally supportive of our governmental leaders when we see so much of what God calls righteous compromised or ridiculed. But the King of kings—Christ Himself—is the only leader who has a perfectly right attitude toward righteousness.
Christ rules from an eternal throne, and He rules eternity as God and King. The scepter He holds is symbolic of His rule, particularly as a rule of righteousness.
But there's more to it than that: He just doesn't act righteously; He loves righteousness itself. How often have we obeyed without joy, expressing an attitude of willing condescension? But Jesus gives us a different model.
James 1:17 says, "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." True righteousness never varies from what is true, just, and good. And 1 John 1:5 says, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." God is total light and total righteousness. Everything Jesus did resulted from His love of righteousness.
Because Christ loves righteousness, He hates lawlessness. Since He loves what is right, He must hate what is wrong. The two are inseparable—one cannot exist without the other. You cannot truly love righteousness and also like sin. When there is true love for God, there will also be true love for righteousness and total hatred of sin.
The more you and I become conformed to Jesus Christ, the more we will love righteousness. Our attitudes toward righteousness and sin will ultimately reveal how closely we are conformed to Christ. Check out your attitudes and actions. How are you doing?
Suggestion for Prayer
Like the psalmist, ask God to show you any hurtful way in you (Ps. 139:24).
For Further Study
Read Psalm 119 and note how many times the psalmist makes reference to either his love for God's law or righteousness.


The Mustard Seed, Part 1

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches’” (Matthew 13:31–32).
Even though the Lord Jesus in this parable speaks accurately about the size of the mustard seed and the size and use of its tree-like adult form, His purpose in the illustration is proverbial, not scientific. In context of His teachings about the kingdom of God, the parable’s meaning is self-evident—the kingdom, though now seemingly small and insignificant, will one day grow into a large body of believers.
Even with Jesus ministering on earth, God’s kingdom was almost imperceptible, both because its citizens were few and it was spiritual (invisible). Elsewhere the Lord explained it well: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20–21). When Christ ascended to heaven, the kingdom on earth was, figuratively and relatively speaking, very small (cf. Acts 1:15).
But the kingdom that began smaller than a mustard seed will grow larger and larger. The Old Testament writers knew that eventually the Lord would “rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72:8). They rightly foresaw that all sorts of people, from all stations in life, would honor Messiah, bow down to Him, and serve Him (vv. 9–11). With the apostle, we will one day see the grand culmination: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
Ask Yourself
Are you currently involved in something for Christ that seems small in comparison with others’ ministries or talent bases? Be sure that your Lord is the master at taking the seemingly insignificant and transforming it for mighty kingdom purposes.


Reading for Today:
* Amos 6:1–7:17
* Psalm 142:1-7
* Proverbs 29:27
* Revelation 5:1-14
Amos 6:10 one who will burn. This could refer to cremation, demanded by the excessive number killed and because of fear of epidemics. With rare exceptions (1 Sam. 31:12), corpses were buried in ancient Israel. dare not mention… the LORD. Previously welcomed as a friend, the Lord came in judgment as a foe. Survivors would not want to invoke His name out of fear.
Psalm 142:1–7 Under the same circumstances as Psalm 57 (according to the superscription), David recounted his desperate days hiding in the cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1) while Saul sought him to take his life (1 Sam. 18–24). It appears that David’s situation, for the moment at least, seems hopeless without God’s intervention. Psalm 91 provides the truths that bring the solution.
Revelation 5:1 a scroll written inside and on the back. This is typical of various kinds of contracts in the ancient world, including deeds, marriage contracts, rental and lease agreements, and wills. The inside of the scroll contained all the details of the contract, and the outside—or back—contained a summary of the document. In this case it almost certainly is a deed—the title deed to the earth (Jer. 32:7ff.). sealed with seven seals. Romans sealed their wills 7 times—on the edge at each roll—to prevent unauthorized entry. Hebrew title deeds required a minimum of 3 witnesses and 3 separate seals, with more important transactions requiring more witnesses and seals.

DAY 15: Describe the worship in Revelation 5.
“The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp” (v. 8). These ancient stringed instruments not only accompanied the songs of God’s people (1 Chr. 25:6; Ps. 33:2), but also accompanied prophecy (1 Sam. 10:5).The 24 elders, representative of the redeemed church, played their harps in praise and in a symbolic indication that all the prophets had said was about to be fulfilled. “Each having…bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” These golden, wide-mouth saucers were common in the tabernacle and temple. Incense was a normal part of the Old Testament ritual. Priests stood twice daily before the inner veil of the temple and burned incense so that the smoke would carry into the Holy of Holies and be swept into the nostrils of God. That symbolized the people’s prayers rising to Him. Specifically, these prayers represent all that the redeemed have ever prayed concerning ultimate and final redemption. This becomes a major theme throughout the book (11:17, 18; 13:7, 9, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:8; 20:9).
“And they sang a new song” (v. 9). The Old Testament is filled with references to a new song that flows from a heart that has experienced God’s redemption or deliverance (14:3; Pss. 33:3; 96:1; 144:9).This new song anticipates the final, glorious redemption that God is about to begin. “For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood.” The sacrificial death of Christ on behalf of sinners made Him worthy to take the scroll.

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Christ's Resurrection and Ascension

“God highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9).
Christ’s resurrection and ascension were the first two steps of His exaltation.
The first step on Christ’s progress from humiliation to exaltation was His resurrection. In Acts 13 Paul preached on the resurrection of Christ, declaring: “[God] raised up Jesus. . . . And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore He also says . . . ‘Thou wilt not allow Thy holy one to undergo decay.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (vv. 33-39). Christ’s death and resurrection provided forgiveness and freedom from sin, the law, and death.
Acts 1:9-11 records the second step in the exaltation of Christ. After Christ finished His final instructions to His disciples, ”He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’” Acts 2:33 says that the result of His ascension was exaltation to the right hand of God.
Just before He ascended, Christ spoke these final words to His disciples: “You shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Until He comes again, let’s be witnesses who maintain a positive testimony for the sake of the gospel.
Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God “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).
For Further Study
According to John 16:7, why is the ascension of Christ to your advantage?


Christ's Superior Nature

"Of the angels He says, 'Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.' But of the Son He says, 'Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever'" (Heb. 1:7-8).
Jesus Christ is God, and He created the angels.
People today who claim that Jesus was just a man, an angel, a prophet, or some inferior god are in error and bring upon themselves the curse of God. The Bible, and especially the writer of Hebrews, are clear about who Christ is.
First, the writer deals with the nature of angels when he says, "Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire." "Makes" simply means "to create." The antecedent of "who" is Christ. Therefore it is obvious that Christ created the angels.
They are also His possession: "His angels." They are His created servants, who do not operate on their own initiative, but on the direction of Christ.
But the greatest difference between the nature of angels and Christ is that He is the eternal God. The Father says to the Son, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." That is one of the most powerful, clear, emphatic, and irrefutable proofs of the deity of Christ in Scripture.
Jesus throughout His ministry claimed equality with God. He said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The apostle John closed his first epistle by saying, "We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).
God the Son came to help us understand that God is truth and that Christ Himself is the true God. Our faith is based on the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Suggestion for Prayer
Ask God to give you a greater understanding of the reality that Jesus is in fact God.
For Further Study
Read John 1:1-18 and mark the verses that define Christ's relationship to God. If an unbeliever were to ask you what that passage means, how would you answer him or her?


The Wheat and the Tares

“‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” And he said to them, “An enemy has done this!” The slaves said to him, “Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?” But he said, “No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’”’” (Matthew 13:24–30; see vv. 36–43).
Throughout redemptive history, our Lord has planted believers (“good seed”) in the world as His witnesses, to be faithful to Him, become fruitful plants of righteousness, and reflect His will before a corrupt world. The tares, by contrast, are the children of Satan—unbelievers spread throughout the world until they thoroughly outnumber the wheat by a large margin.
“The harvest” represents the Father’s judgment at the end of the age, when His angels will execute sentence on the many unbelievers, just as the human reapers separated the tares from the wheat and burned them.
The apostles likely were ready and eager to separate out the tares immediately, as seen by James’ and John’s attitudes toward the unbelieving Samaritans (Luke 9:54). But that was and is not God’s plan, lest some of the good plants (believers) get inadvertently uprooted with the tares.
During His incarnation Jesus did nothing to destroy His enemies. He even appealed to Judas right to the end that he believe (John 13:26). On the cross He asked forgiveness for those who orchestrated His execution (Luke 23:34). Therefore we also should be instruments of truth and grace toward unbelievers.
Ask Yourself
This is not the age of God’s judgment—certainly not by the church—but rather the age for evangelism. What does this mean concerning the way we are called to perform ministry in this generation?


Reading for Today:
* Amos 4:1–5:27
* Psalm 141:5-10
* Proverbs 29:26
* Revelation 4:1-11
Amos 5:25, 26 In addition to worshiping the Lord in the wilderness, Israel also worshiped other gods, carrying along “Sikkuth [or “tabernacle”] your king [or “Molech”] and Chiun, your idols.” Molech worship included the astrological worship of Saturn and the host of heaven and the actual sacrificing of children (2 Kin. 17:16, 17). Warned against Molech worship (Deut. 18:9–13), Israel nevertheless pursued all facets of it, continuing with Solomon (1 Kin. 11:7) and his descendants (1 Kin. 12:28; 2 Kin. 17:16, 17; Jer. 32:35) until Josiah (2 Kin. 23:10). Stephen recited Amos 5:25–27 when he recounted the sins of Israel in Acts 7:42, 43.
Revelation 4:4 twenty-four elders. Their joint rule with Christ, their white garments (19:7, 8), and their golden crowns (2:10) all seem to indicate that these 24 represent the redeemed (vv. 9–11; 5:5–14; 7:11–17; 11:16–18; 14:3; 19:4). The question is, Which redeemed? Not Israel, since the nation is not yet saved, glorified, and coronated. That is still to come at this point in the events of the end. Their resurrection and glory will come at the end of the 7-year tribulation time (Dan. 12:1–3).Tribulation saints aren’t yet saved (7:9, 10). Only one group will be complete and glorified at that point—the church. Here elders represent the church, which sings the song of redemption (5:8–10). They are the overcomers who have their crowns and live in the place prepared for them, where they have gone with Jesus (John 14:1–4).

DAY 14: Are there different approaches to interpreting the Book of Revelation?

No other New Testament book poses more serious and difficult interpretive challenges than Revelation. The book’s vivid imagery and striking symbolism have produced 4 main interpretive approaches:
The preterist approach interprets Revelation as a description of first-century events in the Roman Empire. This view conflicts with the book’s own often repeated claim to be prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19). It is impossible to see all the events in Revelation as already fulfilled. The Second Coming of Christ, for example, obviously did not take place in the first century.
The historicist approach views Revelation as a panoramic view of church history from apostolic times to the present—seeing in the symbolism such events as the barbarian invasions of Rome, the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, the emergence of Islam, and the French Revolution. This interpretive method robs Revelation of any meaning for those to whom it was written. It also ignores the time limitations the book itself places on the unfolding events (11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Historicism has produced many different—and often conflicting—interpretations of the actual historical events contained in Revelation.
The idealist approach interprets Revelation as a timeless depiction of the cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil. In this view, the book contains neither historical allusions nor predictive prophecy. This view also ignores Revelation’s prophetic character and, if carried to its logical conclusion, severs the book from any connection with actual historical events. Revelation then becomes merely a collection of stories designed to teach spiritual truth.
The futurist approach insists that the events of chapters 6–22 are yet future and that those chapters literally and symbolically depict actual people and events yet to appear on the world scene. It describes the events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (chaps. 6–19), the Millennium and final judgment (chap. 20), and the eternal state (chaps. 21; 22). Only this view does justice to Revelation’s claim to be prophecy and interprets the book by the same grammatical-historical method as chapters 1–3 and the rest of Scripture.

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Elements of Christ's Exaltation

“God highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9).
Christ followed the path to glory so that we could follow Him. 
Because Christ humbled Himself, the Father wonderfully exalted Him. His exaltation includes the elements of both His resurrection and His coronation—His exaltation to the right hand of God. The apostle Peter said Jesus was “raised up again” and “exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:3233).Peter and the other apostles preached, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus. . . . He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (5:30-31). Thus, the New Testament affirms both the resurrection and coronation of Christ (see also Eph. 1:20), as well as the forgiveness of sins that comes with Christ’s intercession for His people.
Paul described Christ’s coronation as placing Him “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” (v. 21). The final element is described in Hebrews 4:14: “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” That alludes to the ascension of Christ. He “always lives to make intercession for [believers]” (7:25).
Christ’s exaltation was thus fourfold: resurrection, ascension, coronation, and intercession. He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Then He was seated on the throne of God to intercede as High Priest of His people.
As a believer, you will follow Christ in His exaltation. You will rise from the grave and ascend to Heaven. There you will experience coronation, for you will sit with Christ on His throne. You will no longer need our Lord’s intercessory ministry, for the work of transformation will be complete.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank Christ for establishing the path to glory so you can follow after Him.
For Further Study
Meditate on Revelation 22:1-5. What in this passage helps you think about your future glory?


Worship of Distinction

"When He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, 'And let all the angels of God worship Him'" (Heb. 1:6).
Jesus Christ is greater than angels because He is worshiped.
Even though Jesus Christ humbled Himself and was made lower than the angels for a time, angels are still to worship Him. Since angels are to worship Him, then Christ must be greater than them.
Angels have always worshiped Christ, only they worshiped Him as God. It wasn't until His incarnation that angels were commanded to worship Him as God's Son. It is a sin to worship anyone or anything but God—in fact, note how sternly the apostle John was rebuked for worshiping angels (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9). So the very fact that angels are to worship Christ verifies that Christ is indeed God.
At present, the angels don't fully understand the entire picture of God's redemptive plan. Peter tells us that the prophets didn't understand all that they wrote, "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" (1 Pet. 1:11). Then he added, "Things into which angels long to look" (v. 12). They are still trying to figure out things they don't understand.
But that won't always be the case. Notice that Hebrews 1:6 says, "When He again brings the first-born into the world" (emphasis added). God already brought Christ into the world once—at the second coming He will bring Him into the world in blazing glory. Then the fullness of the prophecy of Psalm 97:7 quoted in Hebrews 1:6 will come to pass: "Let all the angels of God worship Him."
In His second coming Christ is revealed in full glory as the Son. More than ever we have reason to join the heavenly chorus in declaring, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).
Suggestion for Prayer
Thank God for His wonderful plan of salvation. Ask Him to make it more real to you every day.
For Further Study
Read Revelation 5:1-11 and note the reactions of the angels to the Lamb of God. What specific event motivated their response?


Parable of the Sower: Receptive Hearers

“‘And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty’” (Matthew 13:23).
The ultimate barrier to salvation is unbelief, and anyone willing to receive the gospel on Christ’s terms proves he or she is “good soil.” God honors the humble faith of receptive hearers and opens their spiritual ears, minds, and hearts, allowing them to understand the gospel.
The example of the receptive hearers ought to encourage everyone who has ever witnessed in Christ’s name. Despite the nature and prevalence of the other hearers, there are always some whose hearts have good soil in which the gospel can take root and flourish—people prepared by the Spirit to receive the truth.
Spiritual fruit is the inevitable by-product of spiritual life. Receptive hearers will demonstrate fruitfulness in both attitude—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23)—and behavior, which Paul calls “the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11; cf. Col. 1:6). We are not saved by bearing fruit or doing good works, but we are saved to become fruitbearers (Eph. 2:10).
Jesus not only assures us here that believers will bear fruit, but that we will bear it abundantly: “some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” These figures represent an extraordinarily abundant yield for the regions Jesus ministered in. They do not guarantee that we all will produce that much; but they do show the productive results of sowing the Word and emphasize that true believers will indeed produce fruit. That’s the point of Jesus’ parable.
Ask Yourself
Besides the obvious blessings and service opportunities created by fruitbearing, what other benefits pour into the lives of those who hear the Word and take it to heart?


Reading for Today:
* Amos 1:1–3:15
* Psalm 141:1-4
* Proverbs 29:25
* Revelation 3:1-22
Revelation 3:10 keep you from the hour of trial. Christ’s description must refer to the time of tribulation, the 7-year period before Christ’s earthly kingdom is consummated, featuring the unleashing of divine wrath in judgments expressed as seals, trumpets, and bowls. This period is described in detail throughout chapters 6–19. The latter half is called “the Great Tribulation” (7:14; Matt. 24:21) and is identified as to time in 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5. The verb “to keep” is followed by a preposition whose normal meaning is “from” or “out of”—this phrase, “keep…from” supports the pretribulational Rapture of the church. This period is the same as Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:24–27) and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7).
Revelation 3:16 lukewarm. I.e., tepid. Nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs, and Colosse for its cold, refreshing mountain stream. But Laodicea had dirty, tepid water that flowed for miles through an underground aqueduct. Visitors, unaccustomed to it, immediately spat it out. The church at Laodicea was neither cold, openly rejecting Christ, nor hot, filled with spiritual zeal. Instead, its members were lukewarm, hypocrites professing to know Christ, but not truly belonging to Him (Matt. 7:21ff.). I will vomit you out of My mouth. Just like the tepid water of Laodicea, these self-deceived hypocrites sickened Christ.

Who was the prophet Amos, and what is the background behind his messages?

Amos was from Tekoa, a small village 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He was the only prophet to give his occupation before declaring his divine commission. He was not of priestly or noble descent, but worked as a “sheep breeder” (1:1; 2 Kin. 3:4) and a “tender of sycamore fruit” (7:14) and was a contemporary of Jonah (2 Kin. 14:25), Hosea (Hos. 1:1), and Isaiah (Is. 1:1).
Amos was a Judean prophet called to deliver a message primarily to the northern tribes of Israel (7:15). Politically, it was a time of prosperity under the long and secure reign of Jeroboam II who, following the example of his father Joash (2 Kin. 13:25), significantly “restored the territory of Israel” (2 Kin. 14:25). It was also a time of peace with both Judah (5:5) and her more distant neighbors. The ever-present menace of Assyria was subdued earlier that century because of Nineveh’s repentance at the preaching of Jonah (Jon. 3:10). Spiritually, however, it was a time of rampant corruption and moral decay (4:1; 5:10–13; 2 Kin. 14:24).
Amos addresses Israel’s two primary sins: 1) an absence of true worship and 2) a lack of justice. In the midst of their ritualistic performance of worship, they were not pursuing the Lord with their hearts (4:4, 5; 5:4–6) nor following His standard of justice with their neighbors (5:10–13; 6:12). This apostasy, evidenced by continual, willful rejection of the prophetic message of Amos, is promised divine judgment. Because of His covenant, however, the Lord will not abandon Israel altogether, but will bring future restoration to the righteous remnant (9:7–15).

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Exaltation Follows Humility

“Therefore also 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, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
God will exalt the humble.

Having plumbed the depths of Christ’s humiliation (Phil. 2:5-8), Paul now soars to the heights of His exaltation (vv. 9-11). Like Paul, the apostle Peter affirmed that the great theme of Old Testament prophecy was the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow (1 Peter 1:11). Regarding Christ, the writer of Hebrews says that “for the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Christ understood His sufferings in light of His exaltation.
Paul’s purpose in Philippians 2 was not simply to detail the humiliation and exaltation of Christ but to use those truths as a practical illustration. He was calling for unity produced by humility (vv. 2-4), with Christ as the preeminent example of humility (vv. 5-11). But beyond the humiliation of Christ, Paul also affirms that He was exalted. The implication is that when we willingly humble ourselves as Christ did, God will lift us up. As James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
It is true that the man who humbles himself is the one whom God exalts, and the man who exalts himself is the one whom God will humiliate. In the divine economy, it is by giving that one receives, by serving that one is served, by losing one’s life that one finds life, and by dying to self that one lives. These principles follow one another as surely as night follows day.
Like Christ, you will be exalted in Heaven one day. Meditate on that truth, and be encouraged by it as you go through your earthly trials.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord for the exaltation that awaits you in Heaven.
For Further Study
Read the following verses: Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 1 Peter 5:6. What principle do they all teach?


A More Excellent Name

"He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee'? And again, 'I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me'?" (Heb. 1:4-5).
Jesus is better than the angels because Christ was more than a messenger—He was a Son.
In our culture, the names we pick for our children don't have much connection with the child's character. But in the Bible, God chose specific names that related to some character quality of the individuals who bore them.
The writer of Hebrews was well aware of that when He asked this rhetorical question: "To which of the angels did [God] ever say, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee'? and again, 'I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me'?" quoting Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. Of course, the answer is no angel.

The title Son refers to Jesus Christ in His incarnation. Though His sonship was anticipated in the Old Testament (Prov. 30:4), He did not become a Son until He was begotten into time. Prior to that He was eternal God with God. 

Presenting Jesus as the Son is God's analogy to help us understand the relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity.
Christ became a Son in two different ways. First, He was not a Son until He came into the world through the virgin birth (Luke 1:35; 3:22). But second, His sonship came to full bloom in His resurrection (Rom. 1:3-4).
The Old Testament prophesied that Christ would come as a Son. In the New Testament He came as a Son in His virgin birth and was declared to be the Son by His resurrection from the dead. Don't ever get trapped into the heresy of those who claim that Jesus Christ is eternally subservient to God. For a temporary period of time, He set aside what was rightfully His and humbled Himself to become a Son for our sakes.
Suggestion for Prayer
* Thank God for His amazing plan to redeem man through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.
* Praise Him that He became Man to redeem you.
For Further Study
Read Acts 13:33 and Romans 1:3-4 noting the reason that Christ can be considered God's Son.


Parable of the Sower: Worldly Hearers

“‘And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful’” (Matthew 13:22).
Few things obstruct the gospel’s reception in someone’s heart more than the general love of the world and wealth. Note these warnings:
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 griefs. (1 Tim. 6:10)
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:15–16)
The worldly hearer in this parable is oblivious to the deception of money and its inability to give lasting satisfaction. He or she doesn’t notice how worldliness—the worshipful priority of money, possessions, career, and other temporary affairs—can smother the Word. Such a reality shows that the individual has a heart full of sinful weeds that cannot coexist for long with the Word of God. If faith is genuine, it will forsake the world; otherwise, sin will choke out the Word.
Christ’s cleansing is thorough in true conversion. Salvation removes sin’s weeds from the heart and prepares it to receive the seed of the Word. Genuine believers will continually confess sin and allow the Lord to be “faithful and righteous to forgive” (1 John 1:9), freeing them from sin’s domination.
Ask Yourself
Does this mean money is a bad thing? Should it be avoided by people who bear the name of Christ? How would you define a proper, biblical perspective on wealth and possessions?

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God's Unfathomable Ways

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Christ’s humiliation displayed God’s wisdom.
Somewhere along the path of Christ’s descent, you’d think He would have said to Himself, These people really aren’t worth redeeming. This is too degrading and humiliating! But the grace and love of God toward sinners was such that Christ stooped to die for you and me. At the end of Paul’s doctrinal survey of salvation in Romans, he said, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (11:33). He was in awe of God’s plan of salvation—a plan no man would have devised.
If we had planned the Incarnation, we probably would have wanted Christ to be born in a palace. His family would have been wealthy and prominent, and He would have been educated in the finest universities with elite teachers and the best tutors. We would have orchestrated events so that everyone loved, revered, honored, and respected Him. He would have been in all the prominent places and met all the prominent people.
We would not have had Him born in a stable to a poor family. He would not have spent His youth in a carpenter’s shop in an obscure town. Rather than a ragtag band of followers, we would have made sure He had only the best people as His disciples, and they would have had to pass stiff qualifying tests for the privilege.
We would not have allowed Him to be humiliated. We would have imprisoned or executed anyone who spit on Him, pulled His beard, mocked Him, or hurt Him. Our plan for the Messiah would have been very different from God’s plan, and, as a result no one could have been saved. It’s no wonder the psalmist said, “Thy judgments are like a great deep” (Ps. 36:6). God’s ways are unsearchable, His truths profound. And His plan to redeem us was accomplished by Christ’s humiliation.
Suggestions for Prayer
Daniel prayed, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him” (Dan. 2:20). Like Daniel, worship the only wise God, who saved you.
For Further Study
Read 1 Peter 2:21-24. What did Christ leave you (v. 21)?


Christ Is Superior to Angels

"Having become . . . much better than the angels" (Heb. 1:4).
Through a deft use of the Old Testament, the writer proves that Christ is the mediator of a greater covenant.
Man is a wonderful and amazing creation—higher than plants, animals, and any other material creation in this world. But there are created beings even higher than man—angels.
Hebrews 2:9 shows this to be the case because when Jesus became a man, He was "made for a little while lower than the angels." After the fall of the rebellious angels under Lucifer, the angels in heaven were no longer subject to sin. These angels are holy, powerful, and wise. They are special beings created by God before He created man.
The Jewish people understood the exalted position of angels because they knew that the Old Covenant was brought to men and maintained by angelic mediation. Galatians 3:19 says, "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made."
Because of this high regard for angels by his readers, the writer of Hebrews was faced with a problem. If he was to show that Christ was the mediator of a better covenant, he would have to prove that Christ is better than angels. To do so, he used seven Old Testament passages to verify his claim.
If he had tried to prove from Christian writings that Christ is a better mediator, his unbelieving Jewish readers would have said, "We don't accept these writings as being from God." So in effect he wisely replies, "Open up your own Scriptures and I'll prove my claim from them." It results in a powerful and irresistible argument.
For the next several days, we'll see in what ways Christ is superior to angels and how He could mediate a better covenant for us.
Suggestion for Prayer
Because much of our understanding of the New Testament is based on the writings of the Old Testament, thank God for how He has brought His complete Word to us intact throughout the centuries.
For Further Study
Read Galatians 3:8, Romans 9:15, and Matthew 4:4.
* What Old Testament verses to those passages quote?
* What truth does each of them verify?


Parable of the Sower: Superficial Hearers, Part 2

“‘The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away’” (Matthew 13:20–21).
Those who only superficially receive the gospel might be baptized, join a church, and seem for a long time to be Christians. But trials and testings will eventually expose such persons’ spiritual lifelessness. Such difficulties are not the ordinary hardships of life but the problems encountered “because of the word.” When the Christian life’s demands get too severe, the person discontinues any pretense of following the Lord.
“Falls away” is the translation of skandalizo–, the Greek verb that means to cause to stumble and can include the concept of offending someone. We get the English scandalize from it. All these ideas fit the superficial hearer because when something really tests his or her faith, they stumble, become offended, and abandon the gospel (cf. John 8:31; 1 John 2:19).
If a person’s profession of salvation doesn’t include real conviction of sin, a strong desire for the Lord, and a love for His Word, along with willingness to suffer for Him if need be, it’s only a matter of time before that one renounces any previous profession of faith.
It is encouraging, however, that the same kind of tribulation that makes the false believer wither makes the true believer stronger. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12); but “after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Ask Yourself
Everything of real value comes with a cost. Why should Christianity be any different? Where do we get the idea that following Christ should require little effort and be met with little resistance, both from within and without?


Reading for Today:
* Hosea 13:1–14:9
* Psalm 140:1-5
* Proverbs 29:23
* Revelation 1:1-20
Hosea 13:14 Placing the strong affirmation of deliverance so abruptly after a denunciation intensified the wonder of His unrequited love (11:8, 9; Lev. 26:44). This can apply to God’s restoration of Israel from Assyria, and in future times from all the lands of the Dispersion, preserving them and bringing them back to their land for the kingdom of Messiah (Ezek. 37). It also speaks of the time of personal resurrection as in Daniel 12:2, 3. Repentant Israelites will be restored to the land and even raised from death to glory. Paul uses this text in 1 Corinthians 15:55 to celebrate the future resurrection of the church. The Messiah’s great victory over death and the grave is the firstfruits of the full harvest to come, when all believers will likewise experience the power of His resurrection.
Revelation 1:4 seven churches which are in Asia. Asia Minor, equivalent to modern Turkey, was composed of 7 postal districts. At the center of those districts were 7 key cities which served as central points for the dissemination of information. It is to the churches in those cities that John writes. who is and who was and who is to come. God’s eternal presence is not limited by time. He has always been present and will come in the future. the seven Spirits. There are 2 possible meanings: 1) a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the 7-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit (Is. 11:2); or 2) more likely, it is a reference to the lamp stand with 7 lamps (a menorah) in Zechariah—also a description of the Holy Spirit (4:5; 5:6; Zech. 4:1–10). In either case, 7 is the number of completeness, so John is identifying the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 1:10 in the Spirit. This was not a dream. John was supernaturally transported out of the material world awake—not sleeping—to an experience beyond the normal senses. The Holy Spirit empowered his senses to perceive revelation from God (Acts 10:11). Lord’s Day. This phrase appears in many early Christian writings and refers to Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection. Some have suggested this phrase refers to “the Day of the Lord,” but the context doesn’t support that interpretation, and the grammatical form of the word “Lord” is adjectival, thus “the Lord’s day.” loud voice. Throughout Revelation, a loud sound or voice indicates the solemnity of what God is about to reveal.
Revelation 1:17 fell at His feet. A common response to seeing the awesome glory of the Lord (Gen. 17:3; Num. 16:22; Ezek. 1:28; Is. 6:1–8; Acts 9:4). First and the Last. Jesus Christ applies this Old Testament name for Yahweh (22:13; Is. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12) to Himself, clearly claiming to be God. Idols will come and go. He was before them, and He will remain after them.

DAY 11: What is the background for the Book of Revelation?
Revelation begins with John, the last surviving apostle and an old man, in exile on the small barren island of Patmos, located in the Aegean Sea southwest of Ephesus. The Roman authorities had banished him there because of his faithful preaching of the gospel (1:9). While on Patmos, John received a series of visions that laid out the future history of the world.
When he was arrested, John was in Ephesus, ministering to the church there and in the surrounding cities. Seeking to strengthen those congregations, he could no longer minister to them in person and, following the divine command (1:11), John addressed Revelation to them (1:4). The churches had begun to feel the effects of persecution; at least one man—probably a pastor—had already been martyred (2:13), and John himself had been exiled. But the storm of persecution was about to break in full fury upon the 7 churches so dear to the apostle’s heart (2:10). To those churches, Revelation provided a message of hope: God is in sovereign control of all the events of human history; and though evil often seems pervasive and wicked men all-powerful, their ultimate doom is certain. Christ will come in glory to judge and rule.
Unlike most books of the Bible, Revelation contains its own title: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”(1:1). “Revelation” (Greek, apokalupsis) means “an uncovering,” “an unveiling,” or “a disclosure.” In all its uses, “revelation” refers to something or someone, once hidden, becoming visible. What this book reveals or unveils is Jesus Christ in glory. Truths about Him and His final victory, that the rest of Scripture merely allude to, become clearly visible through revelation about Jesus Christ.

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The Humility of Christ

“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Instead of asserting His divine rights, Christ submitted Himself to the cross.
Even though the people did not recognize the deity of Christ and treated Him as a criminal, He did not fight back. Instead, He “humbled Himself.” Consider His trial. He said not a word to defend Himself throughout unbelievable humiliation. They mocked Him, punched Him, pulled out His beard—yet He did not say a word. He was silent and accepted man’s abuse through each phase of His phony trial. He did not demand His rights but “humbled Himself.”
In humility Christ was “obedient to the point of death” (v. 8). At no time did our Lord say, “Stop! That’s enough”—not in the middle of His trial, not when He was mocked, not when forced to walk half-naked through the city of Jerusalem with a cross on His back, not even on the cross. Christ was willing to descend into the muck and slime of death that He might bring us out of death into life.
Christ suffered not just death but death on a cross—the most excruciating, embarrassing, degrading, painful, and cruel death ever devised. The Jewish people hated crucifixion because of Deuteronomy 21:23: “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (NIV). The God who created the universe suffered the ultimate human degradation—hanging naked against the sky before a mocking world, with nails driven through His hands and feet.
Early nineteenth-century American preacher Gardiner Spring wrote, “The cross is the emblem of peace, but it is also an emblem of ignominy and suffering: it was so to the Saviour—it is so to his followers.” Christ said that His disciples must take up their cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). In keeping with Christ’s example, have you taken up the cross, living for His honor and glory no matter what?
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to help you follow His example of self-denial.
For Further Study
Read Matthew 27:11-50, noting Christ’s obedience.


The Sacrifice and Exaltation of Christ

"When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3).
Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice for all the sins of mankind, then sat down with the Father once He had accomplished it.
The Bible makes it perfectly clear that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus Christ went to the cross, died the death we deserved, and consequently freed us from the penalty of sin by our faith in Him.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Christ "does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (Heb. 7:27). In the Old Testament, the priests had to make continual sacrifices, but Jesus made only one. And not only was He the priest, but also the sacrifice! He made a tremendously potent sacrifice, for He forever purged our sins—something the Old Testament sacrifices could never do.
When His sacrifice was complete, "He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3, emphasis added). That is significant because the Old Testament priests never sat down—there were no seats in the sanctuary because they offered sacrifices day in and day out. But Jesus offered one sacrifice, finished it, and then went to the Father and sat down. What the Old Testament sacrifices couldn't accomplish Christ's did for all time.
As a result, God exalted Him to His right hand, the seat of honor and rule and rest. But perhaps most important, it is the place where Christ intercedes to the Father on our behalf (Rom 8:34).
Don't ever forget what Jesus accomplished for us—and what He still does for us: "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank Jesus for His sacrifice on your behalf. Also thank Him for the salvation He has given you and the access you now have to God.
For Further Study
Read Hebrews 9:1—10:18 to gain a deeper understanding of Christ's ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament priestly system. In what specific ways did He fulfill it?


Parable of the Sower: Superficial Hearers, Part 1

“‘The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away’” (Matthew 13:20–21).
Shallow acceptance of the gospel can be encouraged by shallow evangelism that promises blessings of salvation but ignores the costs of discipleship. If people just “make a decision” for Jesus Christ without accepting all His claims on their lives, they can become insulated from genuine salvation.
When superficial hearers first hear the gospel, they have a euphoric religious experience, believing that at last God has met their felt needs. They are often zealous and energetic in church activities and eager to tell others about their new happiness.
But sadly for such people, all the change is superficial rather than deep-down in the heart. Their feelings are changed, but not their souls. There is no repentance, mourning over sin, or humility, which is the first trait of real conversion (cf. Matt. 5:3). Such a person has placed his or her religious house on the sand, and when the storms of trials and persecution come, the house crumbles and washes away (Matt. 7:26–27).
For the superficial hearer, God’s truth has penetrated only the edge of the mind, but not the heart. That is why, when the high cost of salvation does confront the person, the gospel can be as quickly renounced as it was once seemingly accepted. Spiri-tual reality has no root and thus can’t produce true spiritual fruit, which as Jesus soon makes clear, is the only sure evidence of a transformed life.
Ask Yourself
How can you come closer to ensuring that those with whom you share your Christian faith are not given the impression that salvation is a quick, emotional, unthinking decision?


Reading for Today:
* Hosea 11:1–12:14
* Psalm 139:17-24
* Proverbs 29:22
* Jude 1-25
Hosea 11:1 In tender words reminiscent of the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 4:22, 23), the Lord reassured Israel of His intense love for her. His compassion for her was aroused (Is. 12:1; 40:1,2; 49:13; Jer. 31:10–14; Zech. 1:12–17). See Matthew 2:15 for Matthew’s analogical use of this verse in relationship to Jesus Christ.
Jude 3 contend earnestly. While the salvation of those to whom he wrote was not in jeopardy, false teachers preaching and living out a counterfeit gospel were misleading those who needed to hear the true gospel. Jude wrote this urgent imperative for Christians to wage war against error in all forms and fight strenuously for the truth, like a soldier who has been entrusted with a sacred task of guarding a holy treasure (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). the faith. This is the whole body of revealed salvation truth contained in the Scriptures. Here is a call to know sound doctrine (Eph. 4:14; Col. 3:16: 1 Pet. 2:2; 1 John 2:12–14), to be discerning in sorting out truth from error (1 Thess. 5:20–22), and to be willing to confront and attack error (2 Cor. 10:3–5; Phil. 1:17, 27; 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:7, 8; Titus 1:13). once for all delivered…saints. God’s revelation was delivered once as a unit, at the completion of the Scripture, and is not to be edited by either deletion or addition (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18, 19). Scripture is complete, sufficient, and finished; therefore it is fixed for all time. Nothing is to be added to the body of the inspired Word because nothing else is needed.
Jude 13 raging waves. Apostates promise powerful ministry, but are quickly exposed as wreakers of havoc and workers of worthless shame (Is. 57:20).wandering stars. This most likely refers to a meteor or shooting star which has an uncontrolled moment of brilliance and then fades away forever into nothing. Apostates promise enduring spiritual direction but deliver a brief, aimless, and worthless flash.

DAY 10: Who was Jude, and why did he write his letter?
Although Jude (Judas) was a common name in Palestine (at least 8 are named in the New Testament), the author of Jude generally has been accepted as Jude, Christ’s half brother. He is to be differentiated from the apostle Judas, the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). Several lines of thought lead to this conclusion: 1) Jude’s appeal to being the “brother of James,” the leader of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and another half brother of Jesus (v. 1; Gal. 1:19); 2) Jude’s salutation being similar to James’s (James 1:1); and 3) Jude’s not identifying himself as an apostle (v. 1), but rather distinguishing between himself and the apostles (v. 17).
Jude lived at a time when Christianity was under severe political attack from Rome and aggressive spiritual infiltration from Gnostic-like apostates and libertines who sowed abundant seed for a gigantic harvest of doctrinal error. It could be that this was the forerunner to full-blown Gnosticism which the apostle John would confront over 25 years later in his epistles. Except for John, who lived at the close of the century, all of the other apostles had been martyred; and Christianity was thought to be extremely vulnerable. Thus, Jude called the church to fight, in the midst of intense spiritual warfare, for the truth.
Jude is the only New Testament book devoted exclusively to confronting “apostasy,” meaning defection from the true, biblical faith (vv. 3, 17). Apostates are described elsewhere in 2 Thessalonians 2:10; Hebrews 10:29; 2 Peter 2:1–22; 1 John 2:18–23. He wrote to condemn the apostates and to urge believers to contend for the faith. He called for discernment on the part of the church and a rigorous defense of biblical truth. He followed the earlier examples of: 1) Christ (Matt. 7:15ff.; 16:6–12; 24:11ff; Rev. 2; 3); 2) Paul (Acts 20:29,30; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1–5; 4:3, 4); 3) Peter (2 Pet. 2:1, 2; 3:3, 4); and 4) John (1 John 4:1–6; 2 John 6–11).

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Christ's Outward Appearance

“. . . Being found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:8).
Many people view Christ only as a man, but He is God.
After winning a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Scottish runner Eric Liddell served as a missionary in China; he died in a prison camp during World War II. The camp’s prisoners loved Eric, for he served them so unselfishly. It was only at his funeral that they first learned he was an Olympic hero. They had had no idea of his full identity.
Most people didn’t realize Christ’s full identity either, for He was “found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:8). At first glance that phrase seems like a repetition of the end of verse 7, “being made in the likeness of men.” We could paraphrase verse 8 to read, “He was discovered to appear as a man.” The difference between that and verse 7 is a shift in focus. In verse 8 we view the humiliation of Christ from the viewpoint of those who saw Him. Christ was the God-man, but as people looked at Him, they saw the “appearance” (Greek, schema, “outward form”) of a man. Paul was implying that though Christ appeared to be a man, there was much more to Him that could not naturally be seen.
For Christ to become man was humbling enough. For Him not to have been recognized must have been humiliating. He performed miracles and taught authoritatively, yet the typical responses were: “You are a Samaritan and have a demon” (John 8:48) and, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:42). Because their minds were darkened by sin, people recognized His humanity but could not see His deity. They could not recognize who He really was. They not only treated the King of kings as a man but as the worst of men—a criminal.
Unlike people who don’t recognize Christ’s true identity, let’s honor Him through a life of worship and obedience.
Suggestions for Prayer
Worship Christ for who He really is—the King of kings and Lord of lords. Praise Him for this truth in your prayer time.
For Further Study
Christ was not only fully man but also fully God. Read the following verses in which Christ Himself bears testimony that He is God: Luke 22:69-70; John 10:30, 37-38; 12:45; 14:7-10. What else should one find in these verses?


The Sustaining Power of Christ

"[Christ] upholds all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3).
Christ, by His almighty power, holds together all creation.
We base our entire lives on the constancy of physical laws. When something like an earthquake disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe for it is He in whom "all things hold together" (Col. 1:17)? We would go out of existence, our atoms scattering throughout the galaxy.
If He suspended the laws of gravity only for a brief moment, we would lose all points of reference. If any of the physical laws varied slightly, we could not exist. Our food could turn to poison; we ourselves could drift out into space or get flooded by the ocean tides. Countless other horrible things could happen.
But the universe remains in balance because Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and interworkings. He is the principle of cohesion. He is not the deist's "watchmaker" creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The reason the universe is a cosmos instead of chaos—an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle—is the upholding power of Jesus Christ.
The entire universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He upholds it all by the word of His power. The key to the Genesis creation is in two words: "God said." God spoke and it happened.
When I contemplate Christ's power to uphold the universe, I'm drawn to the wonderful promise of Philippians 1:6: "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." When Christ begins a work in your heart, He doesn't end there. He continually sustains it until the day He will take you into God's very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to remind you of Christ's sustaining power when you endure your next trial.
For Further Study
Read Job 38-39 for a greater appreciation of what Christ does to uphold the universe.


Parable of the Sower: Unresponsive Hearers

“‘When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road’” (Matthew 13:19).
The hard-packed soil beside the road represents the unresponsive hearer who “does not understand” the gospel, solely because of his or her own hardheartedness. The person has continually resisted the gospel or anything else related to true spirituality because of an insensitive, impervious heart.
The Word lies on the surface of the unresponsive heart, exposed to attack by Satan. Such a hearer’s lack of repentance insulates him or her from Christ’s help and leaves them victim to assault by the enemy of the soul.
Such people remind us of the fools who hate wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7) and say there is no God (Ps. 14:1). They are often self-satisfied and self-righteous, and the gospel is simply veiled to them because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Satan uses various means to snatch away the seed sown: false teachers who promote spiritual lies, fear of human opinion that opposes Christianity, pride that blinds people to their real needs, and all sorts of other sinful prejudices against the truth of God’s Word. All of these realities ought to prompt us toward prayer for and reaching out to the lost so that God may save some.
Ask Yourself
If lack of repentance is the key ingredient in shielding people from their need for Christ, we must continually guard ourselves from this hardened condition, even after being saved. Would this be a good time to deal directly with any unconfessed sin, turning away from it and back to the mercies of God?


Reading for Today:
* Hosea 9:1–10:15
* Psalm 139:13-16
* Proverbs 29:21
* 3 John 1-14
Hosea 9:7,8 The prophets were God’s inspired messengers and watchmen (Ezek. 3:17; 33:1–7), yet Israel considered them fools and madmen.
Hosea 10:8 Cover us!…Fall on us! The captivity would be so severe that the people would pray for the mountains and hills to fall on them, similar to the last days (Luke 23:30; Rev. 6:16).
Psalm 139:13 formed…covered. By virtue of the divinely designed period of pregnancy, God providentially watches over the development of the child while yet in the mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:16 Your book. This figure of speech likens God’s mind to a book of remembrance. none of them. God sovereignly ordained David’s life before he was conceived.
3 John 4 I have no greater joy. John’s personal affection for Gaius radiated especially from his personal conduct (Luke 6:46). my children. The word “my” is emphatic in the original. John’s heart delighted in the proper conduct of his spiritual children in the faith. Those who walk (conduct) in the truth (belief) have integrity—there is no dichotomy between professing and living. He had strong fatherly affection for them (1 Cor. 4:14–16; 1 Thess. 2:11; 3:1–10).

DAY 9: What was the problem with Diotrephes in 3 John 9,10?
John apparently had written a previous letter to the church (v. 9), perhaps on the subject of hospitality, but it was lost. Perhaps Diotrephes never read it to the church because he rejected John’s authority (vv. 9, 10). “Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence.” The word “preeminence” has the idea of “desiring to be first.” It conveys the idea of someone who is selfish, self-centered, and self-seeking. The language suggests a self-promoting demagogue, who served no one, but wanted all to serve only him. Diotrephes’ actions directly contradict Jesus’ and the New Testament’s teaching on servant leadership in the church (Matt. 20:20–28; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Tim. 3:3; 1 Pet. 5:3). “Diotrephes,…does not receive us.” Diotrephes modeled the opposite of kindness and hospitality to God’s servants, even denying John’s apostolic authority over the local congregation, and as a result, denying the revelation of God that came through that authority. His pride endeavored to supplant the rule of Christ through John in the church. Diotrephes’ character was the very opposite of the gentle and loving Gaius who readily showed hospitality.
“If I come, I will call to mind his deeds” (v. 10). John’s apostolic authority meant that Diotrephes had to answer for his behavior. The apostle did not overlook this usurping of Christ’s place in the church. Verse 10 indicates that Diotrephes was guilty of 4 things: 1) “prating against us.” The word “prating” comes from a word meaning “to bubble up” and has the idea of useless, empty jabber, i.e., talking nonsense. The charges against John were completely unjustified; 2) “with malicious words.” Not only were Diotrephes’ charges false, they were evil; 3) “does not receive the brethren.” He not only slandered John but also deliberately defied other believers; and 4) “putting them out of the church.” The original language indicates that Diotrephes’ habit was to excommunicate those who resisted his authority. To accept John’s authority (v. 9), as well as being hospitable to the traveling ministers, directly threatened the authority that Diotrephes coveted.

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Christ's Identification with Sinners
“. . . Made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

Christ was fully God and fully man.

In his Systematic Theology theologian Charles Hodge wrote, “The Scriptures teach that Christ had a complete human nature. That is, He had a true body and a rational soul. By a true body is meant a material body which in everything essential was like the bodies of ordinary men. . . . It is no less plain that Christ had a rational soul. He thought, reasoned, and felt.”
Hodge’s assessment is correct, for Christ was given all the essential attributes of humanity. He was more than God in a body. He became the God-man, being fully God and fully man. Like a man, Jesus was born and increased in wisdom and physical maturity (Luke 2:52). Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same.” Christ had the same flesh and blood that we have. When He came into the world, He came in normal human flesh that experienced all the effects of the Fall. He knew sorrow, suffering, pain, thirst, hunger, and death. He felt all effects of the Fall without ever knowing or experiencing the sin of the Fall.
Hebrews 2:17 points out how Christ’s humanity has a direct bearing on your life: Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” For Christ to feel what you feel, He needed to be made like you. He experienced all the tests and temptations you do, but He never gave in to sin. That’s why He is such a faithful and understanding High Priest. Be encouraged, for 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).
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank Christ for being your faithful High Priest.
For Further Study
What human characteristics did Christ show in the following verses: Matthew 4:2; 9:36; 23:37; John 4:6-7; 11:34-35; 19:30?


Christ's Radiance and Representation
"He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Heb. 1:3).

Jesus is both God manifest and God in substance.
Just as the rays of the sun give light, warmth, life, and growth to the earth, so Jesus Christ is the glorious light of God shining into the hearts of men and women. As "the radiance of God's glory," Jesus expresses God to us. No one can see God in HIs full glory; no one ever will. The radiance of that glory that reaches us from God appears in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Just as the sun was never without and can never be separated from its brightness, so God was never without and cannot be separated from the glory of Christ. Never was God without Him or He without God, and never in any way can He be separated from God. Yet the brightness of the sun is not the sun, and neither is Jesus exactly the same as God in that sense. He is fully and absolutely God, yet as a distinct Person within the triune Godhead.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). As the radiance of God's glory, Christ can transmit that light into your life and mine so that we can radiate the glory of God to a dark world.
In using the term "exact representation" to describe Christ's relationship to God's nature, the writer employs terminology usually associated with an impression reproduced on a seal by a die or stamp. Jesus Christ is the reproduction of God—the perfect, personal imprint of God in time and space.
How wonderful to realize that Jesus Christ, who is both the full expression of God and exact reproduction of God's nature in human history, can come into our lives and give us light to see and to know God! His light is the source of our spiritual life. And His light gives us purpose, meaning, happiness, peace, joy, fellowship, everything—for all eternity.
Suggestion for Prayer
Thank God that He determined to become a man so we could know what He is like.
For Further Study
Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and note who allows people to see or not see spiritually.


Parable of the Sower: Main Elements

“‘Hear then the parable of the sower . . .’” (Matthew 13:18).
The Bible is God’s written Word, but His Son is the Living Word who gives Scripture life. Christ told the Jewish leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39).
This parable centers on proclaiming the gospel and, perhaps more important, concerns the “heart soils” on which that truth, in seed form, falls as the sower preaches. Our Lord goes on to describe four such soils, representing four different hearts that hear the gospel.
Although every human heart is essentially hostile toward God (Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:15–16), every one has the potential for redemption. If a heart does not respond savingly, it is because of its own sin and refusal to believe. Jesus declares, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).
In a general sense, any of us who preaches or testifies to the gospel is a sower of God’s Word. This parable thus reminds us of the need to be faithful in truly presenting the gospel, given the wonderful results that can occur. As William Arnot wrote: “As every leaf of the forest and every ripple on the lake, which itself receives a sunbeam on its breast, may throw the sunbeam off again, and so spread the light around; in like manner, everyone, old or young, who receives Christ into his heart may and will publish with his life and lips that blessed name.”
Ask Yourself
How have you experienced one or more of the various soils’ responses to your sharing of gospel truth? What have you learned about the reasons why various people respond to Christ’s message of salvation in different ways?


Reading for Today:

* Hosea 7:1–8:14
* Psalm 139:7-12
* Proverbs 29:20
* 2 John 1-13
Hosea 7:4–7 The civil leaders’ evil lust burned so passionately all night, that the prophet repeatedly described it like a consuming oven (vv. 4, 6, 7), so hot that the baker could forego stirring the fire during the entire night and still have adequate heat for baking the next morning.
Psalm 139:9 the wings of the morning. In conjunction with “the uttermost parts of the sea,” David uses this literary figure to express distance.
2 John 1 The Elder. John uses this title to emphasize his advanced age, his spiritual authority over the congregations in Asia Minor, and the strength of his own personal eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus and all that He taught (vv. 4–6). the elect lady and her children. Some think that this phrase refers metaphorically to a particular local church, while “her children” would refer to members of the congregation. The more natural understanding in context, however, is that it refers to a particular woman and her children (i.e., offspring) who were well known to John. whom I love in truth. The basis of Christian hospitality is the truth (vv. 1–3). John accentuates the need for truth by repeating the term “truth” 5 times in the opening 4 verses. Truth refers to the basics or fundamentals of the faith that John has discussed in 1 John, as well as the truths expressed in 2 John 4–6. Truth is the necessary condition of unity and, as a result, the basis of hospitality.
2 John 10 do not receive him into your house nor greet him. John’s prohibition is not a case of entertaining people who disagree on minor matters. These false teachers were carrying on a regular campaign to destroy the basic, fundamental truths of Christianity. Complete disassociation from such heretics is the only appropriate course of action for genuine believers. No benefit or aid of any type (not even a greeting) is permissible. Believers should aid only those who proclaim the truth (vv. 5–8).

DAY 8: Why is it so important to John to “confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7)?
John’s purpose was to strengthen Christians to resist the tide of heresy that was rising against the church. Much of this false teaching was an early form of Gnosticism.
The gnostic idea that matter was evil and only spirit was good led to the idea that either the body should be treated harshly, a form of asceticism (Col. 2:21–23), or that sin committed in the body had no connection or effect on one’s spirit. In other words, the false teaching sought to drive a wedge between body and soul. This is why it often maintained that Jesus could not have been God and man at the same time.
The result of this error in teaching was compounded when some, including John’s opponents, concluded that sins committed in the physical body did not matter. Absolute indulgence in immorality was permissible. One could deny sin even existed (1 John 1:8–10) and disregard God’s law (1 John 3:4).
As a bulwark against this heresy, John lifted the confession that “Jesus Christ [came] in the flesh” (v. 7). What Christians do in their physical life is directly connected with what they do in their spiritual life. John emphasized the need for obedience to God’s laws, for he defined the true love for God as obedience to His commandments (1 John 5:3). Jesus, in His human living, offered the perfect example of that kind of love.

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Christ as a Servant

“Taking the form of a bond-servant” (Philippians 2:7).

Christ submitted Himself to the Father’s will.

When Christ emptied Himself, He not only gave up His privileges but also became a servant. First, He was a servant by nature. Paul used the Greek word morphe(“form”) again to indicate that Christ’s servanthood was not merely external but His essence. It was not like a cloak that could be put on and taken off. Christ was truly a servant. The only other New Testament use of morpheis in Mark 16:12. There Jesus appears in a resurrection morphe—a form fully expressing the nature of a resurrection body. In Philippians 2 Christ is shown as a true bond-servant, doing the will of the Father. He submitted to the Father and to the needs of men as well. Jesus was everything that Isaiah 52:13-14 depicted—a Messiah who was a servant.

Second, Christ was a servant by position. As God, Christ owns everything. But when He came into this world, He borrowed everything: a place to be born, a place to lay His head, a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and preach from, an animal to ride into the city when He was triumphantly welcomed as King of kings and Lord of lords, and a tomb to be buried in. The only Person ever to live on this earth who had the right to all its pleasures instead wound up with nothing and became a servant. Although He was the rightful heir to David’s throne and God in human flesh, He had no advantages or privileges in this world. He owned little but served everyone.

Christ, the perfect servant, said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to become first among you shall be your slave” (Matt. 20:27). What about you? Are you seeking greatness by wanting others to serve you, or are you being truly great by serving God and others? Make it your ambition to be a true servant.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you be like Christ—a true servant of God.

For Further Study

What can you learn from Luke 2:41-52 about Christ’s submission and humility?


The Creator of the World

"In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son . . . through whom also He made the world" (Heb. 1:2).

Christ is the agent through whom God created the world.

John 1:3 testifies, "All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Jesus has the ability to create something out of nothing (cf. Rom. 4:17), and that sets Him apart from mere creatures. Only God can create like that; we can't. If you could create, you'd live in a different house, drive a different car, and probably have a different job—if you had any job at all. You could just sit in your backyard and make money. Fortunately, God didn't give depraved men and women the right to be creators.

The ability to create ex nihilo belongs to God alone and the fact that Jesus creates like that indicates He is God and establishes His absolute superiority over everything. He created everything material and spiritual. Though man has stained His work with sin, Christ originally made it good, and the very creation itself longs to be restored to what it was in the beginning (Rom. 8:22).

The common Greek word for "world" is kosmos, but that's not the one used in Hebrews 1:2. The word here is aionas, which does not refer to the material world but to "the ages," as it is often translated. Jesus Christ is responsible for creating not only the physical earth, but also time, space, energy, and matter. The writer of Hebrews does not restrict Christ's creation to this earth; he shows us that Christ is the Creator of the entire universe and of existence itself. And He made it all without effort.

What about you? If you don't recognize God as the Creator, you'll have difficulty explaining how this universe came into being. Where did it all come from? Who conceived it? Who made it? It cannot be an accident. Someone made it, and the Bible tells us who He is: Jesus Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for the wonder of His creation, which we can so easily take for granted.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 1:16-23 to discover the relationship between the creation and your salvation.


Parables Reveal

“‘But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it’” (Matthew 13:16–17).

As believers, we can understand God’s profoundest revelation, whether parables or other teachings, because biblical writers have recorded them and the Spirit has illumined them for us (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9–10). When Christ finished explaining some parables to the apostles and asked if they understood them, they could honestly answer “Yes” (Matt. 13:51). That’s not because they were more intelligent than the educated yet unbelieving Jewish leaders, but because the apostles’ eyes and ears were opened to God’s truth by way of their belief.

In part, our Lord’s ministry was to provide understanding of His Word to His followers (see Mark 4:34). Right to the end of His time on earth, Jesus “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27; cf. v. 45).

Not even the most faithful Old Testament believers had the insights to revelation that the disciples and every believer since have had.

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 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 sent from heaven. (1 Peter 1:10–12)

Ask Yourself

The psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). Make this your heartfelt prayer today, knowing that God will delight in answering you.


Reading for Today:


Psalm 139:1 searched me. As it has been in David’s life, he prays later that it will continue to be (vv. 23, 24). David understands that nothing inside of him can be hidden from God.

1 John 5:4 overcomes. John clearly defines who these overcomers are: they are all who believe that Jesus is God’s Son, and all that means. The overcomers are believers—all of them (2:13). The word for “overcomer” comes from a Greek word meaning “to conquer,” “to have victory,” “to have superiority,” or “conquering power.” The word reflects a genuine superiority that leads to overwhelming success. The victory is demonstrable; it involves overthrowing an enemy so that the victory is seen by all. Jesus also used this word to describe Himself (John 16:33). Because of believers’ union with Christ, they too partake in His victory (Rom. 8:372 Cor. 2:14). The word “overcomes” in the original language conveys the idea that the believer has continual victory over the world.

1 John 5:13 These things. This has reference to all that John has written in his letter. that you may know that you have eternal life. Assurance of eternal life constitutes the first Christian certainty. While John wrote his Gospel to bring unbelievers to faith (John 20:31), he wrote the epistle to give believers confidence that they possessed eternal life. The false brethren’s departure left John’s congregations shaken (2:19). He assured those who remained that since they adhered to the fundamentals of the faith (a proper view of Christ, obedience, love), their salvation was sure. eternal life. This does not refer primarily to a period of time but a person (v.20; John 17:3). Eternal life is a relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ and possessing His nature (vv. 11, 12).

1 John 5:21 keep yourselves from idols. John contrasts the term “idols” with “the true God” of v. 20. He has reference here to the false teachers that withdrew from the brotherhood with which they had been formerly associated (2:19). Their false beliefs and practices are the idols from which the readers are commanded to protect themselves. The false teachers upheld the world’s philosophy as superior to God’s revelation as demonstrated in their perversion of basic Christian teaching. In closing, John once again highlights the importance of adherence to the fundamentals of the faith.

DAY 7: What are the 3 characteristics of an “overcomer”?

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”(1 John 5:1).Saving faith is the first characteristic of an overcomer. The term “believes” conveys the idea of continuing faith, making the point that the mark of genuine believers is that they continue in faith throughout their life. Saving belief is not simply intellectual acceptance, but wholehearted dedication to Jesus Christ that is permanent. The object of the believer’s faith is Jesus, particularly that He is the promised Messiah or “Anointed One” whom God sent to be the Savior from sin. Whoever places faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior has been born again and, as a result, is an overcomer (v. 5). To be “born of God” is a reference to the new birth and is the same word that Jesus used in John 3:7.The tense of the Greek verb indicates that ongoing faith is the result of the new birth and, therefore, the evidence of the new birth. The sons of God will manifest the reality that they have been born again by continuing to believe in God’s Son, the Savior. The new birth brings us into a permanent faith relationship with God and Christ.

“And everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him” (v. 1). Love is the second characteristic of the overcomer. The overcomer not only believes in God, but loves both God and fellow believers. The moral test is again in view.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (v. 2). John repeats this phrase twice in these 2 verses. Obedience is the third characteristic of an overcomer. In these verses, John weaves faith, love, and obedience all together inextricably. They exist mutually in a dynamic relationship—as the genuine proof of love is obedience, so the genuine proof of faith is love. The word “keep” conveys the idea of constant obedience (John 8:313214:152115:10).

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The Emptying of Christ

“[Christ] emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7).

Christ renounced His divine privileges.

Although Christ never surrendered His deity, He did empty Himself in certain ways. One such way was to give up His heavenly glory. That’s why in John 17:5Jesus prays, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was.” Christ gave up the glory of a face-to-face relationship with God for the muck of this earth. He gave up the adoring presence of angels for the spittle of men.

Christ also emptied Himself of His independent authority. He completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father and learned to be a servant. Philippians 2:8says He was obedient, and we see that illustrated when He said in the garden, “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). He came to do His Father’s will, not His own (John 5:30).

Another way Christ emptied Himself was by setting aside the prerogatives of His deity—the voluntary display of His attributes. He didn’t give up His deity, but He did give up the free exercise of His attributes, limiting Himself to the point of saying that even He did not know the time of His second coming (Matt. 24:36).

Christ also emptied Himself of His personal riches. “Though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Christ was poor in this world; He owned very little.

Finally, Christ emptied Himself of a favorable relationship with His Father. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21). As a result our Lord cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Though Christ renounced all those privileges, He never ceased to be God. At any moment He could have blasted His enemies off the face of the earth, but He didn’t. He voluntarily emptied Himself for you and me.

Suggestions for Prayer

Christ submitted Himself completely to His Father’s will. Regularly ask for the Lord’s perfect will to be reflected in your life as well.

For Further Study

Every now and then men glimpsed Christ’s glory. Read Luke 9:28-36 as one example, reminding yourself that Christ emptied Himself of the continuous outward manifestation and personal enjoyment of heavenly glory.


The Heir of All Things

"In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2).

Since Jesus is the Son of God, He is the heir of all that God possesses.

When Christ first came to earth He became poor for our sakes, that we, through His poverty, might be made rich (2 Cor. 8:9). He had nothing for Himself—He had "nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58). Even His clothes were taken from Him when He died, and He was buried in a tomb that belonged to someone else.

It is beyond our understanding to imagine that the Galilean carpenter who was crucified like a common criminal, naked and bleeding on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem, is the King of kings and Lord of lords. But He is!

As the Son of God, Jesus is the heir of all that God possesses. The apostle Paul explains that all things not only were created by Christ but also for Him (Col. 1:16). Everything that exists will find its true meaning only when it comes under the final control of Christ.

The psalms predicted that Christ would one day be the heir to all that God possesses. The Father, speaking to the Son, says, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession'" (Ps. 2:8). God also declared, "I also shall make Him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth" (Ps. 89:27; cf. Col. 1:15). "First-born" refers to legal rights—especially those of inheritance and authority.

When Christ comes to earth again, He will completely and eternally inherit all things (Rev. 11:15). And because we have trusted in Him, we are to be "fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17). When we enter into His eternal kingdom, we will jointly possess all that He possesses. We will not be joint Christs or joint Lords, but will be joint heirs. His marvelous inheritance will be ours as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for making you a joint heir with Christ. Thank your Lord for allowing that to happen through His death on the cross.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 5:1-14 and 11:15-18, noting how the inhabitants of heaven respond to Christ.


Parables Conceal

“‘Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them”’” (Matthew 13:13–15).

Jesus quoted this passage from Isaiah 6:9–10 to describe the unbelieving Jews of His day. Isaiah pronounced judgment on the people of Judah for their pervasive sin and rebellion. As part of the Lord’s judgment, they were led away into captivity by Babylon, yet still they refused to repent and trust God’s mercies. Because the people in the prophet’s day intentionally closed their eyes and ears and refused any heartfelt understanding of truth, God judicially sealed them in their unbelief.

Christ’s parables served as similar forms of judgment on unbelief. Those who refused His previous, straightforward teachings would not be able to grasp His deeper, parabolic instructions.

Paul also quotes from Isaiah in reference to another first-century judgment on unbelievers: “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe” (1 Cor. 14:21–22). God allowed tongues (various human languages) to play a dramatic role on Pentecost and periodically thereafter as a testimony against those who refused to accept the gospel. Thus the Lord sometimes conceals His word to those predisposed to reject it.

Ask Yourself

Is there any pattern of rejection or disbelief in your mind as you deal with the holy Scriptures? Praise the Lord that He makes His Word plain to those called to be His children.


Reading for Today:


Hosea 3:1 Go again, love. Having been previously separated, Hosea was commanded to pursue his estranged wife, Gomer, thereby illustrating God’s unquenchable love for faithless Israel. raisin cakes. Eaten as a part of special occasions (2 Sam. 6:19), they may have been used in idolatrous ceremonies, possibly as an aphrodisiac (Song 2:5).

Hosea 3:2 bought her. Probably from a slave auction, Hosea purchased Gomer for 15 shekels of silver and 1 1/2 homers of barley. Together, the total may have equaled 30 pieces of silver, the price paid for a common slave (Ex. 21:32). Barley was the offering of one accused of adultery (Num. 5:15).

Proverbs 29:18 no revelation. This proverb looks both to the lack of the Word (1 Sam. 3:1) and the lack of hearing the Word (Amos 8:1112), which leads to lawless rebellion (Ex. 32:25Lev. 13:45Num. 5:18). The proverb then contrasts the joy and glory of a lawful society (28:14; Mal. 4:4).

1 John 4:1 do not believe every spirit. The mention of the Holy Spirit in 3:24 prompts John to inform his readers that those other spirits exist, i.e., demonic spirits, who produce false prophets and false teachers to propagate their false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:12). Christians are to have a healthy skepticism regarding any teaching, unlike some among John’s congregations who were too open-minded to anyone claiming a new teaching regarding the faith. test. The word “test” is a metallurgist’s term used for assaying metals to determine their purity and value. Christians must test any teaching with a view to approving or disapproving it, rigorously comparing any teaching to the Scripture. the spirits,…many false prophets. By juxtaposing “spirits” with “false prophets,” John reminds his readers that behind human teachers who propagate false doctrine and error are demons inspired by Satan. Human false prophets and teachers are the physical expressions of demonic, spiritual sources (Matt. 7:15Mark 13:22).

1 John 4:17 Love…perfected among us. John is not suggesting sinless perfection, but rather mature love marked by confidence in the face of judgment. Confidence is a sign that love is mature. as He is, so are we. Jesus was God’s Son in whom He was well pleased on earth. We also are God’s children (3:11) and the objects of His gracious goodness. If Jesus called God Father, so may we, since we are accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). In v. 18, the same truth is stated negatively. The love that builds confidence also banishes fears. We love God and reverence Him, but we do not love God and come to Him in love and at the same time hide from Him in terror (Rom. 8:14152 Tim. 1:7). Fear involves torment or punishment, a reality the sons of God will never experience, because they are forgiven.

DAY 6: What are the 5 reasons that John gives us for why believers love?

In stark contrast to the self-centered and destructive philosophies and practices of the false teachers, John unfolds the powerful reasons why Christians practice love. In 1 John 4:7–21, the apostle includes 5 such reasons:

1. Christians habitually practice love because God, who indwells them, is the essence of love. The Gnostics believed that God was immaterial spirit and light, but never defined the source of love as coming from His inmost being. As God is Spirit (John 4:24), light (1:5), and a consuming fire (Heb. 12:9), so He is love (4:7, 8). Love is inherent in all He is and does. Even His judgment and wrath are perfectly harmonized with His love.

2. Christians habitually practice love because they desire to imitate the supreme example of God’s sacrificial love in sending His Son for us (4:9).

3. Christians habitually practice love because love is the heart of Christian witness (4:12). Nobody can see God loving since He is invisible. Jesus no longer is in the world to manifest the love of God. The only demonstration of God’s love in this age is the church. That testimony is critical (John 13:352 Cor. 5:18–20).

4. Christians habitually practice love because love is the Christian’s assurance (4:13–16; 3:21). Love banishes self-condemnation. When a Christian recognizes in his life the manifestation of love in actions, it results in confidence about his relationship with God.

5. Christians habitually practice love because love is the Christian’s confidence in judgment (4:17–20; 3:16–23). Confidence is a sign that love is mature. This is not to suggest sinless perfection in a Christian’s life, but rather a habitual practice of love marked by confidence in the face of judgment. Christians love, not in order to escape judgment, but because they have escaped judgment.

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Christ Remained God

“Although He existed in the form of God, [Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Christ emptied Himself without ever surrendering His deity.

Note the contrast in Philippians 2 between verses 6 and 7: Christ didn’t think equality something to be grasped but instead emptied Himself. Paul used the contrasting connective “but” to show that being equal with God didn’t lead Christ to fill Himself up but instead to empty Himself.

The Greek verb translated “emptied” (kenoo) is where we get the theological term kenosis—the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying as part of His incarnation. The verb expresses Christ’s self-renunciation, His refusal to cling to His advantages and privileges as God.

What did Christ empty Himself of? Certainly not His deity. He coexists with the Father and the Spirit. For Him to become less than God would mean the Trinity would cease to exist. Christ could be not become less than who He truly is.

Professor Paul Enns, in his Moody Handbook of Theology, explains the emptying of Christ this way: “The emptying was not a subtraction but an addition. The four following phrases (Phil. 2:7-8) explain the emptying: ‘(a) taking the form of a bond-servant, and (b) being made in the likeness of men. And (c) being found in appearance as a man, (d) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.’ The ‘emptying’ of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations. His deity was never surrendered.” Christ didn’t exchange deity for humanity; He retained His divine nature.

In his hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley correctly presented the truths of Christ’s deity when he wrote:

Veiled in flesh the God-head see;
Hail th’ incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

May those words be the song of your heart as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for emptying Himself for your sake.

For Further Study

  • Read 2 Corinthians 8:9. Why did Christ become “poor”?
  • Look at Romans 8:3. Why did God send “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”?


God's Final 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).

Jesus not only brought but in fact was God’s full and final revelation.

A Samaritan woman declared, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us" (John 4:25). The expectation of that day, even among the Samaritans, was that Messiah would unfold the full and final revelation of God. The Holy Spirit, through the writer of Hebrews, affirms that to be true: "God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2).

The Old Testament had given divine revelation in bits and pieces. Every piece was true, yet incomplete. But When Jesus came, the whole picture became clear, and though rejected by His own people, He was, in fact, the fulfillment of the messianic hope they had cherished for so many centuries.

The Old Testament age of promise ended when Jesus arrived. He is God's final word: "As many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us" (2 Cor. 1:20).

God fully expressed Himself in His Son. That's why John said, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:1418). Paul added that in Christ "all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9).

The practical implications of that truth are staggering. Since Christ is the fullness of divine revelation, you need nothing more. In Him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10), and have been granted everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). His Word is sufficient, needing no additions or amendments.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to teach you how to rely more fully on your resources in Christ.

For Further Study

Read John 1:1-18 as a reminder of the fullness of God's revelation in His Son.


Measuring Progress: Revealing and Concealing

“‘For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him’” (Matthew 13:12).

Just prior to this statement, Jesus told the disciples the twofold reason for His using parables: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted” (Matt. 13:11). To believers, parables reveal kingdom truth; to unbelievers, they conceal it.

Those to whom God has sovereignly given eternal life through Christ are the true citizens of His kingdom. Of such persons Jesus says, “to him more shall be given.” Believers receive additional light of truth as they grow in obedience and maturity in the Lord. As believers remain faithful, God reveals more and more light until they “have an abundance.”

In contrast, false citizens of the kingdom, because of their unbelief, have whatever amount of divine truth that is nearby concealed from them. Thousands heard Jesus’ teachings (including the parables) and saw His miracles, but most did not recognize Him as Messiah or receive Him as Lord and Savior. Because such unbelievers refuse God’s light as it shines on them, He conceals it from them and they drift further into spiritual darkness.

All people are either progressing or regressing spiritually—there is no such thing as remaining static. The longer that believers serve Christ, the more He reveals His truth and power to them. And the longer unbelievers reject what little knowledge they may have of the gospel, the less of God’s truth they will understand. It’s vitally important to be on the right side of the revealing/concealing equation.

Ask Yourself

When have you experienced the exponential blessing of seeing your small amount of knowledge and insight transformed into increasing quantities? What does this tell you about the value of even small strides in study and learning?


Reading for Today:


Hosea 1:2 children of harlotry. This points to the future unfaithfulness of their mother. The children were possibly not fathered by Hosea. That Hosea’s marriage to Gomer was to depict God’s marriage to Israel is clearly set forth and becomes the key to the theme of the book.

Hosea 2:19, 20 I will betroth you. Repeated 3 times, the term emphasizes the intensity of God’s restoring love for the nation. In that day, Israel will no longer be thought of as a prostitute. Israel brings nothing to the marriage; God makes all the promises and provides all the dowry. These verses are recited by every orthodox Jew as he places the phylacteries on his hand and forehead (Deut. 11:18). The regeneration/ conversion of the nation is much like that of an individual (2 Cor. 5:16–19).

1 John 3:3 purifies himself, just as He is pure. This is the key verse to 2:28–3:3. Living in the reality of Christ’s return makes a difference in a Christian’s behavior. Since Christians someday will be like Him, a desire should grow within the Christian to become like Him now. That was Paul’s passion, expressed in Philippians 3:12–14. That calls for a purifying of sin, in which we play a part (2 Cor. 7:11 Tim.5:221 Pet. 1:22).

1 John 3:16 By this we know love. With this phrase, John introduces the standard of love that is reflected in genuine Christianity. It becomes the measuring stick for every expression of love (see v. 18). John presents this characteristic of Satan’s children in terms of their lack of love. Satan’s children are marked by indifference toward others’ needs. He laid down His life for us. This expression is unique to John (John 10:1115171813:373815:13) and speaks of divesting oneself of something. Christian love is self-sacrificing and giving. Christ’s giving up His life for believers epitomized the true nature of Christian love (John 15:1213Phil. 2:5–81 Pet. 2:19–23). we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. God calls Christians to that same standard of love for one another as He had for us.

DAY 5: What 4 reasons does John give for why believers cannot habitually practice sin (1 John 3:4–10)?

This passage begins with the phrase “Whoever commits sin” (v. 4). “Commits” translates a Greek verb that conveys the idea of habitual practice. Although genuine Christians have a sin nature (1:8) and do behave sinfully, their confession of sin (1:9; 2:1) and acceptance of forgiveness prevent sin from becoming the unbroken pattern of their lives (John 8:3134–36Rom. 6:112 John 9). God builds a certain growing awareness about sin that provides 4 effective reasons why true Christians cannot habitually practice sin:

1. Genuine Christians cannot practice sin because sin is incompatible with the law of God, which they love (3:4; Ps. 119:347797Rom.7:1222); whereas habitual sin betrays the ultimate sense of rebellion—living as if there were no law or ignoring what laws exist (James 4:17)—in short, lawlessness.

2. Genuine Christians cannot practice sin because sin is incompatible with the work of Christ (3:5). Christ died to sanctify (make holy) the believer (2 Cor. 5:21Eph. 5:25–27). Habitual sin contradicts Christ’s work of breaking the dominion of sin in the believer’s life (Rom. 6:1–15).

3. Genuine Christians cannot practice sin because Christ came to destroy the works of the arch-sinner, Satan (3:8). The devil is still operating, but he has been defeated, and in Christ we escape his tyranny. The day will come when all of Satan’s activity will cease in the universe, and he will be sent to hell forever (Rev. 20:10).

4. Genuine Christians cannot practice sin because sin is incompatible with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who has imparted a new nature to the believer (3:9; John 3:5–8).This new nature shuns sin and exhibits the habitual character of righteousness produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–24).

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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 10:3814:9.

  • 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 15:26). 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:


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. 7:15–258:2–8Gal. 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. 7:20212 Sam. 11:2Matt. 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. 11:192 Tim. 2:12). The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance (Mark 13:13Heb. 3:14). The departure of people from the truth and the church is their unmasking.

DAY 4: 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 1:1–44:2,3). 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.

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Christ's Deity Defended

“[Christ] existed in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6).

Scripture makes clear that Christ is God.

The deity of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Inevitably when people attack the Christian faith, they attack the deity of Christ. Scripture makes clear, however, that such attacks are unfounded. The apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he began his Gospel by affirming the deity of Christ. John further declared Christ’s deity when he wrote, “All things came into being through [Christ], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (vv. 3-4). In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” Jesus appropriated to Himself the name of God, who said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

In Colossians 1:15-17 the apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s deity: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him 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. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Christ is God, the Creator. The writer of Hebrews says, “[Christ] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (1:3). Christianity begins with the recognition that Jesus Christ is in essence the eternal God.

Whenever someone confronts you by attacking the deity of Christ, be sure to defend the faith, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching” (Titus 1:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

At the core of defending God’s Word is an accurate interpretation of Scripture. Ask Him to help you interpret His Word accurately (see 2 Tim. 2:15).

For Further Study

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word,” which undoubtedly reminded John’s readers of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What do the following verses demonstrate about Christ: 1 Corinthians 8:6Ephesians 3:19Hebrews 1:1-2?


Penetrating the Box

"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).

Man can’t discover God on his own; God must reveal Himself to man.

Since the beginning of time, man has deceived himself by thinking he can discover God through various religions. But in reality, man lives in a box enclosed within the walls of time and space. God is outside the box, and man senses He's there but can't get to Him. Each new religion is but another futile attempt to penetrate the walls of the box and catch a glimpse of God.

Man's only hope is for God to enter the box, which Hebrews 1:1-2 declares He did: first by letter (the Old Testament), then in person (in Jesus Christ). Regarding God's Word David said, "The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah added, "The Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, 'Behold, I have put My words in your mouth'" (Jer. 1:9). Of Christ, the apostle John said, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:1418).

The irony of people thinking they can discover God on their own is that apart from the Holy Spirit's leading, no one really wants to find Him. They merely want to add a cosmic good luck charm to their lives or satiate their guilty consciences. Paul said, "There is nonerighteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God" (Rom. 3:10-11, emphasis added).

God could have left us in our sin and ignorance, but He penetrated the box and revealed everything we need to know for redemption and fellowship with Him. What a privilege we have to study His Word and live by its principles! Be diligent to do so each day.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for granting you the ability to appreciate His Word.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, noting how natural (unregenerate) people respond to divine revelation.



“He spoke many things to them in parables” (Matthew 13:3).

The parable was one of the staple teaching tools the Lord Jesus used to convey spiritual truth in an understandable way. The word parable contains the idea of placing something alongside something else to make a comparison. In this way, Jesus would place a moral truth alongside a physical example that people could more easily grasp. By this common form of Jewish teaching, He used a common object or practice to elucidate an intangible truth or principle.

From His earliest teaching sessions, Christ used graphic analogies to instruct on divine truth. He likened believers to salt and light in this world (Matt. 5:13–16), pointed to the example of the birds and flowers concerning life’s essentials (6:26–30), and said Christians must build on the rock-solid foundation of Scripture rather than the loose sand of human philosophy (7:24–27). These and other illustrations contain clear meanings. They resonate with listeners. And they served the purpose of setting the stage for Jesus’ use of full-fledged parables.

Parables and other symbolic and figurative communication methods, when correctly understood, are genuine friends of the student of God’s Word. They make abstract truths more concrete, interesting, easier to remember, and easier to apply to life. Those were always the goals our Lord envisioned as He related any parables, such as the series of kingdom parables.

Ask Yourself

What can we learn from Jesus’ teaching style to help us improve our own spiritual communication, whether in formal lessons and sermons or simply in the ordinary vehicles of conversation?


Reading for Today:


Daniel 9:24–26 Seventy weeks…until. These are weeks of years, whereas weeks of days are described in a different way (10:2, 3). The time spans from the Persian Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem, ca. 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:1–8), to the Messiah’s kingdom. This panorama includes: 1) 7 weeks or 49 years, possibly closing Nehemiah’s career in the rebuilding of the “street and wall,” as well as the end of the ministry of Malachi and the close of the Old Testament; 2) 62 weeks or 434 more years for a total of 483 years to the First Advent of Messiah. This was fulfilled at the Triumphal Entry on 9 Nisan, A.D. 30 (Matt. 21:1–11). The Messiah will be “cut off”(a common reference to death); and 3) the final 7 years or 70th week of the time of Antichrist (v. 27). Roman people, from whom the Antichrist will come, will “destroy the city” of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70.

Daniel 10:13 prince of…Persia. The 3-week delay was due to an evil angel opposing Gabriel in heavenly warfare (Rev. 16:12–14). This angel was specially anointed with Persian power in an effort to thwart the work of God. This tells us that Satan engages in heavenly warfare to influence generations and nations against God and His people (Eph. 6:10ff.). Michael. This is the chief angel of heaven (10:21; 12:1; Jude 9Rev. 12:7). Michael remained to assure that the Jews would be free to return to their land.

Daniel 10:21 Scripture of Truth. God’s plan of certain and true designs for men and nations, which He can reveal according to His discretion (11:2; Is. 46:9–11). except Michael. The angel with Michael intended to handle the demons of Persia and Greece. This actually forms the heavenly basis for the earthly unfolding of history in 11:2–35.

1 John 1:23 manifested,…seen,…bear witness,…declare. John dramatically reemphasizes through repetition of these terms in vv. 2, 3 (v.1) the authority of his own personal experience as an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. Such repetition pointedly reminds his readers that John’s personal testimony refutes the false teachers who boasted arrogantly and wrongly about the Christ they had never seen or known.

DAY 3: Contrast how the lives of true believers and false teachers differ.

In 1 John 1:7, a genuine Christian walks habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). Their walk also results in cleansing from sin as the Lord continually forgives His own. Since those walking in the light share in the character of God, they will be habitually characterized by His holiness (3 John 11), indicating their true fellowship with Him (James 1:27). A genuine Christian does not walk in darkness but only in the light (2 Cor. 6:14Eph. 5:8Col. 1:1213).

Not only did the false teachers walk in darkness (v. 8), but they went so far as to deny totally the existence of a sin nature in their lives. If someone never admits to being a sinner, salvation cannot result. Not only did the false teachers make false claims to fellowship and disregard sin (v. 6), they are also characterized by deceit regarding sinlessness (Eccl. 7:20Rom. 3:23).

In the lives of genuine believers, a continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation (v. 9). While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admitted and forsook it (Ps. 32:3–5Prov. 28:13). The term “confess” means to say the same thing about sin as God does—to acknowledge His perspective about sin. While v. 7 is from God’s perspective, v. 9 is from the Christian’s perspective. Confession of sin characterizes genuine Christians, and God continually cleanses those who are confessing (v. 7). Rather than focusing on confession for every single sin as necessary, John has especially in mind here a settled recognition and acknowledgment that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32Col. 2:13).

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The Deity of Christ

“[Christ] existed in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6).

Christ possesses the very nature of God.

In the second part of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana and her children travel toward the Celestial Country. During their pilgrimage, Interpreter introduces them to one of his male servants, whose name is Great-heart. When Christiana asks Great-heart to explain the nature of Christ’s forgiveness, part of his answer is: “He [Christ] has two natures in one Person, easy to distinguish but impossible to divide. There is a righteousness that belongs to both of these natures, and each righteousness is essential to that nature, so that one might as easily kill that nature as to separate its righteousness from it.” Bunyan was affirming through his character Great-heart what Scripture says of Christ: He is God.

The apostle Paul stated the same truth, saying that Christ “existed in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6). The Greek word translated “existed” (huparcho) is not the common verb for “being” (eimi). Huparcho stresses the essence of a person’s nature—his continuous state or condition. It expresses what one is, unalterably and inalienably, by nature. Paul’s point was that Jesus Christ is unalterably and continuously existing in the form of God.

Clarifying the meaning of the Greek word translated “form” (morphe) is crucial to a proper understanding of this verse. According to respected Greek scholars Moulton and Milligan, morphe “always signifies a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it.” The word describes essential being or nature—in this case the essential being of God.

In using the word morphe in Philippians 2, Paul was saying Jesus possessed the unchangeable, essential nature of God. That interpretation of the first phrase of verse 6 is strengthened by the second phrase, which says Jesus was equal with God. Being in the form of God speaks of Christ’s equality with God.

Perhaps, like Great-heart, you know someone who needs to be grounded in the fundamental doctrines of God’s Word. Just as Great-heart helped Christiana, so also you can help someone learn about the deity of Christ and other great truths of God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for an opportunity to teach someone the basic doctrine of Christ’s nature.

For Further Study

Memorize Colossians 2:9, a verse that proves the deity of Christ.


Jesus: Our Great High Priest

"The point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Heb. 8:1).

Since Jesus serves as our High Priest, we have access to God.

Access to God was always a problem for the Jewish people. Exodus 33:20 declares that no man can see God and live. Once each year, on the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Jewish high priest entered into the Holy of Holies, where God's presence dwelt in a unique sense, to approach God on behalf of the people.

God's covenant with Israel was the basis for their communion with Him. And the sacrificial system that accompanied the Old Covenant gave the people an outward act to represent their inner repentance. But their sacrifices were incessant because their sin was incessant. They needed a perfect priest and sacrifice to provide access to God permanently. That's exactly what Jesus was and did.

Hebrews 10 says that Jesus offered His body as a sacrifice for mankind's sins once for all, then sat down at the right hand of the Father (vv. 10, 12). That was a revolutionary concept to Jewish thinking. A priest on duty could never sit down because his work was never done. But Jesus introduced a new and wonderful element into the sacrificial system: one sacrifice, offered once, sufficient for all time. That was the basis of the New Covenant.

Our Lord's priesthood is permanent and perpetual: "Because He abides forever, [He] holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:24-25). That's the central message of the book of Hebrews.

It wasn't easy for the Jewish people to accept the need for a new covenant. Most rejected Christ outright. Similarly, many people today reject His priesthood, supposing they can gain access to God on their own terms. But they're tragically mistaken. Jesus Himself said, "No one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6).

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for receiving you into His presence through His Son, Jesus Christ.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 10:19-25, noting how God wants you to respond to Christ's priesthood.


Meekness from Jesus, Comfort for the Weak

“‘He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out’” (Matthew 12:19–20).

The Lord Jesus did not cajole or browbeat people with the gospel like some inflammatory demagogue who stirs up his listeners by pandering to their emotions and prejudices. Christ always spoke plainly, with dignity and control—His only persuasive technique was the truth. He never resorted to the lies and scheming of His enemies. As the Son of God and Messiah, He never attempted to gain a hearing or a following by appealing to political power or using physical force.

Christ’s approach was the way of meekness, gentleness, and lowliness, because many of His hearers were like the battered reed or smoldering wick. They were people whose lives were broken or worn out, and the world wanted to discard them. An unbelieving society nearly always wants to cast off such people as useless or worthless.

The nature of sinful humanity is to destroy—people commit murder, arson, vandalism, and viciously slander one another in business, politics, the family—but God’s nature is to restore. Jesus will not “break off” or “put out” the least of those who sincerely come to Him. He also issues a strong warning to any who would cause vulnerable people to fall: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

Our Lord will always restore the battered reed and rekindle the smoldering wick.

Ask Yourself

Is gentleness a trait that comes hard for you? In what way have you been aware of a hardness or coldness in your approach to other people—an insensitivity that dearly needs the restorative touch of Christ’s nature in your heart and mind?


Reading for Today:


Daniel 8:3–9 This imagery unfolded historically. The ram pictures the Medo-Persian Empire as a whole, its two horns standing for the two entities (the Medes and the Persians) that merged into one. The history of this empire is briefly noted in v. 4, as it is seen conquering from the east to the west, south and north, under Cyrus, as predicted also by Isaiah 150 years earlier (Is. 45:1–7).The higher horn, which appeared last, represents Persia. The goat (v. 5) represents Greece with its great horn Alexander, who with his army of 35,000 moved with such speed that he is pictured as not even touching the ground. The broken horn is Alexander in his death; the 4 horns are generals who became kings over 4 sectors of the Grecian Empire after Alexander (7:6). The small horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, who rose from the third empire to rule the Syrian division in 175–164 B.C. and is the same king dominant in 11:21–35. In 7:8, 24–26, a similar “little horn” clearly represents the final Antichrist. The reason both are described as “little horns” is because one prefigures the other.

Psalm 137:1 the rivers of Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. we wept. They even wept when the exile was over and the second temple was being built (Ezra 3:12), so deep was their sorrow. ZionThe dwelling place of God on earth (Pss. 9:1176:2) which was destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Chr. 36:19Pss. 74:6–879:1Is. 64:1011Jer. 52:12–16Lam. 2:4).

2 Peter 3:3 knowing this first. “First” here means the preeminent matter, not the first in a list. Peter’s priority in this section of his letter is to warn Christians about how the false teachers would try to deny this judgment and steal the hope of believers. scoffers will come. False teachers argue against the Second Coming of Christ or any teaching of Scripture through ridicule (Is. 5:19Jude 18). in the last days. This phrase refers to that entire period of time from the arrival of the Messiah to His return (Acts 2:17Gal. 4:42 Tim. 3:1Heb. 1:21 Pet. 1:201 John 2:1819James 5:3Jude 18).The entire age will be marked by saboteurs of the Christian truth and especially the hope of Christ’s return.

2 Peter 3:16 hard to understand. Since Paul had (by the time Peter wrote) written all his letters and died, the readers of 2 Peter would have already received letters about future events from Paul. Some of Paul’s explanations were difficult (not impossible) to interpret. Nevertheless, Peter uses Paul as a support for his teaching.

DAY 2: How can we answer those who doubt Daniel’s authorship because his prophecies are so astonishingly accurate?

Confidence in the divine origin of Scripture does not rely on blind faith. There are reasonable explanations and acceptable corroborating evidence that point to the trustworthiness of the Bible. Daniel’s use of what is now called Imperial Aramaic in writing the book points to an early date. The Dead Sea Scrolls offer evidence that also pushes back the date for Daniel.

When accurate prophecy and possible miracles are discounted by definition as unacceptable, proving Daniel’s value becomes challenging. But the problem has little to do with lack of evidence and much to do with willful unbelief. Skeptical interpreters, unwilling to acknowledge supernatural prophecies in Daniel that came to pass (over 100 in chapter 11 alone that were fulfilled), attempt to replace miraculous foresight with simple observation. They assume that the writer of Daniel was actually living in the time of Antiochus and reported current events in prophetic form. That is, the writer wrote as though he was predicting certain events, when, in reality, he was writing after the events had occurred. For scholars like these, no amount of fulfilled prophecy will be enough to convince them. They actually become a reminder to believers that people are not argued into the kingdom of God. The most compelling evidence as well as the most resistant people both need the assistance of God’s Spirit in arriving at genuine faith.

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The Incarnation of Christ

“Although [Christ] existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Christ is the perfect example of humility.

In his book Miracles, English scholar C.S. Lewis used this analogy to describe the incarnation of Christ:

One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.

That was how Lewis illustrated the Incarnation, the central miracle of Christianity, which is also addressed in Philippians 2:5-8. In those verses Jesus is shown to be the perfect model of humility—the perfect illustration of Paul’s instructions in verses 3-4. He did nothing out of selfishness or conceit but regarded others as more important than Himself.

We are to imitate Christ’s perfect example of humility. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” What about your life? Does it demonstrate a Christlike humility that God will delight to honor by exaltation?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for Christ, whose life exemplifies the perfect pattern of humility for you to follow.
  • Think of areas in your life where you are especially prone to exalt yourself at the expense of others.
  • Acknowledge your sin to God and ask Him to help you be humble in those areas.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28:12-19, which tell of Lucifer’s fall from his exalted position in the presence of God. Write down ways his attitude is opposite Christ’s in Philippians 2:5-8.


The Preeminence of Christ

"God . . . has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:1-3).

Christ is superior to everyone and everything.

The book of Hebrews was addressed to an audience composed of Jewish Christians, Jewish non-Christians who were intellectually convinced about Jesus but hadn't yet committed themselves to Him, and Jewish non-Christians who didn't believe the gospel at all.

The author's goal was to demonstrate Christ's superiority over everyone and everything that had preceded Him, whether Old Testament persons, institutions, rituals, or sacrifices. He specifically contrasted Christ with angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and his priesthood, the Old Covenant, and the sacrificial system.

The Jewish believers needed this focus on Christ's superiority because most of them were suffering some form of persecution because of their Christian testimony. Some were in danger of confusing the gospel with Jewish ceremonies and legalism, and drifting back into their former practices.

Those who were intellectually convinced but spiritually uncommitted needed to be warned not to stop at that point, but to go all the way to saving faith. They were in danger of committing the greatest sin any person can commit: rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Those who didn't believe in Christ at all needed to see that Jesus was in fact who He claimed to be. To such people the author explains the unique priesthood of Christ, and the urgency of turning to Him in faith.

Within your circle of friends and associates, you probably have Christians who are weak of faith and need your encouragement and instruction. Be available to minister to them whenever possible.

Undoubtedly you also know people who are intellectually convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be, but aren't willing to embrace Him as their Lord. Don't be shy about urging them to move on to salvation.

To those who reject Christ outright, boldly proclaim the gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise Christ for His preeminence and surpassing grace.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 1-2. To whom does the writer compare Christ? Be specific.


Jesus’ Message Is for Everyone

“‘And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles’” (Matthew 12:18).

Contrary to Jewish thinking and expectations, the Messiah would be the Redeemer for all nationalities, not just the Jews. In fact, the Jews were to be the ones to proclaim God’s grace to the rest of the world. God told Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). It is therefore rather ironic that the Jews would resist the concept that God’s good news was for all peoples.

The reality that Jesus’ message would be for all mankind was readily apparent early in His ministry. The first woman He reached was a Samaritan (John 4:26). Concerning the Roman centurion whose servant He healed, the Lord said, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel” (Matt. 8:10).

But the idea of Messiah coming to preach to and redeem some Gentiles was still anathema to the Jews. When Paul addressed a large number of Jews in Jerusalem and told them God had commanded him, “Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles,” that sparked an intense reaction from them: “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” (Acts 22:2122).
A real gospel stumbling block for the Jews was the truth that redemption and fellowship with God were for Gentiles as well as for them. But the saving message Jesus proclaimed has always been for people from every part of the world, without distinction—a fact over which we can all rejoice.

Ask Yourself

Increasingly each day, the makeup of America’s population reflects the faces of numerous nationalities and people groups. How open is your heart to their need for Christ’s salvation?


Reading for Today:


Daniel 5:25–29 MENE, MENE. This means “counted” or “appointed” and is doubled for stronger emphasis. Tekel means “weighed” or “assessed” by the God who weighs actions (1 Sam. 2:3Ps. 62:9). Peres denotes “divided,” i.e., to the Medes and Persians. Pharsin in v. 25 is the plural of peres, possibly emphasizing the parts in the division. The “U” prefix on pharsin has the idea of the English “and.”

Daniel 6:3 an excellent spirit. Daniel, over 80, had enjoyed God’s blessing throughout his life (1:20, 21; 2:49; 4:8; 5:12). over the whole realm. Daniel was the favorite of the king. He had experience, wisdom, a sense of history, leadership, a good reputation, ability, attitude, and revelation from the God of heaven. Apparently, God wanted him in the place of influence to encourage and assist in the Jews’ return to Judah, since the return was made in Cyrus’s first year (539–537 B.C.), right before the lions’ den incident. From the record of Ezra 1 and 6, all the basic elements of the return appear: 1) the temple was to be rebuilt with the cost paid from Cyrus’s treasury; 2) all Jews who visited could return, and those who stayed were urged to assist financially; and 3) the gold and silver vessels stolen from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar were to be taken back. To account for such favor toward the Jews, it is easy to think of Daniel not only influencing Cyrus to write such a decree, but even formulating it for him.

2 Peter 2:11 angels, who are greater in power. A reference to the holy angels, who are greater in power than human beings. do not bring a reviling accusation. Unlike false teachers who are defiant toward higher powers, the holy angels so revere their Lord that they will not speak insults against any authority. Even the archangel Michael, recognizing the great presence and power of Satan, refused to speak evil of him (Jude 89), but called on the Lord to do so. No believer should be so boldly foolish as to mock or command the power of supernatural demons, especially Satan.

2 Peter 2:19 promise them liberty. False teachers promise those “trying to escape” the struggles of life the very freedom they seek. slaves of corruption. The false teachers can’t deliver the freedom they promise, because they themselves are enslaved to the very corruption which people are trying to escape.overcome,…bondage. Whoever puts himself, in the name of freedom, into the hands of a false teacher, who is a prisoner himself, also becomes a prisoner. Bondage to corruption awaits all followers of false teachers.

DAY 1: Who were the false teachers that Peter describes in 2 Peter 2:1?

Peter described false teachers in detail in this chapter so that Christians would always recognize their characteristics and methods. The greatest sin of Christ-rejecters and the most damning work of Satan is misrepresentation of the truth and its consequent deception. Nothing is more wicked than for someone to claim to speak for God to the salvation of souls when in reality he speaks for Satan to the damnation of souls.

Peter says they will be from “among the people.” “The people” is used in the New Testament of Israel (Acts 26:1723). Peter’s point, though, is that Satan has always endeavored to infiltrate groups of believers with the deceptions of false teachers (John 8:44). Since Eve, he has been in the deceit business (2 Cor. 11:34). The false teachers parade themselves as Christian pastors, teachers, and evangelists and “secretly bring in destructive heresies.” “Heresies” means self-designed religious lies which lead to division and faction (1 Cor. 11:19Gal. 5:20).The Greek word for “destructive” basically means damnation. This word is used 6 times in this letter and always speaks of final damnation (vv. 1–3; 3:7, 16).This is why it is so tragic when a church makes a virtue out of the toleration of unscriptural teachings and ideas in the name of love and unity (2 Thess. 3:141 Tim. 4:1–5Titus 3:9–11).

“Denying the Lord.” This phrase exposes the depth of the crime and guilt of the false teachers. This unusual Greek word for “Lord” appears 10 times in the New Testament and means one who has supreme authority, whether human authority or divine authority. Peter here warns that false prophets deny the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. Though their heresies may include the denial of the virgin birth, deity, bodily resurrection, and Second Coming of Christ, the false teachers’ basic error is that they will not submit their lives to the rule of Christ. All false religions have an erroneous Christology.

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Knowing God's Will

“Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

God’s will is revealed in His Word.

How can a Christian walk wisely and know the will of God for his life? The will of God is explicitly revealed to us in the pages of Scripture. God’s will is that we be:

Saved—“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4; compare 2 Peter 3:9).

Spirit-filled—“Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:17-18).

Sanctified—“This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). Submissive—“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:13-15).

Suffering for His sake—“It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (1 Peter 3:17).

Saying thanks—“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).

You may say, “Those are good principles, but they don’t tell me where I ought to go to school or whom I should marry.” But if you’re saved, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and saying thanks, you can do whatever you want! That’s what the psalmist meant when he said, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). Does that mean He fulfills the desire? Yes, but before He fulfills it, He puts it in your heart. If you are living a godly life, He will give you the right desires and then fulfill them.

Suggestions for Prayer

Give thanks to God for revealing His will in His Word so that you can live wisely, not foolishly.

For Further Study

Christ acted only in accordance with His Father’s will. Read the following verses, and note how that was so: Matthew 26:42John 4:345:306:38.


An Unlikely Heroine

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace" (Heb. 11:31).

Rahab illustrates the depth and breadth of God’s amazing grace.

Our final Old Testament hero of faith is an unlikely addition to the list. Not only was she a prostitute, she also was a Gentile—and a Canaanite at that.

The Canaanites were an idolatrous, barbaric, debauched people, infamous even among pagans for their immorality and cruelty. Yet in the midst of that exceedingly wicked society, Rahab came to faith in the God of Israel.

Joshua 2:9-11 records her confession of faith to the two men Joshua had sent into Jericho as spies: "I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (emphasis added).

Rahab demonstrated the genuineness of that profession by risking her life to hide the spies from the king of Jericho, who sought to capture them.

Because Rahab lied to protect the spies (vv. 4-5), some people question the validity of her faith. Surely genuine believers wouldn't lie like that—or would they? Abraham did. Sarah did. Isaac did. Jacob did. But the important thing to understand is that God honored their faith, not their deception.

As with all the heroes of faith before her, Rahab's faith wasn't perfect, nor was her knowledge of God's moral law. But because she trusted God, she was spared during Jericho's conquest, then given an even greater honor. She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of David, thereby becoming an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for receiving even the vilest sinner who turns to Him in faith.

For Further Study

Read all about Rahab in Joshua 2:1-246:22-25, and James 2:25.


Jesus Commissioned by the Holy Spirit

“‘I will put My Spirit upon Him’” (Matthew 12:18).

The prophet promised that God would put His Holy Spirit upon Messiah in a special way, and the Spirit did descend on Jesus at His baptism (Matt. 3:16). But that was not when the Spirit first indwelt Him, because the Holy Spirit conceived Him (Matt. 1:20).

Yet, if Jesus was the preexistent Son, eternally a member of the Godhead, why would the Spirit need to come upon Him during His incarnation? First, the Spirit needed to empower Jesus’ human nature. Our Lord was fully human, even to the extent of being tempted, yet He did not sin (Heb. 4:15). When He was a child, He grew and matured in favor with God and humanity (Luke 2:52). As an adult, He experienced the full range of human feelings and emotions. Therefore as a human being He needed the indwelling power of the Spirit (Acts 10:38) so He could function in concert with His deity.

Second, the Spirit commissioned Jesus in order to attest to His messianic service. Early in His ministry, Jesus applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18–19). This passage was not only fulfilled for Jesus’ audience but for us as well—we can know He ministered fully empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Ask Yourself

When was the last time you saw love or wisdom or some other valuable trait come forth from your life, and you knew it had to be the Spirit of Christ at work in you? Respond to such instances with true praise, and with a desire for more and more of His nature to be implanted in you.


Reading for Today:


Daniel 3:1 image of gold. The statue, which the king arrogantly made, represented himself as an expression of his greatness and glory and reflected the dream where he was the head of gold (2:38). It was not necessarily made of solid gold, but more likely would have been overlaid with gold, like many objects found in the ruins of Babylon. The word for “image” usually means a human form. The height of the figure was about 90 feet and the width 9 feet; it would have been comparable in height to date palms found in that area. The self-deifying statue of the king need not have been grotesquely thin in proportion to the height since a massive base could have contributed to the height. This established the worship of Nebuchadnezzar and the nation under his power, in addition to the other gods.

Daniel 3:15 who is the god…? The king’s challenge would return to embarrass him. The true God was able to deliver, just as He was able to reveal a dream and its meaning. Nebuchadnezzar had earlier called him “the God of gods” (2:47); but having let that fade from his attention, he soon would be shocked and humiliated when God took up his challenge (3:28, 29).

2 Peter 1:4 partakers of the divine nature. This expression is not different from the concepts of being born again, born from above (John 3:3James 1:181 Pet. 1:23), being in Christ (Rom. 8:1), or being the home of the Trinity (John 14:17–23).The precious promises of salvation result in becoming God’s children in the present age (John 1:12Rom. 8:9Gal. 2:20Col. 1:27), and thereby sharing in God’s nature by the possession of His eternal life.

2 Peter 1:21 by the will of man. As Scripture is not of human origin, neither is it the result of human will. The emphasis in the phrase is that no part of Scripture was ever at any time produced because men wanted it so. The Bible is not the product of human effort. The prophets, in fact, sometimes wrote what they could not fully understand (1 Pet. 1:1011), but were nonetheless faithful to write what God revealed to them. moved by the Holy Spirit. Grammatically, this means that they were continually carried or borne along by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit thus is the divine author and originator, the producer of the Scriptures. In the Old Testament alone, the human writers refer to their writings as the words of God over 3,800 times (e.g., Jer. 1:43:2Rom. 3:21 Cor. 2:10). Though the human writers of Scripture were active rather than passive in the process of writing Scripture, God the Holy Spirit superintended them so that, using their own individual personalities, thought processes, and vocabulary, they composed and recorded without error the exact words God wanted written. The original copies of Scripture are therefore inspired, i.e., God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and inerrant, i.e., without error (John 10:343517:17Titus 1:2). Peter defined the process of inspiration which created an inerrant original text (Prov. 30:51 Cor. 14:361 Thess. 2:13).

DAY 30: Who was the fourth person in the fiery furnace of Daniel 3:19–25?

The delivery of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego from the flames was an astonishing, miraculous event. The furnace was real, and the flames were hot. The guards who carried the young men close enough to cast them in the furnace were killed. Why complicate this miracle with a fourth person in the furnace? Because the king himself noticed the discrepancy between the number he had thrown into the flames and the number he saw strolling about. The truth usually includes unexpected complications.

The king concluded the fourth person was a heavenly being. He identified the visitor in two different ways: 1) “like the Son of God” (3:25); 2) “Angel” (3:28). When he commanded the three friends to exit the furnace, the king did not extend an invitation to God’s special servant.

Viewed from the context of all of Scripture, the fourth person could possibly have been the Second Person of the Godhead (Jesus Christ) in a preincarnate appearance. For other similar Old Testament instances, see Exodus 3:2Joshua 5:13–15, and Judges 6:11ff. While the term “Angel” is used in these reports, the person had a special connection with the Lord. He wasn’t an angel, but the Angel of the Lord. His presence may be startling but He does not have the stunning and awe-inspiring appearance of an angel. The king saw four men in the furnace. The one who appeared miraculously he identified as the Son of God. It may well have been an inspired exclamation.

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Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. - Hebrews 7:25

Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


Living Unselfishly

“Making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

Time will tell whether you’re unselfish or selfish.

In 1842 Robert Murray M’Cheyne, pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Dundee, Scotland, wrote a pastoral letter to an individual who was an unbeliever. The following is an excerpt from his letter:

I was reading this morning (Luke ii. 29), what old Simeon said when he got the child Jesus into his arms: “Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” If you get a firm hold of the Lord Jesus, you will be able to say the same. . . . God is leading you to the very spot where the Redeemer is,—a lowly, despised, spit-upon, crucified Saviour. Can this be the Saviour of the world? Yes, dear soul; kneel down and call Him your Redeemer. He died for such as you and me.

M’Cheyne lived unselfishly, caring for the spiritual welfare of both believers and unbelievers. Because of poor health, he died at age twenty-nine after ministering but a short seven and a half years. His spiritual legacy of passionate love for the Lord and pastoral love for people continues to serve as an inspiring example for believers today.

M’Cheyne’s life illustrates what the apostle Paul was saying to the Ephesian believers: make the most of your time. In Ephesians 5:16 the Greek term translated “making the most of” means “buy up for yourself.” That doesn’t mean you’re to hoard your time for your own use; rather, you’re to buy up for yourself time that will give God glory. Every day brings new opportunities to be seized for God—opportunities for good, for righteousness, for holiness.

Like M’Cheyne, buy up opportunities daily for God’s glory and the good of others. Be committed to minister to the spiritual needs of believers and unbelievers. By doing so, you will make your time count for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you be unselfish and serve others effectively by His grace.

For Further Study

Read the following verses: Galatians 6:101 Corinthians 10:24Philippians 2:3-4. How do they say you are to live?


Conquering in Conflict

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days" (Heb. 11:30).

Faith is the key to spiritual conquest.

Forty years had lapsed since the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land. That unbelieving generation had perished in the wilderness. Now Joshua was leading a new generation into the land. The first obstacle they faced was Jericho—a well- fortified city that was near the mouth of the Jordan River.

Some city walls of that day were wide enough at the top to allow two chariots to ride side-by-side. That was probably true of Jericho because of its strategic location. That, coupled with the caliber of its army, made the city virtually impregnable— especially to unsophisticated Israelites, who lacked military training.

But what is impossible for man is easy for God. And the stage was set for Him to demonstrate His power and for the Israelites to demonstrate their faith and humility.

One can only imagine how embarrassed the Hebrew people felt as they marched around Jericho once a day for six days. That certainly is not your typical military strategy. But on the seventh day, after marching around the city seven times with the priests blowing their rams' horns, the priests gave one final blast, the people all shouted out loud, and the walls of the city collapsed (Josh. 6:20). Faith had reduced a formidable obstacle to a crumbled ruin.

Can you identify some spiritual obstacles you've faced recently? How did you handle them? You'll always have them to deal with in your Christian walk, but don't fret. See them as opportunities to exercise faith and see God's power on display in your life. Continue to trust the Lord and demonstrate your faith by courageously doing what He has called you to do.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you humbly trust in God's power when you face spiritual conflicts.

For Further Study

Read about the conquest of Jericho in Joshua 6:1-21. Note each occasion where the people obeyed one of Joshua's commands without hesitation.


Jesus Commended by His Father

“‘Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased’” (Matthew 12:18).

Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate Servant, the one and only Son chosen by the Father to die for fallen sinners. The divine commendation here is a modified quotation of Isaiah 42:1–4, one of the most beautiful descriptions of our Lord anywhere in the Bible. The Father’s choice of Jesus to be His Servant was decisive and irrevocable—Christ was the one and only person perfectly qualified for the work of redemption.

As the perfect choice of God, Jesus is also completely pleasing in His Father’s eyes. Although the world hated and rejected Him, Christ is God’s Beloved—and in that role He brings us salvation by divine grace (Eph. 1:6–7).

This is not the only mention in the gospels of God’s approval of His Son. The Father used similar words at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:17) and at His transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). Jesus Himself elaborates further: “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. . . . And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me” (John 5:31–3237).

If we want to be well-pleasing to God as Jesus is, we must come to the Father through His Son, drawn by the Holy Spirit. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom. 8:8–9).

Ask Yourself

Have you grown “weary and heavy-laden” trying to please God with your best efforts? Will your heart ever find peace and satisfaction in knowing that your faith has been counted as righteousness, that the Father is already satisfied with the Son’s sacrifice in your place?


Reading for Today:


Daniel 1:8 Daniel purposed. The pagan food and drink was devoted to idols. To indulge was to be understood as honoring these deities. Daniel “purposed in his heart” (Prov. 4:23) not to engage in compromise by being untrue to God’s call of commitment (Ex. 34:1415). Also, foods that God’s law prohibited (Lev. 1:1) were items that pagans consumed; to partake entailed direct compromise (Dan. 1:12). Moses took this stand (Heb. 11:24–26), as did the psalmist (Ps. 119:115) and Jesus (Heb. 7:26).

Daniel 2:36–45 we will tell the interpretation. Five empires in succession would rule over Israel, here pictured by parts of a statue (body). In Daniel 7, the same empires are represented by 4 great beasts. These empires are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the later revived Rome, each one differentiated from the previous as indicated by the declining quality of the metal. A stone picturing Christ (Luke 20:18) at His Second Coming (as the Son of Man also does in Dan. 7:1314) will destroy the fourth empire in its final phase with catastrophic suddenness (2:34, 35, 44, 45). Christ’s total shattering of Gentile power will result in the establishment of His millennial kingdom, the ultimate empire, and then continuing on eternally (2:44; 7:27).

1 Peter 5:6 under the mighty hand of God. This is an Old Testament symbol of the power of God working in the experience of men, always accomplishing His sovereign purpose (Ex. 3:1920Job 30:2021Ezek. 20:3337Mic. 6:8). The readers of Peter’s letter were not to fight the sovereign hand of God, even when it brought them through testings. One of the evidences of lack of submission and humility is impatience with God in His work of humbling believers. exalt you in due time. God will lift up the suffering, submissive believers in His wisely appointed time. See Job 42.

DAY 29: How are pastors to care for their congregations?

First Peter 5:2 gives this exhortation to the elders: “Shepherd the flock of God.” After the motivation (v. 1) comes the exhortation (vv. 2–4). Since the primary objective of shepherding is feeding, or teaching, every elder must be able to teach (John 21:15–171 Tim. 3:2Titus 1:9). Involved with the feeding of the flock is also protecting the flock (Acts 20:28–30). In both duties, it must be remembered that the flock belongs to God, not to the pastor. God entrusts some of His flock to the pastor of a church to lead, care for, and feed (v. 3).

“Not by compulsion but willingly.” Specifically, Peter may be warning the elders against a first danger—laziness. The divine calling (1 Cor. 9:16), along with the urgency of the task (Rom. 1:15), should prevent laziness and indifference. “Not for dishonest gain.” False teachers are always motivated by a second danger, money, and use their power and position to rob people of their own wealth (2 Pet. 2:1–3). Scripture is clear that churches should pay their shepherds well (1 Cor. 9:7–141 Tim. 5:1718); but a desire for undeserved money must never be a motive for ministers to serve (1 Tim. 3:36:9–112 Tim. 2:4Titus 1:72 Pet. 2:3; see also Jer. 6:138:10Mic. 3:11Mal. 1:10).

“Nor as being lords” (v. 3). This is the third major temptation for a pastor: demagoguery. In this context, “lords” means to dominate someone or some situation. It implies leadership by manipulation and intimidation. Rather, true spiritual leadership is by example (1 Tim. 4:12).

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Sensing the Urgency

“‘You have left your first love’” (Revelation 2:4).

A wise person loves Christ supremely.

Because the days were evil, the apostle Paul wanted the church at Ephesus to make the most of their time and walk wisely (Eph. 5:15-16). A little more than thirty years after Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church, the apostle John wrote more to them, saying, “You have left your first love. . . . Repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I [Christ] am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5). But the Ephesians did not repent, and the lampstand was removed. Their time was shorter than they believed, because the evil was so great. Their church fell prey to the time in which they lived and, not sensing the urgency to return to its first love, eventually went out of existence.

I believe we need to have a sense of urgency in the evil days in which we live. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Christianity in America, but I’ve asked God that if it takes persecution to bring us to the place where we get a grip on what we ought to be, then let it happen. In many cases throughout history,the church has thrived better under persecution than it has under affluence. As the church father Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

I’m not specifically asking that the church be persecuted. I’m saying that sometimes we don’t sense the urgency of our evil day because we are sucked into the world’s system, and the lines of conviction aren’t clearly drawn. It’s an evil day in which we live, and the time is short. We need to realize that “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse” (2 Tim. 3:13). The situation is not going to become better. The world is blacker and more expressive of its vices than ever before. We must have a sense of urgency and redeem the time.

Suggestions for Prayer

In Psalm 145, King David expressed his love for the Lord. Make his psalm your prayer and an expression of your love to God.

For Further Study

Read in Revelation 2—3 what the Lord says to the seven churches in Asia, noting what He approves and disapproves.


Accepting God's Provisions


"By faith [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned" (Heb. 11:28-29).

The man or woman of faith gratefully accepts all God’s provisions, no matter how pointless some of them may seem.

When the time came for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, everything on the human level said it couldn't be done. Pharaoh wasn't about to let two to three million slaves just pack up and leave. His formidable army was ready to insure that no such exodus occurred.

But when God devises a plan, He always makes the necessary provisions for carrying it out. On this occasion, His provision came in the form of ten terrifying plagues designed to change Pharaoh's mind.

The tenth and worst plague was the death of all the first- born (Ex. 11:5). To protect themselves from this plague, the Israelites sprinkled the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. When the angel of death saw the blood, he passed over that house. Thus the Passover was instituted.

The blood from those first Passover lambs had no intrinsic power to stave off the death angel, but its presence demonstrated faith and obedience, thus symbolizing the future sacrifice of Christ (cf. John 1:29).

Pharaoh got the message and allowed the Israelites to leave. But soon afterward he changed his mind and commanded his army to pursue them. Again God intervened by parting the Red Sea, allowing His people to walk across on dry land. He then drowned the entire Egyptian army when it followed the Israelites into the sea.

That was a graphic demonstration of a lesson every believer must learn: God's provisions are always best. They may sometimes seem foolish to the human intellect—just as "the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:18)—but the man or woman of faith trusts God and receives His provisions gratefully.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the wise and gracious provisions He has made for your salvation and ongoing Christian walk.

For Further Study

Read the account of the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 11-14.


The Perils of Legalism

“But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Matthew 12:14).

Sometimes neither the most persuasive arguments nor the most convincing deeds will change someone’s hard-hearted opposition. Such was the case for the Pharisees’ challenge to Jesus in considering the proper significance and use of the Sabbath. He had irrefutably connected the divine virtues of benevolence, kindness, mercy, goodness, and compassion with scriptural Sabbath observance. But the Phari-sees stubbornly rejected His exhortations and clung to their legalistic works and self-styled traditions. Not even God’s Word or the powerful demonstration by His Son would change their hard hearts.

Such legalism has always been an implacable enemy of grace. Even the law of Moses, with all its demands, reflected a strong measure of God’s grace in that it pointed men and women toward Christ as the only true hope of salvation. Paul says this about it: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). If the very law of God has this more secondary role, how much less place does human tradition have in pleasing God?

Legalism and man-centered customs are also barriers to faithful, biblical sanctification after we are saved. The apostle again asked the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (3:3). We must make sure that we, too, can answer this question rightly, bearing in mind Paul’s later admonition to the Galatian believers: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1).

Ask Yourself

What do you plan to do to any remaining vestiges of legalism in your heart? And how do you intend to encourage others to do the same purifying work?


Reading for Today:


Ezekiel 48:35 the name. The city is called YHWH Shammah, “The LORD Is There.” The departed glory of God (chaps. 8–11) has returned (44:1, 2), and His dwelling, the temple, is in the very center of the district given over to the Lord. With this final note, all of the unconditional promises which God had made to Israel in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12), the Levitic Covenant (Num. 25), the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam.7),and the New Covenant (Jer. 31) have been fulfilled. So this final verse provides the consummation of Israel’s history—the returned presence of God!

Proverbs 29:9 contends. A fool may respond to wisdom with anger or laughter; but in either case, no agreement can be reached.

1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another. The Greek word means “love of strangers.” Love is intensely practical, not just emotional. In Peter’s day, love included opening one’s home and caring for other needy Christians, such as traveling preachers. It also included opening one’s home for church services. Scripture also teaches that Christians should be hospitable to strangers (Ex. 22:21Deut. 14:2829Heb. 13:12).

1 Peter 4:12 the fiery trial. Peter probably wrote this letter shortly before or after the burning of Rome and at the beginning of the horrors of a 200-year period of Christian persecution. Peter explains that 4 attitudes are necessary in order to be triumphant in persecution: 1) expect it (v. 12); 2) rejoice in it (vv. 13, 14); 3) evaluate its cause (vv. 15–18); and 4) entrust it to God (v. 19). some strange thing happened. “Happened” means “to fall by chance.” A Christian must not think that his persecution is something that happened accidentally. God allowed it and designed it for the believer’s testing, purging, and cleansing.

DAY 28: What did Peter mean when he said “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7)?

The Greek word for “end” is never used in the New Testament as a chronological end, as if something simply stops. Instead, the word means a consummation, a goal achieved, a result attained, or a realization. Having emphasized triumphant suffering through death, Peter here begins to emphasize triumphant suffering through the Second Coming of Christ (1:3; 2:12), which is the goal of all things. He is calling believers to live obediently and expectantly in the light of Christ’s return. “Is at hand.” The idea is that of a process consummated with a resulting nearness, i.e., “imminent.” Peter is reminding the readers of this letter that the return of Jesus Christ could be at any moment (Rom. 13:121 Thess. 1:10James 5:78Rev. 22:20).

“Be serious and watchful.” To be “serious” implies here not to be swept away by emotions or passions, thus maintaining a proper eternal perspective on life. The doctrine of the imminent return of Christ should not turn the Christian into a zealous fanatic who does nothing but wait for it to occur. Instead, it should lead the believer into a watchful pursuit of holiness. Moreover, a watchful attitude creates a pilgrim mentality (2:11). It reminds the Christian that he is a citizen of heaven only sojourning on earth. It should also remind him that he will face the record of his service to God and be rewarded for what stands the test at the judgment seat of Christ, which follows the return of Christ to rapture His church. “And watchful in your prayers.” A mind victimized by emotion and passion, out of control, or knocked out of balance by worldly lusts and pursuits, is a mind that cannot know the fullness of holy communion in prayer with God (3:7). A mind fixed on His return is purified (1 John 3:3) and enjoys the fullness of fellowship with the Lord.

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Living in Evil Days

“Making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

Evil days call for good behavior.

The days we live in are certainly full of evil. Read any newspaper, and you’ll know what I mean. Can you imagine how it breaks God’s heart to create a perfect world, filled with every good thing, and then see it become as corrupt, debauched, and vile as it is today? Can you imagine how it must be for God to watch Christians who, in the midst of this evil world, are given opportunities to do good, yet bypass them without notice? The days are evil, and God gives us these opportunities to make things happen that matter—to fill up at least one moment of every day with something good, something righteous, something for Him.

“Because the days are evil,” the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:16, it’s important to walk wisely and make the most of our time. When opportunities for goodness do come, we should seize them. When God gives us an occasion to glorify Him (which in turn will bring a blessing on us), we must take the opportunity for His name’s sake. We must seize it in the midst of an evil day.

When I think of how God’s heart is broken over the evil of a world that He made for His own glory, I say to myself, If God gives me one small opportunity in the midst of an evil day to do something good, something to honor Him, or something to glorify Him, I’m going to grab that opportunity. Since the days are evil and it seems as though goodness is so scarce, you and I need to take every opportunity we can for manifesting goodness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you be aware of more opportunities that you can seize for manifesting goodness.

For Further Study

  • According to Genesis 6:5, what did the Lord see in the days of Noah?
  • What effect did that have on God (v. 6)?
  • According to Hebrews 11:7, what did Noah do?
  • What effect did Noah have on the world?


Bearing the Reproach of Christ

Moses considered "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen" (Heb. 11:26-27).

When you suffer for Christ, you bear His reproach.

How could Moses, who lived 1,500 years before Christ, bear His reproach? Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew title Messiah, the Anointed One. Many Old Testament personalities were spoken of as being anointed for special service to the Lord. Some have suggested that Moses was thinking of himself as a type of messiah, for he delivered his people from the Egyptian bondage. They would translate verse 26 as, "Considering the reproach of his own messiahship as God's deliverer."

However, it seems best to see this verse as a reference to Jesus Himself, the future great Deliverer. We don't know how much knowledge Moses had of Jesus, but certainly it was more than Abraham, of whom Jesus said, "Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56).

The Messiah has always been identified with His people. When they suffer for righteousness' sake, they suffer in His place. That's why David said, "The reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me" (Ps. 69:9). Speaking from a New Testament perspective, Paul made a similar statement: "I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17).

There's also a sense in which Christ suffers with His people. When Jesus confronted Paul, who was heavily persecuting the church, He said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? . . . I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:4-5).

Moses chose to turn his back on Pharaoh's household and identify with God's people because he knew that suffering for Christ was far better than enjoying the riches of Egypt. At some point in time you too will be persecuted for Christ's sake (2 Tim. 3:12), so be prepared. When that time comes, follow Moses' example of faith and courage, knowing that God will be your shield and your reward (cf. Gen. 15:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

Follow the examples of the apostles by thanking God for the privilege of bearing a small portion of the reproach that the world aims at Christ (Acts 5:27-41).

For Further Study

Memorize Psalm 27:1 as a source of encouragement when facing difficulty.


The Sabbath in Perspective: An Illustration

“He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other” (Matthew 12:11–13).

One of the tragedies of Hinduism in India is its distorted disregard for human welfare. You should not give food to a beggar because that might interfere with his karma and keep him from suffering on a higher level of existence. You should not kill a fly because it could be the reincarnation of a person. For the same reason, you must allow rats to live and eat whatever they want. Hindus consider cows sacred and feed them whatever food is available. At the same time, they let certain people starve.

Similarly, the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time despised other people and showed more compassion for their sheep than for the handicapped man here. Mark’s account says Jesus asked, “‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent” (Mark 3:4). The Pharisees couldn’t say anything because they would have been forced either to contradict their tradition or advocate murder. Their only external response was to remain silent, but undoubtedly they “were filled with rage” (Luke 6:11).

Our Lord answered His own question with the clear declaration, “So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” He then healed the man’s deformed hand as the Pharisees’ resentment no doubt rose to new heights. Christ not only approved of doing good on the Sabbath, He went ahead and actually performed good on behalf of another. If anything, this set forth the Sabbath as the supreme day for doing good.

Ask Yourself

What teachings of Scripture do you still mainly follow out of dutiful habit, not with an eye toward honoring God or being used as a blessing to others? What has your legalistic adherence gained for you, and what has it cost you?


Reading for Today:


Ezekiel 45:9–12 The leaders of the land are urged to be thoroughly honest in their commercial dealings. This warning shows that there will be sin in the Millennium. The believing Jews who entered the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth and inherited the promised kingdom will be fully human and capable of such sins. There also will be children who do not necessarily believe, as the final rebellion against King Messiah and His temple proves (Rev. 20:7–9).

1 Peter 3:1 likewise. In chapter 2, Peter taught that living successfully as a Christian in a hostile world would require relating properly in two places: the civil society (2:13–17) and the workplace (2:18–25). At the start of this chapter, he added two more places: the family (vv. 1–7) and the local church (vv. 8, 9). be submissive. Peter insisted that if Christians are to be a witness for their Lord, they must submit not only to the civil, but also to the social order which God has designed. own husbands. Women are not inferior to men in any way, any more than submissive Christians are inferior to pagan rulers or non-Christian bosses (Gal. 3:28). But wives have been given a role which puts them in submission to the headship which resides in their own husbands (1 Cor. 11:1–9Eph. 5:22Col. 3:18Titus 2:45).

1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise. Submission is the responsibility of a Christian husband, as well (Eph. 5:21). Though not submitting to his wife as a leader, a believing husband must submit to the loving duty of being sensitive to the needs, fears, and feelings of his wife. In other words, a Christian husband needs to subordinate his needs to hers, whether she is a Christian or not. Peter specifically notes consideration, chivalry, and companionship. weaker vessel. While she is fully equal in Christ and not inferior spiritually because she is a woman (Gal. 3:28), she is physically weaker and in need of protection, provision, and strength from her husband. heirs together of the grace of life. Here the “grace of life” is not salvation, but marriage—the best relationship earthly life has to offer. The husband must cultivate companionship and fellowship with his wife, Christian or not (Eccl. 9:9).

1 Peter 3:15 sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. “Christ” is to be preferred here, so the reading is “set apart in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshiped. Live in submissive communion with the Lord Jesus, loving and obeying Him—and you have nothing to fear. always be ready to give a defense. The English word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word here translated “defense.” Peter is using the word in an informal sense (Phil. 1:1617) and is insisting that the believer must understand what he believes and why one is a Christian, and then be able to articulate one’s beliefs humbly, thoughtfully, reasonably, and biblically. the hope that is in you. Salvation with its anticipation of eternal glory.

DAY 27: How does Peter use familiar terms such as “spirit,” “abyss,” “flood,” and “baptism” in 1 Peter 3:18–22?

This passage proves to be one of the most difficult texts in the New Testament to translate and interpret. The line between Old Testament allusions and New Testament applications gets blurred. Peter’s overall purpose of this passage, which was to encourage his readers in their suffering, must be kept in mind during interpretation. The apostle repeatedly reminded them that even Christ suffered unjustly because it was God’s will (vv. 17, 18) and accomplished God’s purposes.

Therefore, although Jesus experienced a violent physical execution that terminated His earthly life when He was “put to death in the flesh” (v. 18; Heb. 5:7), nevertheless He was “made alive by the Spirit” (v. 18). This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, but to Jesus’ true inner life, His own spirit. Contrasted with His flesh (humanness) which was dead for three days, His spirit (Deity) remained alive, literally “in spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Part of God’s purpose in Christ’s death involved His activities between His death and resurrection. His living spirit went to the demon spirits bound in the Abyss and proclaimed victory in spite of death. Peter further explained that the Abyss is inhabited by bound demons that have been there since the time of Noah. They were sent there because they overstepped the limits of God’s tolerance with their wickedness. Not even 120 years of Noah’s example and preaching had stemmed the tide of wickedness in his time (Gen. 6:1–8). Thus God bound these demons permanently in the Abyss until their final sentencing.

Peter’s analogy spotlights the ministry of Jesus Christ in saving us as surely as the ark saved Noah’s family. He is not referring to water baptism here but to a figurative immersion in Christ that keeps us safe from the flood of God’s sure judgment. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates God’s acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death for the sins of those who believe (Acts 2:3031Rom. 1:4). God’s judgment fell on Christ just as the judgment of the floodwaters fell on the ark. The believer who is in Christ is thus in the ark of safety that will sail over the waters of judgment into eternal glory (Rom. 6:1–4).

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Finishing the Race

“Making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

God expects the believer to use his time wisely.

Many people never finish what they begin. There are unfinished symphonies, unfinished paintings, and unfinished sculptures (sometimes because the composer or artist died). There are relationships that never become all they could be, ministries that never come to fruition, dreams that always remain dreams, and hopes that always remain hopes. For a lot of people, life can be an unfinished symphony or a dream without reality. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I believe the answer can be found in the phrase “making the most of your time” (Eph. 5:16).

If we are ever to turn our dreams into realities and our hopes into facts—to finish our symphonies, paint our paintings, and sculpt our sculptures—it will be only when we have made the most of our time. I believe that in eternity past, God prescribed the specific time that we are to live. And only as we maximize that time can we maintain its potential for fulfillment.

The apostle Paul knew firsthand the importance of redeeming his time. In Acts 20:24 he says, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus.” In other words, God has given us a time boundary, and within that time He has defined a course. Paul in effect said, “I want to finish the specific course and specific ministry in the specific time given to me.” At the end of his life Paul could say, “I have finished the course” (2 Tim. 4:7). He completed the race because he made the most of his time.

I believe God has sovereignly given you and me a specific period of time. He knows the beginning and the end because He predetermined both. Be sure to finish your prescribed race by walking wisely and living for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for sovereignly giving you a course to run in life.
  • Pray for His perfect will to be reflected in your life as you run the course.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 1:17-19. According to verse 17, how are you to live “during the time of your stay upon earth”? Why?


Accepting God's Plan

"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict" (Heb. 11:23). 

God makes His plans; you walk in them by faith. He doesn’t need your help or counsel—just your obedience and trust.

It has been wisely said that trying to improve on God's plan is more pretentious than trying to improve the Mona Lisa with an ink pen. All you'd do is ruin the masterpiece.

The story of Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses, is about two people who refused to ruin the masterpiece. They trusted God implicitly and did everything possible to see His plan for their son come to fruition.

Because of the number and might of the Hebrew people in Egypt, the pharaoh enslaved them and ordered that all male Hebrew babies be put to death. In direct defiance of that wicked edict, Moses' parents hid their baby for three months, then placed him in a waterproofed basket along the banks of the Nile River near the place where Pharaoh's daughter bathed. One can only imagine the faith it took for them to risk their own lives, as well as the life of their baby, by placing him into that basket and introducing him into the very household of the one who wanted all male Hebrew babies slain.

By God's providence, Pharaoh's daughter found the baby, took pity on him, and adopted him into her family. More than that, the Lord used Moses' quick-thinking sister, Miriam, to arrange for Jochebed to nurse and care for her own son! That gave Moses' family the opportunity to teach him of God's promises for Israel to inherit the Promised Land, become a mighty nation, and be a blessing to all nations. They helped instill within Moses the faith in God that would later characterize his life.

You may never be called on to make the kind of sacrifice that Moses' parents made, but no matter what the risks, remember God always honors your obedience.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His plan for your life. Seek wisdom and grace to live accordingly.

For Further Study

Read of Israel's oppression and Moses' birth in Exodus 1:1—2:10.


The Sabbath and Service to God

“‘Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here’” (Matthew 12:5–6).

Seldom would any Christian today, even the most fastidious and rule-oriented among us, consider preaching, teaching Sunday school, leading youth ministry, or other similar work as profaning the Lord’s Day. Yet these activities require much time and effort—on Sunday. Likewise, the most scrupulous of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time viewed the priests as innocent of any Sabbath breaking, even though such men worked in the temple twice as hard as on other days. For instance, sacrifices offered on the Sabbath were actually double sacrifices, requiring double the work of offering the normal daily sacrifice (Num. 28:9–10; cf. Lev. 24:8–9).

In this encounter, Jesus embarrassed and upset the Pharisees by showing how inconsistent their legalistic logic was. But they were even more upset and angry when He told them that something far greater and more important than the temple was in their midst. This was somewhat of an oblique reference, but the Jews had no doubt that Jesus was referring to Himself and again claiming to be God (cf. Matt. 9:2–611:3–525–27).

Our Lord’s main purpose, however, was not to prove His deity to the Jewish leaders. It was to argue that, in light of that deity, He had the right and authority to set aside Sabbath regulation as He saw fit—even more prerogative than did David or the temple priests. And above all, no human traditions or customary ways of doing things could or should ever hinder genuine service for God.

Ask Yourself

Some may view this as saying that Jesus was flippant about the commandments of God, as if they weren’t actually that important and could be ignored if desired. How would you respond to a person who saw an inconsistency in the meaning of this passage?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 133:2 oil upon. Most likely refers to the anointing of Aaron as high priest of the nation (Ex. 29:730:30), which would picture a rich spiritual blessing as a first priority.

1 Peter 1:4 inheritance. Peter showed those persecuted Christians how to look past their troubles to their eternal inheritance. Life, righteousness, joy, peace, perfection, God’s presence, Christ’s glorious companionship, rewards, and all else God has planned is the Christian’s heavenly inheritance (v. 5; Matt. 25:34Acts 26:18Eph. 1:11Col. 1:12Heb. 9:15; also Pss. 16:5232672Lam. 3:24). According to Ephesians 1:14, the indwelling Holy Spirit is the resident guarantee of that inheritance. incorruptible. The inheritance is not subject to passing away nor liable to decay. The word was used in secular Greek of something that was unravaged by an invading army (Matt. 6:19–21). undefiled. This word means unpolluted, unstained with evil. The undefiled inheritance of the Christian is in marked contrast to an earthly inheritance, all of which is corrupted and defiled. does not fade away. “Fading” was often used of flowers that wither and decay. Though earthly inheritances eventually fade away, the eternal inheritance of a Christian has no decaying elements.

1 Peter 1:7 genuineness of your faith. God’s purpose in allowing trouble is to test the reality of one’s faith. But the benefit of such a testing, or “fire,” is immediately for the Christian, not God. When a believer comes through a trial still trusting the Lord, he is assured that his faith is genuine (Gen. 22:1–12Job 1:20–22). revelation of Jesus Christ. The revelation or unveiling of Christ refers to His Second Coming, particularly focusing on the time when He comes to call and reward His redeemed people (v. 13; 4:13; 1 Cor. 1:7), i.e., the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18).

DAY 25: Why did Peter write his first epistle?

When the city of Rome burned, the Romans believed that their emperor, Nero, had set the city on fire, probably because of his incredible lust to build. In order to build more, he had to destroy what already existed.

The Romans were totally devastated. Their culture, in a sense, went down with the city. All the religious elements of their life were destroyed—their great temples, shrines, and even their household idols were burned up. This had great religious implications because it made them believe that their deities had been unable to deal with this conflagration and were also victims of it. The people were homeless and hopeless. Many had been killed. Their bitter resentment was severe, so Nero realized that he had to redirect the hostility.

The emperor’s chosen scapegoat was the Christians, who were already hated because they were associated with Jews, and because they were seen as being hostile to the Roman culture. Nero spread the word quickly that the Christians had set the fires. As a result, a vicious persecution against Christians began, and soon spread throughout the Roman Empire, touching places north of the Taurus mountains, like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1), and impacting the Christians, whom Peter calls “pilgrims.” These “pilgrims” were probably Gentiles, for the most part (1:14, 18; 2:9, 10; 4:3), possibly led to Christ by Paul and his associates and established on Paul’s teachings. But they needed spiritual strengthening because of their sufferings. Thus the apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this epistle to strengthen them.

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Disciplining Yourself for a Purpose

“Bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Godliness should be the believer’s priority in life.

I’m amazed at how devoted people can be to what they believe is important. There are many people outside Christianity who live in rigid conformity to a lot of meaningless rules. People in totalitarian countries, for example, live in rigid conformity to rules predicated on a denial of biblical truth. They walk circumspectly and toe the mark.
Some cultists are so rigid and walk so circumspectly according to the principles dictated to them that if they’re told they can’t get married or can’t be with their spouses, they conform. They’re made to live in abstinence from physical relationships, follow strict diets, fast, and so on. Some attempt to attain spirituality through such self-disciplined acts as lying on a bed of nails or walking through hot coals.

Others, such as athletes, go through tremendous self-discipline through dieting, running, weight training, and other means that involve great sacrifice.

People disciplined in things that are ultimately meaningless may be lax in things that count. I know people who run three miles every day but will not bother to read the Bible regularly. I know other people who cannot discipline themselves to feed on the Word of God but stick rigorously to a diet. Many Christians worship physical fitness and health and are so conformed to the world’s system that they’re careless and lazy about conforming to Christ.

If you are a wise Christian, you’ll be sure to discipline yourself for godliness. You’ll know what pleases God, watch for Satan’s traps, resist the Devil, defeat temptation, and be selective about your behavior. In other words, you’ll not walk as a fool; you’ll walk in wisdom—living by God’s standards.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His Son, the perfect example of spiritual discipline and godliness. Ask God to help you be like Him.

For Further Study

  • According to 1 Timothy 4:7, what is the purpose of spiritual discipline?
  • According to 2 Peter 1:3, what has God’s divine power granted us?

Acknowledging God's Sovereignty

"By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones" (Heb. 11:22).

God uses your present circumstances to accomplish His future purposes.

Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph was an heir to the covenant promises of God. His hope was firmly fixed on God, and he knew that some day his people would be at home in the Promised Land.

Although he spent all his adult life in Egypt, never seeing the Promised Land for himself, Joseph's faith never wavered. At the end of his life, he instructed his brothers to remove his bones from Egypt and bury them in their future homeland (Gen. 50:25). That request was fulfilled in the Exodus (Ex. 13:19).

But Joseph's faith wasn't in the promises of future events only, for his life was marked by exceptional trust in God and personal integrity. His understanding of God's sovereignty was unique among the patriarchs. Even though he suffered greatly at the hands of evildoers (including his own brothers, who sold him into slavery), Joseph recognized God's hand in every event of his life and submitted to His will.

Joseph said to his brothers, "Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life . . . and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God" (Gen. 45:57-8). Later, after their father's death, he reassured them again: "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to . . . preserve many people alive" (Gen. 50:19- 20).

The genius of Joseph's faith was understanding the role that present circumstances play in fulfilling future promises. He accepted blessing and adversity alike because he knew God would use both to accomplish greater things in the future.

Joseph is the classic Old Testament example of the truth that God works all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). That's a promise you can rely on too.

Suggestions for Prayer

Reaffirm your trust in God's sovereign work in your life.

For Further Study

Read of Joseph's life in Genesis 37-50.


The Sabbath and Deeds of Necessity

“But He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?’” (Matthew 12:3–4).

David the great king, psalmist, and warrior was a true hero of the Jews, even more so than the prophets and patriarchs were. Jesus here reminds the Pharisees of what happened when David and his men sought to escape the vengeful and jealous King Saul south of Gibeah. They asked for food when they came to the town where the tabernacle was located.

Ahimelech the priest gave David and his men the bread of the Presence because there was “no ordinary bread on hand” (1 Sam. 21:4). That consecrated bread was baked weekly, and each Sabbath day twelve new loaves (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) replaced the previous ones. Only the priests could eat these loaves.

On that unusual occasion, however, God allowed an exception for the sake of David and his companions, who were weakened by hunger. This exceptional action did not offend the Lord, and consequently He did not discipline either David or Ahimelech. It was better for the men to violate a ceremonial regulation if it was necessary to meet their basic needs.

If God allowed His people to sometimes disregard His own law in order to bene-fit their welfare, how could He not allow the purposeless and silly traditions of men and women to be broken so a work of necessity could take place?

Ask Yourself

How does this picture of a practical God square with your perception of Him? Are we sometimes protective and provincial about the name of God for reasons all our own—or perhaps as excuses for not dirtying our hands with human need?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 132:10 A prayer that God’s promise and favor would not be withheld from David’s descendants on the throne of Judah. Your Anointed. As David had been anointed king (1 Sam. 16:13), so a greater King had been anointed, namely Christ, but not yet seated on the throne (Is. 61:1Luke 4:1819).

James 5:7 patient. The word emphasizes patience with people (1 Thess. 5:14), not trials or circumstances (as in 1:3). Specifically, James has in mind patience with the oppressive rich. the coming. The Second Coming of Christ. Realizing the glory that awaits them at Christ’s return should motivate believers to patiently endure mistreatment (Rom. 8:18). the early and latter rain. The “early” rain falls in Israel during October and November and softens the ground for planting. The “latter” rain falls in March and April, immediately before the spring harvest. Just as the farmer waits patiently from the early rain to the latter for his crop to ripen, so must Christians patiently wait for the Lord’s return (Gal. 6:92 Tim. 4:8Titus 2:13).

James 5:14 anointing him with oil. Literally, “rubbing him with oil”: 1) possibly this is a reference to ceremonial anointing (Lev. 14:18Mark 6:13); 2) on the other hand, James may have had in mind medical treatment of believers physically bruised and battered by persecution. Perhaps it is better to understand the anointing in a metaphorical sense of the elders’ encouraging, comforting, and strengthening the believer.

James 5:14,15 sick. James directs those who are “sick,” meaning weakened by their suffering, to call for the elders of the church for strength, support, and prayer.

James 5:15 prayer of faith. The prayer offered on their behalf by the elders. save the sick. Deliver them from their suffering because they have been weakened by their infirmity, not from their sin, which was confessed. committed sins…be forgiven. Not by the elders, since God alone can forgive sins (Is. 43:25Dan. 9:9Mark 2:7). That those who are suffering called for the elders implies they had a contrite, repentant heart, and that part of their time with the overseers would involve confessing their sins to God.

DAY 24: What warning does James give to the rich?

In James 5:1, he begins: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!” James condemns them not for being wealthy, but for misusing their resources. Unlike the believing rich in Timothy’s congregation (1 Tim. 6:17–19), these are the wicked wealthy who profess Christian faith and have associated themselves with the church, but whose real god is money.

“Indeed the wages…you kept back” (v. 4). The rich had gained some of their wealth by oppressing and defrauding their day laborers—a practice strictly forbidden in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:13Deut. 24:1415). The One who hears the cries of the defrauded laborers, James warns, is the Lord of hosts, the commander of the armies of heaven (angels). The Bible teaches that angels will be involved in the judgment of unbelievers (Matt. 13:39–414916:2725:312 Thess. 1:78).

“You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury” (v. 5). After robbing their workers to accumulate their wealth, the rich indulged themselves in an extravagant lifestyle .“Pleasure” has the connotation of wanton pleasure. “Luxury” leads to vice when a person becomes consumed with the pursuit of pleasure, since a life without self-denial soon becomes out of control in every area. Like fattened cattle ready to be slaughtered, the rich that James condemns had indulged themselves to the limit.

“You have condemned…murdered the just” (v. 6). This describes the next step in the sinful progression of the rich. Hoarding led to fraud, which led to self-indulgence. Finally, that overindulgence has consumed the rich to the point that they will do anything to sustain their lifestyle. “Condemned” comes from a word meaning “to sentence.” The implication is that the rich were using the courts to commit judicial murder (2:6).

My Royal Family




Playing the Fool

“Behold, I have played the fool” (1 Samuel 26:21).

A Christian should not act like a fool. 

In Deuteronomy 32:6 Moses looked out at the belligerent children of Israel who had failed God so many times and said, “Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people?” The children of Israel were playing the fool. Sadly, God’s people today continue to play the fool.

One way they do so is through disbelief. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to two disciples who didn’t believe that He had risen from the dead. Jesus said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). To disbelieve God and His Word is to play the fool.

Another way believers play the fool is through disobedience. In Galatians 3:1 the apostle Paul says, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” And in verse 3 he says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” They started out well but were disobedient and got caught up in the works of the law.

Still another way Christians play the fool is through desire for the wrong thingsFirst Timothy 6:9says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires.” If you desire the wrong things, you play the fool.

Finally, you can play the fool through doing the wrong thingsJames 3:1317 says that there are two kinds of wisdom. Godly wisdom produces “good behavior” (v. 13), but foolish wisdom produces “jealousy and selfish ambition” (v. 16). A self-centered person plays the fool.

It’s sad to see so many Christians playing the fool. It doesn’t make any sense. Why should Christians live as blind, ignorant, foolish people when they have the wisdom of God?

Paul says at the end of Romans, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil” (16:19). If you have to be a fool at all, be a fool (unknowing, unacquainted) about evil.

Suggestions for Prayer

Make Paul’s exhortation in Romans 16:19 your prayer.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 2:1-22 as a reminder of what benefits you’ll receive from following true wisdom instead of playing the fool.


From Jacob to Israel

"By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped" (